The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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An Almost Big Mistake

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I’ve been having charcoal availability woes this Winter and it could have affected my smoke yesterday if not for a happy accident. I am going to briefly explain what happened in the hopes it may help someone else not make the same silly mistake I almost made. I detailed some of the charcoal availability woes I’ve been having in yesterdays blog entry Kingsford Competition Briquettes. Let me cut to the chase hear. My Christmas cook left me with 1/2 of a small 4.5 pound (2 Kg) bag of blue bag Kingsford. About enough to fill my charcoal chimney. On Monday I was able to find 4 more 4.5 pound (2 Kg) bags of blue bag Kingsford. My 5 hour cook used 1 1/2 of these 4.5 bags (2 Kg), so I ASSumed the 4 bags would be more than enough for a cook that took me 8 hours last summer. Turns out I shouldn’t have stopped looking. I made 3 basic mistakes here which I shall explain below.

On Tuesday I was up at Home Depot looking for something else and scored 6) 12 pound (5.5 Kg) bags of the red bag Kingsford Competition Briquettes. I was excited to try these on the 6 pound (2.75 Kg) Boston butt I was making Wednesday to use on Thursday as a pork roast. When I made it this summer it took 8 hours, so I was ASSuming perhaps a little longer but not much more. Three count them three bad mistakes here.

My first mistake was not allowing for more time for the cold temps. Every time you need to raise the lid you can loose some serious heat in the smoker. The time it takes to get back to cooking temperature is time lost. I don’t know what I was thinking of here. It was 4 degrees (-16 C) when I started instead of in the 70’s 21 C).

The second mistake was not allowing for extra charcoal usage due to the extremely cold temps. The charcoal had to raise the temperatures an extra 65 degrees (36 C). This is going to make the coals last far less time. Plus in doing some research on the Kingsford Competition Briquettes during the cook, I found many folks reporting shorter burn times no matter what the temperatures despite the

My last and biggest mistake was forgetting that this was a Boston Butt, not a pork roast. Plus it was being taken up to 190 degrees (88 C) not the usual 160-170 (71-77 C). When you go that high you typically run into a plateau in the 160’s to 170’s (71-77 C) where the temps can stay level or even go down for hours at a time. Why the Boston Butt I cooked this summer didn’t have any kind of plateau I can’t explain. I have had similar sized Boston butts take from 8 hours to 20 hours. Why I was stupid enough to think that just because I was making the same recipe, this Boston butt would not plateau I don’t know.

This could have really been a problem. I figured I was going to be safe using 4) 4.5 pound (2 Kg) bags of blue bag Kingsford. It was a total accident I had the 6) 12 pound (5.5 Kg) bags Kingsford of the red bag Kingsford on hand. My cook took from lighting the smoker at 5:00AM until midnight. Seventeen hours, not the record for this cut of meat but over double what I was ASSuming. I used up 36 pounds (16 Kg) , not the 18 pounds (8 Kg) I had planned on. While I am doing the last phase of the pork roast today I will be reviewing the three lessons I’ve learned but seemed to forget yesterday.

  1. Every cook is different. While logs of prior cooks are good to have, they are not gospel. When you are dealing with low and slow: It takes what it takes and you need to have enough fuel
    2 Always have extra fuel around, charcoal propane, wood or whatever. Things often do not go as planned.
    3 Things take longer in the cold.

So hopefully I have learned these lessons now for a second time and it will sink in this time.
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This will be my last blog entry of the year. I am thinking I will still find some things to write about in 2010 so there will be a 2010 version of the BBQ blog. It has been a truly great year for me Grilling & Smoking and I feel really fortunate. Here’s hoping it was a great year for you too. Happy New Year and lets hope there are lots of great meals to come in 2010.


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