pork and chicken

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Original poster
Mar 15, 2006
Seattle area
Smoked up some nice and thick pork steaks, chicken breasts and some brats. They turned out pretty good except the outer edge got a little tuff on the pork and chicken. Smoked everything around 4.5 hours. Temp was approx. 225 to 250 with it up to 300 for a short term. I did based the meat with a mixture of apple juice and bbq sauce. Flavor was good. What did I do wrong?

Hey Bill, your problem with the pork and chicken getting tough on the edges was probably a result of the temp getting a little too hot. what type of smoker are you using? Pork and chicken can dry out pretty fast if you don't get a good rub on the meat. Getting the rub to carmalize at lower temps will seal in the meats juices and prevent the meat from drying out and becoming chewy. I always keep my temp around 200 when smoking chicken or smaller cuts of meat. Try keeping the temp between 200 and 225 and you should have better luck.
Very important question.

Chicken can also get tough around the edges from being in the cooker too long. I cook my chicken at 275-325 and never have a problem with it being tough on the edges or anywhere else.

Poultry (and pork loin as well) aren't tough cuts of meat like briskets or butts that require the protracted "low and slow" process to break down tough tissues. It doesn't hurt these items to be cooked at higher temps, in fact it can improve the finished product by preventing unneeded exposure which can lead to drying.

Which ever temperature range you cook birds at, the most important thing is to get the food out of the cooker just as soon as the desired internal temp is reached and serve it as soon as it has rested a few minutes depending on the size of the part or bird.

I'm using a Great Outdoors Grill Co. 34" Wide Body Smoky Mountain Gas Smoker. This was my second attempt at smoking so I'm way earlier in the learning curve. I think I'm going to buy a electronic thermometer, remote like was suggested in another topic. thanks for the tips.

Bill, Pork can be pulled when it reaches 150* internal though a lot of folks still arn't accustomed to eating pink pork so many are still cooking it to 165*.

Boneless chicken can be pulled at 170*, but bone in pieces and whole birds need to be cooked to 180* internal.
Scott, you bring up an interesting point about the temps. Are you saying that a higher temp range that you mention is a better solution for cooking a stuff pork loin like the one in Dutch's other thread as well or are you just talking about the temp range associated to chicken only?
Y2- What Scott is saying is that you can cook chicken and pork loin meat (ie pork chops, pork loin steaks) at a higher temp. to achieve a quicker cooking time as they DON'T require the Low and Slow that is needed to break down the connective tissue that is more common in ribs, pork shoulder (butts & picnics) and beef briskets.

Higher heat, shorter cooking duration = a moister finished product in the chickens and pork loin. I've done chickens and pork loins in my GOSM at temps as high as 350*(the hurry up so we can eat factor) but generally I like to keep the temps. between 250*-300* .

The more I find out the more I realize I don't know.

At those higher temps with shorter times do you still get a good smokey flavor?
Is there any benefit to cooking a pork loin slower/lowwer and using say an apple sauce based mop to keep it from drying out?

The reason I am asking these questions is because, well a pork loin is not exactly a cheap cut of meat and I would like to accomplish two things. First and most importantly make a great stuffed pork loin and secondly if possible fill up my smoker with other goodies that require similar temp ranges. I've got a lot of chicken in the freezer but I guess if I'm going up as high as 325 perhaps I will through in a cobbler or some other desert.
Y2, In my above post, the comparison to loin and poultry was that they neither one require long cooks or low temps to make tender. I have cooked loins at higher (250 or above) temps but don't make a habit of it like I do with chicken or turkey.

Loin will be fine at lower temps with other stuff, the key is not over cooking.

I'm not a big fan of mops or sprays. Neither do much for the internal moisture of the finished product, they can add another layer of flavor, but no additional moisture. Even if the mop or spray is heated the effect to moisture content is only marginal, if applied at room temp they do nothing. In fact when considering that each time you open a cooker to spray or mop you're extending the cooking time which can lead to a drier finished product, spraying/mopping can be counter productive with respect to moisture content. If you're lookin' you ain't cookin'.

I'm not recommending that you abandon spraying or mopping altogether, just that you be aware that it is really about flavor (and appearance) and really has no postive effect on the moisture of the meat at the table.

