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Why would a Cookshack 55 be exempt from thermodynamics and common sense?
I am (so far) cooking a 4.5 lb boneless picnic for 9 hours during which time the internal temp went down and up marginally after reaching the high 150 range.
This plateau, which folks here seem to accept makes no sense whatever. After reaching 158 at 240 pm, the temperature of the product on a taylor probe type thermometer was still 158 at 4:40 .
This is baloney!
Against my better judgment i opened up and tested the product temp with an instant read and found an average of 159.
Now if the control was ok and brought the heating unit TO 158 why would it suspend heating at 158?
More importantly WHY do seemingly intelligent, experienced people accept the idea of a mysterious plateau?

I'm not angry but my grandmother did not raise an idiot.
Something is wrong here.
Cooking at 225 i have been trying to get a 4.5 lb piece of meat from 41 f to 190 f since 7:40 am and it is now 5:15.
If it took this elapsed time i could live with it but STOPPING along the way is baloney.
I have not as yet directed this question/observation direct to Cookshack staff because the plateau phenomena seems to be a well accepted feature of Cookshack cooking despite the fact that NO ONE i warrant, has ever experienced it with a gas or electric range.
For that matter i have not experienced it with a $120 Old Smokey smoker.
New friends here who welcomed me so warmly with my inherited 55 HELP ME understand this apparent suspension of natural law.
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Hi, I'll give it a whirl, since no one has answered yet...

I have had bone in picnics or butts take 13 to 14 hrs. and even up to 20 hrs. for boneless. It seems it takes the boneless more time in my experience.

The plateau happens when cooking at low temps. as the collagen breaks down one can expect a drop in temperature...observed it many times, expecially with brisket.

Your avg. with instant read thermo. could be true and your reading with the taylor could possibly due to probe placement. I use taylors also and in my experience they usually run colder than my Thermapens.

Many that cook with a std. range use higher cook temps. for meat, 325˚.

I am not familiar with an Old Smokey so I will leave that to others.

Do you have a reading on the temp in the smoker/cooker. I always cook with a probe reading the inside temp. Sometimes the scale on the dial is not accurate with the setting with a thermocouple type control. Same as with many older std. ovens.

Beware of extension cords. I rest assured you have already confirmed power at your source.

Sorry to hear of your problems, I am sure more help is on the way.

The plateau is real and is caused by the amount of energy needed to convert or melt the collagen. It is not unique to the Cookshack. The meat temperature will not rise until the collagen is converted as it takes a lot of energy for the conversion. It is like boiling water, the water temp never gets above 212 as long as there is liquid to convert to steam. And an ice cube sitting in the hot sun will always be 32 deg until it has completely melted. Its just physics and as they say it's done when it's done. I hope this helps.

First,i wish all a thoughtful and appreciative Veterans Day.

Next, the tone of my earlier post was somewhat overwrought for which i offer apology.
It has been a long time since i have been a beginner at anything and i don't like it!

I'm still very unsure about this plateau stuff.
Perhaps the phenomena applies primarily to cuts characterized by abundant connective tissue?
As i stated earlier i have never observed pork shoulder stall in a 325 conventional oven.
Nor have i seen fish, poultry or tender cuts of pork or beef stall in my Old Smokey which is only an electrically heated chip flavored tin can offering 200 to 300f with a frying pan type control.
This leads me to speculate that with only marginal heat which sort of warms things to death,the cooking performance is indeed stalled when faced with lots of connective tissue as was suggested.

A related question:
My reading here leads me to understand that pork shoulder is brought to 200f+-for pulling but if it's to be sliced, 185 is often suggested.
Why go past 150-155 when the meat is juicy and delicious UNLESS one wants to pull, in which case one must apparently go past good to poor.. and then on to pulled?
I sliced at 180 (to avoid gnawing on the table leg) fully expecting an over done picnic which was what i got.
I now seek a way to utilize the product of my apparently poorly understood approach.

