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Boston Butt / Pork Shoulder question

After 2 years of success with pulled pork from Boston Butts, I am struggling for some reason, and I may have an idea.
Situation:
The past 2 weekends I have smoked an 8lb bone-in pork shoulder from Sams Club.
I have an XL Big Green Egg, with plate setter, drip pan, and using enough coal (Red Oak) with unsoaked Apple and Hickory wood chips (about 2 cups total)
These are fresh.  I wake up about 5am, season with a small amount of mustard and Butt Rub, and have it on at about 6am.
The past 2 weekends I put water in the pan (half of a liter, using my pitcher) thinking this helps (not sure where I got this idea).

The problem
Even though the Egg is at 220-260 throughout the day, the butt hit 200 degrees around 11-12pm (5-6 hrs).  Last weekend, I pulled it off after 8 hrs, wrapped in foil with a bit of apple juice, and had it back on for 2 hrs.  It came out a bit tough and dry, as if the fat didn't liquify and the bone didn't slide out.

Similar story this weekend, I'm 12 hrs in and no foil wrap this time, but the butt is staying steady at 205 degrees for 5 hrs.  The bark isn't carmelizing and hardening and the bone is still well connected

My thinking:
- faulty thermometer probes but they are less than 6 months old
- I shouldn't put water in the pan to start with
- I'm high altitude (Colorado) so maybe it needs longer and higher temperature.
- Sam's pork shoulder isn't as good as my past butts from the butcher

I keep good notes, but I think I changed too many variables in these last 2 cooks.

Any advice?

Comments

  • TheophanTheophan Posts: 2,650
    I'm not an expert, but it seems pretty certain to me that if it's tough and the bone isn't loose, then it's not done, regardless of the internal temperature reading.  Steaks & chicken need to be cooked to temp, but ribs, brisket, pork butt, most long low-and-slows just need to be cooked till they are tender, and just ignore the time and ignore the temperature.

    You may be right about the high altitude being the reason, but regardless of the reason, it seems to me that the bottom line is that it wasn't done.  So my suggestion would be to forget about the time, forget about the internal temperature, and just keep cooking the next one until sticking a fork in it, or a probe or something else, tells you that it's falling-apart, pull-apart tender.

    Maybe others who are more expert will say something different, but that's my 2¢, possibly worth less.
  • StillH2OEggerStillH2OEgger Posts: 3,226
    Go by feel, not temp. Also, water in the drip pan and wrapping will have a negative impact on the bark you are seeking.
    Stillwater, MN
  • pgprescottpgprescott Posts: 13,460
    Something is wrong with the thermometers I would test them all including the dome. No way it’s done in those parameters. 
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 23,380
    As noted and reenforcing the above, the finish-line is about the feel. Internal temperature is only a guide as to when you may be getting close. As @Theophan says, go with the probe test and the ease of extracting the bone from the protein.  If neither of those are present (and should occur at about the same time) then the protein is not finished.  
    Every protein cook behaves on its own.  The friggin (insert protein) drives the cook.  FWIW-
    Louisville; "indeterminate Jim" here.  Rolling smoke in the neighbourhood. # 38 for the win.  Life is too short for light/lite beer!
  • Thanks to everyone for the feedback.  As it turns out, the issue was a faulty probe.  I put it in ice water and it read 150 degrees

    Lesson: check your probes before you cook
  • Carolina QCarolina Q Posts: 14,752
    edited March 2018
    Probes? What probes? I hardly use my DigiQ any more, have hardly used my maverick since I bought it - 8 years ago. Those are the only probes I have. I use the dome thermo for the egg and a Thermapen for the meat. Oh, and the Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo I just bought (with rotating display and auto on backlight!!! =)) I'm not much for gadgets, but I think I'm gonna like this one!

    I guess I should check the calibration on my dome thermo more often. I doubt I've done that 3 times in nearly 9 years.

    I hate it when I go to the kitchen for food and all I find are ingredients!                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

    Michael 
    Central Connecticut 

  • Theophan said:
    Thanks to everyone for the feedback.  As it turns out, the issue was a faulty probe.  I put it in ice water and it read 150 degrees

    Lesson: check your probes before you cook
    Forgive me, but that's the wrong lesson!

