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Questions after first pork butt

RauchbierRauchbier Posts: 24
edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
I just got my BGE on Friday and smoked my first pork butt (7 lbs) on Sunday. I joined the forum over the weekend and found the advice in the archives extremely helpful. So first, let me say thanks to all that had posted previous advice on how to smoke pork butts! Now to the questions... I found that the meats internal temperature initially rose pretty quickly for the first 4 hours and then increasingly slowed down until it plateaued at 165 and did not budge. Is that normal? I had been holding the BGE at a pretty consistent 250 up until that time but after 20 minutes of no temp change I brought the BGE up to 270 and then the butt temperature began to slowly rise again. When the internal temp hit 175 the butt had been in the BGE for 10.5 hours (and my wife and I were getting hungry) so I raised the BGE temp again to 300F and maintained that temperature until the butt hit 195 -- this happened a little more than 12 hours after the smoking began. I read that you should plan on 1.5-2 hours per pound but figured as the butt was on the small size I would be more on the 1.5 hr/lb end. Turns out that I likely would have been well over 2 hrs/lb had I not raised the BGE temp twice. Am I likely to have the same experience next time I smoke a pork butt (e.g., ~2 hrs/lb) or will that change from time to time?

In the course of smoking the pork butt, there was not a constant stream of smoke coming through the top vent -- is that normal. If not, what should I do differently? I also noticed that some (but not all) of the time that smoke came out the top vent that some smoke also came out the bottom vent. Is that normal? I also noticed that about 8 hours into the project that there was some liquid on the screen of the bottom vent and it also accumulated in the bottom track for the sliding vent. As it was slightly brownish I thought that it could be meat drippings but a quick peak inside confirmed that it was not. Is this normal? If not, what should I do differently?

FInally, when I removed the plate setter I was amazed at how little charcoal had been consumed! Also, I had started the egg in four locations (12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock) with each place getting 1/2 firestarter and one it was going I placed a long thin piece of charcoal over each. I let the fire get going until I was sure it had taken and then closed the lid and vents to maintain the 250 temp. After 1/2 hour I added the soaked wood chips, plate setter, drip pan and grip and again let the temps stabilize for 1/2 hour. Then I added the pork butt. So when I removed the plate setter at the end of the smoking it appeared that only the location at 9 o'clock had consistently burned. I noticed that this location was closest to the bottom vent. Is this normal? Should I change my procedure?

I'd appreciate any advice as my wife has signed me up to smoke two more pork butts for a party this Saturday. I've already decided to start the smoking Friday night and I'd like to try and maintain the 250 temp throughout.

Jim
Purcellville, VA

Comments

  • TRPIVTRPIV Posts: 278
    I'll try to answer your questions in order:

    1) Yes. Plateau. Totally normal. I've had butts sit at plateau for 5 hours or more.
    2) Well, it's hard to say if you'd have gone over 2hrs per lb if you hadn't changed it. Once the meat breaks out of that plateau, it can raise temps quickly. Cooking times change from butt to butt. No 7lb butt is the same as another 7lb butt.
    3) No steady stream of smoke coming out the top for the entire cook is totally normal.
    4) Smoke out of the bottom vent? humm I've never had that happen. That doesn't mean it's not normal. I'd venture a guess that it was an air flow issue.
    5) Liquid on the screen. It happens. Eggs are porous creatures. Sometimes when we use them after a long period of wetness, the moisture comes out of the ceramic. Don't worry about it.
    6) Lighting questions - meh.. if it cooked and it the temps were consistent, nothing to worry about or change there.

    Do you have a thermapen or quick read digital thermometer? If not, get one.

    Regarding Sunday, Start the cook earlier than you think you should. The meat will benefit from a good rest anyway. If it gets done 4 or 5 hours before your scheduled to eat. That's a good thing. Take the meat out, wrap it in 2 layers of HD foil, and then wrap it in an old beach towel. Put the butt in a cooler to rest. Take it out about half hour before you want to eat. Pull the pork. Enjoy.

    Hope this helps.

    Remember to relax - it's just Bar b que. :)

    Ted
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,168
    Your temp climb was spot on normal.

    The smaller the butt, the closer to the 2 hrs per pound mark it will be. Larger butts actually cook a little faster per pound. Every butt is different, so the times are jest estimations, some cook quickly and some take forever. You just roll with it.

    Your smoke was also spot on - the best smoke is that which you can barely see.

    Your burn was pretty average, as long as the temps held you're golden.

    The liquid is just condensation due to humidity in the air, no worries.

    Next time stabilize your temps with EVERYTHING in the egg but the meat.
  • srq2625srq2625 Posts: 262
    This last Saturday, I cooked up 4 pork butts I got at CostCo. Two were in the 5# range and the other two were more like 7.5#. I got them on at about 8:00PM Friday night. Cooking temperature (at the grid) was 225°F (the dome started at about 250° and slowly dropped to match that of the grid temp).

