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My first bad pulled pork :(

mojomojo Posts: 220
edited 7:57AM in EggHead Forum
So there I was, the elected cook for our neighborhood July 4th party. 14 adults and about 10 kids. What could be simpler than pulled pork, right? I mean, I've made it more times than I can count and it's ALWAYS perfect.

Since my neighbor was hosting the party she insisted on buying the meat. I asked her to get me three bone-in pork shoulders, each around 8 pounds (yes, I planned on having leftovers!). I've always cooked 8-10 pounders in the past. Instead she gave me five 5-pounders. I figured, great, now I can just start them in the morning since they'd only take around 10 hours to cook, using my usual 2 hrs/pound rule.

The morning of the party I got the Egg going and put on the meat at 7:45. I used a DigiQ and the dome temp was rock stable at 215. I peeked about 5 hrs into the cook to get a photo.


The meat temp rose much slower than I am accustomed to, and at 5 o'clock (9 hrs into the cook) the pork temp was only around 170. I cranked up the dome temp to almost 300 and the smallest butt finally hit 200 at around 7:30, nearly 12 hrs into the cook. Everyone was starving so I pulled all the butts off and prepped the meat. Of course they all weren't finished and I worked MY butt off trying to pull the meat; usually I can accomplish this with just a fork and my hand.

Is there something different about cooking smaller pork butts? None of them were touching each other on the grate, even though the photo might look that way. It tasted OK and everyone was pleased, but probably because they were starving by the time I was able to feed them. I feel like it was a disaster.


  • Mike, it really wasn't bad, was it? Just not what you expected, not a disaster at all if people enjoyed it.

    Don't be so hard on yourself. Your hostess threw a wrench in your plans and you winged it - Kudos to you for doing that and feeding that big group of people by yourself.

    You will hear this alot, but your dome temp of 215 was a little low to start with, 250 would have helped you in this instance with the smaller butts.
    Happily egging on my original large BGE since 1996... now the owner of 6 eggs. Call me crazy, everyone else does!
    3 Large, 2 Smalls, 1 well-used Mini
  • SmokinbSmokinb Posts: 103
    I'd suggest starting earlier and build in resting time. Better to be early and rest longer than go late and rest little. Also, don't peek. If your looking, your not cookin'. Sounds like it turned out ok.
  • jbennyjbenny Posts: 147
    Both great points. I used the digiq for the same type of cook and put the grate temp at 200-215 and it took the exact same amount of time as it should have.
  • BasscatBasscat Posts: 802
    With your dome temp at 215, your grate temp could be as low as 180 or so. Try 250 dome next time, or even 275. The pork won't mind, and will be done way sooner.
  • BobinFlaBobinFla Posts: 363
    Basscat wrote:
    With your dome temp at 215, your grate temp could be as low as 180 or so. Try 250 dome next time, or even 275. The pork won't mind, and will be done way sooner.

    I will NEVER understand MARATHON cooking. Why cook so long and at such a low temperature? 300 won't hurt a thing!

  • As others have said, I always try to plan a finish about 2-4 hours EARLY to give it time to rest in the cooler. I have noticed a few times when I got the meat done close to eating time, the butt that rests the longest while we eat the other is always the better one too, the rest really does make it nice.

    Had one butt resting in a cooler for almost 6 hours on Monday and it turned out perfect.
  • MemphistideMemphistide Posts: 207
    215 is pretty low.....shoot for 250+ and it will be much easier.
  • Clay QClay Q Posts: 4,435
    I don't trust someone else buying the meat I'm smokin unless they know what there doin. Surprising how little some folks know about the meat they buy.

    You were in the hot seat. Pressure was on.
    If I can, I'll smoke a day ahead and rest my pulled beef overnight in the frig. Then I add more sauce and reheat in a big Nesco for the party. :cheer:
    Better luck next time!
  • mxdadmxdad Posts: 47
    Memphistide wrote:
    215 is pretty low.....shoot for 250+ and it will be much easier.

    I agree I shoot for 250 dome and usually I am able to pull 8lb butts off at around 13-14 hour mark. I do always time when I expect to take them off to be about 2-3 hours before expected eat time. That way I have a couple of hours to play with either way. The will hold fine double wrapped in foil in the cooler
  • 2Fategghead2Fategghead Posts: 9,623
    I am like you I get critical of my cooks and their out come. Most often a cook gone as you described is much better than you think and what others can do using other cookers. Like Faith said don't be so hard on yourself. Others said it was great.

