Upcoming Big Cook


 

Brian Johnson

TVWBB Super Fan
So... I've been asked to prepare some pulled pork for a church function in a few weeks and I'm really looking forward to it. I still don't know how much I'll be cooking (depends on how many people RVSP to the function), but I'm not the only one cooking so thankfully all the pressure is NOT on me. That said, I'm guessing I'll be responsible for smoking at least 3 pork butts, possibly as many as many as 6. My primary cooker will be an 18" WSM (of course) but I do have a pellet cooker and a kettle that can be pressed into service if needed.

I've done enough butts over the years that I feel like I know what to expect, but having never done such a large volume of meat at once I'm starting to get nervous (probably just over thinking it to be honest) about what adjustments I need to make for this cook. I know I can easily fit 4 butts in the WSM using both cooking grates, and since I'll probably be using water in the water pan I already am planning to rotate the butts from top to bottom at least once during the cook. The question that I keep coming back to is the timing of it all. With that much meat in the smoker I anticipate a longer cook but I'm not sure how much time I should plan for.

So I turn to the experts. Do you have any guidance or suggestions for how to adjust my cook time?
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Start three hours earlier than you think you want to. The long rest on the backside will relieve stress if they take longer than expected.
Extra time is never a bad thing. Were it me, I’d only swap once, as quickly as reasonably possible and just let the WSM do its thing.
 

Chuck-roaniecowpony

TVWBB Super Fan
I've done some events where I had 8 butts and other meats. I'd do them a day ahead, pull them and tray the meat. Keep it refrigerated and reheat. Trying to finish and pull that much meat the day of an event is too stressful. You'll be tired and not enjoy the event yourself, if you do it all on the same day.

You can put the trayed and pulled meat in the smoker to reheat, if you like. If not, any oven will do, I've even used ovens at the location of an event to reheat trayed meats. If the meat is dry, you can add moisture with your choice of broth or sauces.
 

Bruno

TVWBB Platinum Member
I've done some events where I had 8 butts and other meats. I'd do them a day ahead, pull them and tray the meat. Keep it refrigerated and reheat. Trying to finish and pull that much meat the day of an event is too stressful. You'll be tired and not enjoy the event yourself, if you do it all on the same day.

You can put the trayed and pulled meat in the smoker to reheat, if you like. If not, any oven will do, I've even used ovens at the location of an event to reheat trayed meats. If the meat is dry, you can add moisture with your choice of broth or sauces.
I would also do this.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB Gold Member
I've done some events where I had 8 butts and other meats. I'd do them a day ahead, pull them and tray the meat. Keep it refrigerated and reheat. Trying to finish and pull that much meat the day of an event is too stressful. You'll be tired and not enjoy the event yourself, if you do it all on the same day.

You can put the trayed and pulled meat in the smoker to reheat, if you like. If not, any oven will do, I've even used ovens at the location of an event to reheat trayed meats. If the meat is dry, you can add moisture with your choice of broth or sauces.
That's exactly how I did mine 10 years ago.
 

Joe D - BBQ Joe

TVWBB Member
When I load both levels of the WSM, I have run into temp issues caused (I suspected at the time) by airflow changes caused by all the meat I had in there. Who knows. Anyway, I agree with adding three hours to whatever is the norm as the extra meat does take longer in my experience. Whether three hours or longer, I would keep the cooked butts in a cooler until it is time to pull. Nothing like that freshly pulled butt, so I would not cook it a whole day or more in advance. Hopefully some of the church folks can help pull!
 

Scott Smith

TVWBB Pro
We do several barbecues each year at our church. The ways to fail that I've seen are not getting enough food out in time (start early), not cooking enough food (buy more), buying too much food (keep the rest and save it), and letting hot food get cold.