Moist meat is achived (IMO) by 2 things, proper prep (brining/injecting and a good rub with proper sugar content to crust up in the latter half of the cook to help retain juices) and stopping the cooking process when the proper internal temp is reached.
I'm going to throw in a couple of cents here. In my opion there are a couple of other secondary factore to getting a nice and juicy end result, in addition to the good points that Scott made. Humidity via use of a water pan in the smoker; while this is mainly used as a heat sheild the water ups the humidity in the cooking chamber and therefor isn't pulling that moister out of your meat (some are going to disagree on this point I'm sure, but I'm convinced that it works). The other factor is letting your meat rest properly before carving. If you cut into a peice of meat right away all of the juices run out and then it dosen't matter what you've done in the cooking process to ensure a juicy outcome, it's all over the cutting board if you don't let it rest and redistribute.
I am a big fan of injecting meat .Pretty much anything I smoke is injected with whatever I have marinated the meat in.I also agree with LadyJ when it comes to the water pan.I use a ECB on some things but even when I smoke in my big smoker I place a large pan of water under the meat.Juices from the meat as well as what ever liquid you have in the pan rise as steam laden with flavor and continually mop your meat with moisture.In my opinion this has to add to keeping the meat moister than dry smoking.
I used water also so maybe I just cooked it to long. I did wait until the meat was up to temp so maybe I should have upped the temp some. There's always the next time. (:0)}}}}

y2 & prestonbill, one thing that a lot of folks are not aware of is "carry-over" cooking.

What this means is that food will continue to cook when it is removed from the oven or smoker. If you cook a whole chicken and remove it from the oven when it reaches 180* the bird will continue to cook and can actually rise in temperature another 15-20 degrees. That is why some recipes will tell you to cook to an internal temp of 165*, remove from the oven and cover with foil and let rest for X number of minutes. The recipe has taken the carry-over cooking into consideration. When the 'rest' period is over the food should have reached the target temp. of 180*.

On my Smoked Stuffed Pork Loin post I have a pix there that shows my thermometer. The readout shows an internal temp. of 161*. The loins were pulled from the smoker when the internal temp was 145*.

I hope that I haven't confused you too much :P and have given you some food for thought. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions or concerns.
Lady J, before you depend too heavily on pit humidity to conserve moisture in the finished product, here something to think about. You can steam, or for that matter cook a piece of meat in boiling water until it is completely dried out. It would seem if a humid environment conserved moisture in the meat this would not be possible.
Now I'm confused.I smoked four bbc on Mon.,in my CG.w/sfb.Kept the temp.about 225.Took tthe chickens out,when internal temp.was 170.This took about six hrs.When I tried to remove birds from can,each one fell apart.The skin was real crisp,really too crisp.Yes I tented the birds.The dark meat was juicy,but white meat was to dry.You could eat the white meat,but you had to wash it down.Now on another site,it was said to pull whole birds at 160 &the temp.would climb while the birds are resting.This am.I read here,to pull whole birds at 180.So will the real temp.,please stand.
I'm not saying that the water pan is the ONLY way to conserve moisture in your meat. Just ONE of MANY pieces to the puzzle that is good que. And it's a secondary one at that. Just trying to paint the whole picture. And like I said it's an opinon that I know not everyone agrees with. :)
DS-Cook the bird to 160* and pull it and tent it with foil-the carry over cooking will take it up to 180*. When you pull the birds at 175* and tent them with foil the final internal temp can be has high as 195-200*.
I don't agree with your opinion because its simply untrue. Moisture is bound in the meat at a molecular level. The key to a moist finished product is to cook the meat long enough to break these bonds and release the exisiting moisture into the meat THEN stop the cooking process before additional cooking forces the recently freed moisture out of the meat. Ambient humidity in the pit has very, very little to no effect on hitting this window between undercooked and overcooked.

If anything excess humidity in the pit can inhibit proper bark formation that can help hold moisture in the meat once its released. If you want verification of this, go to a contest and in the wee hours of the morning you'll see cooks that use WSM's and Backwoods type smokers (with waterpans) emptying their waterpans to prevent this squishy bark problem to conserve moisture in the meat.

The best defense against dry Q is knowledge of what happens as the meat cooks and a good thermometer, not a waterpan.

I once believed the humidity=moisture myth. Once I quit barking up the wrong tree, my Q improved. Just trying to save others from repeating my mistakes.
Not nowing everything there is to know about this Im open to dicussion about it.The one effect of the water pan that I do like is as I stated before about the cycle of the juices rising and clinging to the meat and "recycleing" the flavors contained in the liquid in the pan.This to me is similar to mopping the meat over and over again in a continious ccycle over the time of the smoke.Ive smoked without water and turned out very juicy meats.I do believe that if you start with a quality cut of meat that has been prepared right, water or no water your gonna turn out a good product,David
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