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First cook on Akorn - Boston Butt


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Hey, everyone! I picked my Akorn up a few weeks ago, and so far have done a couple of direct fire cooks with steaks and burgers with great results. I finally have the time to do my first smoke on the Akorn (actually ever, on any grill/smoker), and decided to go with a Boston Butt. I am going to pick up a 9 pounder later in the week. I did have a couple of newbie questions I was hoping you guys would be able to help me out with.

 

1. In your experiences, for someone still trying to learn their smoker, is it best to try and hit the 250* mark and smoke overnight, or bump the temp up a bit to 300* or so and get it on around 6am? We probably won't be eating until 6pm or so. I am worried that if I start early in the morning it won't be done!

 

2. What are your favorites for BBQ sauces to serve? I have always been a KC style BBQ sauce guy, but my wife loves NC style. I'm kind of leaning towards NC style because it goes so well with pork. 

 

3. Also, I read the tutorial on starting a low and slow fire in the Akorn, and noticed it mentioned using cotton balls instead of the weber cubes. I already have weber cubes from my kettle grill so I was wondering if anyone had a good suggestion on if I should use a whole one, half, quarter? I would like to try and use them up

 

Thanks in advance! I will update and post pictures after the cook!

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@VAPA - welcome aboard!  We look forward to your posts.  As to your questions ...

 

1)  I am not a huge fan of turbo cooks.  I enjoy the zen of BBQ.  You might consider trying the 225°, then the 250°, then the 275° temps on cooks.  Cooks at 300° might be too high for turbo cooks.  If you are pressed for time, consider an early start time.  You can always bump up temps if time becomes an issue.

 

2). I'm make whatever sauce I serve with my Q.  I mostly like my Q unsauced.

 

3). I've used everything from alcohol soaked cotton balls to oiled paper towels, to a MAPP torch to get my lump started.  However you get your lump lit and burning is good.  Starting a fire a specific way isn't as important as getting the fire lit and your kamado up to your cooking temp.

 

Have fun and make some great memories.

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I'm not really worried about time as much as I am about my inexperience with the Akorn. I am worried that if I go for the overnight cook it will result in about zero sleep because I don't have experience maintaining temps.

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@VAPA - how do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice.  Practice.  Practice!

 

Practice maintaining temps on your Akorn. Nothing builds confidence like knowing the idiosyncrasies of your Akorn.  Also know that Butts are almost impossible to screw up.  Goodness knows I've tried!

 

Just light up some lump amd burn it.  See ow your Akorn responds to changes in vent settings.  Learn the vent settings for 250°F.  See what it takes to maintain 250°.  Specific vent settings will yield specific temps every single time!  Vent settings are typicaLly invariant for a specific temp.  Look, bent setting restrict the amount of air (oxygen) into the kamado.   The more closed/open your vents the less/more air flow (oxygen) into your kamado and thus the lower/higher your temp.  It's just that simple.

 

Just go practice.  Play with your vent settings and see how quickly temps change.  You'll do just fine.

 

P.S. - practice is hard, hot work.  Remember to stay hydrated with your favorite beer!  Always end each practice session with a nice cook.

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Welcome @VAPA.  I am still pretty new at this as well but as someone who has now been using an Akorn for about 6 weeks (usually 1-2 cooks per week), I can say it is pretty easy to get a hang of it.

 

For starting - I use a half of a weber cube.  I have done that since cook 1 and I have really not had any trouble keeping a low temperature since cook 2.  The way I do it is by filling up the basin with as much lump and then carving out a hole in the middle (about the width of a tennis ball can) all the way to the bottom grate.  Once I light the cube, I put 2 or 3 pieces of lump over the light, then throw on the ceramic plate and the grate, close the lid.  From there, I mostly follow the method in the pinned post on this thread - going down to 2/2 at 160, 1/1 at 200.  I will drop the bottom vent to the point where it is mostly flush with the screw at about 215, and the top goes to about 0.75.  It will then inch up to about 225 and maintain around there.  I get some fluctuations but it mostly stays between 220 and 237 with very minor adjustments.  I also can open it up to 250 or 275 with pretty similar results.

I am not a pro at this yet, but at least if I am there and make minor (about 0,125 either way) adjustments every 30-60 minutes, I can manage day cooks easily.  As an admitted novice, I will happily take that for now.  

 

I also agree with @CeramicChef - serve your sauces on the side.  Give people the option. 

I am doing ribs this weekend for a group for the first time (last time was just 1 rack for me and my wife) so I may do 1 rack with sauce and 1 without - just to see the difference.  Without sauce was freaking amazing though.

 

Good luck to you, enjoy, and don't forget to post pictures!

