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Help- Tough Bark- Pork Shoulder

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  • jkinlaw
    Former Member
    • Jan 2017
    • 4

    Help- Tough Bark- Pork Shoulder

    Hey fellas. So I've done two pork shoulders on my RecTec pellet smoker. The first one was approx 5.4 lbs and I smoked it right around 225 (based on a ET-732 with probe placed center grate). At 11 hours, guests started showing up and I was only at 180- so I wrapped it in foil and the meat was at 203F at about 13 hours. Pulled it and shredded it right away. Bark was pretty good, but meat was a little dry.

    Second attempt- I read the thermodynamics page on this site and realized that I'm at about 7,000 feet and needed to attempt a longer cook at lower temp. This time I had a butt right at 5lbs. Meathead recommends 216F- I was at about 200F for the first 8-9 hours, thinking the smoker temp would creep up on me like the first time, but I finally increased heat around hour 9- and was at 217ish for the remainder of the cook. Meat hit 196 at 16.5 hours and the "stick a fork in it" test proved the meat was ready to remove. Meat was then double wrapped in foil and went into the oven at 170 for about 2.5 hours until we were ready to eat. So here's my issue: meat was moist and tender, bark had a wonderful flavor- BUT the bark was super tough... like JERKY tough... so what gives? Was it because I was at 200 instead of 216 for the first half of the cook?

    A few more details: in both instances- I followed Meathead's Perfect Pulled Pork recipe and dry brined about 24hrs before.
    Last edited by jkinlaw; February 10, 2017, 12:40 AM. Reason: Added details.
  • LA Pork Butt
    Charter Member
    • Dec 2014
    • 5654
    • Grew up in New Orleans, lived in Texas for 20 years, lived in Mandeville, LA for 22 years. I now liv

    #2
    I cook at a much lower altitude, so I don't know anything about the potential altitude effect. Did you use a water pan in your cook? Here is my guess and it,is only a guess. I routinely cook ten pound Boston Butts (top half of the shoulder as opposed to the picnic which is the lower half - like the calf muscle) and have rarely had one go over twelve hours - usually about eleven hours. I think that the length of your cook is what is creating such a dry bark and if you don't have a water pan that is contributing to the problem. Here is one possible solution. When the internal temp reaches 160 or so wrap it and cook wrapped until finished. That should solve the hard bark problem, but it might leave the bark softer than you like. You could try unwrapping it at 190 to help dry out the bark. Be careful the Butt could fall apart when you try to take it out of the foil.

    Comment

    • RonB
      Club Member
      • Apr 2016
      • 13516
      • Near Richmond VA
      • Weber Performer Deluxe
        SNS
        Pizza insert
        Rotisserie
        Smokenator 1000
        Cookshack Smokette Elite
        2 Thermapens
        Chefalarm
        Dot
        lots of probes.
        CyberQ

      #3
      Welcome to The Pit. I wish I could help you, butt someone with more experience will be along shortly.

      My last butt smoked for 15 hrs. I started it around 10:30 PM @ 210* F so that it would not be done before I woke up. Around 7:30 AM I added some charcoal and upped the temp to 225* F. I did wrap @ 180* F. Once it was probe tender it went in a 170* F oven for 2 hours before I shredded it. Most of the bark was very good, butt there were a few tough spots, (mostly corners). I suspect that time is the culprit and that too much time with heat applied dried out the surface, but I'm no expert.

      If you think about it, very low and slow is how you make jerky.

      Comment

      • Lowjiber
        Former Member
        • Nov 2016
        • 313
        • Las Vegas, Nevada

        #4
        I'm anxious to hear all the comments on this one. I've just quit smoking shoulders because consistency of cook times and bark are not worth the effort. I just slap another butt or two on and be in business without babying something that is suspect at best... when cooked by me.

        Comment

        • Steve R.
          Club Member
          • Jul 2016
          • 2498
          • Elizabethtown, KY
          • Current line-up of cookers: Weber 26" kettle w/ SnS and BBQ Guru adapter; Weber Smokey Mountain 22" w/ Guru adapter.

          #5
          I would let the appearance of the bark be my guide as to when to wrap. Sounds like it just stayed in the stall phase for too long.

