Pork Butt Cooking Time

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Jul 9, 2005
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
I left a message in a different thread but didn't really get any feedback. I'm sending this one out as a fresh thread in hopes of getting some feedback.

Interesting smoke! I put a pork butt on Saturday morn at about 10:30. This was after keeping it in the referigerator over night with ball park mustard and lots of Jeff's rub slathered over it. I used my Taylor digital thermometers to monitor both the smoker temp at the grill (using a potato) and the internal temp of the meat. I kept the smoker temp at a fairly constant 220* and used hickory wood. Now the interesting part .... with those conditions, I did not reach the internal temp of the meat (190*) until about 8:30 Sunday morn. That's 22 hours! I've read in this forum that every butt tends to have it's own personality and smokes differently but have any of you ever had a pork butt to smoke so long? And by the way, when I took it out of the smoker and pulled it, it was absolutely fantastic. (I used some of Crazyhorse's mustard base sauce.) Any ideas on the length of time to smoke the butt??

Bill, a good question!! I've noticed this also. There are a couple of things that come to mind . . . .

A) Temperature of the pork butt-Allow the meat to come to room temperature before going into the smoke (I pull the meat out before I start firing thing up for the smoke). That probably why you see smoking instructions that say “allow meat to come to room temp. . .†or “remove meat from fridge 30-45 minutes before smoking . . .â€

B) Ambient air temperatures- a cold smoker will take longer to come up to temperature than a warm one. This is why preheating is a good thing

C) Wind-the wind will rob heat from your smoker. This is especially true with Dutch Ovens, (and why we turn them every 15-20 minutes). A good wind break will help reduce the heat loss.

D) Age of the hog. Most hogs are butchered before they are a year old. They develop muscle mass but not muscle density (think firmness here).
Iâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]ve noticed this as a meat cutter when cutting through a leg or loin. The older the hog, the denser the meat. Where you have dense muscle mass the heat will take longer to penetrate and break down the connective tissue

If youâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]re doing everything in items A-C then I would suspect that your meat is from an older animal and thus the reason for the longer smoke time.
Earl D-
Thanks for the response. Thinking back, I took the meat out of the refrigerator about 30 to 40 minutes before putting it into the smoker which was right at 220*. I do remember that the internal temp of the butt was 42* when I put the digital thermo probe in at the beginning of the smoking. So the smoker was at temp and the wind was not a factor (minimum). I guess that leaves age of the pig and temp of the meat.

I know I can't control the age of the pig but regarding the temp of the meat, I have heard a lot of minimizing the time the meat spends between 40* and 140*. As a matter of fact, I remember when I was a youngster, we were doing a BBQ for a church and some of the meat actually spoiled. I know my Dad would never have used bad meat so it had to be due to the time spent in the danger zone. Since then, I have always been paranoid about bringing meat (especially pork) up to room temp before putting it in the smoker.

That said, based on your experience, how much of a danger is the temperature or danger zone to our home cooking. Is it really safe to bring the meat up to room temp before putting it into the smoker? Wouldn't it be better to bring it directly from the refridgerator to the smoker and allow it to begin the warming/cooking process there?

Again, thanks for your thoughts. Perhaps I'm making too much of the temperature thing??

Bill, I hear you on the exposure time. You're correct about the 40*-140* danger zone**. In an ideal cooking situation we want to get through the 40*-140* danger zone as quickly as possible. In my last Food Handler's class the Instructor told us that the maximum time of danger zone exposure is four hours. But when we smoke meats it takes quite awhile for the meat's internal temp. to cross over that 140* threshold. I asked this very same question to the Instructor at the end of the class and the answer that he gave me was "Well 99% of all bacteria is killed when internal food temps reaches 140*" So in a way it sounds like we have a "Catch 22" here. So I think if we can minimize the danger zone exposure time and bring the internal temp to 140 or higher we should be ok.

Besides how can there be germs in a 220* smoker? :P

**Last year the USDA changed the danger zone to 40* to 135* degrees. I feel more comfortable with my food if I know that it is 140* or higher.

Bill and Earl-D, I tracked the temperature of a shoulder recently and plotted the results. The temperature was 220 degrees F constant in the smoker and the meat started out at 40 degrees F straight from the refrigerator. There were two 7.5 pound shoulders in the smoker. The graph is just one of them. The temperature follows a curve known to engineers as a exponential curve. It rises quickly at first and then slows and then gradually approaches (but theoretically never reaches) the smoker temperature. The key then to keeping the meat out of the danger zone would be a high temperature at first in the smoker. The meat shown reaches 140 degrees in 3:50. This depicts that any temperature less than 220 is asking for trouble!

Aubrey Page
Thanks for sharing the graph Aubrey!!
Aubrey and Earl,
Thanks so much for your responses. I love the graph. It clearly displays what I had envisioned. That is, relatively rapid increase in internal temp of the meat in the early smoking period. And realtively slow increases in the later stages of smoking.

