Pulled Pork - Where did I go wrong?

Discussion in 'Pork' started by crashedice, May 7, 2012.

  1. Hey All!

    First time posting here but have been reading along now for a couple of weeks and stoked to be getting into this stuff.

    So I am a newbie when it comes to smoking but love the food and up for a challenge so I decided to jump in. 2 weeks ago I purchased an electric smoker from Canadian Tire (Canada), its a Cuisinart, and from I understand is made by a company named Masterbuilt? I think?

    Anyhow, i broke the thing in last weekend in preparation for giving our first run at smoking. Everything went fine and the smell of chips burning in that thing was AWESOME! Couldnt wait to give this a go.

    On Friday we picked up a pork butt from the local market, great cut of meat. Decided to smoke this yesterday (Sunday) so we go up nice and early, I fired up the smoker to warm it up and make sure everything was in place to make this happen. My wife prepared a simple rub she found online, mostly brown suger and some spices.

    We covered the pork butt in mustard and applied the rub, looked great!

    This is where I think things may have gone off the rails in the prep but not sure if its that big of a deal. We didnt let this sit any time and went to put it right in the smoker as we had to run out and do some errands. I put it in and set the temp to be 225 degrees and for a time of 7hrs to start things off.

    For some reason the smoker didnt keep its temp up, must have been user error, like I said, newbies here. So we were gone for about 4 hrs and it sat in the smoker with no real heat being applied to it outside of the temp it had from the warm-up.

    When we got home found this out, corrected the problem and it started coming up on temp and we reset the timer. We let this smoke all afternoon and into the evening, from the vent this thing smelled awesome and we couldnt wait until it was done.

    As it cooked I noticed the rub didnt seem to stick to the meat very well and more or less just all ran off and into the water pan, wasnt sure if this was common or not but didnt want to open the doors and mess with anything. Let it keep cooking, only opening the door to check the temp as I couldnt see the thermo in the pork butt. The 2 times I opened it and checked, I found the temp to be around 120 degrees the first time and then the last time, after about 8 hours of cooking, it was at 150 degrees and never went above that. So I gave it another couple of hours for good measure and we went to bed knowing this would shut off when the time was up.

    We got up this morning and my wife took it out and found that it looked ok from the outside all things considered, there was no bark on this really at all and very tough on the outside and even the inside was not so soft and supple. There was no real red ring on the outer edge of it or anything. Not sure if we are going to eat this still or not all things considered.

    We are not going to give up on this, going to give it another go next weekend again with some pork but I wanted some advice and input from all the masters on here where this went wrong. I am excited to get this stuff dialed in and enjoying a summer of smoked meats, just need to learn how to do it.

    So please everyone feel free to let me know where I went wrong with this and how I can do it better next weekend. Need to learn from my mistakes.

    Here are some pics of the outcome ....


  2. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    First thing, Temperature! Very important to know your temperatures are accurate. What kind of thermometers are you using and have you calibrated them? How big was the butt? 150 at 8 hours isn't unusual, do you know about the "stall"? You should cook a butt to at least 190* and 205* is better for pulling.

    If it sat for 4 hours with very little heat I don't think I would eat it.
  3. Hey S2K9K!

    Thanks for the reply, I should have included more info in my post lol.

    We used a run of the mill old style in the meat thermo (not sure on the correct name of them) kind of like my mother used to use when cooking a turkey. The size of the butt was only about 5# as I didnt want to go too big for our first time out on this.

    My wife was telling me about the stall temp, I dont recall reading about it exactly, lots of info to take in so far.

    My goal was to get this to about 190+ as that seems to be what most are saying we should be shooting for and gives the best results.

    Thinking of trying to find a nice digital thermo this week as it seems to be something a lot of users swear by.
  4. newflame

    newflame Meat Mopper

    Hello, welcome to SMF! There's a lot of good stuff to read here as I'm sure you know, and I'm sure someone will suggest that you go to role call and introduce yourself if you haven't yet.

    I would personally also recommend that you take the free 5 day course for beginners if you haven't done that, it's a lot of the basic knowledge that you'll need to get rocking and rolling.

    Now on to your problems:
    I'm going to assume that this is an electric smoker, I'm not familiar with cuisinart smokers but I am with masterbuilts, one thing that you mention later in the post is that you had no red ring, if you're running an electric smoker you won't have a red ring, just the way it goes.
    Not letting it sit after rubbing it is not that big of a deal, I've done it several times with good results, ideally though your cut of meat would be able to warm up a bit closer to room temperature before putting on the smoker but it's not the end of the world.  Let me ask you this, what kind of equipment are you using to monitor your temperatures, other than the thermometer on the smoker?  Also, if I were you, next time I would wait until the smoker got to your set temp of 225, and then put the meat in.  Another thing I wanted to mention is this timer, do you have to have the timer set on your smoker or is it an option?  I know with my masterbuilt I would just set the timer to 24 hours and wait until the meat got to the temp I wanted...cook to temp, not time, is a big rule around here, what it means is that every cut of meat is going to take a different amount of time to cook, there's guidelines that you can use to generalize, but in the end you're always going to want to cook the meat to a temperature, and not just leave it in there for a set amount of time, does this make sense to you?

