Greetings and a question that's been nagging me

Discussion in 'Roll Call' started by flyertier, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. Hello everyone, I've been a lurker for a while, butjoined today. Everytime I've searched the web for smoking or griling information, this site and its forums kept providing the most information without the "forum drama" I've seenin the past. So, well done folks!

    I've read many posts about temp versus time, individual perferences, smokers models, etc., but my nagging question is if low is approximately 225 degrees, depending on who's talking, why not 180 if the smoker is capable of maintaining that temp? Is it a food safety issue to smoke below a certain temp? Or, it there another reason?

    For a number of years I had a VERY cheap bullet shaped thin-walled smoker electric smoker that saw plenty of salmon, chicken, pork ribs, pork loin, and peppers. It never did a great job with larger cuts or beef, amybe it was me. It finally gave out, so I upgraded to a Masterbuilt 30" electric with fancy electronic controls to set temp and time, and has an internal temp probe. The unit's display checks out to be pretty darn accurate even when dropping down to 120 degrees. So, I return to my question: since I can accurately maintain a temp in the mid-100's, why not cook this low for a longer period of time? Again, I understand personal perference and time constraints, but is there a general reason not to smoke in the 150 to 180 range?

    By the way, I corned a brisket for 7 days, cut it in half, put half in a slow cook to make corned beef, and the other half went in the smoker at 200 degrees at 3 hours for pastrami. The corned beef was AWESOME! but the pastrami was super tough even though I identified grain direction and cut very thin pieces across it . Very disappointed. This experience caused me to revisit the how low is low and why question.
  2. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well there's your problem. 200˚ for 3 hours isn't nearly long or hot enough. Brisket gets "done" when the combination of heat and time break down the connective tissue holding the fibers together. You just didn't give it enough heat or enough time. At 200˚ you probably would have needed 8+ hours, possibly many more even for a small piece of brisket.

    As for your other question, there are a few very specific instances where temps in the mid 100's are appropriate, such as in sausage making. However, for most other meats, brisket, ribs, chicken etc... there really is no point in smoking at such low temps as the meat will cook and tenderize just fine with higher heat and shorter times. Food safety is another concern, as in general practice the more quickly you can get a piece of (uncured) meat through the temperature danger zone (~40˚-140˚) the better.

    Welcome aboard and enjoy yourself, there's a lot of great info to be had here, and we look forward to learning from you as well.
  3. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    FlyerTier Welcome to SMF you can do the smoke at that temp, as long as you let it get up to temp that would have broken the meat down.

    What was the IT of the pastrami when you pulled it?

  4. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I bet chef jj will be along shortly, he is really good at explaining the food safety issue to folks. But I will try. You want to get past 140 degrees internal on a large cut of meat in 4 hours or less. That is the reason for 225 being the golden ticket for your smoker. That said, small cuts of meat could be smoked at lower temperatures as long as this rule is followed. This applies to uncured fresh meat weather it is marinaded, rubbed or brined. You can cold smoke as long as you can keep your smoking chamber below 40 degrees which would be pretty tough this time of year. So the rule of thumb is 40 to 140 in 4 hours or less. Do you have a reliable meat thermometer like a maverick or similar that you have checked out with the boil test for accuracy? That pastrami sounds like it was no where near done. I have only done pastrami 1 time and I lucked out as I didn't know half of what I know now from being on this site since 2010. I hope this helps you out. Happy smoking. timber
  5. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    By the way welcome aboard and don't be shy about asking for help.
  6. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome from Canada, FT,


    As others have stated, the main reason for cooking at a higher temperature is to keep food in the safe temperature zones as much as possible. Lower temperatures are used for smoking cured meat (bacon, ham, cured sausages) where the curing agent keeps meat safe and allows for longer smoking time and stronger smoking flavour. Colder smoking is used for cheese so it doesn't melt.

    If I was doing a butt for a long smoke, I just wouldn't go below 220 F as I would be afraid of bacterial toxins forming if the meat is in the danger zone below 140 F any longer.

    I look forward to your posts!

  7. Welcome to the forum, sounds like you already got some input on it being tough, Low and slow, 3 hours doesn't seem near long enough 

    Gary S
  8. Welcome aboard,

    just my thoughts but i have had brisket go well into 12-18 hrs at a low temp (once across the 140 hurdle)

  9. Thanks for the education and guidance. The information makes sense about the pastrami time and temp. To answer Meat Mopper's question, I'd have to reclaim some brain cells to recall that IT. Sorry, the memory ain't was it used to be.

    Timberjet, I do have a nice thermometer and have used it to check the accuracy of the smoker's readout-gadgetry. Now that I have a better understanding, it's definitely time to attempt another pastrami. As I look back on the beef results from that little bullet shaped smoker, it continues to make sense that I wasn't using enough heat for enough time. So, the "lighter" cuts of meat were cooking sufficiently while the thicker beef cuts hadn't really been cooked properly to soften the protein fibers.

    Using lower temps with cured meats makes sense and I was assuming there was a health component to the temp used. I need to continue my smoking education to fully understand the temp vs. time topic. Guess that will require more meat!

    Thank again everyone.
  10. nice bullies [​IMG]
  11. garyhibbert

    garyhibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★


    Welcome to the Smoking forum. You’ll find great , friendly people here, all more than willing to answer any question you may have. Just ask and you’ll get about 10 different answers—all right. LOL. Don’t forget to post qviews.

  12. PlainBob, thanks for the complement. Those bullies have been gone 5 years now, but we had them a good long time.

    Gary, I'm ok with with a variety of answers; the fun of cooking is experimentation...or is it the eating? By the way your tag line couldn't be more true!

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