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We hope everyone enjoyed their Fourth of July weekend and is excited for more warm weather grilling! This week, we’ll be making these two burgers: Stuffed Portobello Mushroom and Caribbean Chicken, and also eating lots of these Ice Cream Sandwiches in honor of National Ice Cream Month! It's time to think about getting out to one of the many #EGGfests around the country - see a list here

Low & Slow, Touch & Go...

Ellen aka GormayEllen aka Gormay Posts: 63
edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
Hi Guys,[p]Finally did my first pork butt yesterday. Used a 3 1/2 pounder as a "rehearsal" before attempting something larger. Boy am I glad I did, as things did not work out as I expected.[p]I rubbed the butt with spices the night before and prepared the BGE by cleaning out the ash, removing any small pieces of lump, filling the base with large fresh lump and then replacing the small pieces on top. I was going to time the butt to cook for 1 1/2 hours/lb according to Smoke & Spice or for 2 hours/lb according to BGE users with a dome temp between 225 and 250 degrees. So if all went according to plan, the meat would be cooked within 5 to 7 hours.[p]In the morning I placed the butt in the freezer for 30 minutes to increase smoking time. I soaked 2 chunks of hickory. As soon as my starter cube flame had died down I added the chunks and created an indirect setup with the inverted platesetter and a drip pan. I used the platesetter as opposed to a small grid to hold the drip pan, because I felt such a small piece of meat could use some more protection from the heat. The butt with a remote thermometer probe inserted was placed in the BGE. Meat temp 39 degrees. Dome temp approx. 150 degrees So far so good.[p]Twenty minutes later, dome temp 200 degrees and adjustments made to upper and lower openings to maintain low temp. For the next 3- 3 1/2 hours dome temp was checked fairly frequently and had a low of 220 and a high of 265 degrees. The temp stayed mostly between the 225-250 degree range that I desired. Around this time the meat temp was 146 degrees where it stayed and stayed . I knew that the meat would plateau. I expected it to, but thought the plateau would occur when the temp was higher. After 2 more hours at 146, I started to worry and then the temp changed! It dropped to 145!!! This was getting scary. I fiddled with the vents raising the dome temp to 275 degrees and was rewarded 30 mins later with the meat temp increasing back to 146 degrees. The butt had now been cooking for 6 hours and wasn't close to being done. I kept the dome temp high 275-285 degrees and cooked it an additional hour. Pork was now 157 degrees, Since my husband was due home in 1 1/2 hours and the BGE was not cooking fast enough, I used a tip from a forum friend and removed the butt, wrapped it well in foil and placed it in a 350 degree oven. It took exactly 1 1/2 hour to reach the desired temp of 210 degrees. I pulled it out as hubbie walked in the door.[p]Why did it take so long to cook? Was freezing it for 30 minutes the culprit? Was the plateau normal? Any tips or explanations would be appreciated. I'm thinking that next time I should not put the meat in the freezer and should just use it straight from the fridge. I think that I should also aim for dome temp of 250-275 degrees and I should start earlier. This quite small butt took over 9 hours and required wrapping and heating in the oven to accelerate its completion. A
larger butt would take even longer if I had prepared it the same way.I checked all thermometers involved and think they are likely accurate.[p]BTW This was my first taste of pulled pork. The outside was dark, spicy and rich. The inside was a bit drier than I thought it would be, but pleasantly smoky. I made the 3 sauces (plain vinegar, vinegar with ketchup and mustard sauce) from Smoke & Spice so we would have choices. I served the pork on a soft bun with sauce and a mound of creamy coleslaw. Is this the way to make a pulled pork sandwich? We found all the sauces to be too vinegary and distracting. The cole slaw was crunchy and refreshing, but the meat flavor became subdued with this combination. After all, the pork should be "the star". I wish I had something to compare it with to know if this is a good example of this highly praised dish. We both enjoyed our meal, but I have the feeling with some guidance from forum friends, this meal could be devine.[p]
Ellen[p]PS When I went to clean up the BGE today, I saw that only one small area of lump was burned leaving 3/4 of the lump untouched including one of the chunks of hickory. Did the platesetter impede air flow? I've never had this happen before. I've always had a fairly evenly distributed burn. The mystery continues......


  • Ellen aka Gormay,[p]
    Simple......<to me anyway>. Bottom line, you didn't let it cook long enough. Sure you can get "decent" bbq in 6-7 hrs but the true "good q" takes anywhere from 13-20+ hrs.[p]Next item. Don't freak out about the internal temp of the meat +/vs time. Keep your eye on the dome temp. 225-250.[p]Remember this: THE MEAT WILL TELL YOU WHEN IT'S READY.[p]As long as the dome temp stays constant, GO WITH IT, and let the meat cook, and cook, and cook, until the temp internal reacheas 200-210. This could take 10hrs, 13hrs, longer, REGARDLESS of the size of the meat. It's just one of those mysteries in life. BBQ. A 3-4lb butt can take 14hrs or 20+, and you never really can figure "why"?[p]Just relax and go with the flow. Cooking good BBQ is not a "today" dinner. It's a "tomorrow" dinner, so plan ahead.[p]Imho what happened to you is this: The meat was just reaching the plateau level, and then you freaked out, and tried to rush it. Not a bad thing, just what I think happened. My last butt stayed at "plateau" level for over 4 hrs before it finaly broke down, and went to heaven. <200>[p]I'm sure a thousand people will say I am crazy of course.
    LOL! Good luck next time. PS, I wouldn't soak the Hickory.

