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My Bark Had No Bite
July 12, 2008
10:02 am
beltwaybbq
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First of all, let me tell anyone who's reading, the off-set smoker modifications work, period.  I did my first port butt yesterday since my modifications were completed as a test.  Let me tell you, it was more than a test.  In many ways, that butt was among the best pulled pork I have done and I have probably smoked up at least 20 on my Char-Griller.

My question to the gurus this morning is in reference to my bark.  I followed the "Dr. Brown" rub recipe under the recipe link here on the site but it didn't bark up the way I thought it should.  What do I mean?  The pork butt was darker than usual which is what I was looking for, but it didn't have that sort of smokey, slightly burnt consistency that was my goal.  Should I add more turbinado sugar in the rub or sprinkle extra brown sugar all over the roast after it has been rubbed down?  Second, should the fat cap on the pork butt be mostly cut-off in order to let the rub and sugar get into the meat instead of simply seasoning the fat?  I wonder if that was a factor in not getting my bark they way I was looking for. 

Thanks much for all your wisdom and experience!  To the new back yard smokers out there, take heed from these folks.  They know of what they speak.

JAC – beltwaybbq

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July 12, 2008
1:12 pm
homebbq
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Hey JC,

What temp were you cooking at? and what was the process you followed?

It's been awhile since I did the Renowned Mr Brown recipe, but I remembered it producing a nice bark. Although, I did not mop frequently like it suggests….

Kevin

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July 13, 2008
8:33 am
beltwaybbq
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Thanks for the reply.

Here is my process:

Sliced off some but not all of the fat cap and rubbed the whole roast with my rub (Dr. Brown recipe).

Injected the roast several times with apple juice.

Used a high quality lump coal and smoked it at roughly 220 degrees for nearly 12 hours.  I used a mix of apple and hickory wood. 

Every hour or so, I sprayed the roast down with apple juice.  I did not mop at all.

As I said, among the best butt I have done.  It pulled really well, the blade came out clean and part of it just fell apart in my hand.

The butt was darker as I said, but did not have that bark consistency.  I appreciate your feedback.

JAC – beltwaybbq

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July 13, 2008
11:02 am
homebbq
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Hmm…

Let me confirm your using the southern succor rub from this recipe, http://www.homebbq.com/index.p…..rchives/19 is that right?

If thats the case you have plenty of sugar there to get a firm bark, my advice would be to layoff the apple juice spray as much as possible… That was the whole reason I didn't mop like it suggested. There is no real opportunity for the bark to firm up. Also, make sure your giving time before you put the butt into the cooker, for the rub to kind of melt into the meat, say 30 minutes.

Kevin

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July 13, 2008
12:04 pm
beltwaybbq
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Correct.  I used the rub recipe you referenced.

If that's enough brown sugar, I will try it again and next time skip the apple juice in the spray bottle.  I think I will inject my pork again with the apple juice to keep some moisture in the roast.  A competitor at this year's DC BBQ Battle told me about injecting with juice and it seemed like a good trick to try.  I will certainly let the rub melt in for about 30 minutes or so prior to placing on smoker as you suggest.

One question remains for me and that is, would you trim most of the fat cap, trim a little bit, or not at all to help get that bark to crisp up?

Thanks very much for the help!

JAC – beltwaybbq

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July 13, 2008
3:03 pm
homebbq
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It is definately a good idea to inject the butt.. A little tip to try, if you have a spare grinder, is to take some of the same rub your using on the outside, and grind a little down into a powder, and mix it into your injection..

I watch some people trim the daylights out of a pork butt, I don't trim it at all… I just pull-off the fat when I'm pulling the pork. If you leave the fat-cap untrimmed, when the butt is done, there is a thin layer of meat just on the inside of that fat layer, that is real moist and tasty…

Kevin

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July 13, 2008
3:10 pm
beltwaybbq
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Great tip!  So, a little rub ground into a powder mixed with the injected apple juice?  Gotcha.

I was worried that I wouldn't get the bark if I didn't trim the fat cap.  I really don't recall trimming my butts in the past.  I think I will do very light trimming next time and see what happens.  I like the meat underneath the skin you were talking about though.  Man, I can taste it.

Many thanks!

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July 13, 2008
4:20 pm
homebbq
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Cook it with the fat cap down, you will have plenty of bark area… You could also mix a little cider vinegar, and a little brown sugar, in addition to the rub, and apple juice into the injection…

good luck with it, and let us know

Kevin

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July 13, 2008
5:33 pm
beltwaybbq
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Ok.  Sounds great.

