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Temperature Plateau for Low/Slow Butt

GaWahooGaWahoo Posts: 6
edited 2:36PM in EggHead Forum
Does anyone know what causes internal temperature of pork butt to hold in the 175-185 range for several hours before moving on to the magic 200 degree point? This was explained to me once before as having to do with the gradual breakdown of fat tissues in the meat (or something like that) but I don't remember specifics. Any scientists out there that can refresh my memory or explain it from the ground up? And what the butt would be like if I didn't wait out the plateau?[p]Thanks in advance. [p]Incidentally and FWIW the high-60-degree-in-January days in ATL are over. Back to the 20s tonight. Happy I cooked yesterday. Buns, slaw, Tabasco at the store tonight and the fruit of my labor for dinner.


  • BobinFlaBobinFla Posts: 363
    GaWahoo,[p]Meats are made of muscle, connective tissue, fat and bone. Muscle contains proteins and glycogen. As the temperature of the meat increases, glycogen, a long chain sugar, is reduced to simple sugars. This caramelizes and is responsible for one of the flavor components.[p]Proteins (flavorless) are denatured to amino acids, which not only have flavors themselves, but also undergo Maillard browning reactions, which adds another flavor component.[p]While bone adds no flavor itself, the marrow is rich in methyglobulin and other proteins. This reacts with smoke nitrites to give us the smoke ring. You may have heard that "the sweetest meat is next to the bone". The proteins are reduced to amino acids. Nutrasweet is an amino acid.[p]Fat is a very simple molecule that fills the fat cells in muscle tissue. Fat breaks down to sugars, fatty acids, and triglycerides at low temperatures.[p]Collagen is proteins that have lots of side chain bonds. This makes them elastic. It takes more energy to denature them than the simpler proteins of muscle tissue. Energy in the form of heat will denature these proteins into the flavorful amino acids.[p]If the temperature is too high, the water in the muscle cells and the fat is rendered out before the collagen melts. This results in dry, tough meat. Too low a temperature and you risk bacterial activity.[p]Tough cuts of meat like brisket and pork butts benefit from low temperature cooking as the collagen adds flavor to the meat. Less tough, more expensive cuts do not need this phase and can be cooked at high temperatures for shorter periods. That is why ribs take only a few hours and briskets take up to 20 hours.[p]
    [ul][li]Barbecue FAQ[/ul]
  • GaWahoo,
    The collagen in a cut of meat like a pork butt has to be converted to gelatin, and this takes a whole lot of energy. During the plateau, all of the energy you are putting into the meat is going into converting collagen to gelatin. None of the heat is available for raising the temperature of the meat itself. Once the collagen is converted, then the heat going into the meat begins to raise the temperature of the meat.[p]TNW

    The Naked Whiz
  • BobinFla,
    How long did it take you to design the Space Shuttle?

  • Scott Borders,[p]

  • HammerHammer Posts: 1,001
    Thanks for the information. It is probably the most thorough explanations I have read. Can you break it down into nickles and dimes, so a simple guy like myself can understand it; those twenty five dollar words are tough to understand.

  • BobinFlaBobinFla Posts: 363
    Hammer,[p]LOL![p]I just copied it from down about half way on that page that I sent the link to.[p]That entire website is about the best for all-around barbecue and grilling that I have found, BUT it is severely lacking in the ceramics area.[p]BOB
  • Hi Bob,
    Sorry for the confusion. Why is it that I'm the only one that laughs at my jokes? Your description of the cooking process was so detailed and scientific, that I was alluding that you must be a "rocket scientist". Bottom line, it was very cool and interesting. Stuff you dont get in cookbooks. Have a good one, Scott

  • Thanks everybody for your answers here - exactly what I was looking for, since the plateau on my last cook was lloooonnnnggg and I was wondering what was up with the time it was taking.[p]Still cold in Atlanta. I want spring.
  • BobinFlaBobinFla Posts: 363
    Scott Borders,[p]Oh! OK, your reply makes more sense now. I didn't understand because I didn't write the article, it was an excerpt from the page on the link that I provided.[p]That website (I have included the URL for the home page below) is just about the best for basic, technical barbecue-ing that I have ever found, though it is severely lacking in the CERAMICS area.[p]Cheers,

    [ul][li]FAQ BarBeQue[/ul]
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