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Need some tips from some pros again!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I have missed y'all so much! After freezing my arse off in February, I went into smoke hybernation, and I'm just now coming back out to blow the cobwebs off my smoker.

 

This weekend, my husband's buddies at the Sheriff's Office are doing a mud run at the lake, and I am going to smoke for our close friends. I'm doing pork butt (maybe 2) a brisket, and 3 racks of pork spareribs.I'm just wondering what I need to know about about smoking this much meat. What should I know about staggering times, etc? All I've done so far is one meat at a time. I'm concerned about crowding my smoker. I'm going to have to do the ribs (3-2-1) one rack at a time, so that I have plenty of room. (YES, this is over the course of 2 days. I'm not staying up for 24 hours to do this!!!).

 

Also, just a question on preference. Foil the pork butt at 165ish or leave it to smoke until I hit 205? Why do you do it this way? I do spray my meat, about every hour with apple juice mixture, if that makes any difference. I'm pretty sure I'm going to foil the brisket to make sure it stays really moist. (Also, this time I am buying 100% untrimmed brisket. The butcher said that the only thing that's been trimmed off this is the cow!)

 

And I have one last question, that is really really dumb. Al recommends wrapping the pork butt in towels and placing it in a cooler to rest (I can't remember for how long. I'll have to look up that thread). This means just an empty cooler, correct. I don't want to actually cool the meat off by having ice in there, correct?

 

Thanks, in advance for all the awesome advice I know I'm going to get!

post #2 of 6

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by techsasgirl View Post

I have missed y'all so much! After freezing my arse off in February, I went into smoke hybernation, and I'm just now coming back out to blow the cobwebs off my smoker.

 

This weekend, my husband's buddies at the Sheriff's Office are doing a mud run at the lake, and I am going to smoke for our close friends. I'm doing pork butt (maybe 2) a brisket, and 3 racks of pork spareribs.I'm just wondering what I need to know about about smoking this much meat. What should I know about staggering times, etc? All I've done so far is one meat at a time. I'm concerned about crowding my smoker. I'm going to have to do the ribs (3-2-1) one rack at a time, so that I have plenty of room. (YES, this is over the course of 2 days. I'm not staying up for 24 hours to do this!!!).

 

What model/type of smoker will you be using...horizontal or vertical...wide-body vertical? I may be able to help in finding ways to fit more at one time...I've been known for cramming 10lbs of poop into a 5lb bag. Anyway, no, you don't want to over-crowd the smoker as it baffles heat passing though it if it's a vertical rig, and it's more difficult to avoid any hot/cold spots that may be present on the grates, even with a horizontal...but, you can at times take advantage of the hot/cold spots when cooking various meats...been there dozens of times myself.

 

Pulled pork and most forms of brisket (exception being burnt ends) reheat in a covered cooker just fine, so maybe do those in advance by a day or so...could be frozen if done well in advance, thawed a couple days ahead, then reheated.

 

As for ribs, if you will reheat to serve, forgo the 3-2-1 and instead just smoke until you see a decent pull-back, then, wrap in foil, rest for 20-30 minutes and chill. Reheat in foil @ 250* for 90 minutes, and if you want to set the bark, go back to open grate for 30-45 minutes @ 225*. Ribs seem best if straight from the smoker when served, so this may be your best bet for an on-sight smoke, and reheat the brisket and butt.

 

Also, just a question on preference. Foil the pork butt at 165ish or leave it to smoke until I hit 205? Why do you do it this way? I do spray my meat, about every hour with apple juice mixture, if that makes any difference. I'm pretty sure I'm going to foil the brisket to make sure it stays really moist. (Also, this time I am buying 100% untrimmed brisket. The butcher said that the only thing that's been trimmed off this is the cow!)

 

If you want great bark, don't foil as it kills the barks' texture, but if you reheat in pans/foil or crock-pot to serve, that will also kill the bark. If you know you will be reheating it, just do the foil and save time on cooking. With spraying comes smoke chamber openings and heat loss, smoke chamber temp recovery time, etc, so remember that.

 

And I have one last question, that is really really dumb. Al recommends wrapping the pork butt in towels and placing it in a cooler to rest (I can't remember for how long. I'll have to look up that thread). This means just an empty cooler, correct. I don't want to actually cool the meat off by having ice in there, correct?

 

No such thing as a dumb question here. Yes, double-wrap in foil (insurance against leakage) and towels (old bath towels work fine and you won't loose any sleep if they get stained) to rest butts and brisket for several hours before slicing/pulling (generally speaking 2hrs is enough, but longer will work if you're on time constraints)...the towel and cooler (empty, dry, no ice) insulate the meat so it cools down slowly to redistribute the meat's natural juices...makes for more interior moisture when served. Note: larger cuts of meat should still be well above safe holding temps after resting without any food safety issues, provided you go straight from the smoker to wrapped and coolered resting.

 

Oh, when foiling, use separate pieces and keep the seams away from each other slightly...if one seam leaks, the other seam won't be in the same place and reduces risk for it leaking as well. An alternative I like is to use foil 1/2 or full-size steam table pans to drop the meat into, then tent tightly with foil, place on a folded towel and cover the ends/sides/top with one or two more towels...be sure there are no gaps in the towels that can heat escape.

 

Think I covered most of it for now, but I'm only one mind...

 

Let us know what your smoker is, and there may be some things that can be done to help reduce extra smoke sessions...don't sweat it though...where there's a will, there's a way. Having a good plan to start with is the key to reducing your blood-pressure.

