How many minutes/pound needed to smoke two 25 LB whole pork legs??

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MiamiSmoker305

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May 18, 2020
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I have to cook two 25 lb whole pork legs to make a traditional Cuban "lechon" for Nochebuena dinner (Christmas eve). Dinner starts at 5 PM. I have a one hour drive, so I am timing my cook to finish around 3:30/4 PM. I have been planning this cook at 35 mins per pound - 14.5 hour cook. I ran across a few posts that say the cook time will be 1 - 1.25 hours per pound - 31 hour cook!!! This is a big difference and could be the difference between not having the main meat for the dinner. Do I really need to start at Noon on Saturday?

I'm looking for any help from my community of experienced smokers. I plan to use a MB Gravity 1050 with Kingsford Briquettes. 250-275 degrees until a IT of 165/170.

What would be your plan if I started 31 hours early, but the cook finishes in 16-18 hours? Is wrapping and putting in a cooler - and then the oven at 140 until dinner time still an option?
 

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Update: I started the cook, 24 hours before deadline. We will monitor closely and hope for the best. 275F until an IT of 170. Letsgooo!
 
Really all comes down to cook temp and final IT desired. Don’t forget that wrapping in foil is a great crutch and speeds things along also pushes you past the inevitable stall and with those 25# legs it will be a long stall which will happen right around 150-160*F use foil to push over that stall. Then uncover and brown it up.
 
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The minute-per-pound formula would have a lot of variables. The ones I've smoked took 20 to 24 hours, and I adjusted the pit temp as I was nearing the end of the cook.... sometimes higher, sometimes lower. I don't have a problem with wrapping, but some folks don't ever wrap. The key for me is injection and I make one with smoked pork broth and Coca-Cola. One of the best forum posts on smoking a whole shoulder came by way of NightHelp in 2006 who I think was on the Dizzy Pig BBQ team:

Don't take the skin off! I've done a couple hundred whole shoulders and have never taken the skin off. Trim it a little skin off the butt end to get more bark but for sure leave as much skin as possible around the hock. 25 pounds is from one BIG hog! Treat it with love and it will return the favor. Nothing beats a whole shoulder in my book. When you render that much fat, the product will blow your mind. Inject it until you can't get anymore into it. Use apple juice, chicken broth, a little beer, melted butter, worsestershustershire, and some rub. Mix well and have at it. Try to get a lot of the liquid into the hock and the butt end. Let it rest a few then rub it good, getting the rub into as many crevices as you can. Cutting in extra crevices is a nice trick. Bark is good. Cook skin side down with a bunch of your wood of choice (mine is 50/50 white oak and pig nut hickory)at no more than 230* dome temp. You only need enough wood to burn for the first 2 or 3 hours. When the internal hits 200*(about 20 - 24 hours), remove from the egg and let it cool enough to pull. You will be rewarded with Miss White's Delights and Mr. Brown Goes to Town. Only possible from a whole shoulder. The cook's portion (that you don't have to share) is the meat around the hock. Nothing on this planet comes close.
 
Really all comes down to cook temp and final IT desired. Don’t forget that wrapping in foil is a great crutch and speeds things along also pushes you past the inevitable stall and with those 25# legs it will be a long stall which will happen right around 150-160*F use foil to push over that stall. Then uncover and brown it up.
Foil @ 150-160F. Great idea. Thx
 
I'm looking for any help from my community of experienced smokers. I plan to use a MB Gravity 1050 with Kingsford Briquettes. 250-275 degrees until a IT of 165/170.
Sorry, I missed the internal temperature you mentioned. Internal around 180° is going to be right on the line for slicing pork, which is really good. Closer to 200° will allow some muscles to be pullable, and some of the leaner muscle groups could still be sliceable. With the weight of your legs you should be able to get some really nice chunks of meat close to the bone, that will amaze your taste buds.
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9 hours in and the legs are in the 133F range. The color is looking great. There is nice pullback around the hock and the skin. The skin is tightening and getting kinda hard in places. But, I think they are cooking kinda fast, so I dropped the temp to 250F. The MBGS 1050 does have a fan and could be adding some convection to the hot air, thus cooking faster. Am I off base?

Here are the important question...
The stall is likely to come in the next 4 hours. Do I need to stay up to wrap or can I let the stall ride until the morning? Am I risking drying out the meat? FWIW, I have two water trays on the bottom shelf, catching some tasty drippings. Is it "food safe" to use the remaining liquid to make a gravy/dipping sauce?
 

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Not only food safe, but highly encouraged. Those drippings are full of flavor! Great idea.

You either stayed up or you didn't, but you are fine either way. It won't have dried up if you just wrapped when you woke up.
It wouldn't dry up if you left unwrapped the whole cook.

Make sure to post pics!!
 
Final update. I stayed up anticipating the stall that never occurred (see pics). The first roast hit IT of 190F after 12+ hours and the second after 13. I put both in the oven at 170F uncovered with the dripping pans underneath for moisture. After resting in the oven for 6 hours, I attempted to crisp the skin on the MSG at 500F. That didn't go so well as I kept the skin on the leg. That produced *a lot* of grease and started many flare ups. So I double wrapped both legs, and placed in a cooler until dinner time. The meat stayed warm the entire time. I was a nice surprise to have warm meat with dinner.

So, to answer my own question, the cook took 30 mins per pound. I'm not sure why some say 30 and others say 1 hour, but I think a lot has to do with the cooker, outside temperature and the quality of the meat. My MB Gravity 1050 is a cooking machine, that held steady temps all night. We had a very cold night by South-Florida standards, 48F and the cooker did not care one bit. The fat rendered nicely. The drip pans were filled with liquid and I did not add any water over the last four hours. The legs shrunk about 20% and the meat was probe soft throughout.

Most importantly, the family loved the meat. It was succulent, soft, flavorful, and not dry. This made me feel good as I have taken over the "lechon" duty that was held by Abuelo Luis who passed in 2020 (pre-covid). Nochebuena is an important tradition for my wife's family and I am happy to be able to contribute in the most important way. Based on my Christmas gifts (see pics), I am officially the family grill master.
 

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Looks good, glad everyone was pleased. I think a possible problem with using minutes per pound would be the shape and weight of various legs. When I could get them without a special order they were usually around 16 to 18 pounds. The ones you had were heavier and had more of a rounded shape to them.
 
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The other issue is heat transfer is highly dependent on convection. 275 in a standard oven is not equal to 275 in an offset with substantial constant convection.

Meat looked great! Congrats. Feeding a crowd like that successfully feels really good. Enjoy it!
 
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