    I always smoke the largest butts I can find by going to the butcher and asking for the two pack cryovac packages. The butts are untrimmed and cook up very well. Maybe next time you can get the butts you are accustomed to smoking then, be compensated for the meat.

    I have read a lot of posts on the 5 pound butt cooks that went like you have described. They sometimes take a lot longer than first thought and planed on. I always smoke the butts with the dome at 250F that way I don't have such a marathon cook. When the dome temp is 215F for a time the grid temp is somewhat lower and when your food probe needs to get to 195F - 205F for pulled pork it may take a very long time to get there.

    You will look back next year when you prepare for your 2012 July 4th cook and knock it out of the park. Maybe next year you could have the butts cooked and shredded and packaged and ready for warming when it's time to eat.

    This to shall pass. Have a good day. Tim :)
  • NC-CDNNC-CDN Posts: 703
    Florida Grillin Girl wrote:
    You will hear this alot, but your dome temp of 215 was a little low to start with, 250 would have helped you in this instance with the smaller butts.

    Bingo. If you are trying to get the meat to 200 and the EGG is set for 215 it's going to take a long time.
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    We get pretty critical of our own cooking, especially when we cook for a new group. After cooking for a time, it seems like we are looking for that 'wow' factor and the 'this is really good' doesn't seem to meat our expectations.

    I haven't noticed much difference between a bone in/bone out/5# or 8# butt for cooking or taste.

    The bone in do have some 'sweet spots' in that bone area but those parts never make it to the guests. The dang cook is always taste testing those areas. I do enjoy testing those bone areas.

    I cook until I get close to 195° then test for tenderness with a probe (thirdeye's probe). If there is no resistance to the probe going in the meat and no pull when removing the probe the cook is done. The pull is pretty easy at that stage.

    I have never been too critical about he meat available other than I try to get the 'best' looking cuts out of the bunch.

  • mojomojo Posts: 220
    Excellent points everyone, and thanks for the support. This is such a great forum and community.

    I agree that 215 on the dome sounds low, but hey, this is supposed to be 'low and slow', right? I have always used the Eldar Ward method of cooking pork butts, meaning, begin the cook with the dome temp very low (like around 200-225) and raise the temp once the meat hits around 180. At that point I would ramp up the temp, even as high as 300 until done. And in the past I had double foil wrapped my butts in the cooler for a couple hours of resting before pulling. But since these were smaller butts I thought I could prepare everything the same day, using the same method. Oh well, lesson learned, and from now on I'm going to just start the cook at 250 like everyone recommends.

    As for the comments on "marathon" cooking, well, I actually enjoy it. With the DigiQ it's super easy, I don't have to tend to the Egg, and it gives me hours and hours of quality grill-side beer-drinking time while my friends and I enjoy the wonderful smells coming from the Egg. Kids swimming in the pool, birds chirping, music blasting, that's just good living if you ask me!

    I do like the suggestion of preparing and pulling it early, but when going for the 'WOW factor' it's nice to pull the pork in front of the people and hand out chunks of bark (only to the ones I like, of course).

    Thanks again everyone!!
  • thirdeyethirdeye Posts: 7,428
    I agree with the others regarding the pit temp, that's too low. I'm also in agreement with Clay about buying your own meat, I just tell folks "I'll bring you the receipt".

    I'm also in agreement with you about getting butts in the 8 to 10 pound range, and most importantly I agree that once you have a procedure that works time-after-time.... stick with it.

    Now, you were planning on a 10 hour cook + some rest time. After checking them at 5 or 6 hours into the cook I think I would have wrapped them in foil, ramped up the pit temp and finished them off that way. You would have sacrificed a bit on the bark, but they would have been moist and tender.
    Happy Trails

    Barbecue is not rocket surgery
  • DrZaiusDrZaius Posts: 1,481
    The only thing I would add to this thread is to try to get a couple of hours resting time into your plan of attack. It really makes a difference.
    This is the greatest signature EVAR!
  • Maybe next time you can get the butts you are accustomed to smoking then, be compensated for the meat.

    This is always my plan of attack.

    I'm sure it was good though! Don't beat yourself up too much. I'm always terribly critical of my own usually helps me cope!
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