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Larger Load = More Time?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have an MES and have used it 30 to 40 times. I have only done one or two Boston Butts at a time. I may be called on to do up to 8 (5lbs each) at one time in the near future. How will this large load effect cooking time? All opinions are welcome but I would really like to hear from people who have actual experience with large loads.
post #2 of 13
As long as the temp inside the smoker stays constant, the larger load will be fine and will not take that much longer to cook.
post #3 of 13
The recovery time to bring the temp back up will be longer due to the greater amount of meat. It will take longer to get back up to temp each time you open the door, so keep that to a minimum. I have both a charcoal and an electric smoker and have done large loads in both of them.
post #4 of 13
What she said ^^^!
post #5 of 13
I agree and also part way thru, I would swap the Butts on the right side of the MES with those on the left.

ronp says to use a ceramic tile on the right side to help that situation.

post #6 of 13
I find that the more meat I put in, the longer it longer takes to get the smoker up to the desired temp. Probably due to the large thermal mass of cold meat going in - yeah, it can take quite a bit longer. But from then on the cooking time is about the same.
Might just be my smoker though, ymmv.
post #7 of 13
This gets discussed a lot in the forums. The general rule is to take the heaviest piece and use it's weight in calculating an approximate cooking time. For example, if I want to cook a 5lb pork butt for 1.5 hrs per pound at 235 degrees, the cook time would be approximately 7.5 hours.

However, when we have additional pieces of meat to consider, the cooking time will be longer. Heat from the fire is energy. Each piece of meat has to absorb energy in order to cook and reach it's desired temp of 190-205 degrees. The method above doesn't take that into consideration. It assumes that all pieces will absorb the same amount of energy evenly.

Anyone that has watched meat plateau for an hour or two knows better. I suspect that the approximate cooking time for 8 pieces of butt at 5 lbs each will be approximately 12 hours. Thats 4.5 hours more then the standard formula suggests.

No matter what formula you use, you are going to cook to temperature, so have a good thermometer and start checking your smallest pieces after about 8 hours. When they hit 190, take em out and wrap in foil to set up.

I would love to see your smoker full of pork. Qview it please. points.gif
post #8 of 13
Raceyb, I like the simple way you expressed that.

I freely admit, I'm a rookie, here to learn... which is why I dont post much, so I'm hesitant to disagree, but...
My observations are that with my electric smoker, once I have it up to operating temp the amount of meat doesnt have a big effect on cooking time. Some effect, yes, but not much.

As you say, more meat will require more energy/heat to cook, and should therefore take longer. But here's the thing: I also have observed that when I have more meat in the smoker, the element is "on" a lot more that when I only have 1 small butt in it. Which means it is putting more energy in during the same time period. Charcoal, wood, propane - the heat output is more constant, charcoal's heat output doesnt go up as you add more heat-absorbing meat. With the electric, I think it does.

Another observation: If I add side dishes - like maybe Dutch's Beans and a half dozen spuds - in the middle of a smoke, that does not change the amount of time it takes the meat to finish cooking.
post #9 of 13
I agree with Dawn. Whether I cook, one, two or three butts. The time is usually the same...and it does seem to take longer to get back to temp when I pop the top.
post #10 of 13
When I do pulled pork, I do about 20 lbs at a time for neighborhood get togethers. I've never been able to cook 4 butts in the same time it takes to do one of similar size. I believe it possible on an electric or propane smoker, but not a charcoal vertical with 2 shelves.

I can easily add an extra 2 hours to the smoke time of one butt before all 4 are ready....

And again, it comes down to cooking to temp, not cooking to the clock. It takes as long as it takes. It has taken me 14 hours in the past to smoke about 25 lbs, but If I just took the heaviest piece into account, it should have been a 9 hour cook. Go figure...

Again it is a temperature we are trying to achieve, not a time limit. Always allow some time for a longer cook. Start early and if needed, wrap the butts in foil and then a towel and place in an insulated cooler. It'll hold for hours. Better to be done early then late.
post #11 of 13
I also am with dawn and the majority of folks here It will not take alot more time but you should reduce the amount of times you open the door to your smoker and the swapping around idea is also a good one too. Happy Smoking and don't forget the Qview.
post #12 of 13
And then there's the dreaded "stall" to considerPDT_Armataz_01_03.gif
post #13 of 13
I have to agree that it doesn't matter on the load. I have had a 5 pound butt take just as long as several 4 to 6 pound butts

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