    I think first and foremost we need to know exactly what type of smoker you're using so we can help, do you have a picture of it or can you find a picture of it on the web and post it here?  Then we can give you solutions specific to your situation, thanks.
  5. Did you check all your thermos in boiling water to ensure accuracy?
  6. Wow! Loving all the quick responses and feedback.

    NewFlame - to answer your questions. Yes I do have an electric smoker, seemed like one of the easiest ways to get started in this stuff as it eliminated some of the variables of temp and prep work. Not to mention the price was good.

    So as I mentioned above I am using an old school manual temp gauge that goes in the meat while it cooks, not sure if they are reliable or not but it was what I had around the house so I hoped for the first time out it would be good. I may have been wrong :p

    The smoker does have an electric temp gauge and setting on it as well as a timer. I set it 225 before putting anything in it to get it up to temp and then put the meat and wood chips in. I used the timer more as a reference for how long it was in there more than the rule of how long to cook. From what I have been reading it doesnt matter if its in there for 1hr or 10hrs, what counts is the meat temp and that was what I was going by. The smoker wont start heating until the timer is set, hence the reason I set the timer.

    This is the smoker I bought, not a lot of detail on it but hope it gives you more to go on ...


    aleover - I didnt check the thermo at all in boiling water, never thought to do that. I guess I assumed that this would be fairly accurate, could have been a big mistake on my part. I might try that tonight just to see if it was off. Still going to look for some electric one this week tho as it seems to be what most would recommend.
  7. wjordan52

    wjordan52 Meat Mopper

    Welcome to the forum CrashedIce. When you get a chance add your location to your profile. We like to compare results from different areas.

    The smoker in the link certainly looks like an MES (Masterbuilt Electric Smoker) to me. Even if it's not by the same manufacturer you can find everything you need to know about electric cabinet style smokers on this forum. There's a large MES following here.

    You also mentioned not having any bark on the meat. Did you cook it with the fat side up or down? I've read here that turning it down will help form the bark, but I haven't tried myself. And in my opinion the most important thing you said was "We are not going to give up on this...". You'll find the errors you made are easily corrected and you both will be glad you tried it again.

    Best of luck this weekend.

  8. newflame

    newflame Meat Mopper

    You're absolutely right, I started on an electric and a lot of people do the same, they're really great for beginners and they're extremely convenient, even though I have 2 others I still use my electric smoker a ton.
    So this temp guage goes in the meat, and is completely in the smoker as well?  Like a turkey thermo?  If that's the case there's a few issues that I can think of, #1 you're probably going to ruin that temp gauge just because of all of the smoke. #2 anytime you want to know what's going on with the meat, you have to open the door, which loses a lot of heat, as the popular saying goes, "If you're looking, you ain't cookin", and #3 would be that I've found huge variances while using those in an oven compared to a tryed and true digital thermometer.  So get a new thermo when you can, like I said you can get them for about 8 bucks at Target, and if they're on sale get 2, this is just if you wish to avoid a higher price, there are nice models made my Maverick but they're a little more expensive depending on what you get.

    So the idea here is that you want to know at all times just by looking at the thermometer(s) exactly what the temp is at the grate, and in the meat.  The nice thing about the masterbuilt style (which it seems you have), is that they have a vent right at the top that you can run the thermo cables through.  If you know and can control temps at all times, then smoking a piece of meat become extremely easy.
    I understand, as mentioned earlier we need to make sure the temp gauge on the smoker is accurate, we do this by getting another thermometer to measure it against.  You're absolutely right about cooking to temp and not time.  
    As Wjordan52 stated, that looks almost identical to a Masterbuilt so we're going to treat it as such, they're very handy.

    It seems like you're well on your way, this is just a bump in the road, just need to adjust fire and play with it a bit more until you get it down and start turning out some excellent 

  9. Hey wjordan52! Thanks for the warm welcome and the feedback. I am from New Brunswick / Canada, just about an hours drive from the US/Canada border in Calais, Maine. I tried to add my location to my profile but I dont think I have permissions to do so just yet. Maybe I need to be on here for so long to get full profile access or something?

