or Connect
SmokingMeatForums.com › Forums › Smoking Meat (and other things) › Pork › 2nd Attempt: Lean-Trimmed Butt - Wet/Dry Smoke Chamber: Q-View & Method
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

2nd Attempt: Lean-Trimmed Butt - Wet/Dry Smoke Chamber: Q-View & Method

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

This is part two of an experiment with a lean-trimmed pork butt while smoking in a dry environment to improve interior moisture retention and bark development. Today, I modified the process from the lessons learned earlier. If you weren't following me on the first run with this cooking method (or wish to refresh your memory), the original thread is: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/122833/no-foil-lean-trimmed-butt-in-brinkmann-gourmet-w-dry-smoke-chamber-q-view-finished

 

I do fully intend to take this hot smoking method into truly lean cuts of meat for a healthier diet, as time allows (such as brisket flat, pork loin, etc), so be watching for those in the future if this is something that really interests you. Moisture retention is the main focus of this method of cooking, while finding a balance of smoke reaction, and the desired amount of bark, or lack thereof, if you don't want bark.

 

As I mentioned in the thread above, I didn't feel the smoke had adequate time for reaction with the meat due to the meat's surface having dried and skinned-over too quickly with a low-humidity smoke chamber, so I went with the charcoal Gourmet again for the start-up of this smoke last night, with water in the foil pan over the pea-gravel filled water pan and a heavier application of smoke for the first 4 hours. This elevated the smoke chamber humidity somewhat, hopefully allowing for better smoke reaction with the meat, even though it was only for 4 hours, then removed the pork butt from the smoke altogether and switching to a dry cooking chamber for the remainder of the smoke. The remaining water in the pan (along with examining the meat drippings) indicated approx 1/2 - 2/3 quart of water was evaporated into the smoke chamber during the 4-hr smoke...maybe not quite as much as I intended, but we'll see later if it was enough for a decent amount of smoke reaction.

 

The pea-gravel dampened some of the heat getting to the water pan creating a slower evaporation, thus slightly reduced humidity in comparison with using just water in the pan. I have 2 water pans for this particular smoker, so I could in fact run straight water in the pan for maximum humidity during the smoke, then remove it and switch to pea-gravel, though I would need to preheat the gravel pan in another smoker or oven @ ~250* to avoid loosing as much chamber temps. Switching pans would also slow the thermal absorption of the meat while it was removed (top loading smoker) for the time it would take to make the swap. I decided for this particular situation to prep my Smoke Vault 24 in advance, and seasoned it with a pea-gravel filled water pan, then preheated to drop the butt in after the 4-hr smoke for the remainder of the cooking. This only took about 20 or 30 seconds to make the swap, so no major addition of cooking time was involved.

 


 

To kick things off, I took a 8.8lb butt which was enhanced with "up to 8%" solution, trimmed it heavily, and rubbed with SPG (salt, pepper, garlic). I didn't get pre/post trimmed weight comparisons, as I was in a hurry to get this started as an after work smoke (only 1 day off work this weekend), but I trimmed about 1/2lb of fat and a bit around the edges (much leaner trim than the first run), with removal of the entire fat-cap. Again, simple seasoning as with the first experiment, with nothing special used to develop a bark (other than the salt), just to show what the meat will do on it's own.

 

Oh, and I did catch a nice break in the weather this time. Winds were calm to light, and no storms to deal with. The only issue I ran up against was my butt was still partially frozen after 2.5 days in a 37-38* fridge thaw (firm, but somewhat flexible when handling...maybe ~26-28* internal temp in the center?) when I trimmed it up, so I maintained a 230-235* chamber temp during the smoke, and 240-250* for the first 90 minutes after switching to the Smoke Vault, then dropped back to 225* for the rest of the night. Smoke started @ 8:30 PM on Saturday 06-17-12.