One more thing before we close this discussion out.  Are you saying cook my pork butt with the fat side down?  I thought that the prevailing wisdom out there in BBQ Land was to cook fat side up so that over time, the fat drips down which helps flavor as well as break down the toughness of the meat.  Would you mind explaining in a few words why you recommend smoking these butts with the fat side down?  What the hell, if you say it's the way to go, I'll try it next time.

I welcome your insight and experience.

Thanks much!

JAC – beltwaybbq

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July 14, 2008
12:02 am
homebbq
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I've been cooking bbq since sometime in 1978, and one thing I have learned is, there is no such thing as prevailing wisdom. Of course, back then there wasn't as much information around as there is today, so the only way to learn was to try things.

I've tried fat cap down, then up, sideways, whatever… My conclusion was, it did not matter… What did matter to me was, I wanted more bark, so I've been cooking fat side down ever since..

This is how I do it;

I cook pork (fat side down) until it gets the bark color (and firmness) I want (this is about 155 to 165 degrees internal temp), and then double wrap it in HD aluminum foil, put it in a foil pan, and back on the cooker, until it reaches an internal temp of 196 to 200 degrees (when the thermometer slides in like butter). Pull it out, and rest it for about an hour, then pull the butt apart. You can also put some of that juice back in to the pulled pork, that is sitting at the bottom of the foil, in the foil pan. And, if you have any rub left you can put some of that on as well after you have pulled it, and juiced it up a little.

Kevin

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July 14, 2008
8:12 am
beltwaybbq
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Right.  I shouldn't have said prevailing wisdom regarding fat side up or down.  I realize of course that there are about a thousand ways to do these different types of meats on these cookers.  I was gonna ask you how you handle the fat cap toward the fire in reference to that fat sticking to the grill grate.  The foil wrap along with disposable pan, sounds like it solves that problem nicely.  The last thing I want is for that sucker to be on the grill for 12 hours only to find I can't get it off the grate cause it's stuck from all the fat that has rendered down.

I certainly can't wait to employ some of the tips and tricks we've talked about.  You run a great site and I thank you for all your efforts and your generous sharing of your experience.

Til next time -

JAC -beltwaybbq

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July 14, 2008
6:34 pm
homebbq
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Your welcome James…

BTW, if you do use foil like I mentioned above, it will not take nearly as long to cook. Just wanted you to be aware of that.

Let me know how things come out.

Kevin

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July 15, 2008
6:56 am
beltwaybbq
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Ok.  Good to know about the foil as it relates to cook time.  When I fire up the smoker, I will certainly report back and let the readers know my process and how it turned out.

Happy Q'ing!

beltwaybbq

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August 7, 2008
3:48 pm
beltwaybbq
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Hello there Kevin!

I need to revisit our discussion on bark and pork butt procedures.  I went back over our conversation about this and a few questions came to mind.  

1.  If you suggest starting the butt fat side down, do you have any tips on preventing my fat from sticking all over the grill grate?

2. You mentioned in our original conversation timing as it relates to double wrapping the pork butt with HD foil.  My question is this, about how long do you think my total cook would be for a butt wrapped in foil knowing that without foil, it takes around 12 hours at 225-250.  I guess a related question would be how long til it gets to 155-165 which is the temp. you suggest to foil wrap it?

3. What you wrote from our original conversation:

You can also put some of that juice back in to the pulled pork, that is sitting at the bottom of the foil, in the foil pan. And, if you have any rub left you can put some of that on as well after you have pulled it, and juiced it up a little.

Just to clarify do you mean I can put some juice and leftover rub on the meat itself before it gets wrapped up or do you mean do this in the bottom of the foil pan which of course would not be directly on the meat?

I think I am getting geared up for some pulled pork soon.  This will really help me.

Many thanks, many thanks!

JAC -beltwaybbq

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August 9, 2008
11:28 am
homebbq
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James

Let me take these 1 at a time here…

1. Good point, it will tend to stick… A couple of things I always do is, after scraping the grill down with a brush, I come back and spray it with cooking spray. And a habit I got into when I was using a stick burner (a big one), was using a pizza peel to put things in, and take them out of the cooker. Worked real well, and I still use one today…

2. Tough one to answer, it depends on your cooker, size of the meat thats in there, and how full the cooker is… Now with all of that said, my guess will be 1 to 2 hours less time.

3. I am actually talking about after you pull the butt apart, to pour some of that reserved juice (in the foil, which is in the foil pan), and some rub, and mix that back in for alot more flavor.

