Problems with Smoking Pork Butt

Discussion in 'Pork' started by tj3775, Jul 5, 2008.

  1. tj3775

    tj3775 Newbie

    I have a Brinkman Smoker with the offset firebox. Used it a couple of times with dismal results. But I got a wild hair to make some pulled pork and thought, well...heck..I got this smoker

    Got a boston butt at the local supermarket. It seemed too fatty but it was all they had left. (8 lbs). Brined it for 10 hours and put a simple rub on the outside. thought I could handle this...yeah..right

    Anyway, most of the time the guage on the top set about 230-240. It did produce smoke but the 2 times I opened the cooking area, the smoke was soo acrid, it would burn the eyes. I smoked this thing for 10 hrs. When I got it out, the outside felt rubbery (like meat does before cooking). I could NEVER get the internal temp over 150. After it rested for 30 min, we tried to cut it and found it was still very fatty in the inside. My neighbor said it was great but I thought it was way too naasty to eat. I give it to him and he feed it to his dogs. Good thing hanburgers are a snap to make.

    I've read a lot about smoking and it looked easy enough but I know I made a lot of mistakes. I think it was way undercooked but not sure what went soo dreadfullly wrong. ANY help would be appreciated and if there is a resource where I can read about it. then that would be good. Thanks in advance
  2. husker-q

    husker-q Smoke Blower

    TJ -

    my temp guage on the top of the smoker is up to 50 degrees off.

    I have 2 digital probes - one for the meat and one - I slice a potato in half and stick the probe all the way through it - so the probe is about 1 inch of the grate surface - and that is what I go by for temp control.

    Your particular smoker may benefit from some basic modfications - as my Chargriller did (per this forum)

    As for the pulled pork - I've had great success following the "basic pulled pork" Sticky found on this forum.
  3. smokin' dick

    smokin' dick Smoking Fanatic

    Howdy TJ3775, Welcome to SMF and if you haven't already, go to roll call and introduce yourself and give us some particulars so we know you better. Now to your problems. If you were using the stock thermo, that is your biggest issue. They are notorious for being way off on temps, as much as 80*. So get yourself a digital therm with a probe, or even two, one for the meat and one for the chamber, and you will have more success keeping track of the temps. Was the smoke the coveted thin blue smoke? Or was it thick and billowy white? Thick white smoke means too much fuel and not enough oxygen and produces creosote witch will make for bitter tasting and tongue numbing meat. Sounds as though you had a picnic shoulder cooking. Was it kind of triangular in shape, with a heavy layer of what looks to be fat, but is really skin on it? If so remove that layer of skin and some of the fat below before applying any rub. Cook to an internal temp of 180*, foil tightly to an internal of 205* set in a cooler for a couple of hours then pull apart the meat. Should be tender and juicy and delicious.. Good luck.
  4. krusher

    krusher Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    sounds to me that your butt hit its plateu, this is when the connective tissues are absorbing the heat and breaking down,,, This is the most important part of the smoke, you have to let the meat stay on and go through it. An 8 lb. butt will take the minnimum of 12 hours to cook, but ussually 15 hours is what I would expect with a butt that size.

    get another one and let it go, the temp will go on up, you just have to be patient. Once it gets to 165 pull it and foil it and take it to 205 and let it rest for atleast an hour still wrapped in the foil. pour your juices into a bowl, pull that sucker , defat your juice and dump it back onto your meat and enjoy.

    hope this helps
  5. tn_bbq

    tn_bbq Smoking Fanatic

    Sounds like you didn't cook it long enough.

    I like to cook my pork butts to at least 190. At 190, the meat is tender enough to simply pull apart (doesn't need nor is it able to be sliced at 190).

    I prefer to inject my pork butts...not brine them.

    Wrapping pork butts in foil (once they hit 160) can speed the cooking process up.

    Keep trying and keep hanging out'll soon get the hang of it.
  6. travcoman45

    travcoman45 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Like others here have said, get yerself a digital thermo, one fer the smoke box temp, ya wann check that at grate level, an one fer the meat, yall need ta cook a butt ta 160* wrap in foil an cook ta 190* Then wrap in a couple beach towels an put it in a cooler fer a couple hours. Lets the juices suck back up inta the meat.

    Ya can brine ifin ya like, I usually just rub mine with cheap yeller mustard an then the rub, let sit in the fridge overnight.

    Sounds like yer smoke was too heavy, try wrappin yer wood, I use chunks, chips if I have to, in foil then poke a couple holes in that package, heps prevent flare ups.

    Try ta keep the smoker temps at 250*, this is a good alround smokin temp.

    Spritz yer meat bout once an hour to, heps keep it moist.