    I did read that I should smoke these with the fat side down and I was sure to have it that way when it went in as I have read that the fat cooking could cause issues with the bark. I think part of it could have been that I didnt let the rub sit as well as it did sit, by mistake, in the smoker for awhile with very little heat on it. Next time I am going to get the rub on it at room temp and then let it cool in the fridge overnight as that seems to be what I have seen a lot of people doing. Not sure if that was a major fail on out part or not but I am sure its a good place to not mess around.

    NewFlame, you are full of great advice. I really appreciate this.

    I am going to make a stop at a few places this week and see if I can find a digital thermo, or two if they are cheap enough. One for the meat and another to make sure the smokers temp is as it reads on the appliance. I have read that they can be off in temp by many degrees and cause longer smokes and issues. Main thing is to get one for the meat for sure. I hope I will have one by the weekend for round 2 ;)

    I didnt want to open the door but this time around it was the only way to see the thermo and I was very quick to open, check, then close again and didnt lose a lot of heat but I am sure it was more than enough. I love the saying tho "If you're looking, you ain't cookin", im going to be using that sometime down the road!

    Is there something smaller I can try to smoke, even in the evenings to give this another go but on a smaller scale that may not take as long? Would be curious if I could perfect this on a smaller scale / time before the weekend.
  10. Most stock therms are usually way off.
  11. Doh! Double post, sorry all.
    Last edited: May 7, 2012
  12. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    If you want something smaller that is easy try some chicken, pieces not whole, like breasts or legs  or thighs, whatever you like. Leave the skin on, a lot of people brine their chicken which helps keep it moist but you don't have to, I would do some reading about brining before I did it. I cook chicken a lot hotter than pork or beef 275-300 which helps get the skin crispier. Chicken doesn't really need the "low and slow". You can do chicken pieces in 2 hours or less at higher temps and it comes out great, just make sure to take it to at least 165* internal temp. It's always something good to learn your smoker on.
  13. newflame

    newflame Meat Mopper

    Ya there's tons of stuff, actually pulled pork is one of the longest cooks that you can possibly do.  If you're into ribs, read up on the 3-2-1 method which takes 6 hours roughly, as mentioned before you can do chicken pieces or even a whole chicken, but they're a bit bland if you choose not to do a brine, there's a lot of good brine recipes on here...umm, you can try some ABT's, or possibly a fatty, a smaller prime rib would be done rather quickly, cause you cook those to a lower temp..  Personally I prefer doing ribs as a shorter smoke cause they're fairly easy and you don't have to run a thermo in the actual meat cause they have a lot of "tells", ribs showing, bend test, etc...that will let you know when they're done.
  14. pinklincoln

    pinklincoln Newbie

    I almost bought the Cuisenart machine after being intrigued by it looking like a masterbuilt.

    However, if you go online and watch the video of it, lots of smoke leaks specifically around the door and there are a few complaints of smoke and heat loss from that model on CTs website.

    TSC stores sell Masterbuilt,(I don't know if TSC is in NB, but it's a farmer and hunter's supply store)
  15. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The First thing nobody mentioned is THROW THAT MEAT IN THE TRASH!!!! You were way too many hours at questionable temps! 2) You must monitor your Smoker temps at all times until you are Sure it will stay stable. A Digital Therm like the $50 Maverick 732 has one probe to measure Smoker temp and one for Meat temp. Best investment! 3) If your Rub ran off you used too much Mustard. It is just the glue and not there for flavor so 1-2Tbs for a roast that big is plenty. 4) There is no reason to warm meat that will be cooked well done to Room Temp. The meat does not care if it is warming at 70* or 225*F, heat only transfers so fast and the only difference is BACTERIA like 70* a hell of a lot better than 225*F!. Now a nice 2" hunk of Porterhouse Beef Steak is a different story. Because you are eating it Med/Rare and want a uniform doneness, a 1-2 hour warming is called for, additionally there is not that much growth of bacteria in the first 2 hours. If you decide to Inject your meat then ANYTHING other than Refer to Smoker is taking your and your loved ones lives in your hands. Give some Spare Ribs a shot. Check out the 3-2-1 method. 6 Hours to good eats! Here is a Rub Recipe and Foiling Juice Recipe to get you started. Good luck and hang in there it gets easier and more fun...JJ