    My timing:
    The two smaller butts came off the smoker at the 6:00AM and 6:15AM then next morning. That's about 10 hours for those two.

    The larger two came off at 11:00AM and 11:30AM. That's in the 15 hour range.

    Your timing makes me wonder if you thermometer is off just a little bit. It's common for the thermometer to slightly (or more) out of calibration right out of the box. One of mine was off by 50°F!

    The plateau:
    Yup - it is completely normal for there to be a period of time when the interal temperature of the meat will not rise. In fact, I've actually seen it drop by as much as 4° or 5° before it started rising again. This usually happens somewhere near 165°F and runs through 175° or 180° (ish). This is the time when the fat and connective tissues in the meat render. It's an chemical process that "uses" heat energy to proceed. How long it takes will vary from one butt to another. Though I've not tested it, my thinking is that you don't want to rush this - let the process come to an un-hurried completion to get the most benefit.

    The liquid in the draft vent:
    That's water. I've seen it quite frequently. Not sure where it comes from, but I do know that it's not much more than water. It's not got any meat juices/fat in it. Is it water coming from the ceramic? Maybe. I've started an empty burn (that's a fire with no food), got the egg stablized at a target temp (anything from about 250°F to as much as 400°F, opened the dome, and gotten a face-full of steam. If the lump is not 100% carbon but, instead, has some impurities in it, it is possible that the water is a combustion by-product. All it takes is for there to be some small amount of hydrocarbon compounds (also know as Volatile Organic Compounds ... or VOCs) in the lump.

    The fire:
    If you were maintaining your desired temperature, it really doesn't matter where the fire was burning - with one exception. I've read (but not yet seen) of instances where the fire will burn straight down, "run out of fuel", and leave most of the lump un-burned.

    Lump consumption:
    The BGE is very, very frugal with the lump. I haven't tried it yet, but I figure I could probably do two pork butt cooks on one load of lump - even if I were to extinguish the fire and start all over again. But, I load up the LBGE with lump to the top of the fire ring - just 'cause I don't want to run out during the cook.

    Advice for the Saturday party:
    Don't sweat the time schedule too much. Plan your start time so that your pork is finished early. When finished, wrap the meat in two (or more) layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then in a large beach towel (one that you won't mind staining), and place the whole package into a cooler) to rest. I've actually corrected my timing mistakes .... er ... rested my pork by as much as 4 hours and had tasty, moist, and (most importantaly) safely warm (temperature well above 140°F) meat to pull and serve.

    HTH

    BTW - I've only been doing this since Sep 2011 so are probably errors in the above details.
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
     
    Welcome to the forum and congratulations on your new egg.

    Your lighting and cooking sounds great. The way the lump burns somewhat depends on the lump bed itself. Once the lump bed develops a good air draw it will seem to burn in that area more-so than in other parts of the lump bed. Air like water will take the path of least resistance and will travel through the lower vent up through the fire grate and up through the lump bed.

    There is no need to soak the chunks/chips when cooking in the egg. When using propane smokers that burning propane removes moisture and hence the soaking of chips and water pans in the cooker.

    Over time you will find the butts will cook at difference times, some will cook faster than other and that's why the general guidelines of time per pound.

    The temperature stall and sometimes an actual temperature drop during the plateau is normal. Cranking the temperature up trying to force the quicker cook will change the texture in the conversion of the fats withing the cut. So don't panic about the stall and let the egg do it's job.

    Here is a chart showing the met temperature during a cook. I too bumped the pit temperature at 10.5 hours into the cook. However the butt had mostly passed through the plateau.

    The meat temperature is the lower line on the left side of the chart.
    butt1104.jpg

    All in all it sounds like you did a great job on the cook.

    When testing for being done use a probe/fork and feel for easy entry into the meat. Feel the removal of the probe/fork to see if there is any pull on the probe. You want and easy in and easy out. With a fork there is a test, 'fork twist' test. If the fork twists easily the butt is done. If the cut has a bone and the bone twists easily, again the butt is done.

    Enjoy and get ready to all the compliments on your fantastic cooking abilities. Don't tell anyone it is just the egg.

    GG
  • N.E. EggerN.E. Egger Posts: 39
    I did my first butt on the Egg Sat night into Sunday. 9.25 lb. Put it on at 430 sat night and it came off @1200 sun at 195*. I also had smoke coming out of the bottom vent but where I live there is always a breeze so I thought that might have had something to do with it not really sure though just a guess.
    Glenn
  • BakemanBakeman Posts: 113
    I am cooking a 7 lb pork butt on the bge at 225 it has been stalled at 157 for 5 hours is this normall
  • I did a 9 lb. butt on New Years Day and had it plateau on me at 159°.  I was starting to get antsy about it because I had family coming for dinner then all of a sudden, it started up.  It was done 45 minutes before everybody got there.  Of course there was none left when everybody went home!
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