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Pork Butt Disaster

Ok, so disaster is probably a strong word.  Big disappointment is a bit more appropriate.  I used Adam Perry Lang's recipe from Serious Barbecue.  Apparently it took top prize in a major competition, so I figured the results would be pretty excellent.  I've cooked loads from his book and had nothing but absolutely stellar results with every recipe until last night.  Anyway, I bought an 8 pound pork butt and I followed his directions.  I ended up with a mediocre-flavored, incredibly rubbery--to the point that it wouldn't pull at all and I wondered whether it was cooked all the way through--piece of meat.  What I did was as follows: 

First, I injected it with a brine.  I had never injected a brine before, and he didn't specify quite how much to use.  So I just filled the syringe to capacity (1 ounce) for each squirt, and I injected in a checkerboard pattern with each injection spaced about 1 1/2 inches all over the butt.  The pattern was specified in the book, but not the spacing, so the 1 1/2 inches was kind of me taking a stab at it.  The book says to let the butt sit for 2 hours at room temperature after injecting the brine.  I have a two week old baby at the moment and got consumed with quelling a scream-storm he was having, so I let it sit for 3 hours instead of 2.  That was my first deviation from the recipe, and perhaps my first mistake.  Can over-brining from either injecting too much or letting the brine sit too long cause rubbery, bad meat?

Next step was to throw it on the egg at 250 for about three hours or until internal reaches 130.  I got the temp stable and threw it on.  While it was cooking, I had to tend to lots of stuff (mostly newborn related).  When I came back to check on it nearly three hours later, the temp had dropped to 200.  So that was deviation number two, and perhaps also a contributor to the lackluster final product.  

I adjusted the temp back to 250, sprayed an apple juice spray on it as directed and let it go for another couple hours until internal reached about 160.  At that point, I pulled it, wrapped it in foil and covered it in a wrapping mixture of brown sugar, honey, butter and mustard.  Put it back in and let it go until it reached 193.  

This part was a little strange:  The book specified that you ought to hit the stall between 160 to 193, and it would take 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get there.  I had my egg set to about 270 (temp had climbed a touch), and there was no stall.  The temp just rose without pause until it hit 193.  Only took about an hour.  At that point I followed the recipe to the finish.

Like I said, the final product was very rubbery, and it had none of the unctuous qualities you expect from a properly cooked butt.  It wasn't juicy and succulent, and it didn't fall apart.  Because there was no stall, I wondered whether there was a problem converting the collagen to gelatin.  I also wondered (like I mentioned above) whether it was an issue with the brining--either over-brining or letting the brine sit an hour too long before cooking.  Last thing it might be is the fact that it cooked at 200 instead of 250 for the first 3 hours.  Anyway, what do you all think?  Would really like to avoid having this sort of thing happen again.
Southern California
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Comments

  • I have done butts that way with a few exceptions. First, if you foil at 160, the butt will normally sail right on through the stall. So I'm a bit surprised APL's book mentions it.

    Perhaps more importantly, I would finish it well above 200. When it's been injected, I finish it at 205-210. It was probably undercooked. Or you may simply have had a bad piece of meat.
    If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots.

    Durham, NC
  • I have done butts that way with a few exceptions. First, if you foil at 160, the butt will normally sail right on through the stall. So I'm a bit surprised APL's book mentions it. Perhaps more importantly, I would finish it well above 200. When it's been injected, I finish it at 205-210. It was probably undercooked. Or you may simply have had a bad piece of meat.
    Should have mentioned that APL's book instructs you to pull at 193, then sit it in a cooler for an hour before throwing it back on for just shy of one hour.  I think internal ends up being around 200 or a bit higher.  The whole thing was so weird though.  Can't figure out what made it THAT off.
    Southern California
  • You don't want to pull it until it's ready to be pulled. I suppose 193 may be enough on occasion, but in general I don't think it's high enough.
    If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots.

    Durham, NC
  • You don't want to pull it until it's ready to be pulled. I suppose 193 may be enough on occasion, but in general I don't think it's high enough.
    Agreed.  I should have been more specific about the protocol I followed.  I didn't pull the pork at 193.  I removed it from the cooker and put it in a cooler for an hour.  After that I re-seasoned, put it back on the egg for thirty minutes, then glazed it with a BBQ sauce and put it back on for another thirty minutes.  All of that was directed in APL's recipe.  By the time it was done and I tried to pull the pork, it was most certainly above 200.  I don't think it was a temp problem.
    Southern California
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 11,064
    What was the brine? Any salt in it.?
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
  • OK,
    bicktrav said:



    You don't want to pull it until it's ready to be pulled. I suppose 193 may be enough on occasion, but in general I don't think it's high enough.

