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Cooking to temp when slow cooking advice


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I'm planning to do a slow cooked pulled lamb shoulder on my joe jnr for Christmas day and have done a few test runs. I've been trying to "cook to temp" and not just time but all the recipes i've followed say things like "cook for 6 hours until internal temp is 200 degrees" or simply "cook until internal temp is 200 degrees" but the internal temp of the lamb is coming up way quicker than that every time. The first time i did it i left it on the grill, the temperature actually stalled at 200 and by the time another 3 hours had passed it was only at 203 but was perhaps just a little dry. After some more reading, asking questions and so on I decided that if the next one came up too quickly again i would just probe it to check for tenderness and then take it off. This time i took it off about 2 hours earlier than the previous cook...my probing for doneness was obviously off but it was more like a roast than pulled, it was up to temp all over but simply hadn't had enough time. My question is, when should i be *just* cooking to temp and when should i be saying "ok this has reached the desired temp but it definitely needs another 2 hours"?

 

Both cooks were more or less the same from a temperature perspective: 250 on the dome with the heat deflector in. Big difference between the 2 was that on cook 1 once the lamb reached 150f (about 2 hours in) i did wrap it in foil. But again, after reading and watching some videos i decided it probably wasnt actually necessary.

 

I've got one more practice run before Christmas so if anyone can give me help i'll be forever grateful.

 

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I definitely think that you need to rely upon an external-reading thermometer which sits outside of your firebox and tells you about (usually) both the temperature of the firebox and the internal temperature of the meat at its thickest portion.

 

It is normal to encounter a "stall," and there have already been many threads here which thoroughly discuss the reasons why – "evaporative cooling" and so forth.

 

Take the meat off the grill when the internal temperature is 10º-15ºF below the target temperature, then "tent it" with aluminum foil.  Over the next fifteen minutes to half an hour, the meat will then "coast up" to your desired target temp.

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Hitting a stall at 200 seems really high. Beef stalls around 155-165 and a quick search indicates lamb has the same stall temp so I'm not sure why it's getting to 200 so quickly. How big a cut of meat are you cooking?

 

The other thing not mentioned on the first cook was rest time. My experience is that 30 -60 min rest time for a larger cut of meat is key for a juicy result. 

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@lnarngr, this is very often exactly what I see.  The meat cooks more quickly and thoroughly, while consuming much less fuel.  I have done many cooks – even "low and slow" (which I'm finally getting the hang of ...) – and the next day most of the charcoal is left.  Just shut both the top and bottom vent when you're finished cooking.  Next day, remove the charcoal (which otherwise can absorb moisture), and clean the grill of remaining ash, burned grease, etc.

 

I see exactly the same effect in my kitchen toaster oven, which also has a "turbo" convection mode which simply turns on a small fan.  It greatly shortens the cooking time and definitely changes the nature of the finished food: far more flexibility and control.  "Using nothing more than a small fan!"  I wish that my kitchen stove had the same feature, but I couldn't justify the difference in price.  (I wonder if I can buy a small external fan to put in it, just to keep the air moving ... hmmm ...)

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@willys1: I take the meat off the fire when it is about 10ºF below the target temperature that I want, then "tent" it under aluminum foil while leaving the temperature probe in place.  Over the next fifteen to thirty minutes, the food "coasts" up to the desired target temperature.  The foil also keeps the food from cooling off.  "Resting" can have a big effect.  Some people say that one reason why food at a restaurant tastes different and maybe better than the food you cook yourself is the few minutes that the food sits under those heat-lamps, between the time that the cooks finish preparing it and the time that it arrives at your table.  I'm not quite sure that I agree with this, but it is an interesting idea.

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On 11/24/2021 at 12:40 AM, MikeRobinson said:

I definitely think that you need to rely upon an external-reading thermometer which sits outside of your firebox and tells you about (usually) both the temperature of the firebox and the internal temperature of the meat at its thickest portion.

 

It is normal to encounter a "stall," and there have already been many threads here which thoroughly discuss the reasons why – "evaporative cooling" and so forth.

 

Take the meat off the grill when the internal temperature is 10º-15ºF below the target temperature, then "tent it" with aluminum foil.  Over the next fifteen minutes to half an hour, the meat will then "coast up" to your desired target temp.

