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BBQ'd Boston Butt

#1 User is offline   Hunter 

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 11:58 AM

All,
I am a HUGE fan of pulled pork, but have never attempted it myself. I have a large drum shaped charcoal grill and would like to give this a run. What suggestions can you guys/girls give me. All I know if low heat...for long periods, possibly up to 12 hours.

Thanks!
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#2 User is offline   Stogie 

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 03:56 PM

Try this approach. It is very basic as I wrote it for a first timer.

Rub with your favorite spices, wrap and let sit overnight or for several hours.

How you cook this cut is the most important part to getting a nice moist pulled pork. This cut of pork is loaded with internal fat. It is this fat that we want to "render" away. Scientifically speaking, the connective tissues and collagen will start to break down at temps of around 150-160º. This is exactly what we want to happen. The great secret to allowing this process to occur is to try and keep the meat temp between 150-170º The longer you can hold those temps, the more this fat will render.

So, how do you achieve this? By cooking the meat at very low temps. We cook all of our pork butts at a temp of 225º and plan on taking 2 hours per pound. In the end, we want the meat temp to reach and exceed 190+º. This can be measured with a regular meat thermometer, just be sure you stick it into meat and not fat OR you can stick a fork into the butt and twist it….it should twist easily.

Cook the butt UNCOVERED. The goal is to make that outside bark, nice and crispy (without burning). The only way to do that is to expose the butt to the heat of the oven. If you were to cover the pan in any way, you will produce steam which will prevent the formation of a nice crispy bark.

Let the butt cook for about 4-5 hours before looking at it. At this point, you can open the oven and "mop" the meat. Mopping is applying a liquid to the surface of the meat…this will help to keep it moist and add some flavor. I use a very simple mop of 3 parts apple juice or cider and 1 part cider vinegar and 1 part of olive oil. This can be applied with a brush, a mop, or a spray bottle. You can now mop every couple hours or as often as you would like.

I believe the 2 hour per pound estimate will be accurate 90% of the time. However, one of 2 things will invariably happen when cooking a butt…..it will finish early or it will finish late. What to do? To speed up the cook, wrap as tightly as possible in heavy duty foil and place back in the smoker. It will still take some time to finish so plan accordingly. If it finishes early, remove from smoker. Wrap as tightly as possible in heavy duty foil, then wrap that in a towel and place in a dry cooler with some newspaper on the bottom. You can hold like this for well over 6 hours.

Once the butt is finished you can now "pull" the meat. Let it cool to the point where you can handle it. Then use your hands to pull strands of the meat. A pair of forks will also prove helpful when pulling the meat. There may still be pockets of fat, so remove these as you start pulling. Place this pulled meat into whatever serving vessel you plan on using. Be sure to mix in the nice darkened bark of the outside meat with the inside meat. You should also sprinkle more of your rub on top of the shredded meat. This allows the flavor of that rub and mop to be distributed within the meat.

To make an authentic pulled pork sammich, use a very cheap bun, pile with pork add any sauce you may desire and top with a dollop of your favorite cole slaw! Pure heaven awaits!
Stogie
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#3 User is offline   GearHead 

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 12:52 PM

Hey Stogie, I've got a couple of questions for you. I've attempted two "Boston Butts" over the last few weeks with different techniques and different results. First question, if the temperature for the first few hours of smoking is too low, can that cause dryness in the final product? We had some bad weather when I was smoking a 3.5lb butt in a ceramic cooker, and the wind/rain combination caused the temperature of the smoker to hang under 200 degrees for at least two hours before it climbed up to 235 and stayed there. The flavor was great, it had a nice bark, but it wasn't as tender or juicy as the first butt I made a few weeks ago.

This butt was cooked in a homemade ceramic smoker, and here's how it was prepared: I brined the 3.5lb butt for 8 hours (water, salt, molasses brine) before patting dry, adding a rub and resting in the fridge for another 7 hours (no salt, just spices), and then smoking for about 9 hours.

Second question: I used soaked chunks of hickory for the smoke, and they threw a LOT of smoke. I liked the flavor just fine, but my wife complained that it was too smokey and kind of dry. Do you typically smoke throughout the whole cook, or just the first few hours and then heat only? And have you ever had something TOO smokey tasting? :D

Thanks in advance for any pearls of wisdom! :)
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#4 User is offline   Stogie 

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 04:36 PM

Hi Gearhead and welcome to the board!