Is it too early for a few single malts?
Thanks all,and thanks to our Vets,past and present.
Mr Jig,

I have an offset wood smoker, a ceramic Grill Dome smoker, a charcoal bullet smoker and an AmeriQue. If cooking anything other than fowl I have always had a plateau somewhere between 160 and 175 degrees. Even when I have cooked a pork shoulder in the kitchen oven I have noticed a plateau. Put a Polder type thermometer in your meat and cook a butt or shoulder in your kitchen oven and you will observe the plateau on long slow roastings.

When roasting meat to rare or med-rare, 115 to 135 degrees, I have never noticed the plataeu, only on long well done smokes. I don't believe in little green men, life on Mars or ghost, but I do observe the plateau. Smiler

Dick -- I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head when you stated "...performance is indeed stalled when faced with lots of connective tissue as was suggested."

When doing butts, brisket and any of the tougher cuts of meat you'll find a "plateau." I have watched my digital therm hit 160˚ and plumet to 152˚ and take four hours to get above 175˚. I can't explain all that goes on (breaking down of colligen & connective tissue)as well as some of the folks around here (Smokin, Tom, etc) but you'll have to bite the bullet and except it as fact that it happens.

Now, if you are talking leaner cuts (not neecessairly betters cuts) some doctoring may need to be done (i.e., adding thick fatty bacon to help retain moisture, foiling, broth, etc) ad low and slow is now always the cooking means of choice.

We have to remember that cooking is not an exact science. With briskets and butts, no two cuts are the same even if derived from the same critter.

We are just sharing experiences here and trying our best to figure things out. "Welcome to the club!"

Hopefully my jibberish will make a little sence and others will chime in with their knowledge, wisdom and experience. Hang in there and we'll work you through the tough times. Have fun and try not to get hung up on a bad experience or two. We've all been there.

Hope this helps just a little!!! Big Grin
I have used a Taylor probe thermometer as long as they have been available.
I find the Taylor more reliable than the Polder but i check the Taylor from time to time with an instant read.
Never have i observed a plateau in a conventional oven nor in my trusty Old Smokey.Please understand that while my smoking experience is as yet limited i have been actively cooking for over 50 years.
I don't deny the existence of the plateau.
I just suffered thru one to no good purpose.
I suspect however that it is produced because of low temp cooking and cuts with a large amount of connective tissue.
It is not my intention to denigrate my 55 out of which i have been eating good grub for 10 years.
Rather i seek more "why" than "what".
Thanks for your comments.
Mr. Jig;

It works like water in a pipe you are trying to solder. The water keeps the pipe to cool to solder. Collagen keeps the meat temp from rising untill it is gone/used up/completely broken down. After the collagen is gone, you have a work of art that all of us in here appreciate.
Ok guys after reading all of these posts I am feeling better about my first smoke however I am still a bit dubious. I am keeping a smoking journal for this smoke and here are the results so far:

I placed a 6 lb. bone-in boston butt into the smoker, set the temp at 225 for an internal meat temp of 205 on the middle rack of my 008. I also am using a new Maverick E-73, one probe in the meat and one inserted into clip on rack.

Time / Oven Temp Setting / Oven Temp Actual / Meat Temp:

3:35 am / 225 / xx / 44
6:40 am / 225 / 234 / 130
10:00 am / 225 / 232 / 148
11:35 am / 225 / 195 / 151
12:30 pm / 225 / 229 / 150
1:45 pm / 225 / 206 / 149 (opened door, good bark, wiggled bone but no movement)
1:45 pm / 250 / 206 / 149
3:00 pm / 250 / 251 / 151
3:30 pm / 250 / 212 / 154
4:15 pm / 250 / 215 / 155
5:50 pm / 250 / 248 / 160
10:00 pm / 250 / 226 / 184 (opened door, good bark, meat shrunk back from bone, placed an instant read thermometer in a few places, all read 184)
11:00 pm / 250 / 213 / 186

So, do these times and temps look correct?

