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What is the longest time you have held a pork butt in a Cambro / cooler?

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    What is the longest time you have held a pork butt in a Cambro / cooler?

    We are going camping this weekend and I want to smoke a 6lb pork shoulder (for pulled pork) and take it with us.

    4.5 hour drive + 1 hour tent setup time = ~6 hours holding time. I can time the pork butt to finish cooking just before I leave. I have several different size coolers, plenty of aluminum foil and one of these microwaveable heat pads: https://tinyurl.com/3xwxmtrm

    Looking for feedback on anyone who has attempted this. Thanks in advance!

    Are you going to eat it right as you get there? If so, do you really need to setup the tent (and... an HOUR for that? I want pics of this pleasure dome!!! ).

    Your other option would be to make it ahead, pull, cool and reheat. Mostly you want to avoid lots of time in the 40-140 zone. If you do try this, I'd also insulate it well in the cooler - towels, etc etc.


      A lot depends on your cooler, and how well you wrap it all up. 6 hours would be pushing it I think. The longest I've done is 5 hours and it was pretty close to 140* when I decided to be safe and throw it into a 170* warming drawer in my oven. I'd probably be inclined to take rickgregory's advice and cook and pull ahead of time and then reheat when you arrive. Dump it all into a large tinfoil pan with the juices and perhaps some sauce, cover, then heat. Whatever you decide, make sure you monitor the temp if you decide to cook and then pull when you arrive.


        Thanks for the feedback, so the 140 danger zone is really what I need to be worried about. I was thinking of a double-cooler w/ towels. (pork in a foil pan, inside a soft-sided cooler, then into my Coleman "5 day" cooler).

        I've also heard about pre-heating the hard side cooler with boiling water.

        I think I'm inclined to try it, if the temp drops too low I can throw it into my dutch oven on the Coleman stove (or campfire if someone else has one going already when we get there.


        • lostclusters
          lostclusters commented
          Editing a comment
          +1 on what rickgregory said. When I cook it not uncommon for it to sit on my counter all day to be snacked on. I know that is going to drive the food safety folks bananas. After sitting on the counter all day it could sit in the fridge for two weeks and still be fine. I have never had any ill effects from this process.

          But I would still preheat the cooler and consider adding hot bricks, bricks heated to about 170 degrees and insulated with towels so you do not have a melted cooler.
          Last edited by lostclusters; May 27, 2021, 12:58 PM.

        • smokenoob
          smokenoob commented
          Editing a comment
          I like the hot water bottle in the faux cambro idea, fill with boiling water?

        • Le Grill
          Le Grill commented
          Editing a comment
          smokenoob yes boiling water. Before adding towels and wrapped meat, fill empty cooler with boiling water and close the lid for 30 minutes. (Then I dump the water and add meat wrapped in towels)

        You will be just fine. Pack the pork, wrap it in towels and fill the cooler with more towels to eliminate open space in the cooler. Heating the hard side cooler with hot water is also a great way to go, I do that with my YETI all the time and it will hold hot food for hours and hours.


          12 hours in a cooler sitting in the sun all day.


            I was wonderin just how long & then read the rest of the sentence where it says “ in a Cambro / cooler”. Changed my whole train of thought, yessir!


            • Jerod Broussard
              Jerod Broussard commented
              Editing a comment
              Yeah, if you can hold for more than 5 seconds, she's definitely in heat.

            Wrap it good and keep it in a cooler and it will be fine.


              I've held a brisket 6 hours and it was still 150F when I pulled it out of the cooler! The trick is to wrap in several layers of foil, as quick as it comes off the smoker, then in several towels, and then into the smallest good cooler you have that will hold the butt. We are looking to not heat air space in the cooler here. I think you will be fine, assuming it is an 8-10 pound butt, and you get it wrapped and into the cooler while it is still over 200F.

              The concern is the time UNDER 140F, and for food safety, your are supposed to consume or refrigerate if it is under 140F for more than 2 hours. I think you will be fine.

              The other option if you just don't think you can hold it, is to do it sooner, go ahead and pull the pork, bag it up, and reheat on site. Pulled pork reheats pretty well, and if you include a BBQ sauce, most folk won't know the difference. That way you can carry it in the cooler on ice, and not worry about timing at all.
              Last edited by jfmorris; May 27, 2021, 03:27 PM.


                Overnight until a late lunch the next day. But I cheated and warmed them up to 180 for an hour in the oven the next morning then re-cambroed.


                  I held one for 10-12 hours this past Saturday/ Sunday. I cooked a 10 lb butt and it came off the pit at 198* at 10pm (already foil wrapped at the stall) and I wrapped it in a beach towel and put it into the cooler. Woke up and shredded it the next morning and it was still warm, juicy, and tender.

                  Butts were on sale this week so I cooked another Sunday (they take up less space in the freezer when cooked, shredded, and vacuum sealed flat.) I pulled it off the pit at 1:30am Monday - same method as the previous night with the towel and cooler. At 7:30am it was still too hot to hand shred so I put it back into the cooler and shredded it during my lunch hour at noon.


                    UPDATE: It was a success!! I held for 6 hours and it was still at 160.
                    It was actually one of the better pork shoulders I cooked in a while, super tender!!
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