A homemade ceramic smoker, eh? Sounds pretty cool!

OK, to answer your questions...

NO, lower temps are actually better and will result in a superior product. Glad to see you held the temp steady around 235º...that is about perfect. If any BBQ meat is not tender, that is a sign of undercooking. With a butt, the meat should literally fall apart just by touching and squeeezing it. If your temps were too low, then the fat did not render enough...even after 9 hrs.......and you would end up with a dry piece of meat. Don't be fooled by the size with a butt! The rendering process still must take place and that is a long process...no matter if the butt is 8 lb. or 3 lbs.

Did you check the temp of the meat when you took it off the cooker?

Save yourself lots of time and effort by skipping the brining! Brining is designed for lean meats that have no fat...poultry and pork loins come to mind. Butt is so full of fat that no brining is needed to keep it moist and tender. If you are looking for more flavor on the inside meat, then try injecting. Much more effective at placing flavor inside the butt.

Smoke taste is very subjective. I have had many friends complain of too much smoke when at a contest with me. That is because the meat was cooked in an off-set that burned logs for the entire cook. I personally use about 3-5 fist-sized chunks of hickory when I smoke anything. This smoke lasts about an hour, maybe 2 if I bury a few chunks in the coals. I don't add any additional wood once my initial batch is used up. This seems to be the rigt amount as I never get any complaints about too smokey. You just need to experiment and take careful notes.

Finally, no need to soak chunks of wood. This whole soaking thing is just a bunch of bull. It doesn't penetrate at all and once the hot fire evaporates the water, it smokes as it normally would. The whole smoldering concept falls apart when you realize that this water doesn't penetrate whatsoever. You would need to soak for months to get any kind of penetration of the water. Your fires should be low enough that flaming is never an issue and like I said, once the water evaporates, the wood smokes as it noramlly would.

Now, you mentioned that your last butt came out great....why not just duplicate that cook? What did you do different?

Hope this helps!
Stogie
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#5 User is offline   GearHead 

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 12:54 PM

Thanks for the advice, Stogie! That's great news that I don't need to bother with brining or wood-soaking. What a time saver! :D

I'm going to try another Butt sometime soon using a rub only, and smoke for just the first part of the cook. Regarding meat-temperature, I'm one of those guys that swears by the electric probe thermometer. For roasts, steaks, and everything, they don't come off of the heat until I know the internal temp. I just wish I could use it with the Rotisserie. :rolleyes:

About the "DIY Smoker", here's a link to another guy's page that has pictures of the same type that I made. It was from a design by Alton Brown of the Food Network show "Good Eats":
http://homepage.mac.com/dubmann/PhotoAlbum1.html

For about 50 bucks, it does the job. :)
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#6 User is offline   Ronald 

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Posted 12 June 2004 - 09:42 AM

Gearhead
That smoker is amazing
Thanks for the tip

this tip needs it's own setion
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#7 User is offline   NWBBQ 

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Posted 13 June 2004 - 09:50 PM

That smoker looks easy enough to make, but how do you control the heat? Does the hotplate have a temp dial on it? Very attractive looking smoker too
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#8 User is offline   Ronald 

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Posted 13 June 2004 - 09:59 PM

They actually showed that skomer tonight on the food network. The hot plat they used went to 225. They even had a little temp gauge in the top.
I would probally use a propane stove because I already have one and I use to use it under my water smoker that just rusted away.
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#9 User is offline   GearHead 

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 01:36 PM

Thanks for the kudos on the smoker, guys, I'm loving it! I did another Butt this weekend and the crowd was quite pleased.

To answer your question, NWBBQ, the hotplate I bought from Sears has a knob to control the heat output. I've found that for the cold weather we've been having lately, if I keep it at almost max temperature, it maintains something close to 225 degrees in the smoker - just about ideal. On a sunny and warm afternoon when I was still testing it, a setting of roughly medium-high produced a higher temperature, about 245 degrees, but there was no meat or wood in the smoker, which I'm sure affects the temp. The one thing that's a drag about this smoker is the difficulty in adjusting the temp. Thankfully, once you get to know your hotplate, and predict your conditions, you can set it before the cook, and forget it, since the ceramic helps to keep the heat pretty consistent.

