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Cutting Boston butts in half

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  • Steve R.
    Club Member
    • Jul 2016
    • 2462
    • Elizabethtown, KY
    • Current line-up of cookers: Weber 26" kettle w/ SnS and BBQ Guru adapter; Weber Smokey Mountain 22" w/ Guru adapter.

    Cutting Boston butts in half

    I'm almost certain I have seen this addressed here before, but I can't find it at the moment. I'm cooking for a crowd on Saturday and have two 9 lb. butts in the fridge. Meal time will be 3 pm, so I want to shorten the cook time a little without sacrificing quality. Assuming I could cook at ~280 and have them to probe tender after roughly 8 hrs. How much time would I realistically save by creating four 4.5 lb. chunks?
  • JPGators17
    Charter Member
    • Jan 2015
    • 449
    • Orlando, FL

    #2
    I am also interested in dong this. To add another question for the butchers here: what is the best way to cut a bone-in butt in two?

    Comment

    • fuzzydaddy
      Charter Member
      • Nov 2014
      • 4970
      • Winchester TN
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      #3
      It's been a while since I cut one in half but if I remember correctly, it saved me an hour or two compared to whole butts, cooking at 225-250.

      FWIW, I recently cooked a whole 9 pound butt on my Kettle and SnS, starting out at 230-235. Once I hit the stall I upped the temp to 275 to push through the stall, and when I had good bark I wrapped (to catch juices) and stayed at 275 until probe tender. Cook time was 9 hours which was at least 3 hours faster than cooking 230-235 the entire cook. The quality was as good as any of my previous cooks.

      Comment


      • JPGators17
        JPGators17 commented
        Editing a comment
        Ah good. I was wondering about this too. Did going up to 275 push it through the stall as fast as wrapping it would have?

      • fuzzydaddy
        fuzzydaddy commented
        Editing a comment
        JPGators17 I have never wrapped to push through the stall so I have no comparison.
    • Notavegan
      Club Member
      • Jan 2017
      • 262
      • Westfield, MA
      • Chris Parrow
        Southwick, MA


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      #4
      Idk Steve. Maybe 1.5 -2 hrs each? Assuming you don't want to get up at the crack of you know what to start cooking.

      Another option is is to make sure the meat is taken out well ahead of time so you don't start from a dead cold 38 degree double or quadruple chunks o' pork. Bones ou see what I did there ??

      of course to to let it come up to temp will also require an early start. Maybe a combination of the two (cutting in half (more bark!) and coming to closer to room temp will help ou save some time.

      Comment


      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment
        Duly noted lol!!!
        Th' sad, tragic signs o' early onset apostrophitis, sorry t' be th' one t' haveta tell ya'!
        I kin prob'ly PM you a spare, lower-case "y" for yer fifth sentence, there, if'n ya' has done run plumb out, or waitin' on payday t' restock, like...
    • Notavegan
      Club Member
      • Jan 2017
      • 262
      • Westfield, MA
      • Chris Parrow
        Southwick, MA


        Large BGE
        FlameBoss 200
        Large Adjustable Rig w/ 18 inch oval platesetter
        Cast Iron BGE Dutch Oven (snagged it for $25 at a pool store, its a beast)
        Lodge cast iron 17x10 griddle
        Kershaw 7 inch filet knife, 3 serious wounds and counting (will update when #4 happens)
        Emile Henry Pizza Stone
        Thermoworks Pop - Orange
        Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (MES 30) - used as a warmer for the BGE during larger cooks
        Electric charcoal starter (power source next to the egg)
        $10 Westinghouse electric knife from hardware store
        Beater gasser that my wife uses for hot dogs etc bc she doesn't know how to start the egg

      #5
      JPGators17 funny you should inquire. I did just that very task of cutting a butt yesterday. Although for different end in mind (I was cutting up my own country style pork ribs from a whole butt) and commented song the way, not happening again. May not be as big a deal to cut in half but cutting into slabs was some work. Next time I want CSPR I'll leave it to the store / butcher I get them from.

      Added bonus - I acquired my 3rd serious wound from my new knife.

      I have a place place that only sells Boston butts. One less and trussed. Maybe another 60 cents a lb butt well worth it IMHO.

      Let us know what you decide and how you make out Steve.

