Always wanted to know

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Original poster
Dec 26, 2005
how does the smoke get into the aluminum foil with the 321 method???

In the 3-2-1 method the smoke does its magic to the meat in the first 3 hours.. after the 3rd hour you wrap with foil and let the steam and flavors unite to make it tender. You unwrap for the last hour to firm things up a bit.

It is my belief that meat has plenty of smoke at around 140 degrees. The ribs easily reach this temp in the 3 hours they are open to the smoke.
This may be sacreligeous but my curiosty makes me ask..... given that the meat no longer takes on the smoke after approx. 140* (whether it' ribs or whatever) what would be the difference, at that point, in wrapping the meat in foil and finishing it in the oven in a very controlled environment versus continuing in the smoker. From the oven, at the appropriate time, unwrap the meat, finish it in the controlled environment (oven) and then place it in the cooler well wrapped for final finishing.

I know this would certainly shorten the enjoyment of the "Thin Blue Smoke" and perhaps the enjoyment of multiple libations but technically, would there really be a difference in the taste or quality of the final product? Mind you, I'm not suggesting that this is a viable alternative to the mystique of the Pit Master ...... just a what if question .....??
In a very sacreligious way.. there is no difference. If the meat is wrapped in foil then essentially heat is heat regardless of the fuel source.

But then.. like you say, you miss out on all the fun of tending the fire
I don't agree that meat stops taking on smoke at 140 or any other of the arbitrary temps I've read on the internet.
15-20 years ago when there were vastly fewer charcoal smokers (small offsets and bullets) and Q was mostly the provenance of larger all wood cookers, foil wrapping was originally used not a tenderizing aid, but a means to prevent over smoking, if smoke uptake stopped at a given temperature anyway, this would be unnecessary. Other methods to prevent over smoking were used as well, like cooking in paper grocery bags, cooking in cheese cloth etc.

Where I think the idea that smoke uptake stops at 140 came from, is that there is a temperature range that the formation of smokering stops.
Smokering is a chemical reaction between nitrites in the smoke (nitric oxide) and myoglobin in the meat. At a given temp, which varies with ph of the meat, the myoglobin denatures (protein molocules unwind) are are no longer able to make the conversion to the coveted pinkish purple color brisket cooks long to see when they slice a flat. This chemical reaction can end, depending on variables, anywhere between 104* and 160*.

It is important to note that although smokering is a valuable indicator that you've done things right during the cook, it really has no bearing on the actual smoke flavor.

Whether or not smoke uptake does stop is actually very easy to check, next time you cook a brisket or butt, use mellower woods for the duration of the cook, once the meat exceeds 140 or 160 or even during just the last hour of the cook, use cherry or mesquite or another distinctly flavored wood and see if you can taste it on the meat.

I've done this a couple of times, and you can absolutely taste the stronger smoke even after 160.
:roll: Well now I'm really confused ( I know, it don't take much). Don't know about all that fancy stuff, but in just a few hrs, and at higher temps the meat does seal over (dry out) etc, forms an outside skin, and then the juices start to come to the surface and stops taking on more smoke. It seems when it reaches about 130 to 150 this happens, kinda like leaving the fat cap to thick, it does not take smoke at that spot. Just my opinion. BEAR
I agree with Scott in KC... The meat will continue to "take on" smoke as long as it is in a smokey environment... He has it nailed about the smoke ring too...


When smoking Ribs with the 3-2-1 Method, TulsaJeff is correct. The first 3 and last 1 hour provides all the smoke flavor you will need. Likewise, Scott is also correct, but this is primarily with larger cuts of meat. If you've ever wondered where that pink "Smoke Ring" comes from, Scott nailed it on the is actually a chemical reaction, not the smoke itself (per se).

Trust me, you will not be disappointed using the 3-2-1 Method if done correctly.

Well I cooked up a nice pork butt twenty pounds of pork bellie bacon using buckboard(MMMMMM) and jerky all went very well and the 321 worked awesome for the pork butt. Next week Ill start curing another bellie and canadian bacon. I cant believe how much fun Im having OH next week will also be bratworst and kielbasa week too. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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