          Comment

          • SMOG MAN
            Club Member
            • Jan 2016
            • 296
            • San Diego, California
            • Rec Tec 680
              Weber Performer
              Weber Rotisserie for kettle
              Weber Summit
              My old worn out Gasser for burgers

            #6
            I wonder on your first cook if you put the juices from the foil back in the meat? The second cook probably would have been better with a foil wrap after the bark was set. Pulled pork can dry out if pulled apart too early before serving, some here say they add butter or other liquids to help. I switched to Sous Vide and then smoking and my results are great and consistent.

            Comment

            • lschweig
              Former Member
              • Jul 2014
              • 979
              • Oswego, Il

              #7
              I would suggest;
              Wrap once the bark sets to your liking
              Take off cooker when probe tender, start checking when IT gets around 195
              Place in faux cambro for at least an hour two is better, this is an important step
              Save juices from the foil and add back to your pulled pork

              Comment

              • DeusDingo
                Founding Member
                • Jul 2014
                • 1152
                • Madison, WI
                • Weber Q320 grill
                  Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Propane Smoker
                  Maverick and thermo Pen thermometers

                #8
                my bark would get like this if i didn't wrap and especially when my cooks were 23 hours long trying to stay at the "holy" 225. it was inedible, essentially, it was so tough. i have since upped the temp and wrap around the stall (depending on when i want to get done i wrap before or after it). it's much better now. the outside gets dry being exposed to heat for so long. maybe you need to add a water pan?

                Comment

                • CandySueQ
                  Moderator
                  • Jul 2014
                  • 1523
                  • Pellet Fired Jambo, T1000 Woodmaster, FEC100, MAK 2 star, Yoder 640, Backwoods Pellet Chef, 14" & 22" WSM, 22" Weber Kettle, Stoven, Hot Box Grill, Hasty Bake Portable

                  #9
                  Have you verified the temp at the cooking grate of your Rec Tec? High altitude and low oxygen may make a difference. Sounds like your bark went to jerky.

                  I cook at 240 or thereabouts. Have been known to cook at higher temps (275 to 300). Wrap the butt when you like the color. Don't worry that it won't darken, it will!. Most of the time for me, that point is about 155. If you add flavorful liquid in the wrap, it will soften the bark more than just foiling "dry". Even when foiling without liquid (I often do this if the butt has been injected), there's going to be liquid when the butt's done. A rest period never hurts. Drain the liquid out of the foiled butt and strain to remove fat. This is extra juice for the pulled pork. To firm up the bark, I'll apply sauce to the drained butt and put it back in the cooker to set the sauce. Don't close up the foil, just leave it open. After about 20-30 minutes, butt comes out and I'm gathering meat to go in the contest box. Pull off the money muscle and slice, pull chunks off the outside, tubes are interior muscles and a very tasty. I generally don't give judges any pork without bark, that's where the flavor is. Below is a first place pork butt from last September. I did something different with "pork burnt ends" that's the bottom right of the box.
                  Click image for larger version

Name:	pork.JPG
Views:	257
Size:	218.8 KB
ID:	273333

                  Comment

                  • DWCowles
                    Founding Member
                    • Jul 2014
                    • 9696
                    • Smiths Grove, Ky
                    • Hi, my name is Darrell. I'm an OTR truck driver for over 25 years. During my off time I love doing backyard cooks. I have a 48" Lang Deluxe smoker, Rec-Tec pellet smoker,1 Weber Genesis 330, 1 Weber Performer (blue), 2 Weber kettles (1 black and 1 Copper), 1 26" Weber kettle, a WSM, 8 Maverick Redi Chek thermometers, a PartyQ, 2 SnS, Grill Grates, Cast Iron grates, 1 ThermoPop (orange) and 2 ThermoPens (pink and orange) and planning on adding more cooking accessories. Now I have an Anova sous vide, the Dragon blower and 2 Chef alarms from Thermoworks.

