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1st time smoker, not great results


Joined Sep 11, 2016
Hey all.

Sorry for no pics.  Just bought a Masterbuilt Pro 30" with legs, here:


Seasoned it yesterday for 3 hours per the instructions, adding Kingsford wood chips as well.


Bought a small (3 pound) pork shoulder - it's a brand type vs. from the store's butcher.  I didn't want to try a 7 or 8 pounder just in case I screwed it up.. it only cost $4.  

Had the smoker going at 10am at 225, with water pan filled, and using the built in wood chip feeder.  Used the built in thermometer as well.  

It seemed to be going well throughout the day.  Slowly turning brown to almost black on the outside, drippings (into the water pan).  I added chips every hour, about 5 different times - I know, a pain for some, but I didn't mind.  Only opened it once to empty the chip pan (since they didnt really turn to ash, just crisped and then the pan was overflowing).

By 2pm, as the IT was rising, I increased the temp. to 245, then at 4pm, to 260.

By 5pm, it was black on the outside, not dripping, and the internal read at 186.

Took it out and wrapped it in tin foil for about 1/2 hour.

When I went to cut it (I like it chunked), it was dry except for the parts around any fatty pieces (there was not much in this piece) and did not pull.  It sliced ok, but couldn't even chunk either.  The flavor was good (based on the rub and the smoke), but not edible when I spent all day waiting for pulled pork - went to the dog.

So, any idea on what may have gone wrong here?  My initial thoughts are:

1.  Wrong cut of meat - not enough fatty tissue?  I chose this once because it was a good small test case and I've eaten them before but used those smoking tinfoil bags in the oven - 3 hours and it tasted stupendous (but that also locks in the juices) - of course, you don't get any type of bark.

2.  Over cooked it? Was going on 7 hours for a 3 pounder.. but it still only said 186 and was not falling apart.

3.  Undercooked it, hence why not falling apart, but then I'm wondering if it would be even drier than it was.

Anyway, any suggestions would be welcome.  I read a bunch of posts on here for some tips.  Going to look into that pellet smoker but frankly, unless you're telling me that using the wood chip feeder takes away from the flavor or cooking experience (except for having to reload it every hour), then I don't mind using wood chips.

Also, water pan for this unit - need it?

Finally, I'd like to capture the juices (I like to eat my smoked butts natural... no sauce, just the natural juices).  Best way to capture them?  The manual to the smoker says don't put a pan on a shelf since it blocks the heat... and I don't think you can put the butt in a tin pan (or can you?)

Finally, does it matter what shelf you put the butt on? I had it on the 2nd to the top.. thought since that's where the heat rises and such, might cook it faster.

Thanks, any advice welcome.


Joined Sep 9, 2016
The cut should be fine.  I have the same smoker, I season for a lot longer (usually several days) and when i cook I do not go over 235 for cook temp and I do not pull it until 195-200 internal temp.  I think that would probably have you set.  


Joined Sep 9, 2016
The cut should be fine.  I have the same smoker, I season for a lot longer (usually several days) and when i cook I do not go over 235 for cook temp and I do not pull it until 195-200 internal temp.  I think that would probably have you set.  


Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
Joined Aug 1, 2008
Pics of the raw meat would help.  I always use the butt/Boston butt (upper part of the shoulder). I have never had one be dry.

I smoke at 220 to 240 all the way through, but some do go higher.

I  foil wrap and rest in a cooler with towels for at least one hour.

For pulling I like the internal temp in the 195 to 205 range, just call it 200.

Other than that?

Good luck and good smoking.

joe black

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jan 25, 2015
I usually smoke a little hotter than some folks, 250-275*. My butt gets done a little quicker and I think that the fats and connective tissues render a little more completely. When the cook stalls at +/- 160*, I wrap the butt in foil with some apple juice. The foil helps to push through the stall, the apple juice helps with the flavor and the acidity helps with tenderness. When the IT is between 200 and 205*, I check in the foil to see if the bone pulls out easily and double check the IT with an additional therm.

If the temp is right and the bone pulls freely and the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, I close the foil back up and take the meat off. Then, I wrap the foil covered butt in towels and place it in a cooler to rest for at least an hour.

When I'm ready to pull the meat, I remove as much of the remaining fat that I can and pull to the extent that I want. I use a light finishing sauce and the juices from the foil to add some flavor and to keep the meat moist. I massage the meat to get the sauce and juice distributed throughout the meat and I'm ready to serve.

This the way that I do my butts and I really like the way that it turns out. Give it a try if it sounds like you would want your meat this way.

Good luck and good smokin', Joe. :grilling_smilie:


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 20, 2013
Morning bond. First off, do you have a Maverick or other brand of digital therm? MES therms (controler and meat probe) are notorious fo being very inaccurate. So odds are you weren't cooking at the temp you thought you were and you meat IT wasn't what the MES told you it was. With my MES 30 I use a Maverick 733. The 732 is better IMO. I threw away the Masterbuilt meat probe and just use the controller temp to bring the cook temp up to the temp I set on the Maverick. Always boil test your therms to make sure they're spot on.

You shouldn't need to use the water pan--I just filled mine with sand and foiled it over--it causes NO problems with heat. I cook my butts at about 240 on the same shelf you used and put a drip pan below it.

For pulled pork i cook to an IT of 205. I leave it cook until the stall and then foil it with foiling sauce until done.

It shouldn't be dry. You can brine the butt overnight before smoking if you want. That should always give you a nice juicy finished product.

Hope this helps.

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