When I checked my Maverick probe in ice water and boiling water I noticed that at both temps it was running 5 degrees hotter than it should (32 and 212 respectively). Which is why I decided to open the door and check the progress of the butt. Also, if this is a bad probe then my temps above would be suspect.

You can see that when I opened the door the oven temp dropped significantly but I am more concerned with the meat temps. I know that each smoker is different but are these low internal temps good for a 6 lb. bone-in butt after 19 hours?

I have my smoker hooked up with a heavy duty, 14 gauge, 15 amp/120v/1875w rated outdoor extention cord that has a circuit breaker built into the plug. Since the smoker is only a 500 watt oven there should be no problem with an amperage drop over a 15 foot distance.

Just wondering but if the weather has no bearing on the CS's performance, why record that information in a smoke journal? Hmmm.

P.S. I won't be able to check my butt (boy does that sound funny) until I get home from work in the morning. I work third shift at a major airplane company in Seattle that starts with a B and ends with a G. My shift is from 11:00 pm - 6:00 am. Yes, that is correct I was late to work tonight because I had to check the smoker!

Happy Smoking....

Thanks to all for the patient responses.
Particular Thanks to Kelly who demonstrated that she has hung on the cross longer than i !! Kelly you can build planes for me anytime.
My German half admires your meticulous tracking of that piece of pork. Red Face
Back to the drawing boards for me.

GLH, thanks for the reply. So you say it would have been ready in 18 hours. Is that if I had left it at 225 or after I bumped it up to 250? I tried to go by the 1 1/2 - 2 hour per lb. rule to get an estimate of when it would be ready. At 2 hours per pound it should have been done in 12 hours or so. As you can see I opened the door after 10 hours thinking it should be close to done. I opened it again after another 8 1/2 hours and it still wasn't done. In the future (until I get more experienced judging time, I should only go by probe?)

Dick, I don't actually build them, I weigh them after they come out of the factory and paint hangar. I myself am 3/4 German. Cool

I would also like to take this time to reiterate Dick's thanks for all of the patient responses. I'm sure everyone gets sick and tired of answering the same questions over and over again from us newbies. We just can't seem to trust the equipment or process without a little hand holding.

It is now 5:00 am in Seattle and I will be leaving in an hour to go get that kick that pig butt!

You guy's are the best.

Mr Jig, kelly;

I had long cook times at 225 as well, I moved up to 250 and now my times are 8-12 hrs, to 195 degrees. Much closer to the 1 1/2 hrs per pound "norm" for butts.

I also did a temp test on my empty 009 at 225 and 250; The max temps did not change much, like 250-260 degrees or so, but the low temp increased significantly from like 215 to 235 or so for the 250 setting. So while the max only increased 10 degrees, the low temp increased 20+ degrees. I assume thats what helped speed up my cook time to a more normal range. If you find 18hrs unacceptable, try 250 next time. Then follow what you like best.
Big Grin Ah! the benefit of no longer having to work. I just set the box temperature, the internal meat temperature for removal and forget the plateau, the time we will eat and use Smokin's saying "it's done when it's done."

Now one evening, two months past, this philosophy didn't work too well, with three couples over for brisket and dinner at 7:00PM, we finally ate after 10:00PM. But, we had a wonderful time waiting. My bar replacement cost went way up and a couple of guest asked twice what they were eating. I still like Smoking's saying - it was fun and the sharing is what it is all about. Smiler

I appreciate Mr Jig's question and ALL the answers, for I learned from this post.

Last edited by Former Member
Woohoo, it worked! By the time I got home from work this morning after going to the grocery store it was almost 7:00 am. The thermometer read 205. I took it out, wrapped it in foil and a towel and placed in a cooler while I made my homemade sauce and cleaned the smoker.

I just got back from delivering lunch to my dad and am about to chow down myself.

