Boston Butt Danger Zone

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by brickguy221, Oct 3, 2015.

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  1. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    Ok, I admit I am one of the dumbest tools in the shed if not the dumbest.

    I have never heard about the "Danger zone" on smoking Pork Butts until today and am completely lost about it. In trying to understand what's been said in some posts today as well as reading Bear's instructions for smoking a Pork Butt and the "Danger Zone" I am going to have to ask a question or 2 or 3...

    What is the Danger Zone? ...  If I put a Boston Butt in Smoker and put a Maverick probe in it at the same time what does it matter? In other words I do put a Maverick Probe in Tri-Tips, Pork Loins, Pork Roasts, Steaks, Roasts, and etc and have never got sick or died from doing this, so what makes Pork Butts different? ... Sorry, but I don't understand what is dangerous....

    Am I not to put a probe of any kind in the Boston Butts at all for the first 4 or more hrs?

    What if it is 5-6 hrs and the temp is 150- 160* and then put a probe in, is that too late or does that ruin it?

    Hopefully someone here can help this 78 year old man understand ... sigh ... [​IMG]
  2. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The rule is 40-140 in four hours. With small
    Cuts like Tri tip, steaks, pork chops, you will be done way before that. With larger roasts, hams, etc it takes a lot longer. If you put the probe in at the 4 hour mark on those cuts you should read 140 or above.

    If you smoke at higher temps, you really shouldn't have a problem with any of it.
  3. smokingearl

    smokingearl Meat Mopper

    That's just a few people's opinions. There is no danger in probing meat of any kind when raw with a meat thermometer. That's the official stance of the FDA and I couldn't find anywhere on the Internet besides some on this site that says not to probe raw meat with a thermometer. I know two chefs of 40 years and they both have done so since the invention of oven meat thermometers. I've even been doing it myself for 25 years without incident. You'll even find instructions with some meat thermometers about its use and probing the raw meat. Do what you want, I'm just giving you the info I have obtained researching the subject.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
  4. walta

    walta Smoke Blower

  5. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    NO ... No one would see it there as few if any people use that forum. In fact I doubt many people even know that forum exists, including myself. Needs to be here for all to see and respond to. 
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
  6. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks for the link Earl. It appears that the majority believe you can put the probe in the meat anytime. I know I have never had a problem with probing Pork Loins, thus the reason I am questioning if no problem on Pork Loins and other Meats, why a problem on Boston Butts???  I haven't ever done a Boston Butt, but want to one day and want to be sure I am doing it the right way and if probing at the beginning is dangerous, I want to know why.... If it isn't dangerous, I will probe it when I put it in the Smoker.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
  7. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    Have a friend that is a USDA inspector. Told him about the 40-140-4 hour thing folks preach addition to not probing the meat tIL it hit's 140*..he told me he has never heard of such a thing.
    Goofy question....and not trying to be a smart azz....let's say this 40-140-4 hour, don't probe until the meat is over 140* thing is true...and you probe the meat and it is only at 125* would you throw it away?
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  8. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member
  9. smokingearl

    smokingearl Meat Mopper


    No mention of NOT probing raw meat. And actually not even stating anything about cooking to 140 in 4 hours either.

    Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the “Danger Zone.”

    Then says when roasting meat or poultry to cook at a minimum temperature of 325. Does this mean smoking is unsafe since its don't at typically 225-275? I seriously doubt this since well, it's done millions of times and electric smokers Don't typically even go to 325 lol

    "Raw meat and poultry should always
    be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature (see graphic). When roasting meat and poultry, use an oven temperature no lower than 325 °F."
  10. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

  11. smokingearl

    smokingearl Meat Mopper

    That would be because it's perfectly safe to do so.
  12. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Didn't post the article for probing. Posted it because it was mentioned that the inspector friend has never heard of the 40-140 rule. This article is right from the USDA inspectors reference materials.

