New to smoking

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victoria d

Original poster
Apr 23, 2014
Birmingham, AL
Hi! I am Victoria, from birmingham, al. I have experience I fine dining and currently own a private chef business. What I have no experience in is smokers! I just bought a 40in masterbuilt electric smoker and I am scared to death!!! I have an upcoming party, that I am doing without pay, that needs enough pulled pork for 125 Alabamans. I have TOYALLY over stretched!
Victoria, welcome and that's jumping in both both feet!  Just think of your smoker like a smoky oven.  See, the panic has already started to subside.

Figure how much pork butt/shoulder you would prep in your oven for 125 people.  Butt/shoulder is just about the most forgiving cut of meat you can smoke and there are a lot of ways to do it.  Keep it simple and go for flavor.  You can actually do the meat the day before then reheat it in a big pot with the gelatin.  More on that later.

Find a nice sweet and smoky rub recipe, put down a base on your meat like EVOO or prepared mustard, then liberally apply the rub.

Crank that smoker up to 250-275F with hickory wood for a good smoke flavor.

When the internal temp on the meat is around 160-165F, about 4 hours, or it has stalled for a while as the meat sweats, you have a choice to make.  Wrap the meat or just continue to let it smoke, which will take about 3-4 times as long as wrapping.

The simple thing would be to take the butts off, throw them in aluminum roasters with a cup of apple juice and a cup of brown sugar per butt, then seal them up tight with HD aluminum foil.  That's called wrapping.  Put them back in the smoker or throw them in the oven but don't bother adding any more smoke once they are wrapped.  Cook them until the internal temp on the meat is 205F.  They'll finish quickly, couple hours or so.

Pour off and save the juices.  Shred/pull the pork, and put it in your fridge.  Put the juices in your fridge too.

Next day, scrape the fat off the juices, add the sweet/smoky gelatin back into the meat with a little sweet BBQ sauce and apple cider vinegar.  Heat and serve on fresh buns.

Cole slaw, pickles, onions optional.

Now, wasn't that easy!  
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I am starting to get more excited than nervous! Do the butts cook evenly? For ex. If I have 8 butts in the smoker, will one be done befor the others? Should I gage the temp of each one?
They can get done at different times. When the bone wiggles very easy they are done. Ready for a wrap in foil and a rest.
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I am starting to get more excited than nervous! Do the butts cook evenly? For ex. If I have 8 butts in the smoker, will one be done befor the others? Should I gage the temp of each one?

Yes, ya wanna check each individually.... Though butts are forgiving, they can also have a mind of their own ! Some stall way longer than others if ya don't wrap... I don't wrap cause I like the bark too much ! However to each their own, there's a lot of folks on here that do wrap ! IMHO, it's personal preference !
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I shouldn't open the door to the smoker so how on earth am I going to be able to check internal temps without defeating the purpose?
They can get done at different times. When the bone wiggles very easy they are done. Ready for a wrap in foil and a rest.
Yes, ya wanna check each individually.... Though butts are forgiving, they can also have a mind of their own ! Some stall way longer than others if ya don't wrap... I don't wrap cause I like the bark too much ! However to each their own, there's a lot of folks on here that do wrap ! IMHO, it's personal preference !
Yup what they said - I've never had 2 butts finish at the same time.
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Victoria, just be sure to get butts about the same weight or close to the same weight.  Using a chamber temp of 250-275F after four hours in the smoke they'll all be off each other by a few degrees but nothing to worry about.  The first four hours is just to lay down a good smoke layer according to the directions on your smoker.  No need to open the smoker during that time unless you need to add more wood.

Once you wrap them, they cook/semi-braise pretty fast.  You can poke one or two with your thermometer after an hour wrapped to see what's going on with the internal temp.  Just poke right through the aluminum foil. Your final internal temp doesn't have to be exactly 205F.  203-210F internal is all going to work.

You'll get a nice dark outside and tender inside.  That gelatin?  Pure flavor enhancer.

Below are pics I just took of cold pulled pork in the refrigerator and the remaining gelatin that came out of two pork butts using the procedure I mentioned above.  If it wasn't 11:40 at night I'd throw some of the butt, gelatin, BBQ sauce, and vinegar in the microwave and spoon it on some Amish Bread.  Maybe in the morning for breakfast!

Had to add my pulled pork breakfast.

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I am new here & I know my opinion doesn't carry any weight but I would NOT let your pork get to 210 degrees. I was just reading a thread recently with the poster having mushy pork. It was determined that he was overcooking the pork making it get mushy. He was letting it come up to 210 degrees. I will find the thread if I can.
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Good morning Victoria, and welcome to the site, as in previous post pork shoulder is real forgiving, You need to allow plenty of time though. When I smoke pork shoulders I usually get mine at Sam's they come in a two-pack about 8 to 9 lbs. each. I have found most of the time they are ready at a little different times, so checking the internal temp is what I would do. I open my door several times to check mine and it recovers pretty quickly. I smoke at 225º so it takes me a little longer, if you are smoking at 250º - 275º you will decrease your cooking time. If you wrap, you can always finish them off in the oven if you need to. After you wrap you will not get any more smoke flavor anyway. Main reason for these suggestions is because you are new to smoking and have a brand new smoker. After you have smoked a couple hundred shoulders, you will have your smoker and times figured out and it will be second nature. Don't over think it, allow plenty of time and enjoy. You may have a holding warmer, When mine come off I wrap them in a couple old towels and stick them in the cooler till i'm ready.

