I posted this a while back on another forum, but thought people might enjoy it here too. This is the first long smoke I ever did. I'm using a Weber Smokey Mountain. This was a couple of years ago. I'm a little better now, but still by no means an expert. I hope everyone enjoys laughing at me as much as I enjoyed laughing at myself.
Tonight I started on my first butts. This is also my first real "slow and low" cook.
I'm cooking 2 7.5 lb butts. They went on at around 9:30 pm. I'll hover around the smoker until I go to bed, then sleep until morning unless the Redi-check wakes me up. Smoker temp is now hovering around 260.
Lessons learned so far:
--If you send your wife to the store for "Sugar in the Raw" make sure you specify that you don't want a box of individual serving sugar packets.
--It takes approximately 13 individual sugar packets to equal 1/4 cup of sugar.
--A chimney of 20 briquettes for the Minion method lights a lot faster than a full chimney for the standard method.
--You can't trim the fat from and apply rub to 2 butts in the time it takes for a chimney of 20 briquettes to light. If you try you'll cut your finger.
--Don't throw that last big chunk of hickory on top of your coals until AFTER you've assembled your smoker, positioned your meat on both racks, and placed your thermometer probes. *COUGH* *COUGH*.
I'll post an update in the morning and let everyone know how it went!
About an hour into the cook my Redi-check claims that my meat temp suddenly jumped from 80 up to 206. I took the probe out of the meat and apparently the air temperature on my back porch is 212. I think some juice from the meat may have dripped down the probe wire and into the transmitter. Looks like I'll have to rely on periodic checks with the candy thermometer for the rest of the cook. At least the smoker temp on my Redi-check is still working so I can get some sleep tonight!
Ok, now it's suddenly started pouring rain. It was a little cloudy this afternoon when I started, so I set everything up under our covered porch. The only problem is that the wind is really blowing hard and the rain is soaking everything under the porch, including the WSM.
I swear I'm not making any of this up. I guess God doesn't want me to have any sweet tender delicious pulled pork for the 4th.
I took a couple of pics. First is the sugar packets and my misbehaving probe. Next is the wet smoker.
The rain is letting up now and I managed to keep it going at a steady 246 degrees through the storm. That is unless my smoker temp probe is acting up now.... Come to think of it, my remote's been reading 246 for a pretty long time now. Maybe I'd better go check on it...
The rain has stopped. R2 (our pet name for the WSM) is holding steady at 249. Everything seems perfect... Almost too perfect. I'm afraid to go to sleep.
I'm trying to decide whether the family we're visiting tomorrow will be more upset at poorly cooked pork or at me being tired and grumpy from babysitting R2 all night. I'm also wondering if trichina can enter the body through a cut. I think I'll go wash my finger again.
Yeah, washing my finger should kill some time, then I can see if the smoker temp is still holding steady. If so, I should be ok to get some sleep... maybe... Or maybe I should stay up a little longer just to make sure.
Earlier my wife was holding the flashlight for me so that I could see to throw on some hickory chunks. We both got facefulls of smoke. When she finally got out of the smoke enough to open her mouth she asked why I can't ever just have normal "easy" hobbies.
Smoker temp is still holding steady. Now at 248. I haven't opened it up to check the meat temps yet, and probably won't until morning. Besides, my wife has "organized" my candy thermometer away somewhere where I can't find it without her help, and she's asleep.
It's 12:45 here and R2 seems to be doing fine without me. I'm going to go to bed for the night. My 2-year-old will wake me up around 7am and we'll go check the smoker together.
Good morning Internet! Thanks to everyone who spent time sitting up and e-smoking with me last night. You all provided some much needed entertainment and humor!
Best quote from my smoke last night --
Wife: You're letting tons of flies into the house! How much longer are you going to be going in and out, in and out?
Me: 12 - 16 hours.
Well, I went to bed around 1am and slept through the night with no interruptions. Our son woke us up at around 7am and a quick glance at the Redi-check on my bedside table showed 264. Not bad at all. Apparently R2 stayed right on temp all night without me. I'm proud of the little guy.
About 5 minutes after we woke up, the Redi-check alarm went off. The temp had suddenly spiked to 280. I want to stress how important that 5 minute difference between wake up time and Redi-check alarm time was. If it had been a 5 minute difference in the other direction and the Redi-check had woken us up that would have been strike 2 against my new abnormal hobby. I take back what I said about God not wanting me to have tasty pork for the 4th. Apparently he's on board with the smoke and looking out for R2 and I.
So anyway, the temp's at 280 and climbing fast. I head out for the smoker and quickly close one of the bottom vents. They're now at 25%, 25%, 0%. Then I run in and get my son up and dressed while my wife starts cooking breakfast.
I check the temp again and it's still climbing. Then it hits me. WATER PAN! I open up the side door and the water pan is empty. I fill the water pan back up through the side door and in the process I melted the spout on my wife's plastic watering can a little. Hopefully she won't notice, for both R2's sake and mine.
The temp finally went down, so I went for a morning walk with my wife and son. When I came back, the temp had dropped to 205. Great. Now I need to get it back up. I opened the closed vent back up to 25% and now we're back up to 220.
We're now 12 hours in. Coming up next: The wife's going to help me turn, baste, and temp check both racks of meat. Judging from past experience it should make for some good stories. I'll update when we're done. Wish me luck!
