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I am having a difficult time getting the level of smoke flavor that I want. I'm beginning to think my taste buds are DOA, or my expectations are not realistic.

I have an Amerique that has had 12 - 15 smoking sessions, so it has a decent seasoning. My latest attempt was with two 8lb butts. Going on the theory that meat takes most of its smoke until 140 degrees, I placed them in my freezer for an hour, thinking this will extend this period below 140 degrees. I slathered them with yellow mustard and rub, and filled the woodbox literally to the max with hickory. I started out with a 190 degree cooking temp for 7 hours then upped it 225 when the meat hit 140. I pulled them at 193 degrees, which took 23 hours. I never opened the door until they were done, and smoke was visible out of the vents until the last 3-4 hours or so.

The butts had great bark, which does have a smokey flavor. The meat however does not have any smoke flavoring. It tastes just like I cooked it in the oven. I've taken to pulling the meat, putting it in foil pans and putting it back in the smoker. In 20 minutes it's loaded with smoke flavor, but it doesn't taste exactly right to me.

I guess my question is, should the smoke be able to penetrate beyond the level of the bark? I know it isn't going to penetrate all the way to the bone, but what should I be able to expect.

As a side note, I've done butts at higher cooker temps, thinking the higher heat would create more smoke, but the results have been similar.

I appreciate your thoughts.

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My Friend,
I have just bought a cs myself so my experience is limited. However, I have been a keeper of the flame for decades. I am a firm believer that if you want to "up the antie" on smoke flavor it has to be done at 150 or less. Just smoked a piece of moose that had great flavor all the way through, But I put it in cold and left it at about 145 for 2+ hrs then went to 225 till internal was what I wanted. Worked great for me. Made aujus as well, It is very smokey! Almost too smokey. Perhaps liquid absorbs smoke better?
Just my thoughts!
Western Wyo.
Did all the wood burn completely?

Although 12-15 cooks is not alot of smoke seasoning, I am also beginning to think your tastebuds are dead. Do you smoke tobacco?

Are you cleaning the inside of your smoker too well after each cook?

I can use 6-8 oz. of wood on 4 large butts in my Smokette and sometimes get too much smoke.

If you stay too low on the heat for too long, you might make someone sick.

Load the woodbox with mesquite next time and see what you get.

Good luck.

My 2 cents...I'm not a believer in starting with super cold meat to get a higher level of smoke. I've seen no empirical research on it, and it seems that it is just an opinion. And you know what is said about 'opinions!'

"My" opinion is that meat should be closer to room temperatures, with the meat 'pores' wide open, when you place it in the smoker, to absorb the highest amount of smoke in the shortest period of time. ...IMHO

So, experiment, but I gotta tell you if I had put that much wood in my seasoned SM055, with that size piece of meat, for that long, it would have been waaaay too smokey for me, and any of those I serve.
Another thought on your question. I think most of us mix the meat up (pulled or chopped) so that the interior meat with less smoke flavor gets combined up with the outside of the butt which has a lot of smoke flavor, in order to even things out a bit.

Also, pork butt (and shoulder) have lighter and darker sections of meat and they take smoke differently one from the other. The differences are subtle, but distinct.
Thanks for the replies.

To answer a couple of the questions raised, I was kinda joking about my taste buds being shot. I am a non-smoker, and my sense of taste is normal. I do not clean the inside of my smoker- in fact I recently had some neighbors over who weren't familiar with smoked cooking. The wife was "grossed out" that the meal had been cooked on such a "dirty grill". Sigh.

I've tried different types of wood and none have given the smoke penetration I'm looking for, though I've yet to try mesquite. I am familier with becoming desensitized during a smoke. I don't think that is what's happening here.

I do mix all the interior meats with the finely chopped bark. It's when I'm pulling the meat that it is obvious that there is no smoke penetration. When I peel the bark back and tear the first layer of meat off, it has absolutely no smoke flavor. It's tender and juicy, and has great pork flavor, but not a hint of smoke.

I will experiment with having the meat closer to room temp before putting it on. I will also try putting it in cold but starting with a lower oven temp for the first 2 hours.

Thanks again.
The fine cooks above have given pretty good pointers.

The easy answer is that large hunks of meat are typically not going to get deep smoke penetration IMO.

You can butterfly the butts,before cooking, and that will give more surface to lay smoke on and develop bark to mix in.

Working around a wood pit all day will desensitize you to taste and aroma of smoke.

Most good cooks think "the meat" should taste like "meat".

Smoke,marinades,injections,rubs,and possibly light sauces/glazes can be used to accent the flavor of "the meat".

I'm not sure about the theory that meat "takes on smoke until 140º".

Now there is some evidence that the chemical process of nitrates/nitrites forming a red smokering may cease around 140º.

You can lay smoke on the meat surface,until it becomes like creosote. Eeker

I, personally, like to take meat pretty directly from the cold to a preheated stabilized pit.

The" bringing to room temp" can be essential in pure stickburners,because large loads bring such a heat sink that the cooker may take forever to stabilize.

This is not a consideration with a traditional Cookshack.

When pulling/chopping/slicing meats, the addition of your rub/sauce can accent the finished flavor of "the meat".

Just my $0.02
What Tom said...

I agree. As I read your posts, it sounds like you want the smoke flavor to penetrate deeper. That's not a function of the smoker, that's a limitation of smoking in general.

Smoke will only penetrate so far. Period.

Tom's suggestion is the best, just expose more meat to the smoke to get more flavor. Butterly that butt.

There are a lot of theories about the temp (140) but I haven't seen any proof yet. I think 140 is mentioned because 140 is food safe, not because it's scientific.

But there is a temp (haven't found it yet) where smoke will quit penetrating because the protein texture changes and smoke won't go any farther.

You can smoke it at a lower temp (such as cold smoking) but you need to think food safety if it's below 140 for too long.

Put the meat in, run it for 2 hours at say 140, then bump it up to 180. Check the wood too. If it's all burned up, then you'll need to add more. You can also try smaller chunks to expose more wood to the heat for more smoke. But 99% of the people out there, if they add as much smoke as you're doing, will get oversmoked wood.

But your taste buds are the ones that matter. What makes someone a better BBQ cook is being able to adjust the methods to their needs.

We'll help with ideas, you experiment and let us know if it works.

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