This weekend, I started a 4lb boneless Butt at about 11pm on a cold, windy, and rainy night - a real shocker here in Seattle :D The smoker's temp was about 220 degrees when the Butt went in before I went to bed, with plenty of smoke coming out. I checked the smoker's thermometer from my bedroom window a few times with binoculars during the night (I must have looked like a pervert), and it didn't drop below 200 degrees. When I checked the probe thermometer temp in the meat at about 8am, it read 165 degrees, and the smoker temp was 210 degrees on a chilly morning. By 11 am, the Butt was done, and moist as can be! :blink: Thanks again, Stogie.

Regarding propane, Ronald, that's an intriguing idea, as you might be able to control the heat output from outside the cooker, depending on the stove. For long/slow cooks, though, I'd be concerned about running out of gas in the middle of the night. Also, regarding rusting, the burner that I bought from Sears (a Rival, I believe) was only 12 bucks. Even if it only lasts a few months, that's easy enough to replace.

I think I'll take some pics of my smoker, gather all the purchase details, and start a new thread like Ronald suggested. Now, it's time to plan how I'm going to smoke some Babyback Ribs!
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#10 User is offline   Stogie 

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 05:10 PM

Hey Gearhead!

Congrats on the little smoker! That is indeed a cool little unit. I too saw it on Good Eats and was impressed by its simplicity.

Now, using binocs to check temps is so neat! Why pay big bucks for a remote unit when a simple pair of binocs is at the ready!! Great idea...pervert or not! LOL
Stogie
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#11 User is offline   Jeffro 

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 06:07 PM

I am in total agreement with Stogie................ thanks for sharing. I also saw the "smoker" on Food TV, but just kind of shrugged it off. NOW, I have to cook a briskit on my gas grill AND a porkbutt in the pottery flowerpots............ I am looking for my hotplate NOW.
Thanks for the info. I hope Dr. Atkins is right, or I will be 400 pounds and have matching cholestrol numbers because of this site :D :blink: :blink: !!!

Best to all,
Jeffro (Jeff)
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#12 User is offline   Ronald 

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 10:45 PM

Gearhead
The reason i tried propnae for the little smoker was that I already had a coleman single burner camping stove. they last forever. I can get about 3 hours on a 1 pound tank. I got the idea that if I could do that with a 1 pound tank that I could at least get 30 hours on a 20 pound tank. I have actually gotten between 45 and 55 hours a tank . It worked out great because I didn't have to worry about watching the fire. I could just set it and forget it. ( I couldn't resist saying that, and it didn't cost me 4 payments of $29.95 either) :D :blink:
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#13 User is offline   GearHead 

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 11:21 AM

Ronald, on Jun 15 2004, 03:45 AM, said:

Gearhead
The reason i tried propnae for the little smoker was that I already had a coleman single burner camping stove. they last forever. I can get about 3 hours on a 1 pound tank. I got the idea that if I could do that with a 1 pound tank that I could at least get 30 hours on a 20 pound tank. I have actually gotten between 45 and 55 hours a tank . It worked out great because I didn't have to worry about watching the fire. I could just set it and forget it. ( I couldn't resist saying that, and it didn't cost me 4 payments of $29.95 either) :D :D

You forgot one word, my friend: 4 "Easy" payments of $29.95. ;) That Ron Popeil is a classic.
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#14 User is offline   Jeffro 

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 03:54 PM

;)
You guys have really started something NOW!!! As I drive around doing my work (I am a real estate appraiser), I find myself longingly looking at clay flower pots on porches, and wondering if I could "get away with it"!!!!!!!!!!!! :D
I am becoming MORE obsessed!!!!

Jeffro (Jeff)
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#15 User is offline   GearHead 

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 06:47 PM

Jeffro, on Jun 15 2004, 01:54 PM, said:

:D
You guys have really started something NOW!!! As I drive around doing my work (I am a real estate appraiser), I find myself longingly looking at clay flower pots on porches, and wondering if I could "get away with it"!!!!!!!!!!!! :D
I am becoming MORE obsessed!!!!

Jeffro (Jeff)

If they're not using those flowerpots for smoking, then they don't deserve to have 'em. ;)
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