    The theory on probing before or after is that if you break the surface of the meat prior to it being cooked you compromise the sterile interior environment of the meat. Which can or may cause the spread of the bacteria that is on the outside of the meat to the interior.

    I used to probe pork chicken turkey etc prior to cooking. I no longer do that and error on the side of caution. Better to be safe than sorry when cooking for large groups. Besides convenience there's no reason to probe prior to cooking.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  13. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    So does this "theory" refer to all meats, or only Pork Butts??? 

    I've never smoked a Pork Butt nor a Brisket, but have smoked many other meats and have probed every one of them from the start and have never suffered any ill effects yet ... ( knock on wood, maybe??? ... lol )
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  14. smokingearl

    smokingearl Meat Mopper

    It a theory that has never been proven to cause even one case of food born illness. If it wasn't safe, there would be warnings on every meat thermometer made, restaurants wouldn't be able to do it.
  15. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    That makes sense to me. In fact I have never heard of it until I joined this forum.
  16. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    These probing meat discussions remind me so much of the infamous "what oil should I use in my old car threads"...and this coming from someone who started one of them...
    If no one hears from me shortly it is because I stuck the thermometer probe in the butt I did yesterday.....while it was still on the counter....and got sick from doing
  17. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    I was more concerned that the USDA inspector friend was not familiar with the 40-140 in 4hrs. rule but then I refrained and thought that Inspections usually deal with checking to see that hot foods are kept hot and cold foods are kept cold and the kitchen/refrigerators etc.are kept clean in a sanitary, cross contaminated free, pest free manner according to the USDA regulations.  If the USDA recommends a minimum IT of whole muscle meat of 145*F for four legged animals and inspects for it, we'd all be eating medium well steaks.  Not me!  I'm at 130*F give or take.  Maybe a Bleu steak at 115*F every other year (just because I lost track of time and was too lazy to put it back on the grill.)  So I'll let the inspector off the hook on how to prepare food and keep him on the maintaining side. 

    Bear mentioned that he was taught the cook before you probe, so to each their own.  It's just another safety net.that's part of a routine that's foreign to most people.  A probe can be sterilized by being wiped with alcohol.  It's the transfer of bacteria on the surface of the meat that rides the probe into the meat.  That's why most contaminated meat is ground meat.  Why do nurses sterilize the area of our skin that they're going to pierce with a needle?  If they didn't, would we get an infection from bacteria riding the needle?  Probably not, but they don't want the liability so they do what they do.  Kinda like cooking for family and friends  It's all good.  No harm in that

  18. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    There are a variety of people here with their opinions and beliefs. Some cross at the Green and some In Between. Some are more worried about Bacteria than others.

    There is extensive info on Food Safety in the Forum nobody reads... BUT THEY SHOULD...

    " NO ... No one would see it there (Food Safety Forum) as few if any people use that forum. In fact I doubt many people even know that forum exists, including myself. Needs to be here for all to see and respond to. "

    The USDA and FDA establish guidelines and rules that have a wide margin of error to cover a broad spectrum of peoples needs. According to the USDA, if you are preparing food and you Sneeze or Cough, push your Hair out of your eyes, get possibly contaminated ingredients out of the Refer before or after starting your prep and/or have not Sanitized yourself, Tools and Work Area, with an appoved Sanitizer, Tested to be the proper strength/Ph, Before and After any of the above ...You are Breaking the Rules and are risking Foodborne Illness...Is this True? Yes. Does every person follow these and the many, many other guidlines ALL OF THE TIME? Highly doubtful...The Staff of SMF recommend following these guidelines because if you just follow most of them you reduce the risk of harming yourself and loved ones...  EDUCATE yourself and make choices that work for you and are confident in...