Finished the turning and basting. It went remarkably well. My wife and I planned out our strategy beforehand to minimize the time with the lid off. The plan was:
I'll lift off the lid, remove the top rack and butt, put it down on the patio and insert the candy thermometer into the meat. While I'm doing that, my wife will spray baste on the bottom butt. Then I'll turn the bottom butt and my wife will spray the other side. By this time the candy thermometer should have a temp reading. I'll check it, remove thermometer, put the top rack and butt back on the WSM, wife will baste top butt, I'll flip, wife will baste other side, top goes back on, and we're out!
It went *almost* like clockwork. The only hangup was when my wife kept having trouble getting the spray bottle to spray while angling it downwards to hit the bottom rack. I finally took it away from her and did a few sprays right side up into the air to prime it, then 2 sprays down at the meat, 2 more in the air to prime, 2 down at the meat. At this point my wife pointed out in no uncertain terms that she didn't want apple juice and vegetable oil spray on the patio. I was forced to modify my procedure to run to edge of patio, 2 upright sprays over the grass, run back to smoker, 2 sprays down at meat. Repeat.
All things considered, the flip-and-baste went really smoothly. As I was standing outside telling my wife how happy I was that we were finally getting the hang of this smoking thing and the comedy of errors was finally over, I managed to accidentally stab her in the arm with the sharp tongs I was still holding. She promptly yelled at me and went inside.
The temperature was getting kind of low, even before I opened it up to flip and baste, so I decided that now would be a good time to stir the coals. I opened the side door to stir, and was horrified to see nothing but dust and a few burned out wood chunks! Gotta get more fuel in there! Gotta light it back up! Quick!
I decided to put a layer of unlit charcoal in, then light 20 or so chunks in the chimney and place them on top. Sort of a Mini-minion re-start to get me through to the end. After placing a few unlit briquettes in, it occurred to me that I should start the chimney so it can be lighting while I'm shoveling in the unlit charcoal. I put 20 briquettes in the chimney and get ready to light it. Uh oh. Where am I going to put the hot chimney? I usually start it on one of R2's grates, but those are all full of meat now. Can't put it on the concrete, can't put it on the grass. Probably shouldn't put it on my wife's patio table... I know! I can use the grate on my gas grill!
The gas grill is covered up in the corner of the patio, and has every piece of patio furniture imaginable piled up around it. My wife was nervous about R2 being unattended last night, and moved everything on the patio as far away from the smoker as possible. She stacked all of our patio furniture around my gas grill to get it out of harm's way. I can't imagine a metal table catching on fire from 7 feet away, but whatever.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I have to move all of this junk and patio furniture out of the way to get to the grill. I'm racing to do this as quickly as possible so I can get the fire lit again. I finally get everything out of the way, uncover the grill and pull it out away from the house. I turn around to grab the chimney and see smoke rolling out of the smoker. I guess there were small pieces of lit coals that fell through the grate and then lit the few new pieces of charcoal I put on earlier. I sheepishly pile on about 30 more unlit pieces on top and start putting away the grill and re-stacking the patio furniture around it.
So, we're approximately 12 hours in, top butt is at 170, bottom is a little lower. A piece of bark with a little white meat attached fell off during the flip and I couldn't help but taste it. Delicious! Hopefully it stays that way.
Here's a pic of the top butt at the 12 hour mark after the baste-and-flip:
I think my candy thermometer isn't reading correctly. Luckily, I decided to double-check by sticking my working smoker temp probe into the meat. We're sitting around 180-185 depending on where you stick it. Any tips on how to judge doneness by look or feel?
In other news, my wife just noticed the circle of dead grass in our lawn where I set the hot smoker lid during my last cook. She says it must have been from the hot smoker lid since the size and shape match exactly. I think that's just circumstantial evidence and doesn't prove anything!
Also upsetting my wife are the grease stains on the patio from where I set down the top grate with meat on it.
This had better be some darn good barbecue or R2 might have to move out! :(
I just checked the butts. At 15 hours in they're reading 175-185 depending on where I stick them. I figure I'll give them another uninterrupted hour and then check again.
My temp just started dropping -- fuel was almost gone again. I put in 7 more unlit briquettes (for luck). Hopefully that will carry me through to the end. While putting them in I burned my finger. Not badly or anything, but enough to add "burned finger" to the list of casualties from this cook! :)
I just took them off. Total cook time 17 hours at 225-250. They look great and were falling apart when I picked them up. They're resting in foil in a cooler now. Hopefully they turned out ok! Now I have some cleanup to do!
Lessons for next time:
--I won't bother trimming the fat, just throw them on there.
--I won't bother with turning or basting. Bryan S's pics in the other thread looked just fine to me.
--I'll shoot for temps closer to 250 than 225 for hopefully a faster cook.
--I'll start with more fuel!
Thanks for your help and support everyone! Have a great 4th!
Several days later
I'm back from visiting family for the 4th and thought I'd finish up this thread. I pulled the butts off after 17 hours, double-wrapped them in foil, put them in a cooler, threw them in the car and made the drive to visit our family out of town. After two hours in the cooler I pulled them. They practically pulled themselves they were so tender. We immediately ate some with dinner.
I'm no barbecue expert, and I don't like to brag, but this was by FAR the best pulled pork I've ever tasted! We ate it for a couple of meals with my wife's family, then took it with us and served it to my side of the family. We left some with both families, plus had quite a bit to take back home with us. Everyone loved it. I think every member of my family within a 100 mile radius will be eating BBQ sandwiches for lunch today. My wife loved it too and says that she'll be nicer to R2 now.
Here's a pic of one pulled butt one whole butt: