First Pork Butt and Pulling My Hair Out

Discussion in 'Roll Call' started by cookie714, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    Hello, everyone!  I'm here (first) in desperation and second, to learn a lot more than I do about smoking on my grill.  

    I live in eastern Tennessee.  Cooking on a new NexGen Infrared grill.  So, the grill is new to me and so is the aspect of smoking on it. I'm a first-timer.  I've been reading up on the web about proper smoking temperatures, so I put the wet hickory wood under the meat as the grill instructions said, put the brined and dry-rubbed pork butt on the grate above it and set an indirect temperature of 220 degrees. I had to turn down the gas half-way and only put one burner on the lowest setting to get this temp.  I start this process at 9:00 a.m. yesterday.  At 9:00 p.m. last night, the internal temperature was only 126 degrees (hoping for a final temp of 200 degrees or so).  So, the meat went into the fridge for the night.  Back out this morning to knock off the cool from the fridge and back on the grill again at 220.  Can anybody tell me what is going on?  I thought 12 hours would be plenty long enough to smoke this meat.  I put a new oven thermometer inside the grill to check temp against what the NexGen temp gauge came with and there was a 150 degree difference!  But when I stuck the meat with an instant read thermometer and also probed it with a brand new high-dollar thermometer, the readings matched.  Help me, please!
  2. garyhibbert

    garyhibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    It sounds to me like you're cooking at a MUCH lower temp than you think you are. I would increase the cooking temp until the oven therm in the cook chamber reads 240 degrees and putt the butt back in.

    If you're planning on pulled pork then cook to an internal temp of 205 degrees. Then probe the butt. If the probe slides in like it's going into soft butter, it's done. If not, then cintinue cooking until it probes easily.

    Now I know nothing about your smoker, but if it has one then use the chip tray. If not then a small cast iron pan over the flame works well. Use DRY chips. Wet chips have to dry out before they can produce smoke--until they dry out, all you're getting is steam.

  3. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Unfortunately, it appears to me that meat is no longer safe to eat.  It sounds like it spent a lot longer than four hours in the 40-140F danger zone, the point where harmful bacteria multiply.  My recommendation would be to discard the meat and start over.  If the grate temp was actually 220F, the meat would have climbed through the danger zone in less than four hours. 

    The next time, use your oven thermometer to tell you what the grate temp actually is.  Lid therms are notorious for giving misleading readings. 
  4. It sucks to waste meat but if you've gone 12 hours and only reached 126 IT it probable start over to be safe. That's sat at critical unsafe temps way to long. Other then that like Gary said seems to be your cooking lower then your gauges say.

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  5. tulsajeff

    tulsajeff Master of the Pit Staff Member Administrator OTBS Member

    To reiterate what has already been said.. it is not uncommon for factory thermometers to be WAY off.. those are often ornamental only in my opinion.

    Use your oven thermometer or something that you know is reading accurately and has been tested in ice water (32-33°F) or boiling water (212°F) assuming you don't live at really high altitudes.

    Heat your grill to 240°F at the grate level, wrap some dry chips in foil and poke a few small holes in it and place it over the fire or you can place the dry chips in a small iron skillet as was mentioned by Gary or even something like a large tuna can will work.

    Whatever you use, keep replacing the chips as they burn up and stop smoking.

    The A-Maze-N Pellet smoker is also a great tool for grill smoking. It uses pellets to provide constant smoke for up to 11 hours.

    Discard the meat you started cooking yesterday and chalk it up to a $15 to $20 lesson.

    Your next one will go smoothly once you have a handle on the correct temperature at grate level.

    For what it's worth.. we were all where you are now at some point and, while it's frustrating, you've learned valuable lessons in the process and that's not a bad thing.
  6. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    Thanks everyone!  The pork is in the trash but I'm not giving up.  
  7. gmc2003

    gmc2003 Smoking Fanatic

    that's the attitude.

  8. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    I'm not sure I'm doing this's not very intuitive where you post your questions (do you start a new thread?)  Anyway, I read you're supposed to keep putting dry chips in the smoker and replenishing them as they burn up, but aren't you then opening and closing the smoker a lot and lowering the temperature on the meat?  The last batch of chips I put in burned up in about 5 minutes, but I can't see myself throwing them in constantly and never getting the meat cooked.  Any solution to this that you know of?  
  9. phatbac

    phatbac Master of the Pit

    Here are a couple of options..As Jeff said first is a pellet tube or tray ( i prefer A-MAZE-N products as do most people here). an Amazen tray will last you 6-8 hours worth of gentle smoke. I think my wife bought me mine from amazon for around $25. Until you get one of those you can do as Jeff said also make a large foil package of chips or even get some of the larger chunks of wood from a big box store. I saw some pecan chunks at wally world locally for about $6 a bag. They also had apple, cherry, hickory,etc.  even if you get 15-20 minutes worth of smoke out a foil package (really should get more) refill every hour or so or make a new one and swap them out so the lid isnt open that long. you will get a smokey flavor on your meat. fruit wood and/or pecan is my favorite for pork, but you can experiment see what you like the best! good luck ask any questions you need the community is good here!

