Heavy ash on pork shoulder - help please!

MMosher

New member
Hi all, hoping for some advice or feedback. I pulled an allnighter in an attempt to have a delicious pulled pork lunch. My goal was to get a beautiful crust, so I did not wrap the pork at all, and I did not lift the lid for a full 7 hours. As you can see in the pics, there is some pretty heavy ash on the pork and the grill grates. This cook was on my 22.5" WSM that was sparkly clean before I started the cook. I'll list what I did, maybe something that can be corrected for the future

Weather was in the low to mid 30 degree range, low winds. No rain or snow
Poured a full bag of Kingsford Original - same I always use on smoker and grill
Mixed in chunks of Weber brand Hickory and Cherry wood within the coals. In total probably 8 or 9 chunks scattered around and throughout the coals
Started the fire using the Minion method at 10pm
Got the WSM up to temp, let it sit for over an hour as there was pretty heavy white smoke , closer to 80-90 minutes until it settled. During this time the the temp was steady about 200-220F, peaked about 250F
Started off with full water pan, using hot water and threw a few garlic cloves in (I always do for some extra flavor and aroma)
Placed the shoulder center of the rack about 11:30pm. It was a pretty simple pork butt, just rubbed the outside with some mustard then applied a rub.
Temp lowered at first, as usual, then rose steadily back into the 230 range
I was able to stay awake the first few hours, keeping a close eye on the temps and it stayed within the 230-250 range.
I dozed off, woke up a couple hours later and temp was in the 230s. Set an alarm and went back to sleep. Repeated this through the night and the temps were in range of 220-250
For vent settings - the top vent was pretty much full open. The bottom vents were less than 1/4 open and the one nearest the door I keep pretty much closed, as the door leaks like crazy.
Gotta say that WSM held pretty solid temps throughout the night, until about 6am when I woke up and temp was in the 190s.
That is when I cracked the lid open to discover the horror of my butt covered in a coating of ash. The probes and the grill grates were also covered.
Why??

Was there too much coal to start? Even though I've read and seen videos of people starting with/ using a whole bag for longer cooks.
Was it because I dozed off and/or didn't open the lid for about 7 hours?
in the pictures it was still dark out, so apologies for the not so great details. It looked much worse in person. I did my best to blow off the ash and then used a broth/hot sauce/apple cider vinegar spritz in an attempt to wash off the ash.
Overall the cook turned out OK. Some bites were pretty nasty, tasting like an ash tray. But other bites had a lovely bark and rich flavor. The inside meat was tender and delicious. Luckily this was just for myself, wife and kids. Not for a party or guests. Also, I'm so used to wrapping and saving time that I did not factor that into an unwrapped cook, my timing was totally off so this ended up being dinner! Live and learn I suppose

Would really appreciate any feedback on how to prevent the ash issue in the future! Thank you!


Ash grates.jpg
Grates covered in ash, the middle grate was wiped by my gloved finger, a lot came off.

Ash pork.png
Ashy around the edges and top. Some juices leaking out from the probe area seemed to wash ash away or prevent it from sticking.


Ash shoulder.jpg
All the white and gray speckles are ash.
 

Rich G

TVWBB Guru
Wow! That is a lot of ash, and I have never had that problem unlesss....... (1) it was windy (was it windy in the middle of the night?, or (2) I had to reload charcoal (which it doesn't look like you did.) My bet is that it was wind.

Glad you were able to salvage it, sorry you lost out on some tasty bark!

Rich
 

Tim K

TVWBB Pro
I would have to agree with Rich, in that it looks like some wind caused the disturbance in your smoker. Let me ask 2 questions:when you placed the shoulder on the smoker, got it set up , and placed the lid back in place, by chance did it slam down (possibly causing the ash to become unsettled) or, when you checked on the shoulder in the am (when the temp fell to 190°) did you still have lots of coal left?
if I were to guess, I would bet Some wind was the culprit, and that’s also what caused your temps to fall like they did.
Tim
 

Mark Twelve

TVWBB Member
Wow. I have never had that issue on my WSM to that extent. Even if I had to move some coals (lump) around during a reload or the burn went south. I would also agree with the others some disturbance like wind. Also glad it was not a total loss.
 

BobJ

TVWBB Fan
I'm amazed a 22 needs a whole bag of charcoal, I've only used a 14. Never seen ash like yours, even with wind.
 

Brad Olson

TVWBB All-Star
Started the fire using the Minion method at 10pm
Got the WSM up to temp, let it sit for over an hour as there was pretty heavy white smoke , closer to 80-90 minutes until it settled.
Just spitballing here, but could it be possible that the ash was created and drifted upward during the startup process and floated back down later when the temperature cooled and airflow dropped?
 

