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Frustrations with butts. Tastes bla and no smoke flavor.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Just finished up 2, 10lb butts.  Ran perfectly at 1.6hrs/lb.  Ran these on an electric smoker (MES).  My smoker decided it did not want to smoke much due to the temperature, etc.  I will certainly be fixing that...  The meat had very little smoke ring and very little smoke flavor IMO for smoking in 100% Mesquite.  Also, the meat was very boring tasting.  It might be that there was not smoke flavor to flavor the pork but there was just a taste of , well, pork...

 

I used a rub and injected.  I noticed the butts dumped a large amount of liquid while cooking.  Probably 1-2 quarts between the two of them.  I had been doing a sear and decided not to and was not real happy with my bark.  It was certainly there but was soggy and not very flavorful.  By searing, I was able to maintain a firm bark that had nice texture.  

 

Also noticed that these butts where not just dripping with moisture.  I pulled them at 190* and did not really check them say at 180*.  They were so tender that I had trouble getting them out of the smoker in one piece.  Literally falling off the bone...  I am wondering if I waited a bit too long? 

 

Any thoughts on the bla flavor and if the smoke would fix most of this?  My whole reason for not searing was to infuse smoke and it did NOT happen....  Will eat it anyway but a little embarrassed on this run..

 

 

 

post #2 of 14

I am surprised. I dont have an MES but not sure how much smoke you got out of it.  I usually foil mine at 165 and pull at 205 and wrap in towels for at least 2 hours to allow the juices to redistribute

 

How much liquid did you inject? You lost a lot of liquid compared to what I have experienced.  I have only injected once and I only used a cup total.

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

I Probably injected about 2 cups per butt so I kind of expected some to come out.  I am wondering if those holes just provided great spouts for draining the good juices in the butt.   I also foiled up at 165.  Probably will not do it again.  My bark went from firm to soggy as I figured it would.  IT is creating a steam chamber. 

post #4 of 14

Sounds like  your smoker was too cold.  Have you ever succeeded with butts, or is this an isolated experience?

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Never smoked butts on this new smoker before but have done them otherwise.  I bought it because it was insulated and good for cold weather smoking.  It could certainly run at 300F but I just could not get smoke out of it...

post #6 of 14

I don't understand why you couldn't get bark if you had heat.

 

Falling apart is expected between 190 and 200 and is what makes it so easy to pull.  I don't take it off the smoker unless it's at least 190.  Wish I could be more helpful.

post #7 of 14

The standard procedure for butts is to foil @ 165, take to 205, then wrap in towels & in cooler for a couple of hours. It usually takes 6-8 hours to get to 165, so that is plenty of time to form a nice bark & have plenty of smoke flavor. You won't get a smoke ring with an electric smoker. Some guys will put a couple of pieces of charcoal in the chip pan to try for a little smoke ring. I have tried that & it really doesn't seem to work for me. I have never injected butts since they have so much fat in them already. I also wonder if your temps were correct. I guess you'll just have to give it another try.

post #8 of 14

Was your wood smoldering? What did the wood look like afte rthe smoke? Was it ash or hard black chunks? What temp were you smoking at? What did you inject with?

 

I guess the amount of liquid that was lost could have just dried ti out too much and took all the flavor filled juices with it.

 

Maybe it was just those 2 peices of meat. Because every peice of meat has its own character. Maybe it was the way the meat was processed (for the store). Lots of variables, but the way you did the smoke sounds dead on, I, like the others, are sort of dumbfounded that it came out so horrible. I do mine the exact same way, minus the inject, and i have never experienced one like that.

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Don't get me wrong guys.  I delivered some to family and they all agreed it was better than commercial  stuff.  I smoked in this smoker last week and acheived a VERY award caliber smoke ring.  I did some mods to this electric to get a good result so kind of pissed on this one.  It was cold, middle of the night, and I was sick and did not feel like tweaking the smoker because it should have been working fine.  The wood likes to just turn black.  When I peek inside through the loading hole, the wood rarely has any red ambers on it.  It eventually turns to ash but it does not smoke up enough to flavor the meat.  My wife said when she went to work in the morning, it did not smell like wood smoke in the air.  Think one thing I am going to do is make a thin gauge Aluminum chip box that will warm up better.  

