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Smoked butt fail

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

Well, a day long smoke and nothing to show for it .....  :(


I lit a chimney full of coals this morning around 8am and then prepped the smoker (filled the offset with charcoal, filled a pan with water and placed it under the rack in the grill portion, etc), I then dumped the lit chimney into the offset about 20 minutes later.  After about another 20 minutes, I placed the butt on the grill and crossed my fingers.


To prep the butt, I had it in brine for about 24 hours, then dried it off and rubbed it down, wrapping it in plastic wrap and foil, to sit then in the fridge overnight.  This morning, while the chimney was roaring, I took the butt out of the fridge, unwrapped it and let it get to room temperature before going on the grill.


It is now just after 5pm, the butt has been on the grill for over 8.5 hours and the instant read thermometer that I recently purchased reads that the butt is only 130 degrees.  WHAT THE FARK!?!?!?!?!?!


I have been babysitting the smoker all day, checking the temp, then adding more coals once an hour to maintain the temp.  But, the butt is only 130 degrees.  <sigh>


So, now, I am about to pull the butt off of the grill, place it in a foil pan and finish it in the oven.


Before I started this adventure, I did a ton of reading here and on other sites.  Everyone said that a butt should smoke an average of two hours per pound.  I attempted to smoke a four pound butt.  So, that should be eight hours.

My plan was to pull it when it reached 190 degrees, place it in a foil pan with apple juice, top it with foil and then let it cook on the grill until it was done.


I am using a Smoke Hollow 4-in-1 with the suggested mods completed recently (heat deflector, smoke stack extension, etc).


Wow, I feel deflated......



Any suggestions, comments, etc?  What did I do wrong?  What should I do different next time?


Thanks for the help!

post #2 of 26

i dont know anything bout the smoke hollow smokers but theres no way that your themr can be accurate after smoking all day at a temp of atleast 220 iam assuming? thermo has to be not working properly

post #3 of 26

bone-in or bonless my man?

post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
It was a boneless butt, wrapped in butchers string.
Once I brought it inside around 6pm, I cut the butt in half and it was pretty much raw in the middle. I finished it off in the oven at 350 for about 2 hours, and will eat it another day.

I am just disappointed that it did not work out. But I will try again soon and conquer!
post #5 of 26

Sounds like your pit temps were off a bit, and perhaps the heat loss/recovery time when you were adding coal had something to do with it.  

post #6 of 26

You don't say what the chamber temperature was reading?  I agree with the others, if it was that undercooked after 9 hours (raw in the middle) - the temperature in the chamber had to be too low.

post #7 of 26
pit temps?.....thats the important part..as for low temp, im gunna say wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy low..you were probably in the 150-175 range.
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the replies!


The outside thermometer on the smoker read that the temp was around 230.  I babysat the smoker all day to maintain this temp, if not try to kick it up a little within the last two hours by placing a full chimney of lit coals in the firebox.


Maybe I should get a digital thermometer and place it in the grill from now on to have an accurate temp?


A part of me wants to point the blame on the recent mods to the smoker as I have smoked quite a bit before the mods and have never had a problem (whole chickens, pork loins, pork chops, etc).  With this, could it be that the heat deflector mod had anything to do with the low temps?  Maybe did I use too thick of a piece of sheet metal for the mod?  Should I cut "slits" in the sheet metal to allow some heat to escape?


Thanks again!

post #9 of 26

If done correctly, the heat deflector should only move more of the heat to the middle instead of the side next to the fire box.  some photos would help to see what you did to it.  You can do a toast test to see how your heat distribution is working (pre-heat your smoker and then spread out slices of toast to cover your cooking grate.  leave them in for a few minutes, then open up and check.  If they all look evenly browned, you have great distribution.  if some are blackened and some are barely toasted, that tells you where your hot and cold spots are.


I would run a simple boiling water test on your thermometer and test it for accuracy first  Simple insert coil thermometers do break...

post #10 of 26
Originally Posted by lsmoguy View Post

It was a boneless butt, wrapped in butchers string.
Once I brought it inside around 6pm, I cut the butt in half and it was pretty much raw in the middle. I finished it off in the oven at 350 for about 2 hours, and will eat it another day.

I am just disappointed that it did not work out. But I will try again soon and conquer!


I would not eat that butt if I were you! The rules I have been reading is that unless the meat went from 40 degrees (fridge) to 140 degrees in 4 hours it will be very suseptable to food borne bacteria. You took yours out of the fridge at 8 AM and at 6 PM it was still raw in the middle. Even if you finished it up in the oven in may be unsafe to eat. Am I missing something? I'm pretty new at this myself...but from everything I have read here it would be better safe than getting sick.
post #11 of 26

The stock therms are notorious for being inaccurate. It sounds like yours is not working properly. If you don't have one get a Mav 732 or iGrill digital with remote. When you get them verify that they are accurate in boiling water and ice water. Note if they are different. Use those to monitor your pit and food temps. As was stated above if you didn't get your meat from 40*-140* in four hours there's a good chance for it to get contaminated and make you sick. Also there is no need to warm a pork butt up to room temperature prior to throwing it on the smoker. In fact it is recommended that like poultry you go straight from the fridge to the grill. I would check your pit temps with an accurate therm before throwing anymore meat on it.