 

4-hrs in and getting ready to make the switch from the Gourmet to the Smoke Vault...I used an accessory cooking grate to place the butt on which would fit into both smokers so I could leave it undisturbed when changing smokers. I didn't get any prep pics...nothing special to look at anyway, and you can see in areas of these pics that there really isn't much of a dry rub. It's all about the meat, smoke and cooking chamber humidity levels:

4.JPG

 

5.JPG

 

6.JPG

 

7.JPG

 

 

And, to my surprise, I woke to 172* internal temps @ 11.5 hours (much, much faster cooking than I expected)...here we are about 11.75 hours in and 174*. First pic in good faith...quite fuzzy due to the camera operator getting rushed and not allowing the auto-focus to take control, but, yes, it's in the Smoke Vault now, and this shows my modified accessory cooking grate, as well:

P1010537.JPG

 

P1010538.JPG

 

P1010539.JPG

 

P1010540.JPG

 

 

OK, so you may be asking yourself: how can this be that the meat gets such a deep color without a rub containing chili powder, paprika and other ingredients that can produce color enhancements? My answer relies only on what I've experienced: oven roasting with open pans allows for much of this same caramelizing of the meat's surface, just not as much on the bottom and sides. Open-grate smoking is a very similar process, except that there is no pan to baffle the heat getting to the bottom and sides of the roast, and we are adding smoke to the equation, which can add a deeper color. And, no, I don't spray/mist liquids on my meats while smoking...at least I haven't to this point in time...maybe for certain applications, it would be beneficial, but it would destroy what I'm working towards for today's smoke.

 

Will it be moist and tender with no fat-cap and cooked for the majority of time in a low-humidity environment? I know it will. Will the smoke be adequate with only 4 hours of heavier smoke on an 8lb cut of pork butt? That's yet to be determined, but I'll let you know my take on the finished product today. Will it have a good bark? How about a GREAT bark? YES!!!

 

To preserve what will prove to be another fantastic bark covering the majority of the meat's surface of the butt due to complete fat-cap removal, I decided to rest it on the grate, placed on a cutting board, and to only cover with a clean, dry towel to allow it the breathe and not collect steam while it slowly cools before pulling. This will cool a bit faster than foil/towel-wrapped/cooler resting, yes, but experience has taught me that the longer, more insulated resting can be used when needed for timing your meals, though it isn't a prerequisite for great pulled pork. 60-90 minutes will redistribute the meat juices adequately, as long as you aren't cooling too quickly. Remember, we have the mass of this larger cut of meat working in our favor here...larger = slower cooling. I'm opting for the most natural approach possible, so no treatment with added fats/oils for crisping the bark, and simple seasonings, just to find out what the meat can really do for me, all on it's own.

 

Today, this smoke is all about moist, tender pulled pork with a crisp, heavy, natural bark (a huge dog's WOOF-WOOF!!!), with a leaner trim for healthier diet, a fair amount of smoke, and flavors which are largely unadulterated by a heavy rub. To accomplish all this with relatively minimal prep and the total lack of complicated cooking methods may not seem easy, but it is. I'm only playing with smoke chamber humidity here. In the past few years, I was all about adding to the overall flavor profile with enhancement through careful use of dry rub, brine and marinade ingredients...nothing wrong with that...but I'm going back to the basics here to find ways to improve the finished texture and moisture of leaner smoked meats while allowing the natural flavors of the meat and smoke to walk on their own.

 

Switching to the Smoke Vault gasser allowed me to get some sleep without fire-tending, which was a nice change. I though about dropping the butt into the oven, then realized I wouldn't have the depth of cooking chamber dimensions that the Smoke Vault offered, which would have been a bit more difficult to achieve the same open grate cooking performance, and thus would slightly increase the actual chamber humidity. I also don't know how well this particular oven is ventilated (I don't oven cook much, myself), so didn't want to take a chance on skewing the results of this smoke.