 

post #10 of 14

I personally never felt the need to do much injecting, especially a big old juicy pork butt.

I don't like to inject, or temp probe my non-cured meat for the first 2 or 3 hours, so I don't have to worry about the Danger Zone rule.

 

Do you have an MES with the chip drawer that is only half size, with the chip dumper blocked half way off?

 

Bear

 

post #11 of 14

I quit injecting pork butts years ago, Kinda like Bear never felt I needed it.

 

I dont know anything about a electric smoker but I have eaten meat off of them and have never found it as apealing as that off of wood or gas.

I refused for years to foil because my meat was turning out good, I started foiling last year and found my cook times came down. So I foil it isint for everyone. But I pull 100% of the pork buts I cook so I dont want a heavy bark, I like it to meld with the meat.  

post #12 of 14

Viper,

 

I have had a few smokes in which the smoke reaction (smoke ring) was not nearly as prominent as I would normally get. The only explanation I had for these cases was that I started the smoke at higher temps than I normally would have due to time constraints. Lesson learned there was that you can't rush a good smoke.

 

Here's a few things I have experimented with over the past 2 years which have effected smoke reaction for me:

 

By starting the smoke for a butt, brisket or other large cuts at 175-180* for the first 45-60 minutes, then bumping temps up into the 230-240* range to finish, I can increase the smoke reaction by keeping the exterior of the meat from heating up too quickly. Meat takes on smoke much more easily at lower temps, then as the meat temps increase, smoke penetration will slow to a halt. Intact whole muscle meats, cured meats, or smaller cuts are the only pieces I will use this method for due to the danger zone guidelines for non-intact whole muscle meats.

 

Also, something you may want to try just for the experience is a cold smoke & sear for smaller cuts like chops, steaks, chicken pieces, and even fish. Begin with nothing but smoke (little to no heat) for anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour depending on the cut and species of meat, poultry or fish. The flesh will slowly begin to warm through, and as you sear over a hot grill, you can finish it to your personal preferences. If you try this you will notice a smoke ring on beef steaks, pork steaks or chops, and in the bare (skinless) meats of poultry. I've used this method for nearly 2 years as a way to get some smoke after work in the evening or anytime I didn't have all day to commit to a nice long smoke.

 

There are other factors which effect the smoke reaction as well, and as mentioned above, electric smokers fall in dead-last when it comes to a smoke ring, surpassed by propane or gas fired, but none can develop a smoke ring quite like a solid fuel fired smoker. Smoke reaction is not just created by the smoke wood itself, and I have proven this by cooking on a grill with indirect heat and low temps, or in a smoker with low temps, and in either case no smoke wood(s) were used. I still had a generous "smoke ring" in the meats. The smoke itself will flavor the meats, while a hot/clean burning fire simply supplies the meat with the heat it needs to cook properly. The cleaner burning fuels like gas or propane will not develop the smoke ring quite as well as a less clean burning fuel such as a charcoal fired smoker or grill. It's the oxides in the burnt fuel's gases which create the majority of the smoke ring, and the "dirtier" the burn and lower the cooking chamber temps, the more likely there will be a prominent reaction with the meat.

 

You should be able to develop a nice smoke ring with a steady smoke from an electric heated smoker, but if the smoke is not there to support the effort, it will likely give less than satisfactory results.

 

But again, starting lower and working up to higher temps has never failed me in the past, either with propane or charcoal fired smokers, but I would not recommend this with injected, boneless or otherwise tampered-with meats (non-intact whole muscle). I think if you can get enough heat and air to your smoke wood when you first start it up is the key, but keeping it under control as you increase smoke chamber temps will be the next step. I'm not familiar at all with the internals of the MES, but getting the correct amount of heat and air to the smoke wood is the key when using chips or chunks. Also, the smaller the chips, the less heat and air they need to produce smoke.

 

Lastly, I never soak smoke woods, as it only delays the onset of actual smoke.

 

Hope that helps you understand the smoke ring a bit more. As for getting that MES to produce an acceptable amount of smoke for the duration, its all about the heat/air getting to the smoke wood...that's as basic as I can explain it. Your smoke woods in a gas or electric rig should be charred lumps after the smoke is finished...that's a good indication of a slow, smoldering, incomplete burn which produces a nice continuous thin smoke.

