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The Tale Of Two Butts And My Confusion

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
So, Food Lion had Picnics on sale for $0.79/lbs. Considering I had never done a Picnic before I went to Food Lion to see what they had. It just so happened there were three left. A 10 pounder, a 9 1/2 pounder, and wee little 8 pounder. I felt someone staring at me so I wheeled around to discover an impatient woman who apparently was looking for the same deal. Rather than be a complete ass, I took the 10 and 9 1/2 pounder and left her the wee little 8 pounder. :D

Once home, I decided I would cook it immediately rather than freeze it for another time. To be honest, I was more than curious about the taste as I have heard Picnics have a bit of a ham flavor compared to Boston Butts. I slathered my two prizes with mustard and coated it with a rub I made and have been experimenting with. Then on to the UDS they went. It was about 8pm when they went on. I reasoned that I would check on them hourly for the next 4 hours to make sure the UDS was holding 250* and then call it a night and get back up at 4am and 8am to check on progress.

Here is where my confusion kicks in. After putting them on, I asked some folks about whether Picnics cook at about the same rate as Boston Butts. The unanimous answer was yes. Ok, I thought, they should be done around 4pm as similar sized Boston Butts would take me around 20 hours. Imagine my surprise to find the 9 1/2 pounder at 175* and the 10 pounder at 170* at 4am. They were cooking much faster than any Boston Butt I have done in the past. I foiled them both and went back to bed.

Forgetting to set my alarm, I didn't wake up again until 9am. I immediately had an oh ****! moment and threw on some clothes to run outside where much to my surprise the 9 1/2 pounder was at 207* and the 10 pounder was at 195*. I took the 9 1/2 pounder off, wrapped it in another layer foil to rest for two hours and let the 10 pounder keep cooking. An hour later, it too was done and got the double foil treatment and is just about done resting.

Thanks to the simple addition and subtraction I learned in 3rd grade I have come up with the following:

9 1/2# Picnic - 13 hours @ 250*
10# Picnic - 14 hours @ 250*

What is blowing my mind is that similar sized Boston Butts take me 6 more hours than my 10 pound Picnic. Why is that?

The only thing I can think of is that the Boston Butt is much meatier and far less bone in comparison. I know a debate rages on about whether or not bones help conduct heat or not but I am not venturing there. I am thinking it is just simply the Boston Butts have more meat and therefor take longer to cook. Thoughts? Opinions?

And for those wondering, the pulled pork from the Picnic is excellent. I do indeed taste a little ham flavor and will definitely be doing more Picnics in the future.
post #2 of 19
That was a great sale on picnic cuts and glad you made a nice score on them (LOL at leaving the wee one for the inpatient woman). biggrin.gif

The cook time in the picnic may have been less than the butts for multiple reasons (i.e. cut of meat, fat to meat ratio, etc...) but it sounds as if your temps were perfectly maintained and the overall end temp for both cuts was perfect for pulling.

Next time, try smoking a butt and a picnic together to truely compare cooking times. icon_mrgreen.gif
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Good point on the fat. The Picnics were slightly fattier than the Boston Butts.

The side by side comparison is a good idea as it would eliminate any weather differences.

But to be fair, my Boston Butt times are consistent as is the internal temp of the drum and the fuel used. Obviously I can't account for wood chunk differences and amount of fuel.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
No other ideas? icon_confused.gif
post #5 of 19
My butts range from 3.5 to 5 pounds and they take between 12 and 14 hours to smoke. I've never had one take 20 hours before. I've only smoked one picnic but it was comparable in time to the butts.
post #6 of 19
I with Pignit on this one too my butts are usually around 4-5 lbs and have taken 12-14 hours and I have done a few hams before but none have taken 20 hours the longest was 17 hours and that one just about took it all out of me.
post #7 of 19
Every piece of meat is different that I do. Sometimes they cook faster and others not.
post #8 of 19
20 hours for a 8-9 lb butt in my UDS isn't unusual. I keep it around 220-230 in the middle of the grate.

It's hard to compare a shoulder and butt, even if cooking at same time. There's just too much "personality" to meat. Some pieces are stubborn and plateau "forever", some sale right through and never plateau.

I did two 8 pounders last week to take to work. Both out of the same package. One took 12 hours, the other 16. Neither "felt" like it was still frozen when they went on, size and shape comparable between the two.

I've had 8 pounders take close to 24 hours before. Don't know why. Some folks have told me they "never" have meat plateau on a drum. Haven't figured that one out yet.