    Agreed.  I should have been more specific about the protocol I followed.  I didn't pull the pork at 193.  I removed it from the cooker and put it in a cooler for an hour.  After that I re-seasoned, put it back on the egg for thirty minutes, then glazed it with a BBQ sauce and put it back on for another thirty minutes.  All of that was directed in APL's recipe.  By the time it was done and I tried to pull the pork, it was most certainly above 200.  I don't think it was a temp problem.

    It's strange then. Honestly I think it must have simply been a bad butt.

    If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots.

    Durham, NC
  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 449
    edited September 2013
    henapple said:
    What was the brine? Any salt in it.?
    Yes, the brine had salt.  It was the following mixture:  

    3 cups apple juice
    1 1/2 cups water
    6 tablespoons brown sugar
    3 tablespoons kosher salt (I used iodized sea salt)
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
    1 teaspoon Maggi Seasoning or Japanese soy sauce (I used Tamari)
    Southern California
  • OK,
    You don't want to pull it until it's ready to be pulled. I suppose 193 may be enough on occasion, but in general I don't think it's high enough.
    Agreed.  I should have been more specific about the protocol I followed.  I didn't pull the pork at 193.  I removed it from the cooker and put it in a cooler for an hour.  After that I re-seasoned, put it back on the egg for thirty minutes, then glazed it with a BBQ sauce and put it back on for another thirty minutes.  All of that was directed in APL's recipe.  By the time it was done and I tried to pull the pork, it was most certainly above 200.  I don't think it was a temp problem.
    It's strange then. Honestly I think it must have simply been a bad butt.
    I guess it could have been.  So weird though.  I've never encountered that kind of "bad" piece of meat.  I ordered it from a reputable butcher too.  You don't think the brining or the 200 degree temp instead of 250 could have contributed to it?
    Southern California
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 5,039
    Let me start with the fact that I have never brined a butt, injected a few for experimentation but that's a different issue.  Based on all I have read thru some adult beverages, it certainly sounds like a "bad" butt as mentioned by @John.  That said, I have never encountered one that couldn't be salvaged with cooking up into the low 200's like you did.  So, get back on the horse and give it another go.  The journey is the best part for me.  FWIW-
    Louisville
  • Not a disaster, just a speed bump on the road map of eggin! Bet you nail the next one,
    Hendersonville, TN.
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 11,064
    I've never brined one. Doesn't sound like enough salt to soak up the fat. An awful lot of water though. Could it have cooked the inside eliminating the stall?
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
  • Ragtop99Ragtop99 Posts: 1,112
    Maybe next time try the simple route.  Just put some rub on and let it cook straight through at 250* - 270*. 
    Cooking on an XL and Medium in Bethesda, MD.
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 11,064
    The more I think about it and drink it seems like the water may have steamed the butt.
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
  • When in doubt cook it more

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • henapple said:
    The more I think about it and drink it seems like the water may have steamed the butt.
    This is a really good theory.  I kind of agree.  Only thing is, I followed Adam Perry Lang's recipe with that description, and apparently this pork won him grand champion at the 2005 World Pork Expo.  Could be that the brine was fine, but I injected too much of it?  Not sure.
    Southern California
  • Ragtop99 said:
    Maybe next time try the simple route.  Just put some rub on and let it cook straight through at 250* - 270*. 
    Yeah, I've done that route with stellar results.  Figured this would take it to a new level, but man was I wrong.  I'll be reverting to simplicity in the future.  Just not sure what went wrong here.  I mean, the thing literally wouldn't pull.  At all.  It was totally rubber.
    Southern California
  • I think the water steam cooked the butt also.
  • KennyLeeKennyLee Posts: 537
    edited September 2013
    Perhaps I'm showing my naivete, but I don't see the reason for a brine or any injection really in a pork butt or even foil for that matter.  I've always just put a rub on and let it go and always comes off perfect.  Between the natural fat and the moisture retention of the Egg, both just seem like an unnecessary step.  I wonder if your results would have been better with just a standard rub, constant temp and let the Egg do it's business.

    LBGE

    Cedar table w/granite top

    Ceramic Grillworks two-tier swing rack

    Perpetual cooler of ice-cold beer

  • KennyLee said:
    Perhaps I'm showing my naivete, but I don't see the reason for a brine or any injection really in a pork butt or even foil for that matter.  I've always just put a rub on and let it go and always comes off perfect.  Between the natural fat and the moisture retention of the Egg, both just seem like an unnecessary step.  I wonder if your results would have been better with just a standard rub, constant temp and let the Egg do it's business.
    You're absolutely right.  I've made pork butt before with amazing success by just throwing a rub on, and putting it in the egg at 250.  I only did it with the brine because I was following a recipe.  What's more, it's a recipe from a ridiculously reputable cookbook written by a ridiculously reputable BBQ guy.  Everything else I've cooked from Serious Barbecue has turned out absolutely unbelievable.  So I can't figure it out with this one.  I was also really excited to try it because this was his award winning recipe.  I felt the brine was strange when I was doing it, but I figured he must know better than I do.  I'm actually considering reaching out to APL via his website with these questions to figure out what on earth went wrong.  
    Southern California
  • @bigtrav  totally get it.  We're always wanting to experiment and try new things.  I guess for some things.....pork butt being one of them.....simpler is just simply better.  Now, tougher cuts or cuts with less natural fat, etc., I can see the injection and foil.  I normally foil ribs for a short period of time also with great results. 

