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Cooking to temp when slow cooking advice


Adamon
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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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