 

Well, last temp checks were 185-187* @ 13.5 to 15.5 hrs and counting (high-temp stall, which I wanted to see, as it will finish too early for dinner anyway)...target temp is 200*, with some probing around for tenderness checks, but I'm confident that 200* will do the job, so long as this butt didn't just blast through the mid-150 to mid-160* range...we'll see in a few hours. I will say this, up to this point, this is by far among the fastest cooking no-foil butt smokes I've ever experienced. I've had fresh brined butts (full, but scored fat-cap) in the 8+ lb range take over 25 hours in a humid smoke chamber at relatively similar chamber temps. Is the drier smoke chamber the reason, and/or lack of fat cap and slightly reduced weight as a result of the trimming? My last butt using a dry smoke chamber took 16.5 hours to hit 200* I/T (cooked entirely in the Gourmet), and it was a bit smaller with only a small amount of fat-cap, and chamber temps were fluctuating a bit due to the weather I was dealing with at the time.

 

 

Just wanted to get this up and running so those who are interested have a bit of heads-up before the finish is upon us.

 

Back with the results, ASAP!

 

Thanks for peekin', and, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all my smokin' brothers!!!

 

 

Eric


Edited by forluvofsmoke - 7/9/12 at 8:18pm
post #2 of 8
Thread Starter 

Pulled Pork Heaven, again! Got to spend some time with the family this evening, so posting earlier just wouldn't have been right...

 

So much for the short smoke I thought I might be getting...20.5 hours to reach just under 200* (197-198, most spots)..sometimes you get a stubborn ass that just refuses to go over 190*, and this was one of them. The probe slid into the meat just like last time...no resistance.

 

Come to Daddy!!!

1.JPG

 

2.JPG

 

 

And, still on the grate, to rest elevated while covered with paper towels...should breathe enough to keep the bark set nicely:

3.JPG

 

6 'o-clock here is a better view of the bone...serious shrinkage, just the way we like it:

4.JPG

 

 

So far, with no handling, other than some light poking on the bark, it feels like there is a soft area underneath (away from the bone), but the bark is hard.

 

I'm shooting for a minimum of 60 minutes, hoping for 90, though most of the hungry mass is hanging out chatting while waiting for chow...we'll see how long I can hold them off...Ha-ha!

 

I held it for 75 minutes resting, so I met them half-way...

 

Same treatment for bone removal...meat was loose, but the bark was stuck tight and had to be broken loose:

5.JPG

 

6.JPG

 

I'll let these speak for themselves...

7.JPG

 

8.JPG

 

9.JPG

 

10.JPG

 

11.JPG

 

12.JPG

 

13.JPG

 

15.JPG

 

Moisture was as good as it looks. In fact, I thought it might have been a bit drier than the first round a few weeks back (to my naked eyes), but when I viewed the pics on the monitor they revealed that it was just as good as the first run.

 

Smoke did come through a bit stronger this time, so a humid smoke chamber to get this cooking method started does have quite an effect. A stronger blend of woods will of course bring even stronger flavors, so I'm happy with that end for the smoke as well.

 

The bark was like several solid flaps with meat attached. I broke the butt open into sections by muscle groups, which was easily accomplished, as that is where it wanted to separate anyway. I broke the bark apart and let the meat fall into the bowl, and removed some soft fat deposits and a few other nasties. The fat had rendered down for the most part, but some of the thicker layers just had no way to escape the hard crust on the surface, so as the meat cooled before pulling (was 158* when I went for it) I was able to easily remove the loosened fat as well.

 

Overall, the texture was still about the same as the first run...not mushy, not tough, just a tender chew without any grainy/mealy feel to it as if it were overcooked. The bark had a great chew with some crunchiness here and there to go along with the very tender interior meat. The wife and kids say they were great sammies...I'm my own worst critic sometimes, but I do agree with them...really nice PP for little effort and prep work, IMHO. Oh, and the soft area under the bark that I mentioned before pulling? That was one of those fat layers...nice firm but tender meat once it was removed.

