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"It takes as long as it takes" vs. Flawed workflow

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi Guys,


I have been lurking for a while but this issue has come up the last 3 times I have done a pork shoulder.  


There is the old time frame stand by of 1.5-2.0 hours per lb, but the last 3 pork shoulders I have done have been averaging about 3-3.5 hours a lb.  I did one on the weekend, I use a Weber Kettle with IQ120 and Kingsford Blue with apple chips.  I set the temp to 250 and didn't touch it until the temp dropped as the fuel had run low.  I put the 3.5# shoulder on at about 7:30am after a 30 min rest out of the fridge after an overnight rubdown and it finally hit 196 at just before 7:00pm, I didnt foil at all.  I would say that the temp didn't fluctuate much, due to the IQ, maybe a dip of 20 degrees for about 10 minutes when I had to refuel and there was a minimal stall at 165.  This one I didn't use a water pan, but the last one I did about 2 weeks ago I did use a water pan and it took about the same amount of time.  I have it probed with a Maverick probe that I have done the boil test on and it is spot on as well as the meat probe that comes with the IQ and they read the same


With this information, do I just need to wait and enjoy more frosty beverages because the meat does what the meat does or am I doing something wrong?  The bark and flavor are awesome and nobody is complaining, but I want to get into bigger hunks of animal, but don't want to get into a 18-24 hour smoke, I don't know if the wife will be that understanding.  I am just wondering how people can do huge hunks of meat and get it powered through in what seems like half the time.



post #2 of 6

The cut of meat is most likely the culprit. Or I should say the Hog itself, it's age etc... I have had the same thing happen with A 4 pounder as well as large Butts. Luck of the draw. That said, foiling cuts some time for sure and apple juice helps to break down the connective tissue as well. I once bought two nine pounders and smoked them side by side exactly the same and had A 5 hour difference in time. Like you said it is done when it is done as far as I have seen. Some people on here swear by hotter and faster for Butts but I have never tried that myself. I like my stuff smokey so have always gone low and slow and sometimes eat at midnight. lol

post #3 of 6

The question I'd have is whether you were cooking a "whole" piece of meat or a cross section of one.  3.5#'s seems very small to have been either an entire picnic or an entire Boston Butt, which are the two cuts that come from a whole pork shoulder.


Let's presume you were cooking a Butt.  Most that I have ever seen have been in the 7 to 12 lb range.    Either your piece came from a very small suckling pig, or, what you actually had was a section of a whole butt. 


This would explain why your "X amount of time per hour" was off by so much.    "X time ..." presumes that you are working with a whole cut of meat where the thickness of the piece changes proportionally as the weight increases.  


The weight of a cut of meat doesn't actually determine it's cook time.   Cook time is determined by the thickness of the meat.   When cooking, the meat is being heated from all around, left, right, front, back, top and bottom.   Say that you have a 9lb butt that is is 8 inches wide, 12 inches long and 5 inches thick.   Heat would have to travel half those distances to reach the center.   So, that would be 4 inches of the width, 6 inches of the length but only 2.5 inches of the height.   The heat travelling 2.5 inches will reach the center faster, so the thickness is what determines how long the meat will cook.


Let's say that the butcher split the butt above in half leaving 2 pieces of butt that are 6 inches long, 8 inches wide and still 5 inches thick.    The 5 inches of thickness is still the shortest side and will determine the cook time.    The cook time of each half butt will be almost exactly the same as before, even though this piece ways roughly 1/2 of what the entire butt weighed.


Say that the 9lb butt took 13.5 hours to cook, which is 1.5 hours per pound.    Each of these 4.5 lb butts would also take roughly 13.5 hours to cook,  giving you a cook time of 3 hours per pound.

post #4 of 6

You are not alone.  My first shoulder took a very long time I believe for the reasons given above


post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the science knowledge bomb Demo, I think I will start charting not only heat x time, but add in dimensions of the meat as well.  Luckily, when I do a smoke, we don't intend on making it for dinner that night, usually we portion it up and put some in the freezer for rainy days; but if it gets done in time we can just have it instead.I don't have the fancy graphing probe like HEU, but that is pretty much what my shoulders have looked like so I am glad I am not alone.  I should have taken photos so at least you would be able to see the finished product to reward you for your assistance on this.

post #6 of 6

Actually I just recorded the temps on a pad of paper and plotted in Excel. 

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