    Below is info on the " 40 to 140 in 4 " guideline. It is often misquoted and misunderstood. It is up to the individual to take it for what it's worth. Hope this helps...JJ

    Some Guidelines are Standard on SMF...It is important for your Safety, that any Meats that have been Punctured, Injected, Boned Rolled and Tied or Ground be cooked or smoked at a temperature, typically 225*F or greater, that gets the Internal Temperature of the meat from 40*F to 140*F in 4 Hours or less...Frequently called the 40 to 140 in 4 Rule. (This does not include meats containing Cure #1, Cure #2 and Morton's Tender Quick.)

    This is how the rule was established...

    A Guideline like 40-140 in 4...aka the Rule (less letters than Guideline) is, Easy to remember, Provides a margin of Error, Has been gleaned from information provided by Multiple sources, including but not limited to, Professional Food service organizations, The American Culinary Federation, The ServSafe program, the USDA and Food Service Professionals with Years of Experience... Is, " 40 to 140*F in 4 " written down in any Government Food Service Law Manual, or Word for Word on any fore mentioned Website or Charter?...NO...But it Has been adopted by This Site and others to protect our members...
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
  19. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks JJ. There is a bit of sensible of information in what you posted.

    I wonder though, how many people that won't put the probe in until the meat is 140* internal temp do the following without taking precautions and-or washing their hands before-after-etc after committing one of the following sins such as Sneeze, Cough, Push Hair out of Eyes, rub their Eyes, Blow their Nose and not wash their hands after blowing their nose as well as not washing their hands after doing one of the already said infractions?

    I doubt not a single person can HONESTLY  raise their hand and say they always  wash their hands after doing one of the already mentioned things as well as others before touching the meat. Oh, there might be a person or two or three that might raise their hand out of dishonesty and say they do but if they want to be honest, they won't raise their hand.

    I am sure that you are aware that even the restaurant people, food servers, and etc don't follow all of the rules although they are supposed to .Some will even spit on your steak if you send it back to the kitchen for adjustments because it wasn't grilled like you wanted it. 

    Now in reference to the 4 hrs and 140*, what is a person supposed to do if after 4 hrs they probe the meat and it is only 125*? ... Are they supposed to throw it out? ... Going to be expensive for a lot of people if that would happen as there is no guarantee or way for factually knowing that the meat is going to be 140* after 4 hrs.

    To sum it up, some fear the probe and some don't and have never had a problem nor ever  heard of anyone having a problem (myself included here) to this day, so as Dr K said in an earlier post, to each his own. 

    When I originally made this tread, I had never heard of this 140* - 4 hr thing and wondered how serious it was and what was behind it. From all of the postings in it, it appears it is serious to some and not serious to others.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2015
  20. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    A very well educated and experienced Food Safety professional is my friend, Mentor and was my Instructor 20 years ago and my middle daughters instructor before retiring 2 years ago. She made it very clear that you are NEVER going to catch yourself or others in every single situation where you can contaminate food...BUT if you are vigilant, catch the big problems, cutting raw meat and salad fixings on the same board, and constantly Think where stuff can go wrong, you will be safe...

    Quote: " Now in reference to the 4 hrs and 140*, what is a person supposed to do if after 4 hrs they probe the meat and it is only 125*? ... Are they supposed to throw it out? ... Going to be expensive for a lot of people if that would happen as there is no guarantee or way for factually knowing that the meat is going to be 140* after 4 hrs."

    This ONLY applies to Ground meat, like a Fatty or Meatloaf, BRT Roasts, Injected Meat and to guys that punch holes with Garlic and Herbs, or other stuff, deep into the meat. The risk of contamination goes up. It has ZERO to do with the Intact Butt or Roast that was in the smoker and the fire goes out a couple of hours in or it is taking an extra hour or two to get to 140.

    Spitting on Returned Meat? I can't say it never happens. Many quick service restaurants are staffed by people who are working in food service...Until they move on to whatever or don't give a S#!T. But 99.99% of Food Service PROFESSIONALS would never do this and would chastise then terminate anyone they caught abusing food or risking customers health. It is bad business and nobody makes money in restaurants that are shut down...JJ
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
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