    The 3-2-1 Method

    A full rack of Spare Ribs will take about 6 hours at 225*F...The 3-2-1 smoked rib recipe is a good way to smoke ribs and tends to turn out perfect ribs every time whether you are using the meatier Full rack spare rib or the Saint Louis cut. Baby Back ribs use a 2-2-1 method. The ribs are smoked at 225 - 250 degrees for best results...
    The 3 stands for the 3 hours that you initially smoke the ribs with nothing but your favorite rub on them and some smoke with your favorite hardwood such as hickory, mesquite, apple, pecan, etc. After the 3 hours you remove the ribs and quickly double wrap them in heavy duty foil.. just before you seal them up add some Apple Juice or Foiling Juice and close the foil leaving some room around the ribs for the steam to be able to flow around the meat and Flavor/Tenderize it.
    The ribs cook in the smoker wrapped for 2 hours undisturbed. There is no need for Smoke at this point... After 2 hours remove the ribs from the smoker, unwrap and place back into the smoker for the final 1 hour, with smoke if you wish.This firms them up, creates a nice Bark and finishes the cooking process. You can add a glaze or sauce at this point if you like. The meat will be pretty close to fall off the bone and be extremely juicy, tender and flavorful... More info...  http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/smoking-ribs

    Try this... It is Mild and compliments different style sauces well...Anything else, just ask...JJ

    Mild Bubba Q Rub

    1/2C Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado)

    2T Sweet Paprika (Hungarian)

    1T Kosher Salt

    1T Chili Powder (contains some Cumin and Oregano) Ancho Chile is same without cumin, oregano etc.

    1T Granulated Garlic

    1T Granulated Onion

    1tsp Black Pepper, more if you like

    1/2tsp Grnd Allspice

    Cayenne or Chipotle Pwd to taste, start with 1/2tsp and go from there.

    You may also like this for Ribs...

    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  16. Pitch the meat...it hung around at questionable temps for too long! Better safe than sorry. I saw a post on here a while back and found it about the smoker you have: 


    I have a Masterbuilt electric 40 and just as everyone else here that owns one, the cabinet temp is off-mine about 20-25*. I've smoked several pork butts and I always score the fat cap prior to putting rub on it and smoke them fat cap up. I don't foil mine anymore either because we like the bark.
  17. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Jimmy's the only one that really hit the nail on the head... You MUST stay with your smoker to monitor it until you have learned the smoker.... Just setting a temp on the dial and leaving doesn't work.. as you just have learned... so yes... get some better therms.. preferably the Maverick ET-732... learn your smoker before leaving it unattended... I've found that you really need to pre-heat to 250`... when you put meat and wood in, your temps will come down... just my 2 cents
  18. backwoods bbq

    backwoods bbq Meat Mopper

    dont bother with the mustard on the butt before rubbing it. This will cause the rub  to slode off but most importantly it will not penetrate the meat that well. A pork butt has alot of intralaced fat so dont worry about the posisition of the butt as pork cuts like this rarely dry out. My advice is to throw away that meat and that electric smoker, get you an offset smoker and some wood! haha if you dont want to do that i suggest a brinkman electric smoker they are primitive compared to other smokers with settings but are very reliable! sounds like your smoker may need to be sent back for a replacement or a refund. you alo need to let your rub sit on your meat for at least 4 hours I like to do 8-10 hours. 205 is perfect int temp for pulled pork. Try again, dont give up!
  19. Thanks again everyone for the advice.

    So I am thinking for one, I need a new thermo to get me started so I know whats going on with my meat and smoker temps. The next is maybe I need to try something else to get started, seems like I picked a meat that may take a few smokes before I am confident in how my machine is working and all the ins and outs of it.

    I may pick up a chicken or some ribs this week and try again with those first to get used to it, then try the pork again. Reason I went with pork on my first outing was because both myself and my wife love pulled pork so figured, why not?

    I did notice that my smoker did leak some smoke on the weekend, so last night when I was BBQ'ing I looked over at the smoker and got to thinking about that, I am able to adjust the tightness of the latch so I cranked it down, it should help with that I am sure. Will know more this weekend.

    I am not about the get rid of this machine over a few small details that I can address I am sure. It may not be as good as some on the market but I feel for my first try into this its not bad. I dont want to invest $500+ into this just yet so our $200 machine should serve us well for now. We can always upgrade later.

    What about beef brisket? Is that something thats harder or easier to do in a smoker over doing pulled pork? I do love some brisket, best I ever had was when I was down in Texas. Damn I could give that a go for sure if it was not too hard.

    Not to mention I was watching 'Dinners, Drive-Ins, and Dives' last night and they were doing a show about smoker joints, it all looked so damn good.
  20. terry colwell

    terry colwell Smoking Fanatic

    I would suggest getting a oven thermo, cheap little guys , and they work great. Try and calibrate the ones you have and learn your smoker. I have a MES 40 and my internal meat thermo is 2 degrees off, so they are not all bad.  The electric ones are easier to a point, but all need attention. Still need to hang around and add wood and such.  If you can afford the meat, if it goes wrong, I say try anything you want. Just do some more research and have a better game plan. And STAY with your smoker for the first dozen times at the very least

Share This Page