Some Question about Smoking Pork Butt Ahead of Time

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Mitchapalooza

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Oct 5, 2022
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Howdy y'all. As my introductory post points out, I am brand-new to the meat smoking game. I was hoping to provide pulled pork for dinner one night this weekend on the family trip to a log cabin in middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin. I have never made pulled pork before, even in just a conventional oven, so please forgive me for my noob-ish questions.

I have seen a couple different techniques on smoking pork butt. Recteq's method is simply leaving it on the smoker at 225°F until it reaches 200°F internally. Mad Scientist BBQ's method on YouTube is slightly more involved. He suggests smoking it at 250°F throughout the entire cook, as 250°F renders fat and breaks down connective tissue better than 225°F. Personally, I am dubious that a slightly higher temp does anything more than speed up the cook, because that "connective tissue" and fat is all getting cooked to the same final temperature regardless.

Anyway, his method calls first for smoking it unwrapped and totally untouched for 3 hours. Then maybe spraying it every 30-45 minutes after that 3-hour mark, avoiding getting spray on the fat cap. And once the butts reach the high 160's to 170°F internally and the fat cap seems rendered (usually around the 6-hour mark), wrap them in foil. He then says to cook them while wrapped for "several more hours" until they register around 200°F, and a temperature probe goes in "like butter".

Now, I am not sure whether spraying pork butt is necessary, as pork butt is much thicker than a rack of ribs, so my presumption is that it would be much less prone to drying out. I also see some disagreement about whether you should wrap pork butt. I would be more inclined to do so, simply because I like shorter cooks, and it's often said that wrapping keeps meat more moist.

I can get the meat on Thursday morning, however, I will be away from home for about 10 hours. Therefore, doing the Mad Scientist BBQ method might be unworkable. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to do this properly? Maybe smoke it at 225°F, and bump it up to 250°F and wrapping it at the 10-hour mark?? Although some folks, including Meathead himself, say that wrapping pork butt is simply not necessary to retain moisture, it simply speeds up the cook and helps tenderize a "tiny" bit.

My plan to store it and reheat it is: let the pork rest for an hour, pull the pork ahead of time, put it in ziplock bags, and refrigerate it until needed. And to reheat, per chef jimmyj, just place all of the meat in a tightly sealed foil roasting pan, and throw it in the oven at 325°F. I'm just not sure if I can capture drippings to add back into the pan, because there is literally no room to place a drip pan under the grates on my RT-1250. And there is no guarantee that what goes into the drip bucket stays clean of anything blowing around outside in the air...

I know this is a long post, so apologies for that. Any insight is greatly appreciated!
 
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TNJAKE

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You will get multiple methods of preference in reply to this topic. When I smoke a butt on the pellet smoker I go 250-275 until it's the color I like or it stalls around 160-170ish. Then I put in a pan and cover with foil. It's done when a probe or something similar slides in with no resistance. Think room temp butter or peanut butter. This usually happens around 200 or higher. I save the pan juice in a mason jar and refrigerate. The fat floats to the top and gets hard. The juice underneath turns to pork jelly. Scrape off fat and add some of the jelly into the meat after you have pulled it
 

noboundaries

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Mad Scientist BBQ's method on YouTube is slightly more involved. He suggests smoking it at 250°F throughout the entire cook, as 250°F renders fat and breaks down connective tissue better than 225°F. Personally, I am dubious that a slightly higher temp does anything more than speed up the cook, because that "connective tissue" and fat is all getting cooked to the same final temperature regardless.
First off, stop watching that guy. The info above is just one more anecdotal assumption on his part that he presents as fact. He once said that 250°F is not the same in all smokers. He was talking about the temp itself, not meat placement or airflow. You're wise to be dubious and correct in your assumption about him and ANYTHING he says about heat.

I have smoked butts anywhere from 225°F to 350°F for the entire smoke and the results are basically the same. I don't spritz or wrap during the smoke. Rub, heat, time, probe for tenderness, wrap and rest. The bark is crispy, the insides juicy and tender. The final meat is filled with rendered fat and melted collagen that makes it juicy and tender. If it is dry, it is undercooked. Butts and beef brisket are not lazy steak muscles. They are hard-working muscles that need heat and time to become tender, juicy, and delicious. Use meat temp as a guide, not a destination.

TNJAKE gives a simple process that works.

You can literally smoke the butt the entire time in a pan to capture ALL the juices. If you have a cooling grate that fits in the pan, use it. I do fat side down in a pan so I get a crispy bark on top.

Happy smoking!

Ray
 

NefariousTrashMan

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I cook butts around 275 I also like to use a foil pan like Ray and collect all the good juice to mix in with the shredded pork. The time always varies it seems like some take 8 hours some 10+ hours.
One thing I've learned over the years regardless of method is when its probe tender its done.When whatever you use to check for doneness slides thru the meat like a toothpick into warm butter you're good.
^^^^ this is good information
 

SmokingUPnorth

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Sometimes I’ll wrap depending on how I’m looking time wise. Takes a little away from the bark but convenient when I put it in a cooler to rest it’s already wrapped. Sometime let it roll unwrapped. I don’t spritz just keep the lid closed and let it ride. Sky temps vary also from 225* up to 285* if I’m trying to push through the stall. Pork butts/shoulder is probably the most forgiving meat you can smoke. Long story short. Aim to cook it till 203-205* and probe tender and you’ll have a good outcome.
 