So now the big question .... is it wise to bring the meat out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temp befor placing in the smoker or should we keep the meat at 40* or below and when the smoker is ready (220* or slightly higher) bring the meat directly from the refer to the smoker? Right now, I think I'm opting for the later. What do you think. Or again, am I being just a little too picky?? Regardless, I enjoy thinking through such things and I sincerely appreciate your thoughts. I feel certain that you have smoked many more shoulders than I have.

Thanks again,
My two cents worth, the danger zone starts when you take the meat out of the refrigerator. Look at the graph! With barely 10 minutes to spare, an hour on the kitchen counter means that you blew the timeline by an hour. In making that statement, I am assuming not much rise in meat temperature sitting at room temperature. This is because the rate of temperature rise is related to the difference between the ambient temperature and the meat temperature. The difference between room and 40 F isn't much. I also believe that the meat smoke penetration action may benefit from the longer time in the smoker gained by putting 40 F meat in the smoker.

Short answer: From refrigerator to smoker.

Aubrey Page
Bill, After having looked at Aubrey's graph a little closer, I think that from now on I'll be going from the fridge to a hot smoker.

Aubrey and Earl,
Thanks so much for the inputs. I agree .... from now on it's from the fridge to the smoker. Hope you all have a great week and that your future smokes are second to none!

Brother Bill,

Earl is sending you on the right track. (Kudos Earl!) 22 hours is an exceptionally long time for 2 butts. I am familiar with your rig, and it should not have taken that long for completion. Conntinue with your research and I'm sure you'll find your niche.

Good luck my friend!

The purpose of keeping meat out of the danger zone is to prevent bacteria from spoiling the meat. As someone mentioned earlier bacteria will not exist inside a 220* smoker. The only problem would be with meats that had been injected with marinade. So I would say you can comfortably take your meat out an hour or more before putting it in the smoker. However a large butt or brisket would have to sit for hours to reach room temp.

I prefer to marinate overnight and the apply a rub and allow my meat to rest on the counter indoors for an hour if I can wait that long before putting it in the smoker. It allows the rub to set on the meat better.
Bill from FL,
I need to ask.

I ccoked 2 butts this weekend. Every butt gets a s sticking point, usually in the 150's.

I had one this weekend (5.5#) stuck at 151 for 3 hours.

Anyway, I reread this thread twice. I didnt catch if you wrapped in foil.

I use the same method for brisket, pork loin, roasts, and butts, with great success.

Bring meat to 165. Wrap in HD foil, spraying with your goto spray before sealing. Back on the smoker to 190, then in an empty cooler wrapped in a towel for 2 to 3 hours. I don't see that you wrapped. I bet you could have shortened the 22 hours down to around 1.5hours per pound.

Just my .02, but I'm interested to hear if you wrapped or not.

(don't get me wrong, some feel foil is not good. I use it as a tool. Not meaning to offend, I'm just asking specifics, especially since you said kick butt taste, which is what counts)

Good Morning Bill (Chicago)!!
Thanks for your interest. To directly answer your question, I did not use foil on the butts. I know the procedure you described (Florida Jeff led me through it when I did my first brisket ..... it works great) but I didn't use it on the butts. Perhaps I need to do that next time.
Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

OK Class-Remember, aluminum is your friend. Use it to your advantage. :D
Hi Dutch and Bill,
I agree that foil is my friend and I have no problem using it. However, I thought it was for the tougher cuts of meat. Do you also use it on butts? Again, for brisket, the 3-2-1 rib method and other "tougher" cuts, foil away .... its great stuff. But also use it on butts? I'm always willing to learn so it looks like I need to give this a try.

Do I use it on butts? Like I said earlier, I use it on everyhing. And I use the cooler method too, on almost everything.

Butts, loins, briskets, everything wrapped at 165, then up to 190, then pulled off and placed in empty cooler for a few hours.

So I'll let you in on a little secret. Sonce this is pork forum, technically this is the right place.

Anyone ever do 3-2-1 on a fatty?

Wait, its a different 3-2-1 than you're used to.

Here it is:
3 hours in the smoke around 220ish. Spraying as normal.
Take off and and wrap in HD foil (spraying the heck out of it before sealing), return to smoker for 2 hours.
No need to check temp. Its done.
Remove, and carefully place in cooler for 1 hour.

Be careful when opening. I experimented and found the 3-2-1 fatty method to be the moistest, and the easiest to avoid dryness. Plenty of converts to 3-2-1 on a fatty.

Try it. Throw on 3. 3-2-1 one of them. Then taste test. For a fair test, don't start the unwrapped ones until you wrap the test fatty. 3 hours is what I cook them for. Never check the temps (on unwrapped)

My Bandera Brethren...........what's up?

Don't let this guy fool ya.............he can 'Q with the best of us! LOL!

Tried any new experimentations lately? You are always trying something new!

BTW, what's with the Flag? Germany? Didn't know the Kraut's had a Chi-Town in Germany! (Just Kidding!)

South Side German here

And my last experiment was with the deep fried fatty.

left it on too long, and it was maple flavored, so it burnt up nicely :)
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