Total Newb, looking for suggestions for first smoke

Discussion in 'Pork' started by chowdahead, Dec 15, 2015.

  1. chowdahead

    chowdahead Newbie

    Hi guys, I just got a Master Built electric smoker and want to start with a pork butt or shoulder with some nice bark on it. I am a trained chef, but haven't done much smoking yet. What do you suggest for wood? Brine and or rub? And how long and hot? I know it's a lot of questions. Just want to get the first one off nicely. Thanks. :grilling_smilie:
  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hey Chowdahead, welcome to SMF.  Be sure to stop in over at Roll Call so folks can give you a proper Howdy!

    As a trained chef you have a pretty good idea how to turn protein into smiles.  Think of your smoker as a smoky oven and the wood as another flavor ingredient. 

    What wood?  Fruit woods like apple and pear work great.  If you want a little heavier smoke flavor, throw some hickory, pecan, or oak in the mix too.  When I first started smoking I really couldn't tell much difference between wood flavors. That changed with time. 

    Brine?  When I do brine I use an apple cider base instead of water, unless I'm doing Cuban, then I use OJ.  I like to add just a tad of curing salt to the brine to give the pulled pork just a bit of a hammy flavor.  I also inject the brine into the meat.  Brining isn't necessary, and I don't do it much these days, but it can enhance the flavor.

    Rub?  Find one with paprika, cinnamon, salt, sugar, garlic, onion and black pepper.  There are a lot of recipes in the Search function.  Choose one that strikes your fancy.

    You didn't ask but wrap or no wrap?  No wrap will give a great bark.  Wrapping at the stall with a little apple cider will give no bark but maximize the gelatin you can add back to the meat later.  I like to wrap at an internal temperature of 180F.  I get a nice bark and a nice amount of gelatin to add back to the pulled meat.

    What temp and for how long?  Ooooh, dem's close fightin' words around here.  There's the low and slow club, 225F for 2 to 2.25 hours per pound.  There's the hot n fast club, which is 275F-325F for about 45 minutes to an hour/lb. I've done it all but have jumped on the hot n fast bandwagon.   Heck, once I wrap the meat if the smoker climbs to 400F due to all the air feeding the fire, I just let I cruise.  You won't have that issue with your MES

    When is it done?  When a fork slides in easily and the bone wiggles freely.  If checking internal temperature of the meat, a low n slow can be done at 190-200F, a hot n fast at 205F to a little higher.  I've always aimed for the sweet spot of 203-207F if smoking at 250F or higher.   

    Don't be shy about adjusting the flavor at the end of the smoke with more rub if necessary.  I've had butts done exactly the same way that are full of flavor, other's not so much. 

    And don't forget about a finishing sauce.  Chef JJ's Finishing Sauce is a staple with pulled pork around here.  I keep it in a squirt bottle in the fridge and let folks use as much or as little as they like.  Use the search feature again to find the easy recipe.

    Have fun with the butt/shoulder!  Keep us posted how it turns out for you. 

    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
  3. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Start off with chicken, it's cheap and a relative short cook time. Once you have learned about your smoker, then you can move onto more expensive cuts of meat.

    Always a good starting point is to take a look at Bears Step by Step. These are all cooked on a Master Built, you will not go wrong if you follow him!
  4. zach5483

    zach5483 Fire Starter

    When I do my Boston butts, I go by Alton Brown's Brine, and my own butt rub I make, and I put that sucker on the smoker at 225-250 until the internal reaches 200.  It usually takes about 8hrs.  I like to smoke heavily for half the time, wrap it in tin foil, then I might just finish it in the oven.  It is an electric smoker, without the smoke, after all.  If I transfer to oven, or halfway, I usually wrap in tin foil, maybe put a pat of butter.  When it reaches temp, leave wrapped, and put in a clean cooler to rest for a few hours.  It will stay warm for hours.  Trust me, I have pulled it out 2-3hrs later, and still been too hot to shred.

     I prefer Hickory smoke, but if you want a milder smoke, pecan or apple.  Any hard wood that produces fruit or nuts really.  I had a Hickory tree fall in my yard, and I cut up sticks for use in my smoker.

    If you do not have a probe thermometer, I would advise getting one.  An el cheapo will run you $20-$40.  As far as a butt rub goes, you can buy one, or use what you have in the pantry.  It is basically salt, pepper, garlic, onion, etc, etc.  Just google recipes.  Although, if you brine it, you may not need as much salt.  Just add whatever you think would taste good. A lot of people us sugar, but I do not like to.  Some guys put mustard on before, I do not. 

    What do you suggest for wood?  HIckory

    Brine and or rub?  Both

    And how long and hot?  225-250 until internal temp reaches 200.  Takes 6-12 hours depending on size of butt, not yours.

    - This video he injects, but I don't like it.  It pokes holes in the meat.  Brine is the way to go in my opinion.  Use that osmotic pressure to season the inside.
  5. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    First, hello Chowdahead, and welcome to our forums!

    Most of your questions require answers that are you can see from the previous posts, every cook has differing prep and cooking methods that work for each of us.  You will likely try multiple methods and preps before you decide for yourself what is best for you.  

    For me, I find brining a pork butt/shoulder to be unnecessary.  The fat/collagen in a butt will render/break down during the smoke and leave a very tasty and moist final product.  

    I like a stronger smoke profile in pork, so I generally smoke with hickory.  

    I like to smoke pork butts at a cooker temp of around 250*.  

    I don't care whether my pulled pork has a heavy bark or not - just not that important to us - so I generally foil my butts when they reach the stall (usually an internal temp of around 175*), then crank the smoker temp up to around 300* to help power through the stall.  

    I usually cook until an IT of around 205*, give or take.  

    Trying to guess how long it will take is dicey.  Lots of variables, and every pork butt I've ever done was different.  I generally allow for around 2 hours per raw pound of meat, then tack on at least one additional hour just to be safe.  Then, if its done sooner than that, It can rest in the oven or in a dry cooler for 2 or 3 hours if necessary before pulling and serving.

    Hope that helps...good luck!  And be sure to post some pics to show off your results!  You've picked a pretty easy and forgiving cut of meat for your first smoke, so I'm sure it's gonna turn out great!

  6. I just did a 13lb butt roast at deer camp with excellent results! It took 16 hours in the smoker! I used a mustard and applewood rub (I've tried my hand at rubs and a friend turned me to the McCormicks Applewood Rub). I cooked at 215-225 for the majority of the time and used beer water and apple cider vinegar in my steam pan. Wood chips were applewood and pecan. Later on I threw a few hickory chips in as well. I didn't trim anything, cover anything and just waited for the 195-200 mark, pulled and let sit with foil for an hour. The bone literally fell out when touching it. Here's a pic of the final product.
  7. chowdahead

    chowdahead Newbie

    Thanks for all the suggestions! I'll post a follow up later once I finish.
  8. chowdahead

    chowdahead Newbie

    Came out amazing. Stalled out for a couple hours and had to finish in the oven before my guests ate the table. Cooked them for 11 hours and then 45 minutes in the oven and an hour rest. Bone fell out, nice bark and super moist. Used jj's finishing sauce and some homeade Dr Pepper Bbq sauce. Everyone loved it. Thanks for the suggestions!!
  9. chowdahead

    chowdahead Newbie

  10. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Awesome...looks great!  Glad to hear it was such a success...nicely done! 


  11. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Chowdahead, now don't forget about us.  As a chef I'm sure your creative mental juices are already flowing how to make it better next time.  We'd love to hear what's bouncing around inside your cranium. 

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