Pork: High Temp/Shorter time VS Low Temp/Longer time??

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Original poster
Jan 12, 2014
I've a question about the various cook times I've seen throughout the Pork Sticky thread...

Many people cook their shoulders at a much higher temp than I've ever considered cooking - above 250. In fact one gentleman mentioned 285-315! I've always run my shoulders at 220-230 for very long periods. My current method is to run a 8-9# for 16-18 hours and it comes out wonderfully. I used to only run to 10-12 hours at 225, but increased my time and the product is even better. Now, that being said - what would be the general difference at a shoulder done at 225 for 18 hours vs a similar one done at 275 for say 8 hours? Is the only difference the time? Does a hot/shorter cook time allow the connective tissue to melt down and turn into yummy goodness? If the product results are the same, I'd surely rather not cook 18 hours, although it's no problem to put it into a MES at 10PM and let it ride...

Anyone care to offer opinions (or better - facts) about the pros & cons of these two schools of thought?
I used to do low and slow. The last couple I have done between 285-300. The only difference I've found is the time it takes. Weather low and slow or hot and fast I always take my pork butts to an IT of 205.

I feel that the to of theeat has more to do with breaking down the connective tissues than time.
In my large pull behind I smoke butts at 275 to 300 always. I can have butts off the cooker in give, or take, 6 hrs. I smoke to an IT of 165, wrap, and finish to 205 IT. The key is the rest period in the cooler. The longer the better. The only thing your loose smoking this way is some bark. It gets me paid$$
For me I tend to cook at 250-275, I'll push 300 in the off set smoker if needed.
I also pull min at 195 and allow carryover cooking bring it home. I don't like pulling at 205 and letting rest. The meat gets too mushy for my taste, I like a bit of texture in mine. I have never had an issue with the pork not pulling.

So here is how I look at the diffrence with low and slow and mid to hot and fast......

Low and slow 225: in smoke till 165ish, so aprox 5-6hrs in smoke, then another 5-6hrs wrapped for a 6-7lb butt. For a total cook time of 10-12 hrs if things go well, could be a lot longer....

Mid to hot and fast 275+: this is how I do mine...... In smoke till 195, aprox 6-7 hrs. Remove at 195 allow to rest for 30 min while making finishing sauce, pull and enjoy.... So in smoke for 6-7hrs and have nice bark to snack on and give different textures to your pulled pork. Little crunchy bits of yumminess .........

With my smokehouse I can't risk anymore the cooking at 275+ temps..........so I will smoke at 250.... I will modify my cooks based on need and timing of service...... If for lunch I will start my cook the afternoon before till time to sleep. Then into a pan with some apple juice concentrate and beer, wrap with plastic and foil and into the oven at 190. Wake up to the amazing smell and pp ready to be finished off. I figure no smoke gets added when wrapped, so why not.....
OK, so I'll admit to being the guy that cooks butts in the 285°-315° range. IMHO the the quality of the finished product is as good or better than the ones that I have done low and slow. The fuel cost, for me at least, is also lower. Low and slow butts in the Chargriller would take 1 1/2 to 2 bags of lump, at a cost of $7 a bag, while cooking hot and fast on the kettle takes 1/2 bag of Stubbs briquettes, total cost about $4.50.

I cook my butts in half the time that you do, averaging just about 50-60 minutes per pound. I find that cooking at higher temps makes the cooks more predictable, I am able to take a hard deadline of 5PM and know that if I start an 8 lb butt at 8AM I will be done and resting with time to spare. Beats the heck out of the 12-14 hours that 8 pounder was taking when I cooked low and slow.YMMV
Turbo cookin. I start the butt off slow. More 225 to 250, then once wrapped in foil around 170, I move to around 300. This way I feel I get good time in the smoke and still finish much sooner. I can do 8 1/2 lb butts in 9 to 9 1/2 hours using this method.
I have Weber Kettles and a 22" WSM. I've cooked low n slow no wrap, then hot n fast with wrap.  Using the WSM I did an 8.5 lb shoulder on New Years Da at 300-325F.  Four hours smoked (150F IT), two hours wrapped (205 IT), two and a half hours resting.  Was absolutely delicious and no stall!

Besides time saved the only difference is the smoke ring, bark, and the amount of fuel used.  Meat tastes the same, tender and juicy, but the smoke ring is shallow (1/8") and the bark is soft.  Noticeably different than the low and slow no wrap.  I used WAY less fuel than the WSM instructions listed for the long smoke.

Not this weekend but soon I'm going to use a sugarless rub then try starting it at 350-375F for an hour followed by slowly dropping the temp down over several hours to 225F, leaving unwrapped, to see if I can get a firmer bark and still save time.  I want to see if that's any different than say doing the whole thing at 275-300 unwrapped.     
I have always done mine @ 275 - 300. Wrapping at 170 IT, and finishing at 200 and resting till dinner. Soft bark, but other than that its awesome. Seems like it uses a lot of energy to for a 12-16 hour smoke, I use propane. I would rather have it done in 8-10 hours, I do agree its more predictable at a higher temp. I run the same temp for spare ribs, no foil. Bark turns out awesome!
I usually roll around 260 to 275, havent cooked a butt hot and fast yet though. Didnt notice any difference once I stopped cooking low and slow.
Thanks for all the replies!

Ok, I have a plan and a good size hunk of hog to test with.

I'm going way outside my comfort zone and trying a shoulder at higher temp, shorter time AND will actually use a thermometer to gauge cooktimes.

I've always gauged it by look & feel; never temp and never had a bad outcome.  If I can cut my time in half, I'll probably cook twice as often which is better for everyone!!

I'll let ya know how it turns out early next week!
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