 

Thanks, in advance for all the awesome advice I know I'm going to get!

 

You're welcome!

 

 

Eric

 

 

 

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
I have an offset direct flow smoker. I am using an old sheet pan for a baffle, and while I don't have tuning plates, I will be using an aluminum pan with water under my grate. Does that change any of your advice?
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
A horizontal direct flow offset smoker. Sorry!
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Also, I am not really planning on precooking or reheating any of the food. I'm kind if wanting to serve foods all day long as they come off the smoker.
post #6 of 6

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by techsasgirl View Post

Also, I am not really planning on precooking or reheating any of the food. I'm kind if wanting to serve foods all day long as they come off the smoker.

 

Ah, OK, so it's all cooked onsite. That will make for more options to you as to how you can finish each meat (foil or no foil to finish it), as well as how to serve it. Not having to reheat is a big plus. Brisket and butts will take the longest, as you know, so be prepared to set-up the day before onsite and get things rolling with the larger cuts sometime that evening. No foil smoke increases cooking time, but will provide a far better finished pulled pork or brisket (bark), IMHO.

 

For 8lb butts and 12-14lb packer briskets, I've had them take 18-25+ hours @ ~225* grate/chamber temps, but many here have smoked them @ up to 250* and had good results with reduction in cooking time...seems like I've tried this myself a few times and didn't notice any adverse effects from the slightly higher chamber temps, though I would be careful about added sugars in your dry rub...long smokes, and especially at higher temps can cause scorching. I've read posts here that Turbinado (sugar in the raw) withstands the heat better, scorches less easily, and also adds some flavor other than just sweetness (can't say what it's like, haven't tried it) so if your dry rub recipe uses sugar, you nay want to use this, or omit the sweet side and use a bit different blend for a naturally sweeter profile. Red bell pepper powder is a nice touch for that (let me know if you're interested in trying this...have several good recipes on hand using dried ground sweet red bells).

 

The overnight start-up will allow for some resting time after you reach finished temps. Working out exact times for smoking won't really be possible, but here's what I'd do in your situation: 1) overnight with the heavier cuts, ribs on in the morning for 6-hr smoke for lunch at around noon or whenever you/they decide on for lunch time; 2) serve brisket and pulled pork for supper in the evening or late afternoon.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by techsasgirl View Post

I have an offset direct flow smoker. I am using an old sheet pan for a baffle, and while I don't have tuning plates, I will be using an aluminum pan with water under my grate. Does that change any of your advice?

 

You may want to have a couple (or several oven rack thermometers to place in amongst your cuts of meat just so you know what you grate temps actually are. This will allow you to identify potential cooking issues due to grate temp variances and rotate the larger cuts into varying places to compensate for higher/lower grate temps so they can all cook more evenly and be finished about the same time.

 

The water pan under the grate may or may not be beneficial, depending on placement, as it can act as a baffle and force heat to pass under the pan and not get to the food above it. Also, water removes heat from the smoke chamber due to evaporation. It can be a good idea if it's closer to the firebox end to help get more even temps across the grate from firebox to vent end. I would advise experimenting with the idea if you haven't used this method before with this much food to smoke at the same time...things change when you start loading up the grates, as flows of heat and smoke will be baffled or redirected in certain places. If you can't load it up a bit before the big smoke, I'd at least set it up like you want to start with and get a smoke going for a weekend (or weekday) at home meal, toss some oven rack therms in on the grates and move them around about every 30 minutes. Temps should be stable with that much time between opening the smoke chamber...get quick readings (I take pics when grate temp-testing, so I can zoom in and see them all), write them down (position and temp) and move them again. Repeat until you're satisfied with the results and you have a fair representation of grate temps. You can look back at hot/cold spots in relation to your chamber temp thermometer readings and have a much better idea what to expect and where to place the meats for the big smoke. If things change when you get it loaded up (most likely will), you can already have thermometers in place to know if something is not they way you'd like to see it, and move the meats around periodically every few hours with the larger cuts, and about eery hour or so with the ribs.

 

I spent several days off and on developing a full-length one-piece tuning plate mod for my SnP horizontal...lots of temp testing and adjustments to the tuning plate to get it pretty even end to end and front to back...the drawback was that it used 2-1/2 times more fuel than it should have, so I didn't use it much, and broke it down a year or so later...oh, well...good experience, anyway. But that's an extreme situation which I would not advise anyone to do...lots of patience and time are required.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by techsasgirl View Post

A horizontal direct flow offset smoker. Sorry!

 

Ha-ha! No worries, I knew what you meant when you said offset.

 

Crap! I just read back on your planned time for this. Two more days to prep...three at the most...ah, not so bad. Hope I didn't confuse the daylights out of you here...if I did, don't sweat it. If something's not 100% clear, let me know. I'll be home on Wednesday (25th) and close to the computer, so I will around to assist you if need be, as will the hundreds of others here who can walk you through things. I will be on my blackberry after that during the day (home PC at night), but can still post, just not very often while I'm at work...just in case...

 

I think I got all my thoughts out, if not I'll be back again. It does sound like one fun little project, well, little for me I guess, but BIG for you..LOL!!!

 

Don't sweat the questions, either...we're all here to learn and/or help each other to learn...that's why I call it a family here, because we help each other.

 

Remember to breathe when you feel like it's becoming too much, or it' seems it's getting over your head...been there, trust me...keep a clear head, and you'll do just fine.

 

Have a great smoke!

 

 

Eric


Edited by forluvofsmoke - 4/24/12 at 9:46pm
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