    Happy Smoking,

    phatbac (Aaron)
  10. tulsajeff

    tulsajeff Master of the Pit Staff Member Administrator OTBS Member

    If the foil packs are burning up to quick, try moving them away from the fire a little. they need to be close enough to smolder and produce smoke but not so close that they burn up in 5 minutes.

    Most gas grills will never be as good as a smoker at smoking food but I do understand you have to use what you have available.

    Wood chunks wrapped in foil might be another option that will last a little longer.

    We are upgrading to a new platform next week so things are changing.. however, in the meantime, click on Forums in the NavBar above, click on a topic that best suits your question then click on the brown button that says, "Start a New Thread". The button is located just below the forum title toward the top left area of the page.
  11. [​IMG]   Good morning and welcome to the forum from a warm muggy day here in East Texas, and the best site on the web.   Lots of great people with tons of information on just about everything.

     What everybody else said

  12. garyhibbert

    garyhibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I would strongly suggest that you do some testing with your grill before you lay out more money on meat.

    Find out where your grill must be set to reach your desired temp-- make a note of what your grill therm reads to correspond to the temp as shown by your oven therm. Then do several tests to find a method to produce smoke. Pick the method and location that gives you both the amount of smoke you want and the best interval between adding more wood.

    This will all take some time but the reward at the end of the testing will be smoked meat that's both safe and delicious.

  13. I agree with Gary, Get to know your grill and smoker , It will make life much easier and FUN !!

  14. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    Thanks everybody.  I really appreciate all your helpful comments.  


    Round two (beginner's smoked pork butt). As advised, I put the DRY hickory chips in the foil packet and put three slits in the top of it. Never once in the 7 hours that this pork has been on the grill did I see any smoke coming from it or smell any either. When I looked at the packet, I could tell that the chips were blackened. Will this pork tasted like hickory without the actual smoke? I was looking forward to having this smoke waft over the yard as something to look forward to. Kinda disappointed.
  15. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    Is this pellet smoker something that hooks to a grill?
  16. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    What kinds of tests should I do to produce smoke?
  17. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    I finally figured out the temperature thing and got some pork finished in 7 hours registering 180 degrees.  I would have left it in a while longer but it was going to rain.  I can't figure out how to get smoke.  I put the hickory packets in foil and lay them on the grill, but at 220 degrees they don't seem to produce smoke.  They just sit there and turn black. Can't see or smell any smoke.
  18. chilerelleno

    chilerelleno Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    The chips or chunks need to be directly over or right next to the heat source in order to get enough direct heat to ignite, smolder and produce smoke.
    They cannot be just anywhere in the grill, they'll just bake and turn color... Its a balancing act in a grill.
    I used to use my grill extensively for smoking and I often just tossed a pile of chips/chunks directly over the heat source.
    Don't be afraid to throw a couple handfuls on or restock it every half an hour, open it toss'em on and close it.

    Chips/chunks in foil over heat source, believe me they generated smoke.


    Thigh and ribs getting smoke from chips place directly on grate over or next to heat source.

    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  19. chilerelleno

    chilerelleno Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    You've had great advice from people that know what they're talking about.
    So take heed and you'll be producing some good BBQ in short order.

    So there was a 150' difference between the factory therm and the new oven therm?
    What were their temp readings, and which one do you think was closer or correct? I'm betting the oven therm.

    I suggest either buying a reliable dial therm like a Tel-Tru or a good digital dual probe unit for both meat and air.
    That or buy a couple of the cheap oven therms and split the difference in readings if there is any.

    You don't need an exact temp to cook BBQ, you just want to be in the range of 225'-275'.
    And don't be afraid of temp fluctuations, as long as they're inside of 220'-300', not counting opening the door.
    As long as the majority of your cook is in the 225'-275' range you're good to go.

    Now, you said both of your meat therms were reading the same... Great!
    Now double check them in ice water and boiling water to see just how accurate they are at both ends.
    Out of curiosity which ones do you have?
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  20. cookie714

    cookie714 Newbie

    Thank you for showing me these pictures.  I did as you said and put the foil packets right over the heat, but no smoke--ever.  I'll try it right on the grate next time. I didn't know you could do that.  

    Yes, the oven thermometer seems to be the one that is correct and successfully used it for the second round of pork.  At the end of the cooking, my pork pulled apart nicely (the probe "went in like butter" as one suggestion said it would) but it was not nearly as moist as I expected it would be.  Although it did not taste anything like hickory, it was still good and got eaten.

    It's good to know I don't have to kill myself to try to get the temp exactly at 220.  Whew! 

    The oven therm and the probe matched in temperature.  

    Thank you again for your help.  I'm going to try some chicken next.

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