Kevin
HomeBBQ.com

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August 9, 2008
11:46 am
beltwaybbq
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Perfect timing!

I decided to do a butt tomorrow.  The weather is so nice here inside the beltway I couldn't resist.

Could you give me a rough idea of how long it might take for the butt to reach 155-165, the time at which you suggest to wrap it?  This is based on my cook temp of 220-225.

When you do wrap the butt in foil and put it in a disposable pan, do juices from the meat gather in the bottom or do you pour some apple juice along with some rub to sort of create your own au jus?  I was confused as to how the juices got into the bottom of the pan if the butt was double wrapped.  This relates to your answer to my question 3.

Thanks so much!

We got some time before dawn to get any more questions answered.

Regards,

JAC – beltwaybbq

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August 10, 2008
11:52 am
homebbq
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Hope I'm not to late… I don't pour anything else in there, but you certainly could if you wanted. The juice is actually still in the foil, which is still in the pan. You will find out soon enough what I mean… There should be so much juice, you just unwrap the butt, and pull it out of the juice (which is in the foil, and it is in the pan Cool)

Kevin
HomeBBQ.com

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August 10, 2008
12:07 pm
beltwaybbq
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Not too late.  I actually wrapped it not long ago and set it in the foil pan.  I put some rub and some juice in the bottom of the pan.  After seeing your reply, I am going to run out back and dump it.

A little tip that I wanted to pass along even though my cook isn't completed.  My wife gets full credit for this one.  I was thinking about ways to prepare the grill grates so they wouldn't stick when I started the butt this morning placing it on the cooker fat side down.  Her idea was to melt Crisco in the microwave and paint the grates with a brush.  Well, when the butt reached 160 or so, I went out to wrap it in foil and found that the roast slid like it was sitting in motor oil.  There was not a single piece of fat or meat stuck to that grate when I lifted it off.  Wiping your grates with Crisco, prevents sticking.  Bank on it!

I will report back on how this cook went.

JAC -beltway bbq

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August 11, 2008
9:01 am
beltwaybbq
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Good morning!

I wanted to post my report or results after my pork butt project yesterday.  Here's the basics of my process:

1. My pork butt was approx. 7 1/2 pounds – dry rubbed the night before and stored in plastic bag in cooler with small ice pack.

2. Pulled out butt in the AM and applied a little more rub to make sure all areas were coated.  Injected roast several times with mix of rub powder, brown sugar, apple juice and apple cider vinegar.

3. Got smoker up to 225, added apple wood and placed roast on cooker fat side down.  The temp. was rock solid at 225 for the entire cook.  By the way, I smoked for about 4 hrs.  Also added small water pan with just water in it.

4. Took temp reading after several hours (not sure how many it was) and found it was bet. 155-165.  Double wrapped in HD foil and placed in foil pan.

5. Took reading at about the 11 hour mark and it read 200.  Pulled meat off cooker and let it rest for 30-45 minutes.

6. Started to pull meat after it rested but first, pulled out blade bone which came out completely clean.  The rest of the meat just fell apart.

Ok, that's basically the process in a nut shell. 

Overall, I was not really pleased with the end result.  I don't know if it was overdone or if I just don't prefer the foil wrap procedure. 

First of all, I didn't have that sort of crusty, dark, outer crust of bark that I really love even though I started this cook with the meat fat side down.  The other observation I had immediately when I started to pull the meat, was that it had a slightly mushy consistency almost like it had been minced or finely chopped as they do in Southern Va.  That is not the consistency I like.  I like my pork butt to be pulled or shredded as they do in Memphis.  Ideally, I get some long, almost stringy parts of meat as it gets pulled.  Here is where I wonder if it was overdone or did the foil wrap steam the meat?  If the foil wrap procedure results in a steamed meat, that's not the process for me.

Why did this happen?  Why didn't the meat bark up?  I have seen more programs on Food Network where these guys pull their butts out of the cooker and they are almost jet black on the outside and pink and moist on the inside.  I can't seem to get that to happen with mine.

Thanks in advance for your comments and/or suggestions.  I appreciate your time.

JAC – beltwaybbq  

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August 11, 2008
9:19 am
homebbq
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mushy = over cooked …

Now as far as your bark, what rub did you use? How much did you use? Where was the 225 reading, was it in the thermometer in the door? or at grate level? Also, why the water pan?

Do you have any pictures?

Kevin
HomeBBQ.com

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