 

Stay with it, brother, 'cause when you get it figured out it, your methods will reward you with the best smoked foods which money can't buy.

 

Eric

post #13 of 14

Thank-you for such a detailed explanation. However, I have a question. You said that "Smoke reaction is not just created by the smoke wood itself, and I have proven this by cooking on a grill with indirect heat and low temps, or in a smoker with low temps, and in either case no smoke wood(s) were used. I still had a generous "smoke ring" in the meats." My question is, were the grill & smoker using charcoal? If so I think the charcoal is where the smoke ring is coming from. Which is why some of the guys suggest putting a couple of pieces of hardwood charcoal in the chip pan. I have tried this without much luck. Maybe if I started off at a lower temp. for the first hour, then bumped it up it would work better. What do you think?


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by forluvofsmoke View Post

Viper,

 

I have had a few smokes in which the smoke reaction (smoke ring) was not nearly as prominent as I would normally get. The only explanation I had for these cases was that I started the smoke at higher temps than I normally would have due to time constraints. Lesson learned there was that you can't rush a good smoke.

 

Here's a few things I have experimented with over the past 2 years which have effected smoke reaction for me:

 

By starting the smoke for a butt, brisket or other large cuts at 175-180* for the first 45-60 minutes, then bumping temps up into the 230-240* range to finish, I can increase the smoke reaction by keeping the exterior of the meat from heating up too quickly. Meat takes on smoke much more easily at lower temps, then as the meat temps increase, smoke penetration will slow to a halt. Intact whole muscle meats, cured meats, or smaller cuts are the only pieces I will use this method for due to the danger zone guidelines for non-intact whole muscle meats.

 

Also, something you may want to try just for the experience is a cold smoke & sear for smaller cuts like chops, steaks, chicken pieces, and even fish. Begin with nothing but smoke (little to no heat) for anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour depending on the cut and species of meat, poultry or fish. The flesh will slowly begin to warm through, and as you sear over a hot grill, you can finish it to your personal preferences. If you try this you will notice a smoke ring on beef steaks, pork steaks or chops, and in the bare (skinless) meats of poultry. I've used this method for nearly 2 years as a way to get some smoke after work in the evening or anytime I didn't have all day to commit to a nice long smoke.

 

There are other factors which effect the smoke reaction as well, and as mentioned above, electric smokers fall in dead-last when it comes to a smoke ring, surpassed by propane or gas fired, but none can develop a smoke ring quite like a solid fuel fired smoker. Smoke reaction is not just created by the smoke wood itself, and I have proven this by cooking on a grill with indirect heat and low temps, or in a smoker with low temps, and in either case no smoke wood(s) were used. I still had a generous "smoke ring" in the meats. The smoke itself will flavor the meats, while a hot/clean burning fire simply supplies the meat with the heat it needs to cook properly. The cleaner burning fuels like gas or propane will not develop the smoke ring quite as well as a less clean burning fuel such as a charcoal fired smoker or grill. It's the oxides in the burnt fuel's gases which create the majority of the smoke ring, and the "dirtier" the burn and lower the cooking chamber temps, the more likely there will be a prominent reaction with the meat.

 

You should be able to develop a nice smoke ring with a steady smoke from an electric heated smoker, but if the smoke is not there to support the effort, it will likely give less than satisfactory results.

 

But again, starting lower and working up to higher temps has never failed me in the past, either with propane or charcoal fired smokers, but I would not recommend this with injected, boneless or otherwise tampered-with meats (non-intact whole muscle). I think if you can get enough heat and air to your smoke wood when you first start it up is the key, but keeping it under control as you increase smoke chamber temps will be the next step. I'm not familiar at all with the internals of the MES, but getting the correct amount of heat and air to the smoke wood is the key when using chips or chunks. Also, the smaller the chips, the less heat and air they need to produce smoke.

 

Lastly, I never soak smoke woods, as it only delays the onset of actual smoke.

 

Hope that helps you understand the smoke ring a bit more. As for getting that MES to produce an acceptable amount of smoke for the duration, its all about the heat/air getting to the smoke wood...that's as basic as I can explain it. Your smoke woods in a gas or electric rig should be charred lumps after the smoke is finished...that's a good indication of a slow, smoldering, incomplete burn which produces a nice continuous thin smoke.

