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Size really does matter

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    Size really does matter

    I just read a comment on another post by Huskee (I think) where he said he prefers cooking smaller chunks of pork butt, around 4lbs or so. I'm gonna disagree with that and say that bigger, full cuts are better. Here's why.

    I think that with the bigger cuts you might be giving up more bark, but the tradeoff is that you can keep it in the 170 - 200 degree range longer, which is where the real magic of fat rendering and the resulting tenderizing occurs. I actually don't worry about the cook temp too much before I start approaching 150 or so. That doesn't mean I crank it up to 350, but if the cook temp runs a bit hot at 275 for a while I'm not terribly concerned about it.

    Once the pork hits the 150 mark is when I want to be sure the cook temp is at 250 or ideally 225. I usually place my butts or arms in an aluminum pan at about 160 or so and cover with foil for the final run to 203. I use the drippings from that for the basis of my sauce. I also put some butter and honey on it at that point (and sometimes just a touch of maple syrup).

    Anyway, I think that the bigger mass of meat allows for a more tender piece of meat at the end because it simply takes longer to reach the final temp.

    Hmmm... I just smoked 8.5lbs of pork butt, that I thought was 1 single piece of meat, until I took it out of the cryovac package. It turned out to be 3-2lb pieces and 2-1lb pieces. I of course felt betrayed by the provider and thought... What the hell am I going to do with this mess.

    Then I remembered Huskee's contention that cutting a 8/9lb butt in half to get more bark is better than smoking it whole. So... I put them all in my BGE, each with a different probe and smoked them low and slow @ 225° until they were at 203°. The small pieces were done first of course and the 2lb pieces took a little longer.

    I shredded them all together in the same serving bowl and they came out moist and tasty with the added bark surface volume.

    I disagree with your opinion. Bark is flavor, more flavor, more better!

    I don't mean to diss your opinion/preference... Food and its preparation is a very personal thing. We all have our idea of what works for us.


    • boftx
      boftx commented
      Editing a comment
      How long was your cook time for that? It took me about 12 hrs for a 10lb picnic arm last weekend running at about a 250 cook temp. You'll just have to take my word for how moist and tender it was.

      As for the flavor in the bark, I think I can make a good argument that a good, thin, Carolina style sauce made from the drippings can achieve the same effect if done right.
      Last edited by boftx; May 28, 2015, 01:35 AM.

    I was pressed for time so I turbo'ed those small pieces... The whole cook took 6.5 hours.

    Pork butt is hard to screw up. I was worried when I cranked up the heat that the pulled pork would be too dry... That wasn't the case. It turned out just fine.

    Plus I rubbed it with Memphis Dust... Who can screw that up?
    Last edited by Breadhead; May 28, 2015, 02:50 AM.


      Originally posted by Wartface View Post
      Who can screw that up?
      Trust me, you don't want to know. I can tell you horror stories about a hotel I stay at a lot (in Houston!) that changed over to a BBQ menu that serves "pulled pork" that I wouldn't feed to my dogs.

      I'm waiting to hear back on my offer to teach their cook how to run that rig right. I told them I'd charge them only $1000.00 for one day. (I've been told they are actually considering it.)


        Even with a smaller cut (4 pounds or so) it can take a REALLY long time to go from 170 to 203 if the cooker is running at, say, 210 degrees.

        Your point regarding keeping things in the magic temperature range for as long as possible is a very good one. However, I think the long timeframe can be achieved even on smaller cuts and then of course more bark and more surface area for the smoke to cling to becomes more flavor in the end.

        As a matter of fact, I cited your claim on a thread I created regarding low and slow vs not so low and not so slow. Basically, start the cook a little hotter and certainly make sure temps are high enough to power through the stall. Then drop the temp down to 220 and make the rest of the temperature climb take as long as possible.


        • boftx
          boftx commented
          Editing a comment
          Unfortunately I don't have empirical evidence for this. I'll try a smaller cut sometime, will probably be boneless. I rarely do anything other than bone-in for butts, and always bone-in for arms of course, so getting a smaller cut is a bit rough on those. I suppose I could cut off the "money muscle" on a butt and get two smaller pieces to try it with.

          My favorite indicator that I got it right is that the bone comes out clean with no tug.

        I started using the silicone bands to hold the bone in butt together and when I get them off, the bone literally falls out of the butt so I know what you are talking about boftx. I get a bit of a glow from that


          Pretty much the reason why I rest mine for so long, once it is in the range I want I wrap it to slow the cooling as much as possible. The effect is the same, but being able to cook it faster allows more time for resting, and more room for error from a timing standpoint.


            I haven't seen Huskees post but after a lot of experimenting I now will only smoke 5 lbs butts +/- a quarter pound. Always bone-in. It started by accident/necessity last Fall when I was asked at 8 am to make pulled pork for a product party at 6 pm.

            Maximizing time between stall and pull is a valid point, but also remember the heat radiates from the outside in. A 5 lb butt is fairly square in profile, if you go up in weight it cut gets longer but the shortest distance from surface to center is basically the same. Heat distribution won't be exactly the same, but its not near as drastic as you would think. Below 5 lbs is a different ball game though.

            IMO the results of 2 5 lbs butts @ ~6 hours is comparable to a 10 lbs butt at ~16 hours, plus the extra bark. Neither can beat a 24hr cook, but how often do you do that? The last BIG cook I did, I put 16 5lbs butts in at 1:30am, maintained 250 to 275 degrees, all of them finished between 9am and 10:30am and honestly they were the best pork butts I've ever made. It was an extrmely even cook.



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