A long smoke

The other day, I was in Asda in Peterborough. I don’t normally shop there, but I happened to be parked in their carpark. Anyway, they had some decent joints of pork shoulder. Whereas my local supermarket tends to only have rolled shoulder, these were the whole joint, with the bone still in – perfect for pulled pork.

It was dirt cheap, so I bought two, on the principle that while I had the Traeger going, I may as well fill the shelf.

I’ve cooked pulled pork before, but always a small cut-down joint, and always during the day. Invariably, I have cooked it on my Traeger’s smoke setting it for 9-10 hours, then turned it up to finish it off and let me rest the meat, and then pull it, before getting to bed. The pork I have ended up with has been nice and tasty, but I know I could do better.

This time, having two shoulders, I know it is going to take longer, so I started cooking them last night. Having had it sit with a rub for 8 hours, they went into the smoker about 8pm. I checked them this morning, and the fire was still going – the smoker temp was at 180 F, and the meat was at 140 F. Throughout the day, I’ve been working, with my remote thermometer on my desk, and watched the temperature gradually rise. They are now coming up to 22 hours on the smoker, and they have reached 170 degrees.

There is the temptation to wrap them in foil, and then increase the temperature – but because I am still working with only 3 settings – smoke, medium and high – this will put the temperature up to 325 F – unless I sit in the garden, and keep switching between smoke and medium. This is why I want the new controller that I am building, to give me new options.

So I am going to hold my nerve, and follow the advice that I have received on the BBQ forums – as long as I can see the meat temperature increase, leave it as it is.

One of the things that happens with pork shoulder, is that the temperature increases stall at a certain point, where the collagen starts breaking down – the energy is doing this, rather than heating the meat further. This is good – it is what makes the meat tender – so I don’t want to interfere. I have been told that the stall can happen anywhere between 150 and 170, so I think I should be coming out of it soon.

I am going to foil these joints either when the temperature hits 190 or at 8am, whichever happens first. Once foiled, then the temperature can go up until the internal meat temperature hits 200 F. Then they will be put into a pre-warmed cool-box for an hour or so, before pulling.

7 Comments

  1. chris
    June 22, 2011

    Half an hour later, the sky clouded over and started raining, and the smoker temperature took a nose-dive. So I am juggling the temperature at the moment, and will see what happens.

    • chris
      June 22, 2011

      I might nick that recipe off you some time.

      This lot got sauced two ways. A safe meat juice, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and whiskey dressing for the stuff I gave the neighbours, and a stash for my fridge; and a more traditional cider vinegar, brown sugar and cayenne sauce for what I had for my tea.

  2. chris
    June 22, 2011

    At 6:30, the skies opened up, so I thought I would give it a hand – foiled it, and whacked the setting up to medium. It reached 200 F at 8pm (24 hours). An hour in the cooler, and I have just pulled it.

    Now I know what pulling pork feels like. I thought I had successfully pulled pork before, but it was a lot more effort than this was.

    Meat is tasty, and succulant. All in all, I am very happy with it – I have my tea, I have two containers of pulled pork for my grateful neighbours, and I have a very large container for me.

    The one minor negative is that – considering it spent 24 hours in a smoker – there isn’t actually much smokiness to it. I recently tried a brand of pellets called Lil Devils – there are not that many brands of pellets on the UK market, and one of the big heating pellet companies has started importing these from the US. I tried them on a couple of short cooks, and had been a little disappointed. I decided that if anything would show them off at their best, it would be this long cook. But… so-so, that is all.

    However, to be fair, I should reserve judgement until tomorrow. I have found that my taste for smoke gets dulled when cooking, so tomorrow’s leftovers will be the test. I also want to do this same cook again very soon with the Louisiana Grills pellets I have, which is another US brand I can buy (but are double the price of Lil Devils).

    At one point I had a UK source of oak pellets, but I am not sure I can get them still.

    • chris
      June 22, 2011

      “one of the big heating pellet companies has started importing these from the US”

      Something you don’t do is use heating pellets in a food grill. It is not guaranteed that they will be 100% hardwood (and softwoods aren’t good for cooking), they may also contain bark and floor sweepings, and also mineral oil from machine lubrication. Food pellets have to be made on machines lubricated with food grade oils.

  3. chris
    June 23, 2011

    “However, to be fair, I should reserve judgement until tomorrow.”

    Definitely what I should have done. Today I heated some up for a lunchtime sandwich, and there were levels of smokey flavour that simply weren’t there yesterday.

    I am not sure whether it is the case that being overnight in the fridge developed the taste, or that being exposed to the smoke from the smoker yesterday dulled my ability to taste it in the food. I can quite believe that, as they do say that you taste mainly with your nose. I think it is actually likely to be a combination of the two, but I am not complaining, as the pork is tasty!

    Anyway, the Lil Devils pellets have gone back up in my estimation, as they are easy to order, and work out half the price of the other pellets I am buying. Previously I was paying about a pound (GBP) per pound (lb). These are costing me 50 quid for 54 kilo (118.8 lbs).

    To put this in perspective, my average pellet use is approximately as follows:

    Smoke: 0.5 lbs per hour
    Medium: 1.0 lbs per hour
    High: 2.0 lbs per hour

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