My thought on those who have super fast cooks is that they're reading the temp at the edge of the drum, and not allowing for the 20-50 degree difference experienced in the middle...
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
Glad to know I am not alone on all counts. biggrin.gif
post #10 of 19
Not necessarily. I had a 14.5 pound brisket cook in 10 hours on the drum. I know what my temp differential from the side to the center. This brisket just cooked faster.

But aside from all of that -- in my reletively short smoking career, I have determined that there are two things that will drive you completely nuts if you spend too much time thinking about it. Actually I'm sure there are more that two but these are the two I am thinking of. biggrin.gif One is trying to perfectly temperature balance your cooker and the other is trying to figure out how long it "should" take a piece of meat to cook.

Your smoker has no memory. Just because it took X hours to cook a Y pound piece of meat at Z degrees last time doesn't mean it will take the same amount of time next time around. Just plan for a long smoke and enjoy it when it is done.biggrin.gif

post #11 of 19
Ok now you guys got me thinking - I have two butts one is 4.8 and one is 7.9 and I was figuring that the smaller one would be around 9 hours and the larger one would be around 12 hours in my SmokinTex Electric at 225
I know it could stall for a while but are my times still good?
post #12 of 19
It's anybody's guess. It usually takes about 9 hours on my drum for 5 poundish butts to cook at around 240° center grate temp. I foil at 165° and take them out at 197° or so. Doesn't mean every one will do that.

I'd bump up the temp if I were you though -- if you can. Butts are pretty forgiving. You're not going to hurt anything by smoking them at 250° or even 260°. Since it's electric though, you may not have any choice.

post #13 of 19
I will take the smoker to 250 - that is where I max out - I was thinking of putting them in at about 8 tonite and pulling them around 6AM foiling and towling if the temp is close to 200 or so - I did inject them so I am not as worried about them drying out during that time frame
post #14 of 19
You're right on the nose with that. It took me awhile to accept it. For years, my work required exactness in financial projections. This smoking business has forced me to relax and go with the flow quite a bit more than I used to do. Ya just do as you mentioned--plan a long cook and eat when the meat's ready. More time for liquid refreshments that way. If it gets done early, wrap it in foil and a towel and stick it in a cooler.

It's all good...
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
I don't necessarily disagree and expect there may be some disparity in time. However my Boston Butts have been fairly consistent in both size and cook time. At this point I am just trying to understand the difference between a Boston Butt and Picnic and why there would be a 33% difference in cook time between the two when size of the meat is nearly identical.
post #16 of 19
I think you answered your own question. A picnic has a shank running through it while the butt has a much smaller bone that doesn't take up the mass the bone in the picnic does. There is much less meat on a picnic than a butt of similar size. More meat mass.... more time to cook. Throw in everything else and you can figure on not counting on anything. I had one butt in the MES that could have stayed in there 3 days and never get over 185 degrees. Never seen nothin like it. You just never know.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
So I conducted another Boston Butt experiment yesterday/today. I normally get my butts from Chefsmart. The ones I get are roughly 22 lbs and cryopacked and 20 - 30 cents cheaper per pound than Sam's Club. Unfortunately Chefsmart was sold out (I watched some old dude wheel 3 cases of them out to his van as I was walking in) so I went to Sam's and picked up some Smithfield cryopacked butts. A 17 lbs cryopack was $1.18/lbs vs. the $0.94/lbs I normally pay at Chefsmart.

I got my butts home and rubbed them using my normal rub but also injected them with a certain fruit juice mixed with my rub. When the ribs got done I upped the temp on the drum from 250* to 300* and put my butts on. It was roughly 6pm when I put the butts on. I set the probes in both butts to 160* so I could foil them. However, when they hit the mid 150's around midnight I decided to foil them and take a cat nap. I reset the probes to 205* and slept for a bit. Around 4:30 am one butt was already at 206* so I pulled it off and let it rest for two hours. At 5:11 am the second one was at 205* so I pulled that one off and let it rest for two hours.

So now I am wondering what really made the difference. As posted above, 20 lbs of butt normally takes me roughly 20 - 24 hours to finish. The 17 lbs of butt took me roughly 11 hours. Do you think it was the injection and the internal liquid that helped cook it faster? Or was it maybe that it came from a different meat plant? I am leaning more towards the internal liquid heating up the meat and allowing it to cook faster.

One interesting thing about this cook was that the fat cap on both butts had not liquified nearly as much as what I am used to seeing from my Chefsmart butts. Regardless, I really like the flavor I got from the injection and will be doing this from now on with my butts.
post #18 of 19
Was it Prune Juice? PDT_Armataz_01_12.gif
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
lol If that were the case I might call them Mud Butts. biggrin.gif
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