smoking pork butt: how come I finish so fast

Discussion in 'Grilling Pork' started by beth, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. beth

    beth Newbie

    Hi All:

    About a year ago, I bought a used Pitts and Spitts horizontal offset smoker.

    I learned how to use it by using this forum (Thanks!)

    Question:  I have mostly been smoking pairs of pork butt.  Following Jeff's directions, I smoke it at 225F. ( and I have used an extra thermometer placed inside the smoker to verify that the one attached to the smoker gives a valid reading).

    I have finally learned how to keep the temperature fairly even and have gotten comfortable with producing TBS.  According to Jeff's directions, pork butt should take about 10-12 hours to cook at 225F.

    I CONSISTENTLY have my butts reaching about 200F after only about three hours!!!  (I am smoking right now.  After 2.5 hours in the 225F smoker I am already at about 180F.  (It is sunny and warm today:  in the 70s)

    Any thoughts?

    Is this a bad thing (would I get more flavor if it indeed took longer to cook)?

    Why is this happening?  I living in San Diego where the air is relatively warm and dry year round.  Could the ambient weather effect the cooking time?  Or, is my fast cooking time due to operator error?

    Also, I notice that my finished butts are as tender as I know they can be.  Is this because mine cook so fast?

    What say you?
  2. beth

    beth Newbie the way:  for the entire process, I use very dry apple wood and the ultimate result is a very mild smoke flavor.
  3. beth

    beth Newbie

    opps:  correction:  My pork butts are NOT as tender as I think they could be!!!!!!!!
  4. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    All I can say is If you are sure that your temp probes are accurate, and you check them in boiling water each time you use them, the butts are done when they are done. Personally I have never heard of pork butt being done in that time frame. The last one's I did took almost 20 hours. I think your smoker temps. must be higher than 225. Maybe someone will come along with more insight.
  5. redneck69

    redneck69 Smoking Fanatic

    i would do a boil test on your thermometers to verify they are correct to start with.  to get the "tender" pork shoulder you should double wrap in foil when they reach 165 internal temp and take out when they reach 205 internal temp and wrap in a towel and put in a cooler for a few hours to get them real tender and juicy.
  6. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hmmm, I'm no expert with offsets, using a propane smoker myself but it sounds to me like they are still cooking way to fast hence not being fall apart tender. You did not mention how big the butts were but even so that's pretty fast even for a small one. Whatever therm you are using inside the unit I would check in boiling water to see if it's close to 212. I'm assuming it's an oven type and those can also be off by 25+ degrees or so. If you're using a probe type to check the meat or an instant read check those as well. Hope this helps, I'm sure others will be along soon with more input for you.
  7. beth

    beth Newbie

    thanks, I'll do this right away....I have the foil in hand!

    And I will check my thermometer.  Never had tried that!
  8. beth

    beth Newbie

    Right now, I am smoking two butts with a total raw weight of 18.7 pounds.

    I have been relying on the thermometer supplied with the smoker AND an inexpensive thermometer that I put inside the smoker (both come close to the same readings).  In addition, I have been using a probe thermometer.

    One thing I noticed is that my smoker temp has a tendency to creep up to about 250 degrees instead of 225.  I try to keep is steady at 225, but I have not perfected that yet!

    To keep the smoker at what I believe to be in the neighborhood of 225, I have been adding sticks of applewood about 3 times per hour.  That seemed excessive to me, but that is what it has taken to keep my thermometer hovering around 225 (albeit with the spikes in T going to 250).  (Maybe I need to review this protocol!)

    I just finished the test of my probe thermometer.  Boiling water:  212f.  check.  Thermometer placed inside the smoker on top of one of the butts right next to the smokers built in thermometer yields comparable results.

    Hmmmm....I did notice that the temp is higher closer to the fire box (the thermometer is located about 2/3 of the way away from the firebox.)  Given my experience with fast processing, maybe I should move the meat to the far end of the smoker) what?  maybe i need to experiment with trying to keep a steady temperature of 225 or LOWER!  (since I am prone to temperature spikes up to 250??)  Even so, it seems that I get done awfully fast!

    By butts are now wrapped in foil still in the smoker, but I have let the Temp fall a bit.  My cooler awaits their addition.  I'll let you know if this helps my tenderness problem.

    By the way, even though my butts have been smoking on average for only 3-4 hours, they still taste better than any other methods I've use for cooking.  I am just looking at maximizing my art!
  9. redneck69

    redneck69 Smoking Fanatic

    you can install more thermometers on the lid of your smoker as close to grate level as possible.  that way you can monitor the temp on both sides of your smoker.  i have a cheapo charbroil offset and did that with mine.  
  10. ravanelli

    ravanelli Fire Starter

    Hi Beth.  I have a horizontal offset, and I've found two things to be true:  1) The temperature is in fact 10-15 warmer nearer the firebox, even with accessories like convection plates, etc.  For a longer smoke you might move the meat to the other end and 2) The temperature is warmer at grate level than it is the "outer rim" of the smoker cylinder, because that's the path the smoke wants to take towards the chimney, sort of analogous to water going through a pipe.  The built-in thermometer probe is nearer to this outer edge, so it's reading is going to be lower probably.  For me, this means that my thermometer is typically 10-20 degrees cooler than where the meat is.  

    One thing you can do is take your digital thermometer and stick it through a potato and lay it on the grate (I learned this in Jeff's e-course), thereby testing the temperature at grate level.  This way you can sort of calibrate your reading on the built-in.  Good luck!

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