A Reader Asks:
I'm cooking a six pound Boston butt on an electric smoker. How long should I cook it on medium?
by: Donnie Robertson
I bought a wireless temperature probe at Lowe's for about 20 bucks. Best money I ever spent. I don't have to lift my lid as ofter, and it signals me inside the house when my dinner reaches the desired temperature.
Boston Butt in an Electric Smoker
Without knowing what the internal temperature of your electric smoker is when it's set on medium, it's impossible to give you a good answer to your question. Smoking time and smoker temperature are two things that have an inverse relationship to each other - the higher the smoker temperature, the shorter the smoking time will be. A lower temperature will require longer smoking time.
Other factors to consider are the size, shape, and type of the meat being smoked. In your case, smoking a whole six pound Boston butt at 225°F would normally take around one and one-half hours per pound, more or less, to become tender enough to pull or shred (internal temperature of 190+°F), or up to 9 or more hours. Now if you just want it done enough to slice (internal temperature of 160°F), it could take only 4 to 6 hours.
The shape of the meat makes a difference, too. If you were to take that same 6 pound butt roast and slice it into 1 inch thick steaks, it would take less time to become fall-apart tender. But thinner cuts tend to dry out more if cooking to the shredding stage. However, if you were cooking the steaks up to 160°F, you'd save a considerable amount of time.
About smoker temperature, when yours is set on "Medium", you really don't know what the temperature of the smoke chamber is. (on a vertical electric smoker, you'd consider the smoke chamber to be the level at which the meat is...not at the top of the lid, where some smoker thermometers are mounted)
To have a better idea of how long it will take you to smoke meats, you need to find out exactly how hot your smoker cooks at the different settings.
To do this, you'll need a remote thermometer, the kind that has a probe that's attached to a display unit with a small cable. Get your smoker up to temperature, then place your pork roast in the smoker. Push the thermometer probe into the roast, through the top, and so the probe tip goes out the side. You want a couple of inches of the probe tip showing, but make sure it doesn't touch the metal grate, or anything else. Now you'll be able to monitor the smoker temperature right next to the meat.
After a short time, the temperature reading will remain steady. And that's the smoker temperature related to the setting your on. Adjust the temperature until it's in the 225-250°F range for most meats.
for what its worth
I'm smoking my first shoulder this weekend. Can't wait. In the past, I've smoked 2 briskets at once, 9 racks of baby backs at once, and a brisket with 3 racks of ribs at once. It seems to Me that it cooks relatively equal. Meaning its more about the total weight of that 1 piece than the weight of total pieces, but I do hear shoulders are a league of their own. Post your results..
Boston Butt Smoking Time
Pork butts can be notorious for taking a long time to smoke. The internal temperature often hits a plateau, then just sits there for what seems like hours before starting to rise again. It may be that the large pockets of internal fat are absorbing all the heat.
Depending on the type of smoker you're using, it may take more than 1-1/2 hours - times 8 - to smoke the three butts. The three butts will be absorbing a lot of heat, so the temperature rise will be slower unless your smoker can crank out the heat. Just to make sure they get done in a reasonable amount of time, I'd try to run my smoker at between 250-275 degrees if possible.
Many consider it cheating, but to speed up cooking, the butts can be wrapped in foil after they've gotten a good dose of smoke flavor, say after the first 4 or 5 hours of smoking. They could even be transferred to your oven indoors, and finish them off at 300 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees or so. Or until the meat is fall apart tender.