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Suggestions for the n00b - Perfect Pulled Pork in progress

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    Suggestions for the n00b - Perfect Pulled Pork in progress

    So I'm a n00b just trying to learn how to make BBQ on my Weber Kettle, and what better way to learn than to have people that actually know what they're doing critique me? I got a few good suggestions last time I tried this with Last Meal Ribs, so I figured I'd try again with Perfect Pulled Pork. Although this time I'm not already finished, I'm planning on updating as I go along so people can add suggestions while it's still cooking.


    The problem with having two children under 5 is that I usually have too much to do to spend all day watching the grill. But tomorrow is Father's Day, so if I want pulled pork, and I want to spend all day cooking it, that's what I'm doing. And the kiddie pool is all filled and warming up so I won't completely ignore the kids.

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    I got a 3.9 lb pork butt at the butcher shop. I was mildly annoyed because I asked for a 4-5 lb butt, and all they have was over 6.5 lbs, so they offered to cut it down for me. But they managed to get it under 4 lbs when they cut it, and I didn't want to ask them to cut up another one. It probably won't matter, we'll have leftovers anyway. But I was hoping to keep it close to the 5 lbs mentioned in the recipe for my first time out.

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    This is it rotated on the side from the last picture, with the fat cut off and kosher salt applied to dry brine. It will sit about 16 hours before I put it on the grill. I did cut a decent chunk of fat off, so now it's even lower then 3.9 lbs.

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    And here is my kettle, all set up in a snake with room for the water pan. I got it ready to go this evening so I don't have to do it in the morning when I could still be in bed. From playing around with shorter cooks, I think this should be about right to stick between 225-250 for most of the time.

    So I'm all set to update as I start in the morning, but I have a couple questions for anyone that happens to cruise by in the mean time:
    • Anyone have any idea how long this should take to cook? It's a small butt, so I'm thinking it might take even less time than the 8-12 hours mentioned in the recipe. I'm planning on having it ready in the early evening for dinner, and I do plan on using a beer cooler as a Faux Cambro, but I'd like to avoid having it sit in there for several hours. It's a battle in my head between not having to get up super early on the weekend and worrying about it not being ready by dinner time. If I put it on at 6 AM and it's approaching 203 at 1:00 I'm going to feel stupid.
    • Does anyone have good suggestions on how to reload the charcoal in the snake when the current stuff runs out? I think the stuff I have in their should make it most of the time, but I don't think it will last the whole time. Do I just take the top grate out and, rotate the water pan around, and add more charcoal to the end? Or is there a quicker, easier way? I put off getting a Smokenator once I heard about the Slow 'n Sear, but I haven't gotten either yet.
    I'll be back with updates once the sun rises.

    First, your charcoal looks like enough to last plenty of time, I use a pyramid of 3 or a square of 4 and can get 6+ hours easily.
    Second, I put the butt away from the heat, then every hour or so rotate it to be directly across from the coals. You can make your snake go nearly all the way around, just keep rotating and make sure you don't light both ends.
    Having both the top and bottom just barely open keeps me at 225 but shoot a little higher and you shouldn't have to spend more than 2 minutes per hour monitoring it.
    Third, if you don't wrap I would guess a butt that small would be done in 8 hours or less. Cambro time is delicious time, don't hesitate keeping it in there for 2-3 hours.
    I would probably aim for 8 am start and if things go haywire and you aren't 170 by 2 wrap it for an hour or so and don't feel bad!

    Lastly if those coals are in the Weber waiting for morning, you might want to rethink that depending on the weather where you are. I did that and overnight it got colder and my coal got some dew, I fought keeping that wet stuff going all day and it was miserable.

    Edit to add, if it is getting done too fast do you know what will happen if you take it off, tent it with foil and let it sit a bit? Nothing, just keep it above 140.
    Last edited by _John_; June 20, 2015, 10:49 PM.


    • wile_e8
      wile_e8 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. Right now I'm thinking putting it on around 7:00, my kids normally wake up a little after 6:00 so I can start the coals then. And the coals should be fine, I'm in the high desert.

      I'll definitely aim for preventing getting done late and then tent it with foil if I need to.

    Got up at 6AM to light the chimney. Let it go for about a half hour, then put it in the grill and let that warm up until 7AM. While I was waiting I got to make some coffee, put on some cartoons for the kids (Miles From Tomorrowland was today's pick), and got the pork butt covered in Memphis Dust.

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    By about 7AM the temp was creeping above 230, so I put the pork on the grill.

