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I set out this morning to cook a pig butt. Found out that I was going too a birthday party at such a time that the butt would smoke for six hours and then I would need to pull it.

The shoulder was a seven pound boston butt, bone in, fat trimmed neat, no marinade period, rubbed with "glue" (1/2 cup mustard, 2 tbsp honey) salty rub with marinade injected. I cooked it for 6 hours, flipping every 60-90 minutes, adding chips, mopping and shaking rub on it. Unfortunately (?) the butt never got above 130'F, but it got 6 hours of cooking in. I pulled the meat off, let it cool down a bit, wrapped it in foil, and refrigerated.

  • So, how should I finish it off? I used plenty of wood chips and I am pretty confident that the flavor is good on it. It seems the two first-glance options are:
    1. Start it up smoking again, and put it over more direct heat this time. This would be helpful in really crisping up the bark on the outside, but quite a bit more hassle than...
    2. Throw it in the oven, maybe wrapped in foil with some orange juice, or coffee and jalapenos, or a little rub of oil. Cook it at ~325'F...

So which technique would yield the best results of just getting it done, but without sacrificing too much in the way of time or flavor? (Aside from using a meat thermometer to ensure it's over 145'F, probably 155-160'F,) How will I be able to tell if it is done or not (if any additional considerations)?

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Sadly no mater what you do, you are going to come out with non-optimal results. I would go with the oven method over the grill as you need to get the meat up, but you want to do it with out losing all the juice/fat you have already taken all the trouble to convert to gelatin. The grill is going to raise the outside of the meat much quicker that the inside (mostly, you can use your grill as an oven but in this case I don't think it brings anything to the table that you regular oven doesn't).

The best way, and by best, I mean the one with the tastiest results, is going to be put the butt in a 200 to 250 degree oven and let it come up to temp. This method is going to take the longest but will preserve the meat that come off the grill as close as you could.

Or, you can heat just like a roast and let the outside overcook a bit.

or, depending on how you are serving the finished product, you can slice cold and finish in a skillet to heat though... this would be great if you are doing sandwiches or pulled pork.

If you are feeling adventurous, 130 degrees plus smoke is a little on the rare side but it would still be delicious... not for this one as you let is cool on the counter top and fridged it but on the next one, I might just eat it then.

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I think you may be right. I went with 325, and left it in for about 2.5 hours. Unfortunately, while shredding it I was left with a lot more fat and connective tissue that I wish would have rendered. It was cooking around 160'F (internal, for about 30 minutes) and I pulled it to keep it from over-cooking. –  mfg Jun 12 '11 at 23:58
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For future reference, 160f is far too low a target temperature if you are looking to pull or shred the pork. You need to get up to an internal temperature of at least 190f, usually more. Your target temperature is far above the target safety temperature, so you want to go by texture, rather than temperature, to judge if it's done or not. Also, you could easily have your smoker going if you were only at the party for a few hours. The pork butt would have benefited from a few hours of the cooker not being opened. –  Sean Hart Jun 13 '11 at 13:45
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To render that fat and connective tissue, you need to over-cook it. Generally you want to hold 200 degrees internal for at least a half hour to get the fat and collagen broken down. Those will spread through the meat when you pull it, making it less dry. And of course there's always the sauce option as well. But if you're only hitting 160, you're never gonna render all that. –  bikeboy389 Jun 13 '11 at 13:47
    
@bikeboy actually, collagen turns to gelatin at around 140 and the optimum temperature to do so lies somewhere between there and 160. It takes a while to render it all at that temp but the results are worth it. cooking up to 200 degrees will accomplish the same thing, but it does dry out the meat as you are forcing out more of the moisture than you have ot at that temp. –  sarge_smith Jun 13 '11 at 20:30
    
@bike @sarge what I did (because there was much fat and collagen) was separate the meat from the rest, put the rest in a pot with the drippings, added some coffee and reduced it for about 2 hours. I then strained it into the meat's casserole dish, let it sit over night, and portioned off today –  mfg Jun 14 '11 at 3:45
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It has to hit 195ºF (90ºC) to pull apart. That is the way it is, not overcooked. Why would you take it out anyway at 130ºF (54ºC)? Doesn't make any sense.

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This answer is not really adding much that other answers haven't already said. –  lemontwist Jan 6 '13 at 13:13
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It's not completely accurate either. The collagen has to denature in order for the meat to pull apart which will happen at lower temperatures 70°C-80°C (160-175ºF) and will take between 2-6 hours (see this answer). If you read carefully, the OP already explained why the meat was pulled out at 130ºF. –  Chris Steinbach Jan 6 '13 at 16:35
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When you smoke a butt, you want the internal temperature to reach 195ºF (90ºC), then you take it out, wrap it tight in foil, let sit a couple of hours and then, with two forks, pull it apart. While cooking the temperature will stall at 160ºF (70ºC) or so, then it rapidly rise to 195ºF, so keep a watch out for the rise in temperature.

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I think most people would consider 195ºF overcooked for pretty much any cut of meat. –  Chris Steinbach Nov 16 '12 at 2:38
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