I appreciate the response but this isnt really answering my question at all. I didn't specify in the post but i am using probes connected to my phone on both grill level and in the meat. I am aware of what stalling is, which is why I didn't ask what was going on there. The question is in regards to the speed at which the temperature came up inside the meat. As for your last paragraph, the end of my first paragraph states that i more or less did that on a more recent cook and the meat was not "low and slow" as in pulled or falling off the bone and was essentially roasted. The post is specifically questioning when to know that pulling off at temp (or 10 degrees before) isn't good enough as was the case here.

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On 11/24/2021 at 3:02 PM, willys1 said:

Hitting a stall at 200 seems really high. Beef stalls around 155-165 and a quick search indicates lamb has the same stall temp so I'm not sure why it's getting to 200 so quickly. How big a cut of meat are you cooking?

 

The other thing not mentioned on the first cook was rest time. My experience is that 30 -60 min rest time for a larger cut of meat is key for a juicy result. 

I agree it seems high thats why it shocked me so much, especially when it did it again the second time. The cut is about 1.8-2kg. I cant remember exactly but thats the range for a "medium" lamb shoulder from my butcher. I left it about 2 hours for rest time, wrapped in foil in a cool box. 

 

Thanks for the response.

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I cook a lot of lamb, unfortunately I can't consistently find lamb shoulder, but I do cook a lot of shanks, which like the shoulder cut are solidly muscle tissue. Much like a brisket which is solid chest muscle from the cow, Lamb shoulder and shanks need a long slow cook to render fat and develop into a tender flavorful  bite. Therefore my advice will concentrate on the cooking method rather than the temp you cook at or the time of your cook. Shanks, and the shoulder I have cooked really benefit from a slow braize, so  I do not cook them directly on a grate but braize them in an aromatic braizing liquid with Med area spices, root veggies, and some quartered orange. I keep the braizing liquid about   1/2 or 3/4 up the sides and turn the lamb every hour. I cook at 270 to 300 dgs F and check for tenderness with a probe. When an inserted probe feels like it is going through a completely done potato, their done. Usually that is  around 3 1/2 to 4 hours, but some cooks have gone longer. Here's a pic of my last lamb shank braize. I was doing a Greek recipe with white beans. I brown what ever I am cooking in the pan I use for my braize first then  add the aromatic liquid and scrape off the fond to add to the flavor profile. Those shanks are fall off the bone tender and your could easily pull them if you chose to. Hope this helps your next cook. Grace and Peace.

 

IMG_1740.thumb.jpeg.19db5b8656e783a1406259a5f374b854.jpeg

IMG_1745.thumb.jpeg.46bac971784eff3465252df8db256823.jpeg

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On 11/29/2021 at 5:42 PM, keeperovdeflame said:

I cook a lot of lamb, unfortunately I can't consistently find lamb shoulder, but I do cook a lot of shanks, which like the shoulder cut are solidly muscle tissue. Much like a brisket which is solid chest muscle from the cow, Lamb shoulder and shanks need a long slow cook to render fat and develop into a tender flavorful  bite. Therefore my advice will concentrate on the cooking method rather than the temp you cook at or the time of your cook. Shanks, and the shoulder I have cooked really benefit from a slow braize, so  I do not cook them directly on a grate but braize them in an aromatic braizing liquid with Med area spices, root veggies, and some quartered orange. I keep the braizing liquid about   1/2 or 3/4 up the sides and turn the lamb every hour. I cook at 270 to 300 dgs F and check for tenderness with a probe. When an inserted probe feels like it is going through a completely done potato, their done. Usually that is  around 3 1/2 to 4 hours, but some cooks have gone longer. Here's a pic of my last lamb shank braize. I was doing a Greek recipe with white beans. I brown what ever I am cooking in the pan I use for my braize first then  add the aromatic liquid and scrape off the fond to add to the flavor profile. Those shanks are fall off the bone tender and your could easily pull them if you chose to. Hope this helps your next cook. Grace and Peace.

 

IMG_1740.thumb.jpeg.19db5b8656e783a1406259a5f374b854.jpeg

IMG_1745.thumb.jpeg.46bac971784eff3465252df8db256823.jpeg

 

That looks incredible. My mouth is watering just looking at it. Thank you for your advice.

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