      Comment


      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment
        Seen what ya' did, there, too...
    • Notavegan
      Club Member
      • Jan 2017
      • 262
      • Westfield, MA
      • Chris Parrow
        Southwick, MA


        Large BGE
        FlameBoss 200
        Large Adjustable Rig w/ 18 inch oval platesetter
        Cast Iron BGE Dutch Oven (snagged it for $25 at a pool store, its a beast)
        Lodge cast iron 17x10 griddle
        Kershaw 7 inch filet knife, 3 serious wounds and counting (will update when #4 happens)
        Emile Henry Pizza Stone
        Thermoworks Pop - Orange
        Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (MES 30) - used as a warmer for the BGE during larger cooks
        Electric charcoal starter (power source next to the egg)
        $10 Westinghouse electric knife from hardware store
        Beater gasser that my wife uses for hot dogs etc bc she doesn't know how to start the egg

      #6
      The country style ribs /slabs apres cook and some sauce.

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      Comment

      • LA Pork Butt
        Charter Member
        • Dec 2014
        • 5587
        • Grew up in New Orleans, lived in Texas for 20 years, lived in Mandeville, LA for 22 years. I now liv

        #7
        According to this website thickness determines cook time, so if you cut them horizontally you should see a significant decrease in cook time. But, cutting the vertically shouldn't make much difference unless the width is less than the thickness. I would recommend putting the on at 11pm or midnight and a couple of hours in the faux cambro.

        Comment


        • Steve R.
          Steve R. commented
          Editing a comment
          My Plan B is to do these on the Weber kettle starting around midnight with the PartyQ and put it on autopilot at 225. That would make life a lot easier on Saturday.
      • MillerTime
        Club Member
        • Aug 2016
        • 51

        #8
        I've cut butts in half several times in this very manner for this very reason - to save time, and to provide extra bark. I don't have my notes handy, but you should save a good deal of time... something on the order of the cook taking only 60-70% or so of the amount of time of not cutting. When I started smoking I heard that the time should be roughly 1.5-2 hrs per pound of your cut of meat. So splitting a 9 lb butt in half in theory would cut your time in half. I've found it's not quite that linear, but close. And all mine were done on a WSM 18 running at a dome lid temp of 250ish (I"ve only just now started monitoring grate temps for long cooks).

        If I'm in your shoes I'm cutting them in half, right down the middle with one half keeping the bone and the other half boneless, and I'm aiming to get the meat on a 250 degree fire around 7 am (or earlier if you like). As time goes by you can increase the heat if needed, and if you get done early just wrap 'em in foil and get 'em in the cambro. And if you find you are really falling behind for whatever reason, you can always yank 'em, wrap 'em in foil, and finish them off in the oven at 300-350. Been there, done that. Your guests won't notice the difference.

        Good luck!

        Comment


        • Steve R.
          Steve R. commented
          Editing a comment
          Kinda what I was thinking. Really, I'm trying to avoid an overnight cook and still get done with time to spare. And I have set the bar pretty high with previous cooks for a lot of the people in this crowd, so I definitely can't risk mediocrity!

        • JPGators17
          JPGators17 commented
          Editing a comment
          MillerTime why do you leave the bone on one half? Doesn't that just block the "middle half" from getting bark? I'm thinking of deboning a couple of 10 pounders and cutting them in half.

        • MillerTime
          MillerTime commented
          Editing a comment
          All the 9-10+ pound butts I've had simply had the bone on one end of the hunk. So if you slice it down the middle you naturally get the bone in one half and no bone in the other half. The bone is embedded within the meat, so no sides are blocked from getting bark.
      • Huskee
        Administrator
        • May 2014
        • 15434
        • central MI, USA
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        #9
        If your butt is, say, 8" x 8" x 16", and it takes "x" amount of time, cutting it in half to make two pieces at 8" x 8" x 8" won't save any time at all, since the heat still has the same distance to travel inward (if all other variables are exactly the same- cook temp, humidity, meat emp when the cook is started, etc). You get the idea. In most cases though cutting in half will reduce some dimension of thickness, and therefore a little time, but don't expect it to "save time" in the manner you might be hoping.

        What I appreciate about cooking 3-5lb hunks is the extra surfaces for rub/salt/smoke. I think it makes the finished product taste better because of that. Cutting that 9lber in half gives you two extra surfaces of flavor vs doing it intact.

