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Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 20th, 2015, 7:32 am
by Stony-300
Hello all, gotta question I need help with. I have been doing a little catering this summer with my Frontiersman & 640. On my last cook we loaded the Frontiersman with 40 pork butts. We try to leave a finger or two between them for airflow. I am cooking with hickory and at 235º. Wrapping at the 160º-165º mark. My problem is they turned black like they had creosote on them. I know my wood is dry, it was moved in my shop after drying in a stack outside for a season. The blackness had a greasy consistency to it. Did not affect the flavor in a negative way.

The last cook this weekend was a smaller cook of 26 pork butts. The same thing happened, but the creosote was thicker on the butts and almost had a charred taste to it. Temps were a little higher this time at 245º consistent from the start to finish. This time it definitely affected the taste.

I started both times with a clean smoker. Brought up to temp for almost two hours to get a clean burn. Smokestack is wide open for the entire cook. When feeding wood, it was warmed by laying on top on the firebox. The Frontiersman is a beast, set and load a couple sticks about every hour and forty five minutes. When at a comp, I cook a little hotter, 290º, and do not get this.

Does this have anything to do with the loading of too much "cold" meats? I'm kinda at a loss as to what to do next, quit catering or keep the jobs small that'll fit on the 640. The 640 does not have the problem. Those loads are a little slower to cook, but come out looking perfect.

Any advice is appreciated!!
Thanks - Brent

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 20th, 2015, 10:49 am
by Yoder_Herb
What species of wood are using?

Is the wood dry enough that the bark is loose and/or falling off?

Are you seeing the normal thin transparent bluish smoke from the chimney or is it more white and translucent?

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 20th, 2015, 12:11 pm
by Stony-300
Hey Herb,

Using seasoned hickory. Stored in my shop. The bark is falling off some pieces. After getting smoker to temp and settled there is thin blueish smoke to no smoke. Very clean burning fire, y'all schooled me on the fire last year.

We've been scratching our heads here and wondering if the wood is absorbing the humidity from the shop. The weather here has been hot and wet this summer.


Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 20th, 2015, 1:01 pm
by Yoder_Herb
When you put new wood on to the fire, does it catch fire right away, or is it smoldering and creating dirty smoke?

From your description, it sounds as though the fire is burning dirty during the cooking process. If the fire is clean after the preheat, then the dirty smoke must be coming from the wood that you are adding throughout the cook. The wood added to the fire should be preheated enough to catch fire as soon as you put it on the coals.

If you are not building your fire to one side of the firebox, I would suggest that you do. This will give you a large space on the opposite side to put wood directly into the fire box to preheat.

I would suggest that after you get your fire going, put wood on top of the firebox to pre-preheat, then put the amount that you will add each hour or so in the firebox, on the opposite side from the fire. When you need to add wood, move the wood in the firebox over to the fire, and replace it with wood from on top of the firebox, then put more wood on top of the firebox to pre-preheat. Always move the wood that has been on top of the firebox the longest into the firebox to preheat.

The wood that has been in the firebox should almost immediately catch flame without smoldering when you move it on top of the coal bed, keeping your fire clean throughout the cook.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 20th, 2015, 1:26 pm
by Stony-300
For the most part the wood added almost immediately ignites. I do place the fire in the right side. I don't always place the wood inside to pre-heat. My relief help, my teenage boys, don't always refill the inside with wood to pre-heat. They usually get the 2 AM to 7 AM shift if I can convince them.

I will try and get more consistent on the next cook about keeping the transition from the top of the firebox to the inside left to the fire and see if that helps.

Thanks Herb!

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 20th, 2015, 6:35 pm
by patrickd26
Until you figure this out, I would suggest wrapping them right when you're happy with the color. I know it isn't a solution, but it's a workaround for now.

Also, interested in how you are prepping the meat (rub, mop, etc)

Everything you say makes me think your product should be awesome, but I can only image what that build-up looks like. It almost sounds like you have too much moisture in the chamber and running hotter dissipates it. I didn't catch where you are, but is it humid where you are? Not saying that's the issue... Just trying to figure out the possibility of too much humidity.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 21st, 2015, 8:00 am
by Stony-300
Extremely humid where I am at. Middle TN. We inject some apple juice-salt-little rub-soy-worchesire juice, let it sit for a few hours then rub and place into the smoker. I'm thinking the extreme temp swing of placing 200 lbs of cold meat in a smoker is causing the smoke to "stick" to the meat up front in the cook. I can't fault the cooker at all, that beast never sways. I think your idea of wrapping when they "look"good is gonna be added to the list of changes for large cooks.


Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 21st, 2015, 9:38 am
by kcphilaflyer
During the 2 cooks you mentioned where you had issues, how long were they taking in smoke before they reached the wrap temp of 160-165?

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 21st, 2015, 11:31 am
by TcircleT
Just some additional things to check.
- Confirm the accuracy of your temp gauges. Are your gauges or temp probes compromised during the cook at all - contact with meat, etc.
- How much sugar is in your rub. At your reported temps, sugar shouldn't be an issue, but if your running hot...
- Your airflow will change with that much meat loaded up I would imagine. Is the exhaust being blocked or restricted at all? Are you still getting a good draft? More air is a good thing.

The Frontiersman is a beast and a big attention getter I'm sure. We'd love to see pics of it loaded up.

Good luck.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 21st, 2015, 12:09 pm
by Yoder_Kirby
It sounds to me the issues may arise between 2-7 AM when the night shift is in charge and they don't pre-heat the wood?? If I read that right.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: July 21st, 2015, 2:21 pm
by Stony-300
Usually they get to wrap temp, 160º-165º, between 5-6 hours in. The Frontiersman is such a beast we have found that with one butt, or completely loaded, the times stay the same. The load times stay the same as well.

Airflow is great. The first cook we kept a close watch on the smoke stack, made sure it was 100% open, and judged the flow before loading and after. It pretty much stayed at the same volume and speed on exit.

I don't think the temp gauges read correctly for the first several hours, due to having 200lbs of cold meat thrown in. I think the meat radiates the cold and screws with the guages. If I keep my schedule on wood, and another independent temp probe, the temps only swing 10-15º.

Good suggestion on the rub. I use Dizzy Pig for all my catering gigs. It has alot of sugar.

Yoder_Kirby, I'm gonna have to take my boy's to Yoder Stick Burner School again!!


Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: August 6th, 2015, 9:08 am
by Stony-300
Okay, as embarrassing as this will be I have to let everyone know what I found out about the "Burnt Looking Pork Butts". I have a comp this weekend and decided that a full cleaning job was in order for the smoker. I pulled the grates and shelves out. The first thing I noticed is the grates on the left end, above the trap door on the heat management plate, were rusty. It appears that they suffered some extreme heat as my grates are very well seasoned and have never rusted. I got everything ready and got the scrapers out and a trash can. When I went to scraping the crud off the plate I noticed that all the holes in the heat management plate were stopped up. I always run a finger down them and clear them when I clean. I looked closer and noticed that 75% or better were stopped up and that the largest holes, located on the left end were mostly open.

I know where I went wrong, I let my kid clean the smoker last month as part of his summer chores. His assumption was that if he pushed the crud through the holes, it’d burn off during the next cook. I know, I know, stupid on my part for letting someone else clean my smoker. Lesson learned!

I think that to get to my preferred temp it took almost double the temperature. Which means that all the heat was trapped under the heat management plate, which in turn burned the meats. It’s so weird, my temp in the smoker was pretty steady and stayed where I liked it, so I am assuming that I actually had a over temp issue underneath to obtain the correct smoke temp above. I also think that I had a fire where he had let the crud pile up under the heat management plate. The plate is actually warped on the left end where the trap door is. That’s what lends credit to the fire. I’m also assuming that a grease fire would tend to make the meats “black”.

Anyway, I am embarrassing & publicly shaming myself to educate everyone else about the Heat Management Plate and the importance of correctly cleaning the smoker. If there is a lesson to be learned, if you get your kid to clean, supervise the entire effort. As bad as I hated to find this out, it kinda relieves me to know what the problem was, human error.

As a general rule we never clean the cookers unless we do a large catering job. Comps never really make a mess. If I just brush the grates while its hot, then it’s ready for the next cook.

Thanks for all the feedback.


Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: August 6th, 2015, 11:11 am
by Yoder_Kirby
I'm glad you found the problem. Messing with the air flow will without a doubt effect the cook. I hope the next cook goes as planned for you.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: August 20th, 2015, 1:44 pm
by Stony-300
Thanks, we did another cook and it was flawless.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: August 20th, 2015, 2:19 pm
by Yoder_Herb
Glad you found closure and that things are back to normal.

Re: Burnt looking Pork Butts

PostPosted: August 20th, 2015, 6:14 pm
by Yoder_Kirby
Glad to hear that. Thanks for reporting back.