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Cooking Temps vs Elevation

Discussion in 'Food Safety' started by dubob, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. dubob

    dubob Smoke Blower

    In pressure canning of fish and fowl, you must account for your elevation/altitude above sea level to achieve the safe cooking temperatures to kill the harmful bacteria. Is the same true for regular cooking of meats or fish in a smoker? I’ve never seen that in a recipe or in my manuals for my Bradley smoker or my CC pellet grill. Any thoughts or links to previous discussions on this subject?

    The reason I ask is that a friend told me he pulls his brisket/pulled pork cooks at 195 instead of 200-205 because we live at 4200 MSL. I never heard or read that before and kind of think it is not valid. So, what say you?

  2. krj

    krj Meat Mopper

    The only thing I can see elevation affecting during a cook is the fire itself. Higher elevation=less oxygen=more airflow needed to maintain similar temps at lower altitudes. I guess also humidity would come into play as well. As far as doneness temps go, those shouldn't really change. As for your friend pulling stuff at 195, that's probably how he does things because that's how he likes his meat done, but he has associated his doneness temp with the altitude. BBQers are a finicky lot when it comes to their product. I talked with my wood salesman about pulled pork one day, told him I pull my butts off anywhere between 195 and 205. He was adamant that he pulls his at exactly 207. END OF STORY!

    Honestly, just do some testing of your own. Throw two butts on, pull one off at 195 and the second at 205, let them rest and then do a taste and tenderness test.
  3. WaterRat

    WaterRat Smoking Fanatic

    Grilling, smoking, frying, etc... should not be affected. Canning and boiling is because the water boils and generates steam at a lower temperature at high elevation due to reduced atmospheric pressure. Other cooking methods are using direct heat to kill the nasties. One exception is some baking recipies (cakes and such not a piece of meat) I've seen call for different times, perhaps due to the moisture being driven off at a lower temp is my guess.

    As for the brisket, personal choice as well as the smoker being used are likely the reason. The connective tissues break down over time above a certain temp not instantly. Therefore a lower slower cook my be done at a lower temp while a hotter faster cook may finish at a higher temp.
  4. dubob

    dubob Smoke Blower

    From another website suggestion, I contacted my local extension service - Utah State University Extension Service - and this is the response I got back:
    Bottom line is - no adjustment needed.
  5. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    I think there are two issues: safety and cooking times.

    Safety is simply a matter of temperature and time. If the thermometer says you have reached the needed temperature and the food stays there for the prescribed time, then the food will be safe, regardless of altitude.

    Cooking time is far more complicated. Most people know that water boils at a lower temperature as you go up in altitude, so anything that relies on water temperature will take longer. This is true not only for food that is in boiling water, but is also true for any food that has a significant water content, which includes all meat, chicken, and fish.

    What's more, water evaporates more quickly at altitude, so things can dry out more. Gases expand more readily, something that affects baked goods that rely on that expansion, such as bread.