I need help with a pork butt!

Discussion in 'Pork' started by karenychin, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. karenychin

    karenychin Newbie

    I just got an electric masterbuilt 40" for my wedding and Im attempting to smoke a pork shoulder to no avail.

    Ive tried 2 pork shoulders so far but the meat doesn't fall off the bone, and we have to work hard to to shred it. 

    The first butt I got a whole foods, approx 4 lbs. I coated it with rub, put it in the fridge overnight. I left it out for one hr so it was closer to room temp. I tied it up with string, I put it in the smoker at a temp of 240, and when the internal temp of the pork was about 140, I took it out, wrapped it in foil, then put it back in the smoker. This was about 3 hrs in. After another 2 hours, the butt was at 195. I took it out to find that the meat was not peeling off easily at all, got freaked out, but it back in the smoker for another 2 hours, until the meat was around 205. When I took the pork out, I let it sit for about 15 min. I found the meat to be easier to shred slightly (I still needed a knife) but drier than the first time I took it out.

    Smoky flavor was good and it was tender, it just didnt shred.

    I thought maybe Whole foods meat didn't have enough fat in it, so for my second attempt I went to a specialty meat shop for another 4.5 lb butt. I did the same routine as the last time, but this time my ovens temperature was at 210. Also, this time, I put my shoulder in and didn't take it back out to wrap it in foil. I waited until the butt was at 190, took it out, waited for about 45 min. This took about 6-7 hrs for cooking, same as the last time. The one thing I did wrong, was I had to run an errand right before the pork was done and the internal temp of the meat was 170, climbing fast. So I took the internal oven temp down to 190 for 2 hrs, then when I got back, I took it back to 210 for an hour, the meat climbed up from 180 to 190 in a hour. I just doubt that a change like that would screw anything up, but maybe im wrong.

    The meat was more tender than the first try, and pulled easier. But the bone never could come out clean without some work with a knife.

    Both times the meat reached the internal temp pretty steadily and didn't stall. Would injecting the meat, a mop, or taking off the rope around the butt make any difference at all during this process? the pork is far aways from pulling off the bone. Any help would be appreciated!

    Is the masterbuilt ovens readings accurate? Im thinking I should use another internal thermometer and or oven thermometer to make sure the smoker is correct.
  2. terry colwell

    terry colwell Smoking Fanatic

    Karen,, Check your thermos and calibrate them. Your oven can be 50 to 100 degrees.  I leave mine in the smoker till the I.T. is 165 then take it and foil it till it is 205 for PP. If your doing it inside and you have a Crock pot you can also cook it that way and it will fall apart. just put it in on low for around 8 hours..
  3. larrym

    larrym Meat Mopper

    In my humble opinion,, nooo.  The standard thermometer is not accurate.

    I have a 30" MES , the old analog version and my temp is about 25 degrees off.  If you just want to get started playing with smoker,, get an oven thermometer that hangs on oven rack inside.  Test it first with your stove,, see how accurate it is.  I have one and it is pretty close.  I dont have money to buy a good one and with my old unit, no place to put a new unit with sensors.  I am a new smoker but you want to go an average of 1 hour per 1.5 lbs of meat.  Dont try to use cook book and go with times,, you want to use the temp guide.  You are correct on your temps, just the thermometer is not accurate.  I have done a couple nice pulled porks using a different thermometer.  I dont use the foil method as wife likes a dry crust, even sacrificing 1/4" of meat, she likes that chewy bit.  Once internal temp hits 195,, it is ready to pull  n rest :)  Hope it works out for you,, still fighting mine with outside temps being in the mid 90's.  But the MES works great with a little tweaking :)
  4. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    It sounds to me like the MES is running hotter than you think.

    You need a reliable therm at the grate level & adjust the controller to what the therm says.

    In other words if your controller is set at 240, but the smoker is really running at 280.

    It's OK you just need to know the difference & adjust for it.
  5. werdwolf

    werdwolf Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    First check and calibrate your thermometer.. check the temp on the MES and Stove. make sure the probe is not touching bone when your are smoking. Make sure to rest it in towels and cooler at least an hour. My guess is that once you have this all figured out things will go smoother and you will have very tender PP. I will try to start mine around 4 PM. once I get to about 160 I will foil and then leave it in the smoker or the oven at 200 overnight. wake up at rest it right away.
  6. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'm with these guys you need to make sure your thermometers are accurate. If the meat is at 200 internal temp it should pull like a dream. Also you might want to try wrapping it in foil/towels and then putting it in the cooler to rest for a few hours. That will help make it even more tender.
  7. teeznuts

    teeznuts Master of the Pit

  8. larrym

    larrym Meat Mopper

    I have some new potatoes on a baking sheet now,, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with savory herbs and a little bit of hard aged parmesan from Costco.  Outside temp is about 94f,, both my internal oven rack and door thermometer now both showing 225f. The older analog MES units are just so unpredictable,, I took a scouring pad and cleaned off the inside probe portion of the standard thermometer,, once all the old smoke n carbon was off,, it seems fairly consistent. There are a ton of forums out there, letting you know that the old sytle 2 metal thermometers are inconsistent.  Believe them.  If you want to have accurate temp,, something else is required.
  9. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yep, sounds like a hot smoke chamber temp to me. I deliberately ran a hot smoke on a butt a while back (275*, if I recall)...I won't do it again. The bark was great, but even with foiled/towel-wrapped resting, it wouldn't pull.

    220-230* smoke chamber, foil if you like, but not necessary, internal temp of ~200*, and rest in foil/towel for a couple hours should do the trick. If internal temps come up too fast, or you don't rest it to let them come back down slowly, you're doomed. Well, the resting is important, but not as important as the cooking chamber temp.

    Foiling will reduce time in the smoker by allowing the meat to retain more absorbed thermal energy (the foil reflects the radient heat back to the meat), but the trade-off is reduced bark formation (some folks love it, and for others it's all about the meat itself) . Also, really long foiled resting periods or temp holding in the smoker/oven will soften the bark.

    Keep trying...you've just got to have a better handle on chamber temps, IMHO. A reasonably accurate grate-level temp reading is a must until you get to know the smoker better.

    BTW, welcome to the SMF family, Karen!

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011
  10. karenychin

    karenychin Newbie

    Thanks Eric!

    Its a little sad that I just got this MES, the newest model, and it seems to be off. Ill do my best to find better thermometers and calibrate them. Hopefully that will work!
  11. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Welcome aboard Karen!

    Don't be sad.  There are very few units being sold that are perfect right out of the box.  The great folks here are happy to help you along your journey.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  12. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Karen, what you have is actually a good thing. Your MES will probably get above 300 degrees, which is perfect for poultry.

    All you need is a good therm so you know the actual grate temp.

    The opposite scenario is, you set the controller at 250 & the true chamber temp is 220. This is not good & you would need a new controller.

    Once you figure out the difference in controller temp & actual temp your smokes will be a piece of cake.
  13. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Absolutely as Rbranstner and others have said let it rest in the ice chest wrapped in foil and towels overnight.  You can wrap in foil anytime but 165 sounds good, leave it wrapped in the smoker till 200 - 205 maybe, then into the ice chest with towels for as long as you wish.  You should be ok for at least 10 hours.  If you are concerned about the butt being dry you can add a bit of finishing sauce when you foil it and make sure you have a little left in there when you move them to the ice chest.  I think this is the most reliable way to get a tender butt,  that and horseback riding! Just put that in there to see if you where paying attention! 

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