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Smoking At Altitude

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    Smoking At Altitude

    I smoke at 8,000 feet, where water boils at 198 degrees. I just started using a Camp Chef Smoke Pro 24DLX. The "high smoke" setting cooks at about 225 degrees.
    The last time I smoked baby back ribs on this machine using the 3-2-1 method, the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, but dry.
    What steps do I need to take at this altitude to get ribs that are fall-off-the-bone tender but still have some moisture left?

    Welcome to The Pit.

    Sorry, but I've never cooked at high altitude, so I can't help


      Like the question so I did an internet search. This is what I found, also the use of a water pan.
      High-altitude cooking

      High-altitude cooking is cooking done at altitudes that are considerably higher than sea level. At elevated altitudes, any cooking that involves boiling or steaming generally requires compensation for lower temperatures because the boiling point of water is lower at higher altitudes due to the decreased atmospheric pressure. The effect starts to become relevant at altitudes above approximately 2,000 feet. Means of compensation include extending cooking times or using a pressure cooker to provide higher pressure inside the cooking vessel and hence higher temperatures.


        Welcome to the Pit!!

        I’m a bit of a newbie myself, still learning, but I’m also at 6,000 ft. Definitely a different type of beast up here. I don’t know if it’s an altitude thing or a humidity thing (or lack thereof), fighting dry meat has been my biggest challenge. But I cook on a Weber kettle, which tends to be dryer than pellets. Anyway, first, I’ve had no luck with back ribs. I’ve had St. Louis ribs come out well, but all my back ribs come out way too dry. I’ve learned to save those for baking in the oven during winter. Also, I’ve found that use of a water pan is essential. Finally, I’ve started basting the meat every two or three hours with apple cider vinegar (though I suppose any liquid would do). I’ve found that this combination helps to keep the meat, and especially the outer bark, from drying out too much.

        Hope this helps. I cook on a Weber kettle with a SNS, which tends to be dryer than pellets anyway, so some of this may or may not be helpful.


          For smoking and grilling way down here at 6300 ft. msl, I make no adjustments at all. I just cook to internal temp. (190F min. for ribs) and don’t bother with "methods" like "3-2-1" or with wrapping. You might want to have a look at Meathead’s "Last Meal Ribs" in the recipe section of the free side of the site for some good suggestions.


            Isn't it illegal, including tampering with the restroom smoke detectors?


            • Craigar
              Craigar commented
              Editing a comment
              I remember smoking at 30k ft. back when it was legal. Scotch in one hand and a Winston in the other.

            I had a hell of a time cooking on a Weber at 6200 elevation at Lake Tahoe. There was a bbq joint up there that was good, so it can be done. Maybe spray with water every hour or less if the surface looks dry or pour boiling water in a pan for steam every hour. Good luck. It’s a skill set not many possess.


              MtnWalker I used to live in Colorado at 7600'. Always used a water pan to get moisture in the cooker because the air is so dry. Also plan on longer cook times than recipes show.


                I live at 9100 here in Colorado. You will have to lower your cook temp by 2 degrees for every thousand feet in elevation above 3000ft, so you need to be cooking in the 210 to 215 degree range. Adding the water pan will help and your cook times will extend 30-45 minutes on ribs. Given you won't be cooking on the high smoke setting, you may also want to add a smoke tube to amp up the smoke if the lower temp isn't giving you the flavor profile you want.

                When you do a brisket or pork butt, your done temp will be in the mid 190's as you won't be able to get to the 200 mark without cooking all the moisture out.


                  Boost the BTU of your pellet fuel! Add charcoal pellets to your mix. I usually cook a contest with 60 lbs. of pellets. I can get the same cooking time out of 40 lbs. of Jack Daniel's pellets. I think any charcoal pellet would do the same or similar though. I'm not excited about the Royal Oak charcoal pellets. Cleaned out the RT yesterday and the ash was exceedingly sandy. Didn't care for the cooking performance either. Hard to light and temp swings.


                  • tstalafuse
                    tstalafuse commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I am not impressed with the Royal Oak charcoal pellets either. They didn't seem to be any better than the Pit Boss Charcoal pellets and were almost twice as expensive. I guess I will have to give JD a try.

                  First, I would like to thank everyone for their suggestions.

                  Based on these I decreased my cook temperature to 210. Starting at noon, I smoked the ribs for two hours unwrapped, then three hours loosely wrapped in butcher paper with apple juice. After five hours I unwrapped them, put on sauce, and put them back in the smoker.

                  At 6:00 pm I took their temperature, and they were at 137 degrees, ten degrees cooler than when I removed them from the butcher paper. At 7:00 pm I again took their temperature, and they were still at 137 degrees. The water pan was still nearly full.

                  Since these were for dinner that night, I kicked the cook temperature to 300. After an hour the temperature of the ribs was 193, and they still retained some moisture, although the water pan was now dry. I removed them, let them rest 15 minutes, and we ate dinner. They still retained some moisture, but were also still clinging to the bones.

                  For my next attempt I'll cook them at 225, unwrapped, for seven hours, adding the sauce for the final hour, if their temperature is in the 170s or better.



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