Extremely Long Smoke Times

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by reasnor, Jun 2, 2009.

  1. Had a question for you all. I'm very new here and up to this point have used SMF as a resource library. I have had a WSM for about 9 months now and have smoked about 5 or 6 times. I love smoking pork shoulder because of the relatively low expense per loads of pulled pork.

    Anyway...on to my question. I've read here that the smoke time for a shoulder should be around 1.5 hours per pound. I've found for me it's more like 2.5 hours per pound. This weekend I started a butt at midnight and it wasn't done until 6pm the next evening (193 degrees). Am I doing something wrong?

    My procedure is to load the charcoal ring FULL of lump charcoal. Then I use a chimney starter (about 1/3 full) to get some hot coals...dump them on the unlit coals, and let it work. I can maintain 250 degrees for about 6 hours with very little effort. I find that the temperature of the shoulder will get up to about 160 after about 9 hours, but then falls and will take up to 4 or 5 hours to get up and above that point again. Please help if I'm doing something wrong. These sleepless nights are killing me.

    Also had a couple other questions if anyone can help. I usually put 5 chunks of wood on the coals. Should I ever be replacing them? Or is that just for chips? Also, would the temperature be different on the bottom grate as opposed to the top grate?

    I appreciate your guys' help...and really appreciate all the knowledge and pictures on this forum!
  2. Stalls are common. Do you use butts or picnics? It always seems to take longer using picnics IMO. Do you foil?
  3. bigbaldbbq

    bigbaldbbq Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    How big are the cuts of meat you are cooking? I have never had butts take that long. Also have you checked your thermometer?
  4. mcmelik

    mcmelik Smoke Blower

    It sounds to me like you might be running into an air flow problem after the 5-6 hours. Can you keep the temp up around 230-250 after that?
    If you are not foiling you might want to think about doing it. I like to double wrap a butt or a brisket at around the 160 mark. then put it back on the smoker until around it gets to that 190 range then wrapped in towels and into the cooler for an hour or two to let the juices settle.You will still pick up a few degrees while it is in the cooler and it will stay nice and warm for serving.
    And yes you might want to think about adding more wood during the first part of the smoke. I use chunks but if you want to use chips put them in a foil pouch with a few slits cut in the top. Make a few up so you can add more when you need them.
  5. I always go with the bone-in Boston butt.

    The temperature of the smoker does seem to go down a bit right when the stall takes place...but I never let it get down below 210 or so. I add unlit lump and within a half-hour it's back to 250.

    I just took a look at another thread and the guy said he put his butt on the bottom rack...maybe that makes a difference. I always place it on top so it's easy to baste.

    Maybe I should try to calibrate the thermometer. I just assumed it would be accurate...but maybe it's not. Thanks for all your help and any future help!

  6. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I've read a lot of threads here and I think the number one spoiler of a good planned smoke is a thermometer thats inaccurate.
  7. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thats what I am thinking. Have you checked to ensure your thermo is accurate?
  8. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  9. mgnorcal

    mgnorcal Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Dude, that's less than once a month. You gotta start using that thing more!

    Short answer - that's not too far off for your temps and your butt size.

    With big hunks of meat, it's more the Inches of Thickness than the pounds alone that determines time to temp.

    Basting the meat will likely prolong things, and to me doesn't seem useful for pork butt.

    If you want shorter cooks, use higher temps.
    Lots of people cook butt at higher temp. I do mine 300-350.
    Cook at say, 325 until the internal temp hits about 160, then wrap in foil or set in a pan and seal with foil. Then cook until the temp hits about 200, then pull and set in a cooler (still covered in foil) to rest an hour or so.

    With this process, you'll be done in <8 hours, the meat will be super tender and juicy.
    The juices you recover can't be beat for making a home-made BBQ sauce.
  10. Well, I guess I'll do a thermometer check to see if it's accurate. And, I've never heard of breaking up the bigger pieces of lump...does this just prevent random hot times??? Prolong the heat???

    I know I haven't smoked nearly enough...but it gets pretty expensive: seems to be about $50 for meat and fuel plus all the additional requirements of supplies/rub ingredients/sauce ingredients. I smoke when possible...probably more now that the weather is nice.

