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Joe22

Controlling temps

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I'm sure this question has been asked too many times but since I'm new to the group I have to ask. I use lump charcoal and my temp always seems to be a major issue. I have a digital thermometer and it maintains the temp between 225 and 250. I want to do an all day cook but it seems that my pork shoulders is done in like 3 to 4 hours top. It has a decent smoke ring but tends to be dry from the quick cook. I make like a pyramid and light a Weber cube in the center. From there I add some wood chunks or chips, depending among what I'm trying to accomplish. Any ideas on making a longer cooks so the meat doesn't dry out?

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Wondering if part of the issue is a smaller piece of meat being used?  This has never been an issue for me.   Thats something to consider.

 

First and most importantly, I always, always inject my pork with Apple Juice.  About 300ml minimum.  A little lunch box sized, tetra pack of pure apple juice per piece of meat is perfect. Some will run out into your drip pan but that is neither here nor there.

 

I start my fire small, top and bottom fully open.  At about 120 degrees on the grate, I begin closing the chimney.  At 140, I close it more and begin closing the bottom as well.  I continue these changes every 20 degrees until about 180 and the bottom is only showing a 1/2 inch open and the chimney is at about the 3/4 mark.  At around 210 the meat goes on and the openings close down to just  slits.  I then keep working the vents until we top out at 225 degrees or so.  Shoulders should not be critical. In fact, in past I have been a proponent of doing shoulders/butts/tied roasts at closer to 270 to help render fat better.

 

Another secret is to pick through your charcoal, keeping only the largest pieces for smoking, the smaller pieces for hot grilling.  The difference in surface area allows a lower temp, slower cook.  Seriously. I just bought a bag of smoking charcoal and the pieces were the size of a baby's arm (holding an apple) or however the lyrics go.  

 

Hope you find a point or two here that will help you.  Heres an inspirational photo to give you hope.

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Thank you for the tips. I honestly think I use too much charcoal which I think causes my difficulty  in controlling my temps. I'll definitely have try to creep up on the temp. My temp seems to climb slowly then suddenly spike. After that,  I'm trying to get under control from there. Thanks again for taking the time to give me some pointers.

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59 minutes ago, Joe22 said:

I honestly think I use too much charcoal

 

I start pretty much every cook with the firebox completely full. Controlling the airflow determines how much will be burnt in any particular cook. If your temp is staying stable around 225 and the meat is cooking fast then the fault is not with your fire. Can you calibrate your thermometer to check it (ice bath and boiling water, 0C - 100C, so much easier than F).

 

How are you determining "doneness" on your meat? Internal probe?

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2 hours ago, Joe22 said:

Thank you for the tips. I honestly think I use too much charcoal which I think causes my difficulty  in controlling my temps. I'll definitely have try to creep up on the temp. My temp seems to climb slowly then suddenly spike. After that,  I'm trying to get under control from there. Thanks again for taking the time to give me some pointers.

 

Are you using a drip pan or heat deflector? Both are important for low and slow. If you let the drippings from the pork butts drip down and catch fire it will be next to impossible to hold temperature. If you don't use a heat deflector then the radiant heat will lead towards a faster cook.

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Thank you for the tips. I honestly think I use too much charcoal which I think causes my difficulty  in controlling my temps. I'll definitely have try to creep up on the temp. My temp seems to climb slowly then suddenly spike. After that,  I'm trying to get under control from there. Thanks again for taking the time to give me some pointers.

 

As far as the heat deflector and drip pan, I do use both. So the grease isn't falling into the hot coals. I appreciate the suggestion though. 

I have the digital type thermometers with the two probes. One attaches to the grating and the other goes into the meat. I actually believe the the probe going into the meat is correct because I have compared it with two other probes. One digital and the other is a manual read and both were dead on. That being said, I don't trust the other probe that attaches to the grating. I believe I'm going to need to try to calibrate it with the ice bath and boiling water. Should've thought about it earlier. Thank you AntinOz and T Yelda.

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4 hours ago, Joe22 said:

... temp between 225 and 250. I want to do an all day cook but it seems that my pork shoulders is done in like 3 to 4 hours top. ...

 

5 minutes ago, Joe22 said:

Thank you for the tips. I honestly think I use too much charcoal which I think causes my difficulty  in controlling my temps. I'l...

In general, you usually start all cooks with a full bowl of charcoal. It's hard to have too much for a long cook. The trick is to control the size of the fire, and light it where fresh wood will naturally fall into it for a long burn. That happens naturally with a full fire bowl. It's also good to control charcoal size a little, to avoid a lot of small stuff and powder. 

