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The curse of the butts

bdavidsonbdavidson Posts: 411
edited 6:26AM in EggHead Forum
I'm in the process of smoking a 7.5 pound Bostonian Butticus for dinner. I started it last evening around 6:00 or 6:30. Never once did the temp rise about 250 or drop below 200 from the time I started the fire until the time I went to bed at midnight, usually maintaining a 220 temp during waking hours. I awoke this AM to a chilly Egg. My dome temp fell from lofty heights to 160 degrees and my meat temp is 132. Nothing better than to wake up after a restful night to a cold Egg, having to rebuild the fire and take out that butt.
This has happened to me the last three times I've made a butt. It seems my Egg has been cursed. I intentionally started the cook earlier than needed because I've come to eggspect such unfortunalities, but it's still frustrating!


  • ChuckChuck Posts: 812
    bdavidson, I don't have a lot of eggsperience here but I do have a suggestion. My guess is that the holes in your ash grate were clogged. Last week I did a butt for 18 hours maintaining 230* for the entire cook. Before bedtime i took a coat hanger and poked it in the holes from the ash door (thanks again Char-Woody). This worked for me and you may want to try it next time. It sounds like you still have time to finish for dinner though. Godd luck and have a great day.[p]Chuck

  • bdavidson, It must be related to air flow and coal setting. I also started a butt last night and was lucky to have heat this morning. When I start the fire I try to actually build the lump and smoking wood into an arranged pile so that there are large chunks spaced evenly around the firebox. Filled the chamber to just above the firebox. I notice with my egg that with the adjustable top slightly open, and the bottom draft slide open about 1/4 inch, the temp stays at 240°. It seems that the coal placement plays a role in how the fire burns. Voodoo? Magic? or just DA luck? I'm sure some of the more experienced cooks here will offer some better advice. From what I read here the overnight problem won't ruin the butt. Just keep cooking, and may the pork gods bless you with juicy pulled pork.

  • SundownSundown Posts: 2,971
    There is always a little discussion about laying the charcoal but, I've got to say that Elder Wards method makes sense. I haven't done quite as meticulous a job as he would have us do. I do make sure that the bottom layer is made up of the largest pieces I can find medium pieces next the the leftovers and small pieces. Start the fire right on the top. I've noticed that, in my case, after laying the fire this way I have tons of charcoal left over after the cook. During my last butt cook my temps never wavered during the 22 hours MR. Pigg was cooking. The method does insure the grate holes stay unclogged.Got nothing to lose by trying it!

  • BrantBrant Posts: 82
    bdavidson,[p]I've never really believed that the grate holes being clogged would cause a flame-out, because when you think about it, the bottom draft vent is only opened about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. I wouldn't think that every hole could be clogged enough to restrict air flow any more than the bottom vent already does. Adding to my belief is that I've been using a metal mesh grate for a long time, and still get flame-outs at the same consistency as before switching from the ceramic grate (IMO, the trivets and metal grates are only to help in higher grilling).[p]My guess is that ash caking around the few pieces of lit charcoal as they smolder eventually smothers those pieces individually. That is why the C-W method of rattling the grate to shake down the ash is effective. Unfortunately, doing that right before going to bed breaks my #1 rule for overnight cooks: Don't touch the vents for at least an hour before turning in, because that ensures that you have the vents set to hold the right temperature. Before that rule, I had more flame-outs or more butts ready at 5:00 am than I can remember.[p]That's the long way of saying that I don't have a solution for you, except to say to use lump to minimize ash (which we all already do, right?). However, that new NU-Temp remote thermometer with a low-temp alarm can be used to wake you up in the middle of the night before the fire goes completely out.[p]Brant
  • djm5x9djm5x9 Posts: 1,342
    Brant:[p]I tend to think a fire going out during long cooks is a fuel problem, not an ash problem. As the fire burns during a low and slow cook voids are created in the lump that may not be evident to the eye. Taking a poker (through the cooking grate) and gently nudging the lump together filling these voids brings lit lump in contact with unlit lump insuring a source of fuel in any direction the fire may wander. Taking a coat hanger and clearing the holes in the ash grate from the underside may actually be distributing lump for better contact for burning.
  • GWWGWW Posts: 43
    Invest in the NU-701 thermometer, and rest easy with the low temp alarm setting! worked awesome for me last week![p]Greg

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