The butt was slightly dry is some areas but overall it was tender, moist, and easy to pull. I'm sure the dryness is due to the fact that it was in the smoker for 27 hours. Next time I will follow the rule - it's done when it's done, and not obsess about time.

Thank you everyone for all your suggestions and comments.

Kelly I suspect 8-10 hr is my upper emotional limit.
Prepare a butt or picnic in your preferred rub and cook to an internal of 155 at 325 in an oven.
This is eating meat not voodo meat that has warmed interminably.
We are talking about 3.5 hr. If a smoke flavor is important to you, add a tad of liquid smoke to your mop or use a smokey sauce near the end of cooking. Or, when the meat is done, stick it in the CS while it's pouring smoke.15-30 min is plenty for me.

Want it falling off the bone? cook longer, but I don't think you will be disappointed if you cook 5 instead of 18!
No offense intend to the religious types but i would not wait 18 hr for the second coming!
I feel like a heretic but i need a lot of convincing.
I am so glad i found this site as i know i will learn from many and without rancor debunk a few.
Kelly, no voodoo required. Your long cook time is in part due to opening the door. You should use your temp probe and trust it. Low and slow is the traditional method for pulled pork BBQ. USE YOUR INDOOR OVEN TO MAKE POT ROAST WITH POTATOES, CARROTS, ONIONS, AND GRAVY. Don't even start with the liquid smoke. Bigtime Q sin. I am sure they use alot of it in New York. Just set that Smokette on 225 or 250 and place your probe in the thickest part of meat so that the tip is in the center and not touching fat or bone. Cover the woodbox and bottom with foil and punch a drain hole. Use 4-6 ounces of wood or whatever suits you. Shut the door and leave it shut and when that well seasoned hunk of pig gets to 195, take it out, let rest, shred, eat.

Use your Smokette alot with all kinds of meat and keep good notes and stay in touch with this forum and you will learn alot quickly.
The only time I would use a traditional oven is if I were pressed for time (butt, brisket, ect) was taking an exceptionally long time and would delay the start of meal-time.

Yes, opening the door did add mucho time to your smoke.

Always try to plan ahead. Start pleanty early if you have a specific starting time in mind.

It's easier and less stressful to have the smoke done early and be holding it in a cooler than to be worried about it being done on time and/or before guests arrive.

It's all a learning process. We've all been through it. Patience is key as is "It's Done When It's Done!" Big Grin
Kelly: Take a look at SmokinOkie's vinegar mop recipe (the one with the ground cloves in it). It is a excellent 'sauce' to add to pork even if you want to add Q sauce to it. It would add moisture to your butt during the cooling period and a really good flavor. We always keep some on hand here.

Vinegar Mop

Smokin' I looked for the links to the sauce in your butt 101 and the links are no good. Can this be fixed?
Shucks, GLH just fired a shot across my bow with his liquid smoke being used a lot in NY
No offense taken.
I must say however that i have had as much Q over smoked out of stick burners as with liquid smoke or smoked salt.Too much is too much regardless of the method.
Those who are following this thread are respectfully asked to note that i was not in pursuit of pulled pork when i suffered my first plateau trauma about which i commented here.
I don't doubt that had i left the meat in to the 200 range i might well have had a good pullable product.
I had understood however from reading these forums that one could get a good sliceable product at 180-185.
I am not a pulled pork enthusiast (so far) and i was suspicious that 185 pork would be grossly overdone.
Then i endured 10 hrs of waiting for 4.5 lbs of picnic to reach 180 at which point as expected the meat was without merit.

Trust me, i am actively interested in adding the regular use of 55 to my methods/equipment.
I will offer comment from time to time in the interest of speeding my education.This forum has much to offer.
Mr jig let me give you some advice. Never tell these people that you use liqid smoke, keep it to yourself. Find a good hinding place for the bottle. If you submit a BBQ recipe that has LS in leave that line out. I think most of the Q men here would let you kick there dog before you could put LS in there Q. lol I think LS use is OK as long as its between two consenting adults. But say this line "I only used it once in college but I did not chew." Big Grin This post is all in fun, hope nobody gets mad. Smiler
Yep,that 325º cooking can make some fine pot roasts from beef,
pork,and game.