 

For time, a low-n-slow cook takes about an hour per pound. I get 7-9 lb. pork butts, thus the 9 hour cook time estimate you've heard. You're either cooking really hot or cooking a smaller roast, or both? 

 

For temperature, the probe in the meat doesn't tell you anything early on; the meat's cold. I use the second probe in the exit vent, because both dome and grate temperatures are affected by other things. My Akorn dome thermometer was dead-nuts, but very slow to respond and influenced by the fire if a deflector arm wasn't aimed toward it. The grate temperature is affected by the food and location, center vs. edge. The top vent has none of those issues, and provides an early warning for temperature swings at grate level. 

 

Akorns are great little Kamados, but mine was never happy at low temperatures. It just needed a lot of TLC, and it's lid kept shut.  

 

Have fun,

Frank

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I always use a chimney starter, but, if I'm going for a slow cook, I don't let it become Vesuvius before I dump it in.  Some of the charcoal is not yet lighted – but it will be.  First, I immediately douse the red-hot chimney with water, and set it aside.  I set the top-vent almost closed and the bottom vent about one inch open, wait for the internal temperature to reach 300º and then put the meat, effectively, "into the convection oven."  Once it's had a little time to get some char-marks on both sides, I put the meat on a piece of aluminum foil that I have folded-up on all four sides to make a simple tray.

 

Then I lock the lid and do the hardest thing for a grill-meister to do:  I leave it alone(!) :) for many hours, regularly observing that smoke's still coming out and that the temperature remains where it should be.

 

As they say in the instructions, the temperature should slowly come up to where you want it to be.  And, "a watched pot never boils."

 

A big pork roast has become a personal favorite.  A local grocery store has a separate freezer-case where they discount meat that's nearing its sell-by date, and I suppose that people around here don't like roasts as much as I do because I frequently find roasts there.  This unassuming little store also sources its meats locally, so not only do you feel good about keeping good food from being wasted, it's delicious!

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17 hours ago, Joe22 said:

Thank you for the tips. I honestly think I use too much charcoal which I think causes my difficulty  in controlling my temps. I'll definitely have try to creep up on the temp. My temp seems to climb slowly then suddenly spike. After that,  I'm trying to get under control from there. Thanks again for taking the time to give me some pointers.

 

More charcoal will choke the airflow, letting you achieve lower temps easier.  I would not put less charcoal in. 

 

The way I light mine is:

 

Volcano format, I use a wine bottle and pack the charcoal around it.  Charcoal chunks (no chips) interspersed in the charcoal with the charcoal always covering it.

Tumbleweed in the hole.  Light it.  Top is open, bottom vent is at 5.

Wait 3-5 minutes, then shut the top and leave the top vent at 5.

Once you hit 125 (probably at total elapsed time 10-15 mins, shut both vents to 4.

150, shut them to 2.5-3

175, shut them to 1.5

200, shut them to right around 1, it will vary grill to grill.

 

Then, most importantly, let it sit.  If the temps rise past 235, knock back the bottom vent to .5, top to .9.

Otherwise, if it is a slow climb I wouldn't worry about it.  Keep an eye on the smoke and wait for it to thin out to blue, it might be almost invisible.

 

Temps between 235-265 will be best and easy to maintain.

 

Picnic pork shoulders should take 12-14 hours, but could be less than 10.  Can't say I've seen 4 hours.

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I guess I have a lot to look into. First and foremost I have to calibrate my oven temp probe. Then, I have noticed that I have a fair amount of small charcoal chips in the grill instead of bigger pieces. So from what I'm gathering I need to try a few techniques from all of you. Thanks for all the tips from everyone.

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Hey Joe.  First off - is that a Michigan shirt I see in the picture? (go blue)

 

I fill up my box all the way as well, and then usually dig a hole in the middle, dropping half of a weber starter cube.  Once the cube is lit, I put a few small pieces of coal around it.  Once I see those are starting to go, I put on the heat deflector and grate and add my maverick thermometer to the grate to make sure I'm getting most accurate measurements.  I leave both vents open to 5 and 5 until about 150.  At 150, I close both vents to 2 and 2 until about 180.  At that point, I close the vents to 1 and 1.  Once I get to about 210, I close bottom to the point where the screw is 99% covered and the top vent I visualize a little less than 1, which is my smoker's sweet spot.  My smoker holds nicely usually right at 237 which I will happily take for a quality smoke.

 

Hope this helps!

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You can save money on the Weber fire starters...just buy a cheap bag of cotton balls. When you're ready to fire up, soak a couple of cotton balls in isopropyl or rubbing alcohol and drop in instead of Weber cube. Use the bottom vent for big temp shifts and top vent for more precise smaller adjustments.

 

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