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Platinum Member
That's pretty wild. I've got a 22.5 and I've never had that happen. If you had to add charcoal mid cook then maybe.
 

Cliff Bartlett

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Were you using an ATC? I've never experienced anything like this on a WSM, but I did have a similar experience using my ATC on a 22" kettle. I was doing a slow and slow cook and got careless with my ash buildup and the fan gave my pork butt a little dusting. Similar to yours but not that bad.
 

MMosher

New member
I would have to agree with Rich, in that it looks like some wind caused the disturbance in your smoker. Let me ask 2 questions:when you placed the shoulder on the smoker, got it set up , and placed the lid back in place, by chance did it slam down (possibly causing the ash to become unsettled) or, when you checked on the shoulder in the am (when the temp fell to 190°) did you still have lots of coal left?
if I were to guess, I would bet Some wind was the culprit, and that’s also what caused your temps to fall like they did.
Tim
Come to think of it, the lid can sometimes be finicky, so I may have closed it too hard.. as for overnight winds I wasn't paying too close attention to be honest. I have a wireless thermometer so I can check temps from the warmth of my living room, when I saw it was in a decent range I just went back to sleep.

When I checked in the morning there wasn't a whole lot of coal left, I had to refuel.

Perhaps the wind did kick up and combined with the cold temps burned the coals out too quickly?
 

MMosher

New member
Were you using an ATC? I've never experienced anything like this on a WSM, but I did have a similar experience using my ATC on a 22" kettle. I was doing a slow and slow cook and got careless with my ash buildup and the fan gave my pork butt a little dusting. Similar to yours but not that bad.
Was not using any sort of ATC system

Starting to wonder if it was in fact wind, maybe should have stirred the coals around before putting the butt on, as they burned so long there could have been a decent amount of ashes already built up on the top of the pile
 

timothy

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Yea either the wind or your water pan boiled over.
8 or 9 chunks is a lot of wood ( for me) That and new WSM's tend to run hotter because of the shiny surfaces and the joints leak air in.
A few more fatty cooks should seal it up.

Tim
 
I've done many overnight cooks in an 18.5, using charcoal/vents/wood/water settings similar to yours, but I've never seen nearly that much ash. And I've cooked when it was so windy I had to set up tables and stuff to block major gusts. (I wouldn't choose to cook on such a night, but of course it was Christmas Eve and family was coming for brisket the next day. If you ever need wind, let me know, and I will light a fire. Guaranteed gale force within minutes.)

Sometimes I dust up a little ash when I stir the coals in the morning or tap the legs of the WSM to knock ash off the coals. You can see bits floating in the air inside the WSM, but it's never been enough to see ash later on the meat or grates.

The only thing I can imagine is some random wind that blew up while you slept, combined with the smoker being "sparkly clean before I started the cook." Even that seems unlikely, yet I can't come up with anything else.

Maybe it was a one time fluke and will never happen again. Let's go with that.
 

Jerry N.

TVWBB Emerald Member
Yea either the wind or your water pan boiled over.
8 or 9 chunks is a lot of wood ( for me) That and new WSM's tend to run hotter because of the shiny surfaces and the joints leak air in.
A few more fatty cooks should seal it up.

Tim
I've never seen anything like that. My complete guess is that the water pan boiled over. That seems like it would be the most likely thing to send a steam/ash cloud throughout the WSM and coat everything the way it seems that it did. The wind is the next logical thing, but it would have to have happened after a lot of charcoal was burnt and it seems unlikely that you'd get such an even and complete distribution of the ash.

Did you foil the pan? If so, did you use two sheets? If you have two sheets and there is a leak, the water that gets under the foil will boil and spill out onto the fire.

Again, never seen this but that's my conclusion. Quite the bummer to have that happen. When you spend that kind of time cooking a piece of meat, having it come out bad hurts. Personally, I would have gone ahead and literally washed it under running water. It was already a bad day so it wasn't going to get any worse and the rinse would have prevented any of the ash from getting to the good (inside) meat as you pulled it.
 

MartinB

TVWBB Pro
Theres usually a very light trace of ash on grate just particles
But you .....had something go really bad

Im gonna vote water dump, boiled over, kicked up ash cloud


Even when i poke ash to knock down....nothing like that
 

KToliver

TVWBB Fan
1) never fill your water pan beyond about 2/3
2) it got windy during the night (bad) or you boiled over (worse)
3) get yourself a Cajun Bandit replacement door
 

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