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I had an Akorn for 2 years.  I was exactly where you are about 2 years ago.  Some thoughts:

 

1.  I always did the 225-250.  But DON'T SWEAT IT!!!  If you see it creeping from 225 to 240, leave it alone.  I used to set a 10 degree tolerance band on my temp probe and it would keep me up all night.  I would set an alarm to wake up every 2 hours just to check on it, I'd make slight adjustments, I'd stay up for another half hour to see what happened, and I'd be tired and miserable for my party the next day.  I'd say shoot for 225-250 and just let it do its thing.  Be slow to make any adjustments.  That cooker is so forgiving and pork butt is so forgiving that as long as you're slow & steady you'll have great pulled pork.  I've never made a bad pork butt on that thing.  (Brisket is tougher for me.  But pork butt is wonderful with a variety of temperatures.)  

 

2.  I use a vinegar sauce for pulled pork.  I got it from amazingribs.com.  

1 1/2 cups of distilled vinegar

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 tablespoons sugar (white, light brown, or dark brown)

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper

 

But like others say, I serve it on the side.  Most people (including myself) like the pork just the way it comes off the Akorn.  

 

3.  I always have used the weber cubes and I love them.  

  

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First off- great call doing a pork butt for your first low and slow. They are by far the most forgiving BBQ you can do. As far as temp goes, on butts it can go as high as 300- and it will still turn out well. However, low and slows are a little more tricky to manage the temps than grilling or high heat temps. Let it come up to temp much slower than if you were grilling. If you overshoot- it is particularly difficult to scale the temp back on an Akorn. If I were you I'd shoot for 250- because you basically would have a 50 degree swing window either way that would not ruin your end result. And yes, it will take forever to cook. If you haven't bought your pork yet- I'd consider getting a smaller butt so you don't have to worry about cooking during the night until you are comfortable with cooking low and slows. The good news is if it is done early (which is what I always shoot for) warm up a cooler (I do this by putting a pot of boiling water still in the pot in side of my cooler and closing the lid for about 20 minutes) the. Double or triple wrap your butt in foil, and surround with warm towels. It will stay out if the "danger zone" for several hours.  I even leave the temp probe in there to make sure it doesn't drop below 140- but it never has for a butt. 

As for lighting- I like the alcohol and cotton balls- it's something I have around the house anyway. And remember to get up to temp slowly. It's really tempting to get it there fast. 

Anyway, good luck!  I'm sure it will be great!

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I use 1/2 Weber cube, Royal Oak, about 12 big chunks of wood (usually cured oak), and a propane torch to light it off.  I put the butt on at 0900 or 1000 in the morning after I go to the store and buy it.   Keep the temp under 300 the best I can with a target of 250.  Wrap it at ~170 IT and move it to the top rack until it hits ~200 IT.   Always ready before dinner...and we eat around 530pm.   8hrs max....usually less than that.  I have no idea how people can cook one for 12+ hours on this grill as that would be temps ~200 and mine will snuff out every time trying to attain that low of a temp.

 

We love the Sweet and Spicy sauce from "The Shed" and always served on the side in bowl, never on the meat itself!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

RESULTS! 14.5 hours and a wonderful smoked Boston Butt!

 

I decided to go for the overnight cook because the number of guests ended up requiring me to get around a 10lbs butt. I didn't want to start out on something smaller, say two 6lbs, that would more easily overcook or dry out. I used the rub and injection from @Sam31415914 Hour Boston Butt post.

 

I started the Akorn up around 10pm using the method in the pinned post here in the Akorn forum, but I used half of a weber cube. For some reason my temperature was quickly up over 275* in about 20 minutes, so I quickly shut down the vents. I suspect that it had more to do with the weber cube than the lump (Royal Oak) catching, and I will need to work on my lighting technique. This led me to chase the temp until right around 1130pm, when I was able to get it to settle in right at 230*. I through on the butt, set my Maverick to a range of 220*-260*, and went to bed. Because I have young kids, I was up a couple of times throughout the night and took a peak. I believe the temp stayed between 223* and 237*.

 

I was woken up at 730am by my low temp alarm. I tried to see if it was just a fluctuation, but my temp was dropping. I opened up the vents a bit (maybe too much), and promptly began chasing the temp for the next two hours. I was able to get it settled back in at 257*, and there it stayed until it hit 197* IT at 2pm. I foiled it and tossed it in the cooler until we were ready to eat around 430pm, and the results were fantastic!

 

I used @mstewart39 suggested sauce, and it was a hit, too! Thanks so much!

 

I really do appreciate all of the advice provided leading up to the cook. It all really helped.

 

Happy Smoking, everyone!

 

Shoulder2 - 170528.jpgShoulder3 - 170528.jpg

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