You need to determine in advance if the food is the main attraction, or just calories for the people. I imagine that your church folks would be perfectly happy eating pulled pork done in a crock pot or oven with some commercial sauce if that wasn't the main focus of the event. It the food is the main focus, then you can put more thought into really having fun with it!
 

timothy

TVWBB Olympian
Timing depends on target temperature. You go low & slow ( 225) it's gonna take longer then ( 275) or HH like 300-325.
Cooking 1 compared to 2 or 3 or four doesent double, triple or quadrable the cook time.
Only thing that takes longer is the time to come up to temp.
4 butts that s a cold heat sink I would skip the water.
Last 4 butt cook I started around 10.30 / 11 pm. Took about 12 hrs for the butts on the bottom rack and one more hour for the butts on the top rack. Roughly 9# butts and I MM and held 275 no water empty foiled pan.
Had a Cambro where I held the first two butts in foiled pans. I pulled as needed but they all finished before service.
 

Brian Johnson

TVWBB Super Fan
When I load both levels of the WSM, I have run into temp issues caused (I suspected at the time) by airflow changes caused by all the meat I had in there. Who knows. Anyway, I agree with adding three hours to whatever is the norm as the extra meat does take longer in my experience. Whether three hours or longer, I would keep the cooked butts in a cooler until it is time to pull. Nothing like that freshly pulled butt, so I would not cook it a whole day or more in advance. Hopefully some of the church folks can help pull!

Joe - Yeah, I've already thought about maintaining temp. I plan on letting the WSM come to a higher temp before loading it down with meat. I figure this will help offset how adding such a large mass of relatively cold meat will lower the overall temp in the cook chamber. I don't really think I said that right, but basically if I start hotter I shouldn't have to fight as hard to maintain my target temp once the meat is on. I'm still waiting on the details to find out if we're going to have a "pulling party" and how we're keeping the food warm until serving it because I agree, there is nothing link freshly pulled pork!

We do several barbecues each year at our church. The ways to fail that I've seen are not getting enough food out in time (start early), not cooking enough food (buy more), buying too much food (keep the rest and save it), and letting hot food get cold.

You need to determine in advance if the food is the main attraction, or just calories for the people. I imagine that your church folks would be perfectly happy eating pulled pork done in a crock pot or oven with some commercial sauce if that wasn't the main focus of the event. It the food is the main focus, then you can put more thought into really having fun with it!

Scott - The way the Pastor pitched the idea to me and my fellow smokers, the BBQ is definitely a major attraction, though not the main attraction. That helps relieve some of the "performance anxiety" for me. I'm really looking forward to it and think it's going to be fun.

Timing depends on target temperature. You go low & slow ( 225) it's gonna take longer then ( 275) or HH like 300-325.
Cooking 1 compared to 2 or 3 or four doesent double, triple or quadrable the cook time.
Only thing that takes longer is the time to come up to temp.
4 butts that s a cold heat sink I would skip the water.
Last 4 butt cook I started around 10.30 / 11 pm. Took about 12 hrs for the butts on the bottom rack and one more hour for the butts on the top rack. Roughly 9# butts and I MM and held 275 no water empty foiled pan.
Had a Cambro where I held the first two butts in foiled pans. I pulled as needed but they all finished before service.

Timothy - This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. I didn't think the cook time would be upwards of 4 times as long, but I wasn't sure if I should anticipate an extra hour or closer to double. So thank you for the real world experience.

As far as the pit temp, I typically shoot for 275 (and don't panic as it stays between 250 and 300) when I do pork shoulders. I'm still debating using water, if for no other reason if there's water in the pan the drippings won't burn. Like I said before, I'm planning on aiming for a higher starting temp (probably closer to 285) before adding the meat. I usually do an overnight smoke for butts with the goal of eating around lunch time or a little later. Since the event is at 6pm on a Friday I'm definitely going to have to start Thursday night (might even start meat prep on Wednesday), but not much earlier than I would for a normal butt smoke since I can hold the meat in a cooler and still have plenty of time to pull it prior to the event.
 

 

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