                    #10
                    Welcome jkinlaw

                    Comment

                    • vandy
                      Club Member
                      • Aug 2015
                      • 611
                      • Olive Branch, MS

                      #11
                      I cooked 2 8 lb pork butts about 2 weeks apart, both were cooked on my Grilla Silverback. The first one stalled at about 150 and then slowly climbed to 203, the total cook time was 11 hours on this one and it was very tender and juicy with a very good bark that was not tough at all. The second one again stalled at around 150 and it would not go up in temp for a couple hours at 150 then it started climbing very slowly, after about 13 or 14 hours it finally got to 195 and I took it off. The meat was a little dry on the second one and the bark was very tough almost like jerky as some of the rest of you say you have experienced. Both butts were frozen when put on the smoker then I inserted the temp probe at around 120 so I could monitor the IT with my Thermoworks Smoke thermometer. I did not wrap either of the butts, I think it might have something to do with the time it took to get the internal temp up enough to pull the meat that caused the exterior to dry out and cause the tough bark. If I ever have one stall on me for more than an hour or so in the future I think I will wrap it to keep this from happening.

                      Comment

                      • W.A.
                        Charter Member
                        • Sep 2014
                        • 758
                        • Kingwood, TX
                        • Rec Tec Stampede, Pit Barrel Cooker, Weber One Touch Gold 22.5", Kamado Joe Classic

                        #12
                        I like the meteorite bark. It softens a bit with some vinegar sauce.

                        Comment


                        • vandy
                          vandy commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Both of the butts that I did had the black bark or looked like a meteorite but nothing would soften the bark on the second one.
                      • fuzzydaddy
                        Charter Member
                        • Nov 2014
                        • 4972
                        • Winchester TN
                        • Hardware
                          Blackstone 36” Griddle.
                          Slow 'N Sear Deluxe Kamado & Kettle Grill.
                          Slow 'N Sear (1.0, Deluxe, 2.0).
                          DnG Pans/Racks, Easy Spin Grates, Elevated Cooking Grates.
                          Weber Chimney Starters (regular and compact).
                          Joule, Instant Accu Slim.
                          GrillGrates.
                          Maverick XR-50 [my favorite].
                          ThermoWorks Smoke & Gateway, Thermapen, Thermapop, ChefAlarms, DOT, probes

                          Consumables / Favorites
                          KBB (short cooks), Weber (long cooks), B&B Hardwood Briquettes when I'm out of Weber.
                          Ribs (beef & pork), Pork Butts, Chuck Roasts, Pork Tenderloins, Shrimp, Fajitas.
                          SnS Grills salt free rubs: Not Just for Beef & Rocky’s Rub.
                          MeatChurch Holy Cow. MMD, BBBR, S&G, Herbs de Provence, SPG.

                        #13
                        Welcome jkinlaw! My best guess is the tough bark (as others have said) was a result of the long cook time and low humidity in your cooker. I cook my butts at 235-250 in my BGE and Kettle and they are usually probe tender in 12-14 hours without crutching, then I wrap for a couple of hours in my faux cambro.

                        We'd love to get an intro from you over in the Introduce Yourself channel when you get a minute.

                        Comment

                        • jkinlaw
                          Former Member
                          • Jan 2017
                          • 4

                          #14
                          Originally posted by DWCowles View Post
                          Welcome jkinlaw
                          Thank you sir.

                          Comment

                          • jkinlaw
                            Former Member
                            • Jan 2017
                            • 4

                            #15
                            Originally posted by CandySueQ View Post
                            Have you verified the temp at the cooking grate of your Rec Tec? High altitude and low oxygen may make a difference. Sounds like your bark went to jerky.
                            Click image for larger version

Name:	pork.JPG
Views:	257
Size:	218.8 KB
ID:	273333
                            Yes- I use a ET-732 placed center grate to set the temperature, rather than trusting the PIT Controller (which is off by about 25 degrees, but gradually they seem to equalize over the course of the cook). Beautiful picture there by the way.

                            Comment


                            • CandySueQ
                              CandySueQ commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Thanks!

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                          2021 Meat-Up In Memphis Canceled

                          We've unfortunately had to cancel the 2021 Meat-Up in Memphis. We are rescheduling for tentatively March 18-21, 2022. Click here for more info: https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/forum/announcements/misc/1014106-meat-up-in-memphis-2021-canceled
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