 

Stay with it, brother, 'cause when you get it figured out it, your methods will reward you with the best smoked foods which money can't buy.

 

Eric

post #14 of 14

Quote:

Originally Posted by SmokinAl View Post

Thank-you for such a detailed explanation. However, I have a question. You said that "Smoke reaction is not just created by the smoke wood itself, and I have proven this by cooking on a grill with indirect heat and low temps, or in a smoker with low temps, and in either case no smoke wood(s) were used. I still had a generous "smoke ring" in the meats." My question is, were the grill & smoker using charcoal? If so I think the charcoal is where the smoke ring is coming from. Which is why some of the guys suggest putting a couple of pieces of hardwood charcoal in the chip pan. I have tried this without much luck. Maybe if I started off at a lower temp. for the first hour, then bumped it up it would work better. What do you think? 

 

 

I've actually tried this with charcoal and propane. Either way, it seems the lower cooking grate temps build a reaction with the meat from the continuous burning of fuel which is giving off the oxides. I do notice more reaction with charcoal fuel than propane as a rule. I've tried to use a 1/2 dozen or so charcoal briquettes in my gas smokers a few times as you mentioned, and didn't notice much difference in the outcome, except for a slightly better flavor from the charcoal.


I've never used an electric smoker, but I think either charcoal or smoke wood added to the chip tray/pan would help not only for flavor but to create a better smoke reaction (smoke ring). I think the guys who do get much of a smoke ring probably use a lot more smoke wood than I do in a charcoal or gas fired smoker, and they may be partially burning the wood (ash remains of smoke wood) to get the smoke ring to form better. Just my theory anyway, but it would seem that if you used more smoke wood in an electric heated smoker, you should be able to develop a better smoke ring, and of course, stronger smoke flavor, but it may also have a lot to do with a higher temperature of the burning fuel/smoke wood which creates the oxides. I had read something about this a year or so back, and for the life of me cannot get a hit when I google for info.


As far as starting the smoke at lower temps, I do that quite often. If I really want the meat to have an unmistakable look of being smoked, that's the way I do it. It may not effect the flavor all that much, but it sure looks better than starting a brisket or butt @ 250*, for example. The main rule I follow is no low temp start-up with any meat that cannot be treated as intact whole muscle.


If you wanted to try it on a bone-in chuck, tri-tip or similar size cut @ just under 200* for 45-60 minutes, then, I'd increase the chamber temp to 230-240* to make up for the lower initial temp. I've done this a few times just as an experiment, and can come pretty close to normal 225* chamber temps/times on a 3-4lb cut of meat. On larger cuts, I've done about the same thing except ran the 190-200* for an hour or less, bumped to 240* for 3-4 hours, then down to 225*. I know it goes against what most will say about keeping chamber temps steady for the best smoke reaction, and cooking to the most tender texture of the tougher cuts. I think the main issue is the overall rate of internal temperature climb as the meat enters into the plateau, where most of the connective tissues are broken down. The added benefit (IMHO) of starting with a bit lower temps is that it can extend the (dreaded) plateau on larger cuts for an hour of more, which is what low and slow really comes down to.


On the opposite side of the scale, I recently did a couple pork butts over charcoal in my Gourmet, and the results were less than optimal due to starting at higher temps in the 250-270* range and then backing it down from there. Smoke reaction was far less than my normal for pork butts...very faint and shallow. The thread/q-view is currently in my signature line (No-Foil Pulled Pork), if you wanted to look at my diary of that smoke. The main topic of this thread was reaching finished temps without foiling to achieve a heavy bark on the butts. Anyway, the smoke flavor was fine, but it would have made me wonder where the smoke flavor came from if I hadn't been the one tending the smoker that night. OK, I just pulled-up that thread, and in the final pics on post #11 is where I noted the smoke ring just above the first pic when I opened the foil after resting to pull the pork.


BTW, I've never injected butts and prefer bone-in, and I don't inject my briskets either, and don't plan on it any time soon...I like to be able to follow the intact whole muscle guidelines.

 

Eric

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