    No kidding, DO NOT rely on the temperature!  Different pork butts might look identical, but one will be done well below 200° and one might not be done yet at 205° or even higher!

    Like @lousubcap said, use the temperature ONLY as a guide to when you might be getting close, but just DO NOT pull that pork off the Egg until you probe it all around and the meat is tender, and the bone easily releases.  

    You'd be better off with NO temperature probe than you would a perfectly accurate one that you rely on to tell you when the meat is done.  Internal temperature is only a rough guide.  


    I agree that temperature is a guide.  My point is that if you are using it as a guide, test the probes before you start cooking and not simply assume that they work or are accurate.

    I'm not arguing that temperature is king, simply an indicator, especially for me and my wife who is a biologist and VERY conscious of ensuring her food is properly cooked to avoid bacteria :)
  • I've cooked 2 butts since I got my egg two months ago. Tested my temp devices both times. The first butt behaved like most I've read about on here. IT slowly rises, stalling for hours several times during the 14 hour cook. The second butt hit 200 IT four hours into the cook. Wasn't done and cooked for 15 1/2 hours. IT read 212. It could have cooked for another 4 hours if I had had enough lump.

    Rules for Living on the Suwannee River
    Rule # 1 - Don't sweat the small stuff!
    Rule # 2 - Everything is small stuff!
  • pgprescottpgprescott Posts: 13,460
    I've cooked 2 butts since I got my egg two months ago. Tested my temp devices both times. The first butt behaved like most I've read about on here. IT slowly rises, stalling for hours several times during the 14 hour cook. The second butt hit 200 IT four hours into the cook. Wasn't done and cooked for 15 1/2 hours. IT read 212. It could have cooked for another 4 hours if I had had enough lump.

    Maybe your probe hit the bone? False reading. 
  • littlerascal56littlerascal56 Posts: 1,258
    Temp is the deciding factor.  I have cooked 50+ butts on my XL at 300 F.  They all take 10-12 hours with a Flameboss 300.  Drip pan is dry (no water).  Pull them at 203 or 204.  I shred pork with gloves, and it’s moist and falls off bone. Sauce it and everyone wants me recepe!  I could probably retire and sell my pulled pork for next 20 years locally!

    BGE XL++Flameboss 300 WiFi++Blackstone 36"++Weber 26" kettle

  • I agree with most on this post!  Hell that rhymed!  I use a professional tepm probe.  I have dumped the overpriced DigiQ system and just let the egg do its thing.  Who really knows what the atmospheric pressures have on various size eggs in different parts of the US?  Hell, only an Egghead like us would know in our own area.  East Tennessee (Knoxville) provides 4 seasons, I have experienced different types of cooks using same similar technique for Butts and Ribs with different outcomes.  So I believe there is a difference as it relates to weather. It should be obvious when its 95 degrees verse 20 degrees, our food will cook differently regardless of the egg temp. I have experienced it.  Additionally, I have noticed a huge difference in the type of Lump I use! The cheap off brand at Costco verse the Green Egg Lump does not cook the same! I have found a huge difference in the ability for the off brands to hold temps. Cheaper is not always better.  Regardless, thank the Egg Gods for having guys who are on this forum to share their experiences.  I have learned a lot over the past 8 years from my fellow Eggheads.  I personally do not use water in my drip pan, I use apple juice with both Apple and Cherry wood chips mixed, I have found my bark to be very nice as a result.  Additionally, I use a Olive oil and mustard base and paint it all over getting in the nooks and crannys or some would say crack of the Butt!  Then I season it with the appropriate Butt rubs, the Mustard and Olive oil help the seasoning stick!  Hope some of this helps.  Best wishes from Knoxville, Tn.  
                      Raideregg
    I Like Big Eggs and I can not lie!
    XXL,XL, L and MM
  • Funny is i truly run off of temp but i can tell you within 30 mins depending on how i am cooking it when it is ready now. 9 pound  butt/shoulder bone in is 8hrs till i wrap at 175. Then it is another 5.5-6hrs till 200-205. Then it is rest.. . Hard part is to keep people away from the cooler the meat is in. This was from my cook sat night to sunday morning (pulled 11:30am). 
    Jacksonville, FL
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