    Above all, get another one, try er again with some a the suggestions yall will get here, Yer learnin an that be the main thin. Above all else, enjoy yer time smokin. Good luck.
  7. bhille42

    bhille42 Meat Mopper

    what everyone else said. Your thermometer on your smoker is probably off. Definitely get a new one. Also your meat plateaued at 150. Again this is normal and may take several hours to get through. I smoke my butts to 200. They are fall apart tender and very juicy. Be patient and you will be rewarded. Good luck on your next smoke!
  8. jaynik

    jaynik Smoking Fanatic

    If you can't get smoker temps consistent, cheat and smoke for 4-5 hours, then finish in the crock pot to 200. I guarantee it will be good.
  9. smokin for life

    smokin for life Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I agree with mostly of the others, you need to get a couple of probe thermometers. You can't really smoke with out them. As far as cooking butts the are really forgiving. I never brine them just rub them the night before, a little more just before putting them in the smoker. I keep the temp. ay around 220. After the first hour I'll sprizt them with apple juice about once every hour after that. All the butts I've smoked usualy platue at about 150. I've had them just sit there for over 3 hours already, just don't give up on them. Just have another beer or what ever, it'll start moving again. DON'T raise the heat it'll start on it's own. For pulled pork I take it to 205 wrap it in foil, let it sit for at least an hour. When you open that baby up it'll just fall right off the bone. Have fun and let us know how the next one turns out. By the way when I do a 8lber it takes mine around 12 hour to reach 205. HAVE FUN!!
  10. tj3775

    tj3775 Newbie was really thick smoke, and when opening the door where the meat was, it would burn the eyes. Said it was Hickory, my guess it was

    I do have a digital probe (stuck in the meat) and it never got past 150. I think it sat there for hours.

    As for too much fuel, you are probably right. We had at least a 4 lb bag of hardwood charcoal, probably 3 lbs of hickory at one time, got another bag of charcoal and has used it. Should I leave the smokestack open all the time? and regulate with the door at the bottom? I think I didnt leave it going long enough (from 8 till 6) so about 10 hrs. I read somewhere that it was 90 min per pound (as a general rule of thumb). Can the meat be too fat? I know this is a lot of questions but I am learning.

    Thanks for all your help, I do appreciate it
  11. blacklab

    blacklab Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    To many ?s never this is what's so great about this forum. Eveybody wants to share their experience and their results so all can learn [​IMG]. If I might add boil test your thermonitor, if it reaches 212 your good. Also like others have said get a couple probs money well spent. Personally I like Qing @ 250 until I reach desired internal temps. Pulled pork for me is 190 wrapped and resting till 200 or better falls apart tender. It's a learning experience that you'll get and be able to master for your taste. But you have to start with actual temps. Make sure your therms are accurite and your half way home [​IMG] . G L
  12. bigbear

    bigbear Smoke Blower

    Sounds like you had the right idea but maybe had a little trouble with the execution. I love a good pork butt. In fact I have two on my Traeger right now. I never brine butts-ever. No need.

    I agree with all the previous posters especially the temperature probe part. No one asked you about the quality of the smoke you were making. Was it heavy billowing smoke or more wispy (what we call the Thin Blue Smoke)? All wood smoke is acrid to some degree and it's hard to take a full whiff of it up close. If it was heavy smoke, 10 hours seems like a long time but that's a personal choice. Remember the smoke is supposed to compliment the taste, not be the taste.

    You didn't say what type of wood you were using ie. chips, chunks or pieces. Make sure you give your wood a good soak in clean water before you throw it on the fire. Hopefully, it will take an hour or so before it starts smoking giving the meat time to warm up and open up a little. Cold meat doesn't take smoke as well as warm meat does.

    And for Pete's sake, don't give up!! You've got a perfectly adequate smoker and hundreds of die hard smokers, amatuers and professionals alike, who will help you through the process. Get back on the horse and smoke another butt next weekend!!

    Good luck and happy smokin'
  13. tj3775

    tj3775 Newbie

    It was hickory chunks bought at the local Wal Mart. In all we used 2 bags of it. I did soak it in water for several hours. At least I think I got that part right. I put a small bag of charcoal in my starter and when it got good and hot..put that in the firebox with about 3-4 good chunks of wood.

    It didnt seem like it was a lot of smoke coming out of the stack. I mean it wasn't billowing. Wished I'd took some pics to show you. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

    So let me get this don't use wood all the way thru the process? only the first part? and then what do you use to keep the fire going? more charcoal?