        Comment

        • MillerTime
          Club Member
          • Aug 2016
          • 51

          #10
          Originally posted by Huskee View Post
          If your butt is, say, 8" x 8" x 16", and it takes "x" amount of time, cutting it in half to make two pieces at 8" x 8" x 8" won't save any time at all, since the heat still has the same distance to travel inward (if all other variables are exactly the same- cook temp, humidity, meat emp when the cook is started, etc). You get the idea. In most cases though cutting in half will reduce some dimension of thickness, and therefore a little time, but don't expect it to "save time" in the manner you might be hoping.
          I've had a much different experience then. Not only has splitting them saved me time, but the time saved is absolutely noticeable. Not exactly linear, but most definitely noticeable. I chalked it up to more surface area exposure... that middle of each half gets heated quicker when you have heat coming in from two sides now instead of one. In the same manner that it doesn't take much longer to cook two butts instead of one for a given fire, the same principles apply here assuming they are spaced apart with plenty of airflow around each. That's been my experience on a WSM 18 in GA anyway, perhaps YMMV for a different environment or scenario.

          But I agree wholeheartedly on the bark comment - yummm....


          Steve R. - The 8-hr window I proposed will most likely be tight without using higher heat methods as discussed. I just proposed that method assuming 1) you want to avoid overnight, and 2) you'd prefer not to get up earlier than 6ish to start building the fire (if you are like me). Didn't want to make it sound like I was guaranteeing you'd be done in 8 hours in a pure low/slow fashion, but those methods will still get you done in time if you aren't against using them.

          Comment

          • Steve R.
            Club Member
            • Jul 2016
            • 2462
            • Elizabethtown, KY
            • Current line-up of cookers: Weber 26" kettle w/ SnS and BBQ Guru adapter; Weber Smokey Mountain 22" w/ Guru adapter.

            #11
            Plan B just became Plan A, with forecasted storms overnight tomorrow. Went ahead and cut those butts in half, dry brined, and will apply the MMD tomorrow night and let the PartyQ run the show overnight. Let 'er go at 225 as long as it takes and then faux Cambro til time to serve.

            Comment

            • Steve R.
              Club Member
              • Jul 2016
              • 2462
              • Elizabethtown, KY
              • Current line-up of cookers: Weber 26" kettle w/ SnS and BBQ Guru adapter; Weber Smokey Mountain 22" w/ Guru adapter.

              #12
              The weather man was wrong on this one, but the butts are doing just fine. I like the extra bark that you gain by creating more surface area.

              Click image for larger version

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              Comment


              • MillerTime
                MillerTime commented
                Editing a comment
                How's your cook time looking? Noticeably faster? I'll be doing this same cook tomorrow on a Kettle/SNS combo.

              • Breadhead
                Breadhead commented
                Editing a comment
                A couple of weeks ago... I cooked a pork butt in my BGE and it got done 4 hours before my serving time. Someone had just posted the idea of just turning your smoker down to 170° instead of putting it in the faux cambro. I did that because I was to busy doing other things. It worked really good.
            • kmhfive
              Club Member
              • Mar 2017
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              #13
              Wonderful bark. I'm sure it will taste even better than it looks!

              Comment

              • DWCowles
                Founding Member
                • Jul 2014
                • 9703
                • 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.

                #14
                They're looking great Steve R.

                Comment

                • Steve R.
                  Club Member
                  • Jul 2016
                  • 2462
                  • Elizabethtown, KY
                  • Current line-up of cookers: Weber 26" kettle w/ SnS and BBQ Guru adapter; Weber Smokey Mountain 22" w/ Guru adapter.

                  #15
                  The bark got even better a few hours later, but it was a sprint to the finish to get everything ready by mealtime, so I didn't have time for pictures. Probably the best butts I've ever smoked. These came from Restaurant Depot, so there was some difference in quality there. Honestly can't really compare the cook time to normal, since I cooked these at a lower temp in the kettle vs. the usual higher temp with logs for fuel. The finished product got great reviews from the block party crowd.

                  Comment


                  • fzxdoc
                    fzxdoc commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Steve R.

                    Those butts look great. Nice to hear they were the best ever for you. That's what you want from a cook, especially with a block party to serve.
                    Kathryn

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