Another faster way is have the meat dept run it through the band saw into 3/8 inch steaks.

Lightly flour and fry in a little oil.

Pour a can of Rotel tomatoes and a can of water over it.

Simmer,covered, for about 25 mins and serve over rice.

I guess liquid smoke could be added?
Well, I go off a couple of days and look how much fun I've missed.

Not sure where to start, so I'll have to think about my response. SO many statements made here with somewhat of a "challenging" message to them.

Unlike cooking which is about recipes and specific times, BBQ is as much art as it is science. And it is based on science (although some Q'ers don't know it). Every statement you've challenged above has plenty of food science behind the statements and when I get some time I'll be happy to build a response.

Welcome to the group, I don't mind having to prove a point, but given I've got 30+ years of BBQ experience and as a cook, trust me when I say, it works and there is plenty of proof out there.

6+ years, almost 6,000 users and 50,000+ posts is a lot to work through, but you're probably not asking anything new here so using the search function will help.

If you pleasure is cooking BBQ in an oven (which is braising if you're using liquid and you're boiling your shoulder) that's okay, but it's not Barbecue.

However, you're in for a different experience in learning to adapt to barbeuce but you'll need to trust some of the great people here to get to what real bbq is about.

Real barbecue is a brisket cooked to 195 for tenderness, not 125 for medium rare

Or Pork cook to 185 for slice and 195 for pullable, not 160 because the USDA says that's the temp.

And as BigAl said, real BBQ isn't about the short cuts, like Liquid Smoke (or even boiling).

True BBQ is a quest and it's a quest I've been at enough for this long and I'm still learning.

Join the ride! It's fun if you let it be.

Last edited by Former Member
Thanks for your comments.
It is my experience that roasting a butt or picnic at 275-325f to a temp of 150-155f produces nice pork.
Nope not BBQUE, but to me, vastly more enjoyable than slow cooking to 180-185 which is apparently not done enough for pulled pork but too done for my enjoyment.
One of these days.... soon, i will gird my loins and cook some shoulder to the suggested 200f.I'm sure it will be just fine but 180 is past done but not done!!
See,i'm beginning to talk like you folks already
As a beginner at smoking anything but fish i realize that some of my comments offered in an effort to de mystify these seemingly arcane procedures might be seen by some as "challenging".It has been a long time since my Grammy "shushed" me in church,but I will seek to further modify my style as i need all the help i can get.

As to braising a shoulder,i rarely do it and of course i don't suggest that the product thus produced is BBque.

Cooking should indeed be fun and has been fun for me my whole life.

While i admit that i don't want most all the protein i eat to taste smoky,i am determined to put my painfully inherited 55 back into honorable service.

Again,thanks for your comments.
I inherited a sausage grinder. It is absurd that I have to grind sausage more than once, and the grinder mixes spice in automatically when I don't like spice in my sausage. Personally, I like meat, but not really sausage. Then, it takes so long to grind and package the sausage, when I can just go to the store and buy Jimmy Dean. Everyone who makes their own sausage is brainwashed.
HUH was my reaction too but you beat me to it!
I think mr 20 is telling me that he believes me to be lacking in the
religious fervor necessary to be admitted to the Q club.
Perhaps he's right.
I think i'll limit my participation for a while until i can report a success.
Lots of reading for me here without my stirring the sauce.
Mr. Jig - Please don't take criticisms seriously. This is a place where people take their BBQ seriously and believe it or not, 99% of everyone here are super people (all the above included). We all want to help and assist.

It may seem dificult because we've been here a long time and to have a newcomer drop in and state rather firmly that what we are doing and advocating doesn't work, well, probably ruffles some feathers.