    I will test the therometer and see what it does. That's an excellent idea to see where it hits when boiling water. thanks for the help
  14. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wow! [​IMG]

    Lots of controversy about soak vs no soak. Personally I don't think it does much good. Proximity to the fire source and air is what keeps the wood smoldering instead of burning

    No need to add smoke while the meat is foiled. Smoke won't get to it anyway. In a charcoal smoker, the charcoal provides the heat, provides some flavor, and does the cooking. The wood provides the smoke and does the flavoring.

    Grab another butt, gather some more info from the forum and try it again. Next time I bet you won't be giving it away!!

    Don't get discouraged. My first rack of spare ribs were NASTY. I didn't give it to the dog -- but probably should have.[​IMG]

    Hang in there.

  15. bb53chevpro

    bb53chevpro Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I agree. Get yourself another butt and give it another shot. Remember, thin blue smoke is what you are looking for.
  16. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    Thats allot of wood remember if you can smell the smoke you have enough you don't need to see it. A thermo sitting at rack level is much better than the thermometer on the door which is probably not accurate anyway. I'm another that doesn't brine butts just a good rub the night before and maybe again before it goes into the smoker. I to use a spritz of apple juice and captain morgans spiced rum every hour after the first two hours. Most butts and briskets for that matter will hit a plateau or stall where the temp stays at a certain point or even down a couple degrees. During the plateau the connective tissue in the meat is breaking down and this makes it better. A plateau can range from a few minutes to hours and you never really know how long every piece of meat is different. Be patient and wait out the plateau and don't change the smoker temp just continue spritzing every hour and you will be rewarded with a very tender juicy piece of meat.
  17. bigbear

    bigbear Smoke Blower

    Pineywoods- I like that Captain Morgans idea. I'm going to try that if I don't drink it all first!! Thanks!
  18. tf bbq

    tf bbq Fire Starter

    I am still somewhat of a newb to my smoker which is just like yours I think. I had similar problems when I got mine. Listen to all the advice offered and then decide which part of it fits you. Everything I have read i agree with. Not everything works well together. Keep smoking until you find your mojo. I have smoked for a long time but it was more of a direct heat smoker. I had to changed modes.

    Here is my way, you can decide if any of it works for you.

    I start a chimney of kingford and soaking a half bag of chunks about 20 minutes out.

    The wind blows a constant westerly 2-3 miles an hour at my house. I place firebox in the wind. I open the grate and stack all the way. I use one chimney of kingsford to bring my smoker up to temp. This will take it to around 220-260 in 15-20 minutes.

    If the wind shifts east, I wait to see if it will shift again. An easterly wind will drop my temps big time. If it lasts, I will throw half a chimney in the fire box. This will compensate for the easterly wind. If the winds shift after that, I close the air flow to maintain the temp.

    While it is coming up to heat, I unwrap my but and put it on the rack. I don't do anything to it. The flavor comes only from the smoke. I put several chunks of hickory and mesquite. This will add another 10-20*.

    I can restrict air flow by closing the grates and stack and bring the temp down about 50-70*. I can add about 1/4 chimney charcoal, a few chunks and open the air flow and bring up the temp about 50-70*. I can set a medium air flow once I get my temp and keep it. Make sure your coals are on a grate and ash is not restricting air flow below it. I move my hot coals to the side of the air box to keep contstant air flow.

    I throw wood on the coals every time the wood burns out. I usually go through a combined half bag of hickory and mesquite chunks. I throw charcoal on when ever the current charcoal has burned below 50%. Once I have my temp, I burn a mixture of 50% regular kingsford along with 50% kingsford hickory.

    I keep my temp as close to 250 as possible without letting it drop below 250*. My fire will get up to about 290* and I will start bringing it down slowly. If my fire drops below 250, I bring up the fire quickly and slow it as it comes closer to 250. It will rest around 260-270.

    An exception I have to wrapping the meat is I wrap mine around 148-150. I find the plateau time is reduced. I make sure I do not puncture the foil. I pour the juice into a jar to be used in the beans.

    This will take me anywhere from about 6-10 hours depending on how close I stay to 250. I only open the lid twice during the smoke. Once to move the thermometer from the grate to the meat when I think the meat is around 130-140. And again when the meat reaches 148-150 when it is wrapped in foil.

    I take my temp up to about 205*. Then I either get a shovel and take some fire out of my box and leave the meat or let it rest at room temp until the beans are done.

    Lately my butts have been coming out great. The last one I could not take out of the foil in one piece. It separated with the tongs and was about as tender as mash potatos.

    Again, I would decide what works for you. I developed my style by listening to all the responses here. I tried most of them until I found what worked for me.

    Good luck.
  19. tj3775

    tj3775 Newbie

    So when the meat get to 150 you wrap it in alum foil? and put back on the smoker?
  20. tf bbq

    tf bbq Fire Starter

    Yes, put the thermometer back in and keep the meat on until it hits 205*.

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