Gary S
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Thank you all so much for your responses! I went from terrified to thrilled over night. This forum is an invaluable tool!
Hey Victoria

Welcome to the Smoking  forum.   You’ll find great , friendly people here, all more than willing to answer any question you may have.  Just ask and you’ll get about 10 different answers—all right.  LOL.   Don’t forget to post qviews.   What Noboundries said, and you'll have NO problems

Greetings Victoria..... These guys all have some excellent suggestions. Let me give you one no one has said.

You are the new owner of an MES40. Great smoker. Once you check the temperature calibration, best to do that during the seasoning cycle, you'll be good to go.

Instead of attempted a fast and furious smoke, go low and slow because you can. Put your meat (butts), in the smoker, use an AMPs (Pellet type auxiliary type smoke generator sold by one of the sites sponsors), and go about your business. They will take 20 to 24 hours with zero maintance required at a cooking temperature of 220 degrees.

My cooking secrets, easy K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple....) Just before it hits the smoker, salt, cayenne, Onion, Garlic, and a very light massage using light brown sugar. The sugar liquefies, the heat causes caramelization, gives it that nice candy coating like and M&M (you can't taste it much ), encapsulating the meat holding the moisture inside. That's it, the old ways still work.

Figure 1/2 to 1/4 lb per person, since we don't know if they are college jocks or classical ballerinas. Figure an approx. 35 to 37% lose in weight from rendering during smoking. Do not expect a red smoke ring on the meat, it's an electric so it ain't gonna happen.

You can cook these in advance. I highly recommend it! Cook 'em, shred 'em, Ziploc 'em. You can add a little finishing sauce to up the moisture but I doubt you'll need it. Its really more about adding some wonderful flavors to the meat. If you do it before the Ziploc, it gives it a chance to marry with the meat while resting. Then a large crock pot the day of serving, better than a chafing dish for retaining moisture and not burning the meat. If you are offering BBQ sauce serve it hot on the side.

Either make you own buns, or get a baker to make 'em, You want the buns slightly smaller than a small hamburger bun but not as small as a biscuit. It helps with lose due to fools loading a plate. They can always have more IMHO and get a new plate each time! Oh, I forgot, free gratis Oh my! LOL

Remember, smoking has been around forever so as long as you use common sense and don't over think it, its all about the patience, seriously! If you are cooking something for 20+ hours to get to 200 degrees IT, nothing can ruin it too fast. LOL

Great suggestions above, and good luck with your cook. Being a Pro I assume you'll take the maiden voyage before the butts so have fun with it.

I personally right now do the most of my smoking on a MES30, small, cheap, easy, idiotproof. As to an MES40 one of the guys here is all about MES40's, and even with all the great assistance above, I suggest you drop him a note when you have your battle plan and see if there might be something he'd recommend. "BearCarver", I think most here will agree.

Have fun and I hope the bug bites you, we are all here as addicts..... Nothing smells a good a good Pecan smoke IMHO. Enough practice and you'll not go back to Dreamland again!
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sorry for the slow response but I had to go out of town unexpectedly.

Ok. I smoked my first butt. not impressed!! I rubbed my butt down in evoo and added a layer of rub.  the flavor of the rub was the only redeaming quality of my first endeavor.  I smoked my butt at 275 for about 4 hours (I now realize it was way too hot!) I love the idea of a nice, crunchy outside but that didn't happen AT ALL. This is also why I chose not to wrap. I added my hickory wood chips every 30-40 minutes, or when i wasnt seeing smoke come out anymore, but the smoke flavor was still lacking.  As far as texture of the inside of the butt, it was fine.  It was lacking all the flavor I was hoping for. What I have learned at this point (and PLEASE add or correcto me if i'm wrong!):

* adjust rub to acheive a crispy outer coat

* smoke at a much lower temperature

* do people brine pork butts? need to get more flavor throughout the meat

* buy pellet container and pellets
What internal temp did it get to in 4 hours ?  I usually do 8 to 9 lb  and takes me 10 or 12 hours to get it up to 205 - 210 internal for pulled.

Gary S
Victoria, the rub will definitely play a part in forming a nice bark, but you also need time at temp.   Like Gary, I'm also curious as to what temp the butt was in 4 hours.   Even at 275, that's awfully quick for a butt to be finished.  As to the lack of smoke flavor, I'd wager that it was because the meat didn't get enough smoke.  Even when adding every 30- 40 minutes, it would take time for the new chips to get hot and start to smoke.  So, you probably had about 2 hours of good smoke at the most.

As to overall flavor, it's going to come from the rub and the outer portions where the smoke penetrates.  If you happened to grab some pork from the inside part of the butt, it won't have much flavor.   Once the butt has been pulled, mix it up to distribute the tastier / more flavorful bits throughout.  That said, brining or injecting will add additional flavor through out.
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The meat temp was in the 190s when I took it out. I was expecting to be smoking for 12 hours. I will follow a recipe for a good rub next time and an injecting solution. Apparently there is a lot of humility in this smoking experience for me. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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