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Food Safety Question: Low and too slow?

ok to finish?

  • Get it to temp, will be fine

    Votes: 3 100.0%
  • Likely dangerous and I have first hand experience

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No idea

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    3

jdsegra

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Joined Jul 22, 2021
Hey there. Newb to the forum, but I've been smoking for a few years. (mods, please forgive me if this is the wrong location) Have a food safety question that I need help with. Hopefully there's a food safety nerd or two on here.

I have a pellet smoker. Ideal temp for generating smoke is 165 due to the pellet. I tend to put the meat on at night at 165, bump it to 225 in the morning, and time the wrap to have it ready by dinner time.

Cooking a brisket and a couple of pork shoulders for a large group. Put the brisket on the bottom (which was probably a mistake) and the shoulders up top. Cook is progressing much slower than normal. Meat went on around 8:00, I woke up around 1AM and checked it, and was way behind schedule. Generally I'm around the 140-150s and was likely around 90-110.

At 6AM generally at the stall, and I'm at 135ish. Bumped up my temp to 225. I'll probably wrap earlier, but still have plenty of time to finish the cook. Plan is to get it to 203, wrap it, hold it for at least 2 hours in a cooler, serve.

I'm concerned that it's gone two slow and I'm going to make everyone sick. I've searched several forums and heard everything from "I lost my fire overnight and it was fine" to antidotes about "when it doubt throw it out."
Should I be concerned? Does it matter if I make it to temp and hold it there?

Looking for first hand experience or someone with a food science background if possible.

Thanks everyone for your help.
 

chef jimmyj

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How about a retired Food Safety Instructor? Welcome. Generally and according to the USDA, uncured meat should be smoked at 225. That said, starting lower, 165, for a couple hours is nothing to worry about. Bacteria is only on the surface of Intact muscle. At 165, the surface would have reached a lethal temp in about an hour with that much meat. All bacteria is dead. Now, if Injected or Boned and Tied, Bacteria would be in the interior of the meat and the meat would need to reach an IT of 140°F in 4 to 5 hours, hence the recommendation of Smoking at 225 or higher as this temp accomplishes just that. Since you didnt mention Injecting or boned out meat, I am going to assume the meat is intact and you are perfectly Safe to finish the cook and serve.
When in Doubt, ask someone who knows the Answer. Great job coming here...JJ
 

TNJAKE

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Agree with the chef but I will add there is absolutely no reason to cook at 165 for 10hrs. Pellet smokers still give optimal smoke at 200-225. I'd cook 225-275 and just add a smoke tube for additional smoke instead of possibly putting yourself and guests at risk
 

Brokenhandle

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Ya...^^^^^ what they said! And welcome from Iowa! Glad you joined us!

Ryan
 

browneyesvictim

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Glad you found us! Welcome. Echo everything said already.

With larger cuts like briskets or butts that take longer, I prefer to do them overnight also with a plan similar to yours. I do set temp alarms and check on them a couple times when I am half asleep to check on temps and other things. I can do that. Wrapping in the middle of the night when the timing is right- not so much. But that's another story.

Gathering you had 1 brisket and 2 butts, could be a pretty big thermal mass for your smoker but you didn't say what cooker you have. Don't be afraid of a 275' cook for either of those meats anyway.
 

jdsegra

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Joined Jul 22, 2021
How about a retired Food Safety Instructor? Welcome. Generally and according to the USDA, uncured meat should be smoked at 225. That said, starting lower, 165, for a couple hours is nothing to worry about. Bacteria is only on the surface of Intact muscle. At 165, the surface would have reached a lethal temp in about an hour with that much meat. All bacteria is dead. Now, if Injected or Boned and Tied, Bacteria would be in the interior of the meat and the meat would need to reach an IT of 140°F in 4 to 5 hours, hence the recommendation of Smoking at 225 or higher as this temp accomplishes just that. Since you didnt mention Injecting or boned out meat, I am going to assume the meat is intact and you are perfectly Safe to finish the cook and serve.
When in Doubt, ask someone who knows the Answer. Great job coming here...JJ
what's up! I'm glad I found you guys. This is extremely helpful. I also posted on reddit and that was a clown fiesta. I got flamed by a bunch of folks who didn't read the post and had no experience in food safety or with pellet smokers.

@chefjimmyj is on the money. No injection. I'll have to google boned and tied. Sounds interesting. I realized that I have a friend locally with an advanced degree in food science and he collaborated @chefjimmyj's advice.

I panicked a bit and owned up to my mistake to my colleagues so I already took the social hit.

I bumped the temp up to 225 this morning. Brisket rose, but was still pre-stall. I was going to throw everything out, checked the shoulders that were on the top, and they were in the stall right where I expected them. Decided to go ahead and wrap them and finish them out. I'll pull them, sample and see how it's going tomorrow. I think they are fine and I head faked myself. Good thing pork keeps in the freezer! We'll be set for a while.

Tossed the brisket, which was sad, because it was a beaut. May have been fine, but there's no way we would have eaten that, and I would have felt like I was rolling the dice by serving it to other people.

Lessons Learned:
When I woke up at 1AM and checked the temp, I should have trusted my gut and bumped to 225. I was more worried about finishing early, but being way behind schedule and having concerns about safety was way worse.

I don't use the top rack much, so I didn't think about it, but I should have put the brisket up top and the shoulders down on the bottom since the top of the smoker would logically be warmer than the bottom.

To TNJAKE TNJAKE 's point, I'm probably over compensating by trying to smoke as long as possible at 165. I started on a Weber Smoky Mountain before I moved up to the Campchef and had to adjust to the lighter flavor profile. I hadn't even heard about the 140 in 4 hour thing. I just assumed that it would lengthen my cook, but I'd have better control on the finish. Next time I'll start at 165 and bump to 225 before turning in.

smokingmeatforums > reddit

One last question... Is this the right place to post, or should I have posted elsewhere? I checked, but there's a lot of forums and I was in a bit of a mess this morning.
 

jdsegra

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Joined Jul 22, 2021
Glad you found us! Welcome. Echo everything said already.

With larger cuts like briskets or butts that take longer, I prefer to do them overnight also with a plan similar to yours. I do set temp alarms and check on them a couple times when I am half asleep to check on temps and other things. I can do that. Wrapping in the middle of the night when the timing is right- not so much. But that's another story.

Gathering you had 1 brisket and 2 butts, could be a pretty big thermal mass for your smoker but you didn't say what cooker you have. Don't be afraid of a 275' cook for either of those meats anyway.
browneyesvictim browneyesvictim important omission. Campchef Woodwind. Had a 17lb brisket in the bottom and two 8.5 shoulders on the top. Should have been the other way around.

I generally will up the temp to finish at the end. For my own peace of mind, I think i'll bump to 225 sooner and keep a closer eye on it at the beginning of the cook. Expensive mistake, but failure is a good teacher.
 

chef jimmyj

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Im sorry to hear you tossed the Brisket. It really was fine and perfectly safe to serve.
We have a Food Safety Forum. I already moved your thread over there. There are some pieces I wrote about various topics that come up frequently. SMF is all about helping newbies and each other. Flaming is grounds for reprimand and in extreme cases folks can get Banned...JJ
 

smokeymose

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Welcome to the forum.
This is the place to be to get honest answers and no one bad mouths anyone.
You'll see a variety of opinions about some things (like cooking temperatures. I cook at 250+), but food safety isn't one of them.
Good to have you with us!
 

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