  • PujPuj Posts: 615
    Ellen aka Gormay,[p]I'll second the advice that gamecock-4-life provided. Pulled pork, or any lo' and slo' cook, will pretty much cook under its own rules, not the cooks. Your responsibilities are to prepare the meat and to provide the proper cooking environment. Most of the time a lo' and slo' cook will progress as expected but one never knows. [p]As for the burn of the fire, try using 3 starter cubes placed in a triangle on top of the lump to encourage a more even burn. Serve the coleslaw on the side next time. I'm not a fan of coleslaw being part of a "sammich".[p]Keep at it. Pulled pork bbq and its sides are a wonderful meal.[p]Puj
  • Ellen aka Gormay,
    I agree with what the others have said. Each piece of meat is different and will cook at it's own pace. [p]That being said, have you calibrated you thermometer lately? Just a thought.[p]Matt.

  • hounddoghounddog Posts: 126
    I second this suggestion. I was going crazy at one point until I tried checking the thermometer and found out it was WAY out of whack.
  • CatCat Posts: 556
    Ellen aka Gormay,[p]All good advice. A few key points to keep in mind:[p]Fluctuations in dome temp aren't a big deal. Over a long cook, it's average temp that counts.[p]The plateau can happen anywhere from 140-170 internal.[p]Time-per-pound directions are misleading. Thickness is more important than weight, but even here it's impossible to be precise. Every hunk o' meat has its own personality.[p]Doneness is a condition, not a temperature. (Not everyone agrees with me here...) There is no 'magic number' at which a butt is done; you're looking for texture. If a fork stuck in the meat twists easily, it's pullable. That may happen at 185 or 200 or 210 internal. For me, it happens at 165-170 since I like to keep a pork butt at its plateau temp for as long as possible.[p]Keep a record of your cooking experiences; it's a very useful tool and a good way to build confidence. In no time, you'll be able to relax and enjoy the cooking as much as the eating![p]Cathy

  • Ellen aka Gormay,
    You can take the butt straight from the refrig and you don't need to put in the freezer, that slowed the cook some.
    Hours per pound is not the way to think when doing butt or brisket, internal temp is your gauge. A 3 1/2 pound butt does not take 1/2 the time to cook as a 7 pounder would.
    Connective tissue take time to break down, that's why internal temp is your guide.
    When you put the butt in foil it will cause the flavor of the butt to be demenished, it's because of the steamy condition you create.
    When cooking butt give yourself extra time, you can easily hold a butt for hours if it finishes early. Wrapping in plastic and foil, placing in a dry cooler will allow you to hold the butt for 4 hours easily.

  • GloriaGloria Posts: 161
    Ellen aka Gormay,
    Can't add anything to the cooking of your pork; however, the correct way to eat a pork sandwich (barbeque) is to pile the meat on, add your favorite sauce, along with however much hot sauce you like, period. Coleslaw should definitely be eaten on the side in my opinion. You are correct in saying that the pork should be the outstanding flavor, and cabbage in any form or fashion can overpower just about anything. We Georgians don't care too much for the strong vinegar-tasting sauces, preferring instead a thick, tomato-based sauce slow cooked with some brown sugar (just a little bit) onions, etc. Maybe just a dab of vinegar in the sauce.

  • Ellen aka Gormay,
    When I cook a Butt I pull the meat from the fridge when I go out to fire up the egg. I them stabilize the temp of the egg 225° then add chunk or two of hickory, set up the drip pan, add the pork & let it cook. I do not open the dome till the meat is around 190°, at that time I start checking for doneness. I usually take the meat to 200°-205°.[p]Time will vary. I am convinced it is the fat content of each butt that causes the time differences. Remember we do this cause we love to cook, make the process as enjoyable as possible.[p]Lewis

  • sdbeltsdbelt Posts: 267
    Ellen aka Gormay,[p]First off, congratulations on your first butt. Though you had some difficulty with the process, it sounds like you still achieved a fairly reasonable result.[p]Everyone else's comments ring true with me as well. I've done a 6 lb butt in 12 hours, and another in 20 hours. That's a pretty big difference. I've also seen the internal temp fall a degree during the plateau, just like you noticed. I rationalize it as such: the energy necesasry to break the connecting tissues, resulted in slightly cooling off that bit of the meat.[p]These days, I just don't watch it as closely. What I don't know, doesn't stress me. I know it's going to take a long time, and that's all there is to it.[p]BTW, Tom's BBQ in Phoenix has some pretty good pulled pork sandwiches. They are pretty healthy sized, and there are several stores around the valley, so if you get up this way, you might try one out. Their typical sandwich has a small amount of coleslaw on the bottom, though I always request mine without slaw. I do think Tom cheats his PP. I'm pretty sure that after pulling, he soaks the meat in a solution that has liquid smoke, so that it's very moist, and there's a consistent smoke flavour throughout. Come to think of it, it's lunch time, and some PP BBQ sounds good. [p]Enjoy![p]--sdb
  • Dear gamecock-4-life,[p]Thanks to all for the commentaries and advice on my first adventure with a pork butt. I learned alot from your experiences as well as mine. I bought two more butts today and anticipate more surprises and more learning experiences along the way. That's all part of the fun and a day in the life of a 'Q'er-wannabe. Let the games begin.....[p]Ellen
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