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Low and Slow vs. Not-so-Low and Not-so-Slow

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    Low and Slow vs. Not-so-Low and Not-so-Slow

    I am taking a bit of a to-PBC or not-to-PBC approach to this. Also, I am limiting my 'this vs that' to the cuts that take a really long time to cook: Butt, Brisket and chuck roast.

    A lot of people on this site absolutely rave about the Pit Barrel. One of the advantages is that with a hotter burn (270-280 range) it can cut the cook time down by 1/2 or more. That is big. My first question is: what are the trade offs? Do these cuts come out as tender as a really long cook, say 16 hours at 225 in a dedicated smoker? Are they juicier, the same, or drier? What's the difference between a brisket in the PBC vs a brisket on a WSM at 225 which is then wrapped to power through the stall? I've got to believe 16 hours low and slow unwrapped will develop more bark than what 7 hours in a PBC can produce.

    I am fairly new to smoking and am usually seeking perfection when I cook. What I am trying to figure out is what are the advantages to going low-and-slow without wrapping for upwards of 16 hours at the 220-225 range vs going hotter and faster in a device like the PBC.

    A lot will come down to your personal preferences. I have cooked from 225 to 300, wrapped and unwrapped, and there are definitely differences. Personally I think the bark can get too thick and dry, and to me the internal moisture is more important, so I wrap mine every time. As far as tenderness goes, I don't really notice a difference between 225 and 275. If I don't let it rest for a while I notice less tenderness and moisture, but that's about it.

    Cook them both ways and see which you prefer.


      Originally posted by John View Post
      . Personally I think the bark can get too thick and dry
      Good to know. My 14.5 WSM absolutely cranks out steam and humidity when water is in the bowl, so much so that bark won't even develop until the bowl has run dry. I guess if I were trying a REALLY long cook in that little cooker I could always add more water if the bark was getting to thick and dry. It's certainly easier than spritzing every half hour or so, especially if I have food on both grates which is usually the case in such a small cooker.


        I do butts on the PBC quite often and leave them unwrapped the entire time.

        I'm within a mile or two of the ocean and at sea-level and I've adjusted my vent to be a little less open than recommended. I get my 40 briquettes glowing hot, dump them in, spread them around the top of the basket a bit and throw my meat on and pop on the cover. My PBC tends to hold right around 225-230 and if the temp drops below 225 I crack the lid one centimeter until it reads 250. It quickly drops back to and holds around 225-230 again. I'll do this 2-3x a cook and it's lovely.

        My PBC is a smoker. Just what I wanted.


        • JeffJ
          JeffJ commented
          Editing a comment
          Interesting. It sounds like most people are running their PBC's quite a bit hotter than that. With butts at what point do you take them to the grate? Do you wrap or just let them go naked for the entire cook?

        • Cidergregg
          Cidergregg commented
          Editing a comment
          A few cooks ago I used a lot of twine and hung the butt until I used all of my fuel, at which point I just wrapped and tossed the thing into the oven for my hungry friends.

          I've been doing "buttlets" recently where I'll cut my butt into a couple chunks and those I've just had on the grate the whole time. No twine, no foil. My second to last cook was my best ever and I couldn't believe how succulent everything was.

          I have yet to really experiment with foil and wrapping, but my bark has been amazing.

          I can be a pretty lazy/distracted cook, so just needing my 2-3 small heat tweaks has been perfect. I do love my PBC. Makes me want to sell my little 14.5 WSM.

        The butts I did last week were held at 225-230 for about 7 of the 11 or so hours, then I let the smoker have its head and climb slowly to about 270 over the next four hours, where the smaller butt hit 203. I did put a water pan in as an experiment, but removed it after an hour. No crutch, forced through the stall with temp. Good bark, good moisture.


        • JeffJ
          JeffJ commented
          Editing a comment
          I did chucks in my 14.5 WSM this past weekend. I employed a similar technique but kind of by accident. I was holding a steady 230-240 and I started with the water pan about 2/3 (maybe a bit more - hard to see with all of the steam cranking out) full. When the pan ran dry the temp spiked to 271. I closed the top vent almost all of the way (bottom vents were 3/4 open) but because the air was already so still in the courtyard it didn't cut the draft all that much and the temp dropped to 264 where it stayed for more than an hour. The higher temp DID however power my chuckers through the stall and now that the cooker was running dry they developed good bark. I brought the internal temp up to 205 and did the cambro for almost 2 ours. The meat was tender but not quite falling apart-tender. I am guessing that is what the really long low and slow delivers - meat that literally falls apart. I am just trying to ascertain how much better, if at all, that degree of tenderness truly is.

        This is what boftx had to say on the 'blue smoke' thread:

        "In my (not so) humble opinion, perfect pulled pork is all about how long it takes to go from 170 to 203 degrees internal temp. The longer the better! You can mess with the flavor all you want, but texture and tenderness is what it is all about."

        What I am trying to figure out is how to get the meat to be fall-apart tender without wrapping, spritzing or cooking for 16 hours straight. Upon reflection, it seems to me that my sublime accident this past weekend may hold the key. Using my 14.5 WSM.....'The Soo' consists of running the WSM with the bowl empty until a nice bark develops and then spritz. I employed 'the reverse Soo'. I started with boiling water in the bowl about 2/3 full. The stall lasted about 3 hours and then the bowl went dry and the temperature spiked which powered the meat through the remainder of the stall. I brought temps down some from the 271 spike but for most of the remainder of the cook it was around 250 and I hit 205 internal quicker than I wanted. This is what I am going to try next: 'Reverse Soo' with less water in the bowl so that it starts to run hot closer to the beginning of the stall. Let the temperature spike when the bowl runs dry and power through to 280. At that point choke down the cooker a bit and bring the temp back down to the 210-230 range and let it run for as long as needed to come up to at least 195, preferably just over 200. I'd like to accomplish all of this within a 10-hour cook. If what @botfx said is true I might be able to very closely replicate a 16 hour cook at 225 the whole way in a 10-hour cook.


          JeffJ You can set up your cooker perfectly but don't overlook the quality of the meat that you are cooking.
          I stopped fighting the PBC's temp. It will cook at whatever temp it feels like on that day.


            Originally posted by Ernest View Post
            JeffJI stopped fighting the PBC's temp. It will cook at whatever temp it feels like on that day.
            On a different thread someone (I can't recall whom) commented that the PBC doesn't generate much smoke flavor. It was your reply that got me to re-think my technique a bit (paraphrased from memory): "The PBC is not a grill and it's not a smoker. It's a cooker and a damn fine one. It just wants to cook, so let it."

            It was in the back of my mind when my temp spiked in my WSM last weekend. I decided to leave it be, for the most part and the cook was very successful. I just let it cook through the stall. Now, the next thing I am going to try is after it cooks through the stall bringing the temp way down back to smoker levels and let the temperature of the meat climb very slowly to it's ideal internal temp.

            We'll see how it goes with my next cook.



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