 

I still do feel that this one was slightly drier than the first run, and asking my wife and youngest daughter, they're saying it may have been just a little drier. Still very moist and good eating, but just that slight difference in moisture can be detected. My theory is that with this one taking about 20% longer to cook with a slightly lower average chamber temp may have added that much more opportunity for moisture evaporation at the end. So, I'm now thinking to maintain chamber temps in the upper 230* to mid 240* range for the duration...less time to complete the cooking for less chance of moisture evaporation. Yes, pork shoulder cuts benefit from low & slow (around 225*) for tenderizing the meat, though I don't feel an extra 10-15* average chamber temp will effect this. Many smoke theirs at 250* and have tender meats...now, 275* and up? Nope...been there, done that (on purpose, just for giggles), learned my lesson...didn't like the outcome, so I won't go there again.

 

Well, another baby-step towards the ultimate pulled pork utilizing simple methods is over, but won't be forgotten. I guess in a way, this is like fine-tuning between tug and chew vs fall off the bone ribs...playing with the variables to get what you like best. I'm close on this one, and a bit more tweeking between humidity at the start and higher chamber temps for the duration and I'll have it nailed down, for pork butts, at least.Then there is the almost endless list of lean meats to start using this on, which is what will really be a true test for this methods viability...ah, another day, another smoke...no worries from me.

 

Hope we all gathered something from this...I know I learned a few things with this one, myself.

 

Great smokes to all!

 

 

Eric

 

 

EDIT: Wiki Article: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/wet-to-dry-no-foil-smoke-chamber-method-for-smoking-meats


Edited by forluvofsmoke - 6/2/13 at 9:20pm
post #3 of 8

Oh yes that's some mighty fine looking PP. I love your posts with all the details. Thanks for such a wonderful ride...if I could have smelled I would have been right there!!!! 

post #4 of 8

Eric, When I read this thread I just knew I had to try this method, so I did! I smoked 2 9# pork picnics last night/today and tried to follow this method best I could. I have to say "this is the Best pulled pork I have smoked to date"! This is the moistest juiciest most flavorful PP I have ever done! I will admit I kind of messed up (because I was smoking something else) and the bark on the bottom was like leather, the bark on the top was fine, I could shred it easily. My fault, I moved them to the bottom rack to put a pan above them because I didn't want them dripping on it. I think being so close to the sand pan was just too hot. Next time they will stay right in the middle and I think that won't happen. I am going to write a thread with some Q-View but just to tired tonight, maybe I'll get it up tomorrow.

Thank You for all your experimentation and sharing your knowledge with us!

post #5 of 8

At First Blush---Lots and Lots of Bark!!! ((((I didn't even read the THESIS(It's late and I'm tired!!! I been "sitting" with grandmother while everyone away at a Baptism"))) Now that's MY kind of BBQ...Who wouldn't go nuts over something so scrumptous looking...??!!? I'd hit it with a little available liquid sauce and MOW Down!!!

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmokinHusker View Post

Oh yes that's some mighty fine looking PP. I love your posts with all the details. Thanks for such a wonderful ride...if I could have smelled I would have been right there!!!! 

 

Thanks, Alesia! I had to think about it for a minute to realized what you meant when you said "if I could have smelled"...duh! Wild fires! Hope you were able to load up a smoker to take with when you evacuated, so you can get right back to it. Ah, you were talking about upgrading, but loosing your smoker to a fire wouldn't be my idea of the best excuse. Hope everything turns out better than you hope for.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by southernsausage View Post

At First Blush---Lots and Lots of Bark!!! ((((I didn't even read the THESIS(It's late and I'm tired!!! I been "sitting" with grandmother while everyone away at a Baptism"))) Now that's MY kind of BBQ...Who wouldn't go nuts over something so scrumptous looking...??!!? I'd hit it with a little available liquid sauce and MOW Down!!!