There are peple here who BBQ for a living and those who travel the country cooking in competitions and do quite well by the way. Probably the best thing to do now is listen and learn. Go ahead and experiment and have fun doing so.

One thing to remember is that as long as you are pleased with the outcome of your smoke/cooking, well that's all that matters. Share both good amd not so good experiences.

We'll help and assist you any way we can. Some may seem harsh or brassy but "HEY," aren't we all at times...? If you were offended by comments or remarks made, my apologies on behalf of the Forum.

We are good people who love to BBQ an hope you will join in on the fun we are having learning together.

Peace... Smiler
Back on the topic of the infamous plateau. In reality it violates none of the laws of thermodynamics. Lets take water for example. It takes one btu to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. That is a well known fact. However, at atmospheric pressure (14.7 psig) and a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes 970.4 btu to raise that one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit so that it will boil. That is known as the latent heat of vaporization. This information is well documented and can be found in the "Steam Tables" (thermodynamic properties of water) written by Joseph H. Keenan & Fredrick G. Keyes. It is published by John Wiley and Sons Inc. and is readily available at most libraries.

This phenomenon also occurs in other materials and it would therefore follow that the same exact phenomenon is taking place in the collagen when cooking a piece of meat. And, if the particular cut is loaded with collagen then the plateau effect would be more pronounced. Poultry, on the other hand, has little collagen and would have virtually no plateau.
Please don't go, Dick. Noone meant anything offensive toward you with all the ribbing. I surely don't want anyone to think us Arkies are not friendly toward the Yankee aggressors! All of us here on the forum would love it if you stay so we might try to show you more of our BBQ prowess. Hey, if it helps any, sometimes I don't use wood with my poultry or rib roast.
For what it's worth, you'll see that plateau in most kinds of low and slow cooking like braising, too.

Before I got my Smokette (and yes, I've only had it a week), I would do a version of pulled pork in the oven--cook 8-10 hours at 225 degrees (oven temp)--and saw the same plateau at around 165 degrees (internal temp).

I've seen it when braising a thick chuck roast, too.

In my opinion, it's a good thing, because it means the collagen is melting, which is what you're after since that makes a traditionally tougher cut of meat fall-apart tender.

Wow, I missed a few days and look what happens!!! Eeker

I can't resist throwing my 2 cents in on this plateau issue. IMO there is a plateau with virtually everything you cook, be it inside in your oven or any type of cooker. (Refer to TaktEZ scientific explanation). It's just that with an indoor oven and higher oven temps you will get through the plateau much faster and likely never even notice it. I can guarantee you that I have witnessed plateaus in every large roast including whole turkeys. It just seems to be more prominent in pork butts and briskets. The characteristics of the plateau vary somewhat with the kind of roast, e.g. temp and length of time, but they are definitely there.

The trick is accepting it for what it is, and knowing that it will pass.

Kelly and Dick, one thing that I noticed is that a newer smoker, until it is fully seasoned and broken in, does seem to take a little longer. That is why we often recommend a couple of large pork butts for the first couple of cooks to help with that seasoning and breaking in process. Also, the time per lb. ratio is longer for a smaller piece than a larger one. i.e. a 5 lb butt will take longer per pound than an 8 or 9 lb. butt will. (Don't ask me why!!!) And as someone earlier in this thread said, every piece of meat is truely different. That's why time can be so elusive and gives rise to Smokin Okie's adage "it's done when it's done."

So throughout the forum you'll see suggestions like if the guests are expecting dinner at 6pm on Saturday then you put the butt in at 11pm or midnight Friday. It may be done by 2 or 3pm Saturday. So then you wrap it well and put it in a well insulated cooler. Better that scenario than not being able to feed your guests until 10pm Saturday.

So I guess that was more than 2 cents, maybe 3 cents, or maybe no sense!!! Wink

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