    Is it common for people to smoke a butt at a higher 300 or so degrees? I hadn't heard of that before. Maybe I'll try that next time.

    Still I haven't heard anybody address the issue of whether the bottom grate is warmer than the top. Also, does anybody add wood after they've started? And, finally (I promise), is it fairly typical to add more fuel? If so, should I put in lit coals or unlit or doesn't it matter. Thanks again!

  11. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have not, not common here. Low and slow rules 225' here. Good luck.
  12. smokebuzz

    smokebuzz Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Definetly check your thermo's, I have cooked several butts on a WSM, take about the same time as on my offset, and time will vary anyhow.

    and WELCOME!!!! From another HAWKEYE!!
  13. smokebuzz

    smokebuzz Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Ron, they call it "Fast tracking", some belive it just like people belive in pre-searing large peices of meat.
  14. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Cool Buzz, thanks.
  15. waysideranch

    waysideranch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Get a good digital thermo. They said it above but just to back up what they said foil at 165 and them temp will shot up to 205 easily. your pork will fall off that bone.
  16. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I don't use a WSM but I'll chip in what I can.

    It most likely is not. Most of the stock thermos aren't. Get yourself a digital like the Taylor 1470 and use that instead. Stick the probe through a block of wood (or potato) and place it on the grate to read the smoker temp.

    Breaking up the lump to more consistently sized pieces helps when using the Minion Method. You'll probably get a more consistent burn. I don't know if it will prolong the heat.

    Some people do it, but from what I have read, it is not that common, nor is it necessary. It usually takes me 9 hours to smoke 5 lb butts. Even if I am doing two at a time it still takes 9 hours at around 240°. Sometimes the smoker will creep up in the 250s or 260s but I don't let it get over that.

    Again, I don't have a WSM so I can't say for sure if the bottom is warmer than the top. My guess would be that it is since it is closer to the heat. You could get 2 digital thermos and check for yourself.

    When I am smoking on my SnP I will add more smoke wood if I can't smell the smoke anymore and I haven't foiled yet.

    For a butt smoke on a WSM you will probably need to add fuel. The length of the cook time will dictate this. Whether you add lit or unlit is up to you. You can light it off in a charcoal chimney or add unlit as sort of a Modified Minion Method.

    Hope this helps.

  17. Well, I'll check the thermometer. I do have one of those digital Taylor's...which I currently use on my meat. With Father's Day coming up I've thought about asking for a couple more for when I'm doing two full grates of meat...and then now maybe using it as a smoker temp. read-out.
    I usually foil at around 160 and put 'er in the oven. I've had great results. The pulled pork is almost "wet" it's so moist. But my ribs have never been ones where the meat pulls back from the bone more than an 1/8".

    Thanks again guys. This makes me want to go out and smoke today!
  18. mikey

    mikey Smoking Fanatic

    Here's a site than can help you out and since it's mainly geared for your smoker, I'm sure you'll find it very informative. This is the link for pork butts but you can navigate around from there. www.virtualweberbullet.com/prokbuttselect.html Hope this helps you out.
  19. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have measured top and bottom grate.The bottom grate was 10-15 degree cooler then top with full waterpan.The waterpan deflects heat around bottom grill and creates a convection effect in smoker.

    The large pieces of lump-6 inches long and 4 inch wide etc. tend to take up alot more room then amount of fuel given off.When i break up i can pack alot more lump in ring.No voids or air spaces.

    I add lit coals when fuel is low.This does take practice to not get heat spike.
    I can start with two lit funnels and get a 6-8 hour smoke at 235-250 degrees.

    The site Mikey listed is great reference.
  20. packplantpath

    packplantpath Smoking Fanatic

    I'm one who believes that pork butts benefit very little from the very long cooks. Butts are very fatty and will not dry out and pull just as easily as long as the temps dont get too high. 325 is pushing it though. I try to hover around 280 most of the time.

    I have tried 2 side by side in different cookers one at 300 one at 225 the whole time. Nobody could tell a difference. If you really just like taking it slow, it's fine, but definitely not necessary with pork as much as some beef cuts. Traditional bbq in NC, no matter what many claim these days, was not cooked nearly as low as 225. Closer to 300 was the norm.

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