 

Ha-ha! That was a killer bark...best I've ever created on a shoulder cut.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2K9K View Post

Eric, When I read this thread I just knew I had to try this method, so I did! I smoked 2 9# pork picnics last night/today and tried to follow this method best I could. I have to say "this is the Best pulled pork I have smoked to date"! This is the moistest juiciest most flavorful PP I have ever done! I will admit I kind of messed up (because I was smoking something else) and the bark on the bottom was like leather, the bark on the top was fine, I could shred it easily. My fault, I moved them to the bottom rack to put a pan above them because I didn't want them dripping on it. I think being so close to the sand pan was just too hot. Next time they will stay right in the middle and I think that won't happen. I am going to write a thread with some Q-View but just to tired tonight, maybe I'll get it up tomorrow.

Thank You for all your experimentation and sharing your knowledge with us!

 

Hey Dave! Glad to hear you gave it a shot! Now that you mention it, I do think the natural flavors of the the pork shoulder seemed much better than I get using a wet smoke chamber throughout the cooking. It just makes sense...seal in the juices and you seal in the flavor.

 

It's really good to hear that someone from a humid climate could pull it off, too. Now, I'm not concerned that my semi-arid climate had much to do with my results. I started thinking that a higher R/H may have a slight effect on the smoke chamber humidity, but was also considering that it could have a much more drastic effect on the resting period, when you really need to keep the surface dry for bark preservation.

 

Don't sweat those little boo-boo's, Dave...sometimes you've just got too much going on in a smoker to keep everything rolling under ideal conditions. You just adapt and overcome as best you can.

 

Just curious, did you rest your picnics loosely (elevated and covered with a breathable towel instead of foiling) to preserve the bark?

 

I'll look for your thread after work and see how it came out for you (I gotta work up through the 4th, then I'm off for 2). Oh, don't hold out on any of those close-up pics, either! LOL!!!

 

 

Eric

post #7 of 8

I missed this first round so came back after prompting from Daves post. This pork has some beautiful Bark. I have always smoked in a dry chamber but always kept the temps closer to 225*F. I am satisfied with the smoke penetration I get. So I am not sure I need the humid first 4 hours but I will try a temp bump to 240*F...JJ

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef JimmyJ View Post

I missed this first round so came back after prompting from Daves post. This pork has some beautiful Bark. I have always smoked in a dry chamber but always kept the temps closer to 225*F. I am satisfied with the smoke penetration I get. So I am not sure I need the humid first 4 hours but I will try a temp bump to 240*F...JJ

 

JJ, I think if you're happy with what your getting regarding smoke reaction and bark, then don't change it. If you do want to find out what this method can do for your pulled pork, give it a whirl. I do think you'll notice a bit less smoke reaction if you bump temps up while still running with a dry smoke chamber, so beware of that. The reason I say this is that the hotter the chamber, the faster the meat's surface will tighten-up and skin-over, so that's where I went to using a wet pan to get a better smoke reaction, then switched to dry to seal it all up.

 

I noticed a slightly better finished product with higher chamber temps, probably due to a bit less time to reach finished temps, resulting in slightly less natural moisture evaporation.

 

It will depend a great deal on the smoker type and amount of ventilation as well. During dry chamber smoking, if the smoker has a low amount of draft, it may very well create a higher chamber humidity just from the low amount of water vapor coming off your meat, and this in itself can create a better smoke reaction for your meat, but this can reduce the potential for bark development. That's where I decided to try to balance the wet/dry chamber cooking, to create a good environment for smoke, then dry the meat;s surface so it can seal up and hold it's moisture.

 

Great smokes to ya, brother!

 

 

Eric

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Pork
SmokingMeatForums.com › Forums › Smoking Meat (and other things) › Pork › 2nd Attempt: Lean-Trimmed Butt - Wet/Dry Smoke Chamber: Q-View & Method