post #12 of 26

i would remove that therm on the smoker and test it in boiling water and i bet you are at least 30 degrees off if not more. depending on your elevation boiling temp differs a bit but you can look that up. stick the tip of that therm in boiling water and see what it reads!


not that this has anything to do with your results but a 24 hour brine sounds a bit much to me. 

post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Here are a few pics of my smoker with mods.

post #14 of 26

Sorry - I don't see anything about the deflector that raises any concerns related to your results.  In one photo - it seems like most of your ash was on the left side of the fire box - I can't tell from the photo - did the ash pile cover the opening into the cooking chamber?  It also seems like there is a lot of ash in the cooking chamber, but I don't see how that would have affected the cooking temp.  I'd go back to checking the thermometer

post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 

No, that ash came from the coal basket that sits just above the heat deflector.  I did not completely clean out the grill before using it.


I have been reading a lot on temps and thermometers.  A few responses to my original post said that the temps were probably not high enough even though the stock thermometer on the smoker said that it maintained a temp around 230 all day.  I am planning on buying a Maverick ET-73 in the near future.


Other than adding coals (lit and unlit) to the firebox, and adjusting the vents, what is the best way to change and/or regulate the temps in the smoker?


As I mentioned, I have used this smoker before for other types of meat, but this was my first time using the smoker after completing the suggested mods.  Do you all think that it was the mods, or the thickness of the meat?



Just as fyi ... when I arrived home last night, I threw all of the pork away, even though I had it in the oven for almost two hours after attempting to smoke it all day.  I figured it was better to be safe than sorry and get sick!

post #16 of 26

Don't give up! Buying a Maverick is one of the best investments you'll make.  My butts routinely take 3+ hrs per pound at 225+.  I did three butts on Sunday ranging from 3.5 to 4.4 #.  Dome temp and Grate temp (Maverick, tested with boiling water) were nearly identical.  Butts on at 5 AM, at 3 PM I was at 190 (10 fun-filled hours, so 3+ hours per pound).  Ended up foiling until 203, about 4:30 PM.  Some folks go right to foil at the stall to push it thru and cut down on cooking time.  Also, try the "Pit Pal" app (android), if you can and it's a cool way to log your cooks, temps over time, etc.


Keep on smokin'!

post #17 of 26
Thread Starter 

While at the store the other day, I strolled through the meat department to see what they had out.

I was noodling the idea to purchase a fresh turkey breast to smoke to redeem myself from the failure last weekend.

As I was walking past the pork section, I saw a small, two pound butt and thought that I would give it a shot.


I went through the same process as last weekend with the brinning overnight and then wrapping the meat after rubbing it and letting it sit over another night.


This morning, I cleaned out the firebox, filled it halfway with unlit coals and then added a full, lit chimney to the firebox.


While I was at the store, I picked up a wireless, digital thermometer that I have in the cooker (with the probe sitting in a block of wood so that it does not rest on the grates) to give a better readout than the stock temp gauge on the front of the cooker.


For the first two hours, the temp in the cooker was between 245 and 260, with a spike max temp around 275.  I adjusted the vent on the firebox to "play" with the temps, and trying to maintain a temp around 250.


After about the third hour, the temps dropped and I could not get them back up.  The temps went from hovering around 245 to 220 to 205 and then leveled off.


I placed the butt in a foil pan with a layer of apple juice at the bottom and then wrapped the top of the pan with foil.


I have added unlit coals to the firebox with a chimney of lit coals on top of everything.  However, I am unable to get the temps above 215.


Why can't I get the temps back up?


I plan on keeping the butt in the pan on the cooker for about another hour, take the temp of the meat, and if it is around 200, I will pull the meat off and let it "rest" for about an hour before I pull it.


The meat looks a ton better than what I had last week!


I will update this post with a status as the day goes on, I will also add a couple of pictures as I get them.

post #18 of 26
Sounds like you are making progress in the correct direction.

Sorry to hear you had to toss the meat. But I think you made a wise choice. No need to take a chance with the health of your guest.

A couple things to note. Your ash needs to have a place to go. You picture looked to have a lot of ash in the fire box area. If the charcoal is covered in ash it will not generate much heat. You will actually burn more fuel and have lower temps.
The water pan....personally I do not like a water pan in an off set smoker. It takes a lot of energy and heat to get the water up to temp. In turn you burn more fuel.

I would add my coal during the cook already lit. Unlit charcoal get a nasty smoke and taste if not careful.......

As you learn how the smoker cooks the less you will need to open it. The less you open the fire box and cook chamber the better heat control you will have.
post #19 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply!
That is what I thought, the ash was choking out the coals. I guess I need to find a way to raise the grate that the coals sit on so they have a place to go. Any suggestions?

As promised, here are the pics.

post #20 of 26
Yes you need a dual probe thermometer even with a calibrated thermometer your pit temp vs the outside dial temp can be off 40 degrees.
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