    If you reach out to him and get a response, post it up.  I'd be curious to hear what he says. 

    LBGE

    Cedar table w/granite top

    Ceramic Grillworks two-tier swing rack

    Perpetual cooler of ice-cold beer

  • yzziyzzi Posts: 1,407
    I would question the accuracy of your thermometer. Try putting it in boiling water to see if temp is above 212. If so then your but was too low and not cooked long enough.
    Dunedin, FL
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 11,064
    Hey. It's APL.. Gotta try it. Next time cut the butt in half and try it again. Let us know.
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
  • CookinbobCookinbob Posts: 1,214
    +1 with KennyLee.  Cooking a butt straight up with rub gives amazing flavor, moisture, easy to pull, etc. etc.  I cannot see brining or all the other cooking steps to complicate what should be a simple cook.
    XLBGE, Small BGE, Homebrew and Guitars
    Rochester, NY
  • Ragtop99Ragtop99 Posts: 1,112
    KennyLee said:

     I normally foil ribs for a short period of time also with great results. 



    I only use foil on a pork butt  if I have seriously underestimated the time and have to get it done in time for dinner.  I know lots of people like to foil ribs, but just like the pork butt, there is no real need for foil to create tender, fall off the bone, ribs. 
    Cooking on an XL and Medium in Bethesda, MD.
  • Have to voice some disagreement here. Last couple of butts I've done have followed Charlie Tuna's method of injecting and turbo. The butts have been absolutely phenomenal. Maybe they're much better low and slow but I'd be surprised. I'll probably give APL's recipe a shot the next time I do one.
    If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots.

    Durham, NC
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,229
    All I can offer is that I have tried speeding butt cooks both by a period in foil, and by cooking them around 325. Removed when internal is around 200F. While the bark has been passable, so far the meat is stiffer, and less pullable. Not rubbery, but not completely falling apart. I suspect that tho collagen break down is fast at 180 and above, it still may take more time than the turbo method allows.
  • Did you use a Thermapen?  maybe I missed that detail..

    It sounds like the butt didn't cook enough to me - temperature is always  good guideline, but all meat cooks differently.  Some get pulled ten degrees cooler, some ten degrees hotter...  

    Was it bone in?  If so, did the bone slide out very easily?


    Large BGE -- Greensboro!


  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 449
    edited September 2013

    Did you use a Thermapen?  maybe I missed that detail..


    It sounds like the butt didn't cook enough to me - temperature is always  good guideline, but all meat cooks differently.  Some get pulled ten degrees cooler, some ten degrees hotter...  

    Was it bone in?  If so, did the bone slide out very easily?


    Used a leave in thermometer to monitor temp. I monitored it up to 193 at which point I removed it from the cooker, added a rub, put it back in for 30 mins, then glazed it with BBQ sauce and let it go another 20 mins. I was not monitoring the temp for those final 50 mins of the cook because there were no more temp targets laid out in APL's recipe, just the time prescription.

    Yes, it was bone-in. No, the bone did not slide out. It didn't even really wiggle. That was my first clue there was something amiss.
    Southern California
  • yzzi said:

    I would question the accuracy of your thermometer. Try putting it in boiling water to see if temp is above 212. If so then your but was too low and not cooked long enough.

    I'll check this. It's a good point.
    Southern California
  • yea, calibrate to check actual temps. 
    secondly, make it simple. 

     Do your pre cook stuff( rub/marinate etc)
    clean your egg completely, make sure all holes are open and no ash...
    build a good fire with bigger charcoal. aim for 225-240 temp
    let it cook off and add the butts 
    the tmp may initially spike to 250-280 but will fall back down if you have the daisy wheel right and ventilation clear in the fire ring/grate. 
    try to add wood for smoke as needed early, mop as needed ( not really needed for the moisture as the egg keeps it all in if you dont open lid constantly) wrap at 165 with foil
    let them stay until they reach 205 IT and pull them off add more foil, a towel and put in cooler for about 3-4hours. ENJOY. Ive done 10 this month and no issues. It rained last night and the two i did were perfect all the way through. 

    The beauty of the egg is that moisture is easy to keep and you can do the most simplist of recipes and it turns out awesome. no need to go crazy. 

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