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Thread: Cooking Frozen Pork Shoulder - boston butt

  1. #1
    Hi, Just curious if anyone here is as much of a procastintator and impatient as I.

    I'm cooking for the second time and Frozen pork shoulder. My local butcher has nice pork shoulders but they are usually frozen. I often don't think far enough ahead to purchase one with enough time for it to properly thaw before I want to smoke it. The first time this happened the butcher said go ahead and cook it - it shouldn't be a problem - so I did. I found he was right. I applied the mustard, the rub and stuck it in the smoker for an overnight minion method cook. By morning I could stick a probe, and by the time we wanted to eat in the early afternoon it was completely done. It was really really GOOD!

    So I am doing it a second time - my wife on Saturday said she would like to have pork shoulder for mother's day, so Hey I said NO PROBLEM! 6lb boston butt frozen, mustard slathered, rubbed, and in the smoker by 9pm. Internal temperature by 11am was 186 and now at 1:30 it is done at 190. We're eating at 4pm. And I'm going out to take it out soon.

    I was just wondering if anyone else has cooked it from frozen? I got to say I feel a little guilty about how easy it is to do it this way.

  2. #2
    TVWBB Wizard
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Not me.

    I'll stick to refrigerated.

    I wonder how long the butt is in the danger zone (40-140)?

  3. #3
    TVWBB Pro
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Chicago IL
    At what temp are you cookin it at? In the oven at 400 - 425 its probably ok. In a smoker at 225 - 250 degrees. I believe it would stay in the danger zone too long.

    Maybe the butcher was selling "enhanced" butts and the solution helped keep the "nasty bugs" from multiplying?

    Good luck.
    The Burnt Food Dude

  4. #4
    TVWBB Super Fan
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Peck, Michigan
    Andy when I have ran into a frozen meat problem I will fill the kitchen sink with cold water and keep switching it out. That seems to speed up thawing method.

  5. #5
    TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Las Vegas, Nev; Okeechobee, Fla
    The possible problem here might be one of quality but it would not be one of food safety. It is too important--for me--to be able to salt the meat first, allow the meat to moisten from the salt interaction, and then apply the rub over the salt. A butt thawing and dripping as much as it would I'm afraid would alter my rub amount substantially.

    Because the butt is an intact cut (as opposed to a hunk of frozen ground beef, say) there really isn't a concern on the safety front. It is the meat's surface temp we need to be concerned about as far as the 'danger zone' goes, not the internal temp, when we are talking about intact cuts.

    (Internal temp as it relates to food safety is most important with foods where the external is now likely part of the internal--like with hamburger and meatloaf and fresh sausage, and with dishes compiled of raw or cooked items (or a combo of both) like many casseroles or pots of beans, say, and for foods that were cooked, cooled, and are now being reheated. It should be noted that intact meat cuts that are injected, Jaccarded, slit with a knife to insert herbs or garlic, etc., might be contaminated internally by the act of doing so. That's not the case here.)

    The surface temp of the butt, while remaining cold, would not be in a danger range long enough to cause a concern and pathogenic bacteria would be killed as the surface temps rose (to speed up that part of it cook temps could start higher for a while but this wouldn't be necessary). At exposure to cooking temps pathogenic bacteria are killed--actually they are killed at much lower temps than cooking, they are killed at temps down within the danger zone--and exposure to these temps is happening as the surface thaws. The sub-surface meat here is not an issue because it doesn't harbor pathogenic bacteria.

    This is not code-approved. Various time-at-temps and kill rates are ignored by the FDA (and subsequently the authorities that base their codes on FDA data) and so most of us that cook professionally ignore it too--we don't have a choice as we have to know and follow codes. We can't have an inspector walking in and seeing a flat of frozen chicken breasts thawing in an empty sink (prefectly safe, btw, if they're destined to be cooked when thawed) because it is not code-approved; ditto cooking a butt from frozen.

    There are many aspects of the FDA codes that are greatly simplified to make adherence and inspection easier but that are NOT based on science. E.g., the FDA cannot provide data that thawing chicken breasts on the counter is dangerous because there aren't any. There are data that show it's perfectly fine and there are data that show cooking from the frozen is fine too. Neither is something one would do commercially though because of the codes, not because it is unsafe. There are variables that come into play--many variables in many cases--in other food safety-related questions that can alter the answers. Codes are not presently able to deal with all the variables so they simplify and lump everything together. It makes it easier for people to remember but it is not necessarily applicable is every situation every time. There are many of us who are trying to get the FDA to change to a HACCP-based ideology. (HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points and is a way to design a process (procedure, recipe) where safety is verified and assured at 'critical point' along the way. It or a very similar ideology is used by many government agencies like the EPA and OSHA and is extremely effective.)

  6. #6
    i would have cooked it between 225 and 250, but that night it was really windy. so it cooked about 280 until it cooled a bit in the morning when it was 180 and I had to add more fuel to get it back up there.

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