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    Only bad news for now is that I may have started too few coals, I needed both the top and bottom vents fully open to get the temp above 225 before 7:00. Now the temp is constantly creeping up, so I'll have to keep an eye on it and close things down before it climbs too much. I put it on 20 minutes ago, and I have the top half closed and the bottom 2/3 closed because the temp is 244 right now. Hopefully it'll level off before too long.


      Pork butts are amazingly forgiving with regard to temperature. If it heats up to 275 all that will happen is that it gets done sooner. It will still be tender.


        You'll be fine, just takes a bit to settle if you don't get a good light.


          10:00 update: The temp held steady just above 225 for a while, then started slowly rising after 2 hours once all the wood was in. It got up to 250 and then I almost closed the bottom vents and left the top 1/4 open. Note it's hovering around 235 and I can mostly pay attention to the kids. The temperature of the pork bit seems to be on track with the stalk coming up soon.

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            It's 2:00 and I'm fully stalled at 160. I'm thinking about wrapping it in foil, but for now I'm just going to try and raise the temp to 275 and power through.

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              Hope it ends soon, or you're gonna have to wrap it.


              • _John_
                _John_ commented
                Editing a comment
                If your water pan still has water I wouldn't worry about it.

              • wile_e8
                wile_e8 commented
                Editing a comment
                Although now I'm waffling because it's slooooooooooowly climbing again

              • _John_
                _John_ commented
                Editing a comment
                If its climbing leave it alone and let it go, just hope that it is done in time. 195 is ok, less than that is not...

              Yeah, it's 4:30 and it's at 181, so it won't be done early. If I had started an hour earlier, or wrapped it at the beginning of the stall, or turned up the temperature early, I would have probably been fine. I didn't start panicking until the stall was almost over, and then it was too late to do much about it. Lessons from the first time doing something like this, I guess. The good news is that the kids want to go out to the pool again before we eat, so they won't mind if we have a later dinner.


                So after getting all the sides ready, fretting over the temperature, eating, and cleaning everything up... the pulled pork turned out ok. It reach 196 at 6:15 and I took it out to rest.

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                I only had about 15 minutes before I started shredding it though. The bone wouldn't pull out at first because it was really stuck to the bark, but everything on the inside just fell off.

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                The bone is sitting in the top right of the bowl. I shredded it, and it was super tender. The only problem I had with it was with the bark - it seemed pretty tough and hard, and wouldn't pull apart like the meat on the inside. I've never actually made smoked pulled pork before, so I don't know if it's supposed to be that hard. Didn't notice a definite smoke ring either. It did taste good though.

                I made baked macaroni and cheese and got some cole slaw and biscuits from the store to go with dinner, but somehow my phone didn't take the picture I had with the shredded pulled pork and other fixing all lined up. But it looked really nice. And the meat was really good and tender. My son ate it right up, but my daughter took some convincing since she fights eating the "skin" on any meat that has been grilled and has char marks. She wouldn't touch any of the bark. I liked mine with some of the Lexington Dip I made up for previous cooks.

                So it didn't turn out bad, but I think I can do better next time. Mainly I think I might try wrapping it in foil next time - _John_ mentioned it a couple times above, but I resisted because the recipe said it shouldn't be needed, and my head kept telling me me the small pork butt should be on the short end of the time range right up until it was too late to fix it. And the crutch should make it so the bark isn't so hard next time, right? So a shorter cook with bark that isn't so hard sounds like an improvement to me. And if I get to let it rest for longer than 15 minutes before I shred it, even better.

                Thanks for the help, whether or not I actually listened. Maybe I'll try another one of these threads if I try something new, but I don't know what to do. I don't think a brisket would fit on my Weber.


                  Or you could ignore me and start it when you wanted instead of waiting ><. Some people like a thick bark, but to me cooking without wrapping creates a bark that is way too thick and dry, wrapping gives you most of the flavor but not the hard crust. You can spray or baste near the end etc but wrapping is just easier. A lot of people start by wrapping and then wonder how cooking straight through tastes, you got that out of the way first so all the cooks will be easier now.


                    You did good, wile_e8 ... it is REALLY hard timing a Pork Butt... I try not to wrap, but when push comes to shove on time, I usually end up doing it.

                    Ya know Franklin did a wrapping experiment on brisket with foil vs butcher paper... I am waiting for someone to try that with pulled pork... hint hint _John_


                    • _John_
                      _John_ commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Sounds like I have something to cook this weekend! I am making leftover brisket chili so I have an excuse to make more.

                    Thank you wile_e8 for the post. I really enjoyed reading through your thoughtful descriptions & observations. I have two children under the age of 4 right now, too, so time is short for me as well. Your well laid out post was the reason I decided to become a member of this site & just wanted to take the 2 minutes to thank you!



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