Mitchapalooza

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Oct 5, 2022
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Okay...so sounds like the Meathead method (which also happens to be Recteq's suggested procedure) of simply smoking it unwrapped at 225F until it passes the doneness test, which i take it usually happens after about 8-12 hours and 203F internal...is the way to go. I can see that slightly hotter cook chamber temperatures were suggested, but I would be curious if that's ideal for a pellet smoker. Any hotter than 225F, and it seems pellet grills start burning more cleanly, imparting a lot less smoke flavor. I can see that my own starts producing slightly less smoke at 250, and considerably less at 300. Most others appear to report the same. Those are just my initial observations, however.

It's good to see in the other threads on here that pulled pork stores well in ziplock bags. I do have a question for those who've used Chef JimmyJ's finishing sauces when reheating...did you prefer his "tangy" version, or his "sweet" version?? I believe he has generously provided both of his finishing sauce recipes quite a number of times on here.
 

radioguy

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I do it hot and fast. 265-285F, no spritz, no wrap. When it probes tender,double wrap in foil and wrap with towel and into cooler for at least an hour. You can pull it and place in ziploc, I like add a little finishing sauce. I prefer JJs Tangy sauce. You also can put it in 275F oven after 4-5 hours of smoke.

RG

 
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chp

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Another option depending on your timing is to smoke the pork butt until it gets to an IT of 180-190, then cool it down and bag it up. On the day you want to finish it, take it out of the bag, remove the fat that is easily to get, and put it into a crock pot with your favorite sauce.
 

gmc2003

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Okay...so sounds like the Meathead method (which also happens to be Recteq's suggested procedure) of simply smoking it unwrapped at 225F until it passes the doneness test, which i take it usually happens after about 8-12 hours and 203F internal...is the way to go. I can see that slightly hotter cook chamber temperatures were suggested, but I would be curious if that's ideal for a pellet smoker. Any hotter than 225F, and it seems pellet grills start burning more cleanly, imparting a lot less smoke flavor. I can see that my own starts producing slightly less smoke at 250, and considerably less at 300. Most others appear to report the same. Those are just my initial observations, however.

It's good to see in the other threads on here that pulled pork stores well in ziplock bags. I do have a question for those who've used Chef JimmyJ's finishing sauces when reheating...did you prefer his "tangy" version, or his "sweet" version?? I believe he has generously provided both of his finishing sauce recipes quite a number of times on here.
Since your using a pellet smoker then yes go with the lower temps while your away. Then turn up the heat when you get home to finish. I hope someone will be home to keep an eye on the smoker while you're gone. A lot can happen to an unattended smoker and someone should be present to handle any situations that arise.

Smokey flavor is subjective. What I find strong may be mild to some, and vise a versa.

Chris
 

Mitchapalooza

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Oct 5, 2022
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I liked JJ's tangy sauce, otherwise a regular BBQ sauce like sweet baby rays if we wanted a sweeter sauce.

Maybe it's unnecessary, but I don't plan on using it as an actual "sauce" per se, it was just mentioned as a good way to give back some moister for the reheating process. Probably Rufus Teague or Bone Suckin' Sauce as a main topper.
 

DougE

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Smoking butts, or anything else on a pellet grill ......... start at the lowest setting for the first couple three hours to maximize the smoke, then ramp it up to 275° or better until the meat is probe tender.
 
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Mitchapalooza

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Oct 5, 2022
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Chi suburbs
Smoking butts, or anything else on a pellet grill ......... start at the lowest setting for the first couple three hours to maximize the smoke, then ramp it up to 275° or better until the meat is probe tender.

I think this is definitely going to be the general plan of attack for my next pork butt. I kept the smoker at 225° for almost the entire time...and they took almost 14 hours to reach 203° internally. The results were very good, it would just be nice if I could get the same results in less time.
 

Sven Svensson

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Less time requires a higher temp. As you make more pulled pork in the future raise the temp another 25 degrees and take notes. Always take notes. With pork butt and shoulder you’re going to find the meat very forgiving in that it won’t dry out. There’s so much hidden fat in those cuts it’s very hard to mess up. If you get nervous there’s no shame in putting it in the crockpot on high and let it go. You’ve already given it tons of smoke. I’ve done that several times. It comes in handy when you’re bringing it somewhere.
 

Mitchapalooza

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Oct 5, 2022
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Now that I think of it...I'd like to clarify a few questions if y'all don't mind.

  1. How many hours are recommended as a minimum for smoking the meat on a pellet grill at 225F to build up enough smoke flavor before ramping up the temperature? I saw one reference to 4-5 hours, and another for 2-3.
  2. Is it advised to wrap the shoulder when increasing the cook temp if transferring it to an oven? Or, if kept on the smoker?
  3. Has anyone used pink butcher paper when finishing the cook in a regular old kitchen oven, or is foil recommended in that case?

Thank you!!!
 

noboundaries

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I'm going to avoid the physics and chemistry lessons concerning cooking meat. Just know that heat absorption by the meat slows as the meat temp rises closer to the chamber temp.

Use a smoker temp initially that maximizes good smoke on your pellet smoker at the start (180°F/200°F/225°F). As the meat reaches the stall (140‐165°F meat temp) in 3-4 hours, crank the smoker temp up to increase the chamber temp-meat temp difference. 275°F/300°F/325°F/350°F/ and higher, I've used them all. Higher temp = faster clock. The difference in texture and tenderness is negligible. Wrap/don't wrap, it's up to you. No wrap = crispy bark. Foil wrap = soft bark. BP wrap is in the middle.

Fat does add to juiciness of the meat, but melted collagen in the hard-working muscle is what actually makes the meat tender and juicy. Butts aren't lazy steak muscles. An undercooked butt is dry and chewy. An overcooked butt falls apart but is still tender and juicy.

If resting the butt in an oven or cooler, wrap it.
 

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