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Newbie with Pulled Pork Questions...

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hey everyone!

I'm new to this forum and new to smoking. I've recently purchased a smoker, a lifelong dream, and have a few questions. My baby is a horizontal smoker with an offset firebox on the left-hand side, but alas, no thermometer.

I did a boneless pork shoulder (about five pounds) last week that came out pretty well, but it wasn't tender enough to pull and I had to slice it -- to give you an idea, it had the texture of Chinese BBQ pork. I cooked it for 8 hours and went through a whole bag of charcoal. The internal temp was around 135 after 8 hours and I had to finish it in the oven.

What do I need to do to get the right consistency and texture? Is it a matter of temperature control or am I having a plateau problem? Any suggestions on how to keep my smoker at 225 degrees?

Looking forward to your suggestions. Thanks!
post #2 of 14
The first thing to address from your post is the internal temp at 135 in 8 hours. The rule of thumb is your meat must not be higher than 40 degrees or under 140 degrees for more than 4 hours unless it is cured. That means you should hit an internal temp in your meat in 4 hours of smoking. Sounds to me like you need to invest in a good therm for your smoker so you know the exact rack temp you are smoking at. Most of the time if you are sitting over 200 degrees your meat will hit the desired internal in the 4 hours. I usually smoke at 225 to 250 degrees according to what I'm smoking. You need an accurate reading of your grate temp and an accurate reading of your meat temp. If you'll invest in this you will save yourself a lot of time and trouble... and turn out some great Q. I personally wouldn't eat pork that took 8 hours to reach 135 degrees.

To answer your questions..... if you smoke a butt at rack temp of 225 to 250 until the meat internal hits 200.... your butt will fall apart. All the other variables are a matter of personal preference. I doubt your having any kind of a plateau problem. Sounds more like a knowing what your rack temp is problem.

Your smoker may need some mods to get it to keep a steady 225 - 250 internal temp. You may need to look at your draft to see what your gonna need to be able to control your temps. I wouldn't know on this particular model but keep looking. I'm sure somebody can point you in the right direction if it needs modifying. May just need to get use to using it.

Good luck on the next one.
post #3 of 14
Welcome to the forum, be sure to go into the roll call thread and tell us all about yourself and your equipment...
post #4 of 14
I could have not said it any better. Get some good thermometers, read all you can here and go to roll call so we can help you.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tips

PignIt, Beer-B-Q and ronp, thanks for the warm welcome. I have made sure to enter my roll call and look forward to meeting everyone.

To PignIt, your advice was concise and on point. I suppose I've been stubborn about buying a thermometer up to this point but now I'm starting to see how foolish that is. I plan on getting one ASAP. Do you have any suggested brands or types of therm?

From what I can tell, my draft doesn't seem to be an issue. The temperature, although low, was pretty consistent.

I'm sure I'll have more questions as I go along, but this is a good start. Thanks again.
post #6 of 14
Pit -

You are well on your way taking the advice of Pign and ron and everyone else for that matter. You need some accurate temps in your rig and the only way is to use some good external thermo's. You may think its an added cost and want to try to get around it, but it is indespensible in getting great Q.

My advice, stick a couple thermo probes through some taters or cork and find out what and how your rig runs. Then you can make adjustments as necessary to know and keep it at 225-250 (or higher depending on what your doin.)

Welcome to smoking and when you, "hit the nail on the head" you will, well, be hooked for life.
post #7 of 14
I see you've been to roll call, and that you've gotten some solid advise/tips for your future smoke. It's all good my friend.
post #8 of 14
I fretted over which one to buy for weeks when I needed one. I ended up getting two Maverick ET-73s for Christmas and I'm very happy with them. This is the one that has a probe for your rack and one for your meat. Check the internet and you can find them for about 56 bucks. Money well spent.
post #9 of 14
Welcome aboard, like mentioned above, once you make that perfect "Q", there's no turning back.

post #10 of 14
First and foremost don't get discouraged. I put two boston butts on yesterday morning and didn't pull them untill 1am this morning. I will qualify that by saying I didn't really babysit my smoker like I would normally.
I had a garage remodel project going on and didn't even look at the temps sometimes for a couple of hours. so I was running temps up and down up and down. In the end it turned out absolutley fantastic!

Keep in mind all the variables. I see you are in LA so cold weather wont be a problem but a breeze or wind will be things you will deal with. Even a warm breeze will rob your smoker of heat.
You will be modifying your smoker most likely sooner than later. Post some pics or describe your set up and you will get lots of help and advice on what you need to do to make it perform as well as can be expected.
Hot humid days are a factor as well. A high humidity day can make it difficult to keep you coals going.

You will find that every smoke you do will be a little different than the one before. It becomes a mixture of art, science and luck.
So dive in and keep us posted.
post #11 of 14
post #12 of 14
Maverick is a good brand. I've had mine for a long time. Even the batteries on it last forever.

Welcome to the SMF!
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

Meat therm

Thanks for the feedback guys. The maverick looks nasty (and I mean that in a good way) but I found one for cheaper that should meet my needs:


It comes next week, which means I plan on doing another butt Saturday. Keep you all posted.
post #14 of 14
Since you have a horizontal offset make sure you seal up all the air leaks, will really help to get your temps up. I also installed two therms (one on each side) just above grate level. It is an easy mod to make, just buy a couple of therms, test it for accuracy on some boiling water, drill holes and install.

Also make sure to start out with a good fire! I kept trying to use one lit chimney of lump to get my smoker going, but it wasnt enough. I found starting with two lit chimneys made a huge differance. And either buy or make some sort of charcoal basket.

Best of luck and enjoy!
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