How to destroy perfectly smoked pork butt

Originally published at: How to destroy perfectly smoked pork butt | Boing Boing


I realized I had allowed it to cool too much for food safety purposes.

I’m crying culinary tears, but me thinks you dodged a case of the “trots” me ole friend. Don’t mess with the bacteria/pathogens God kids, he’s a mean taskmaster.


I’ve always understood it as the “Rule of 4’s.” from my days working in disaster services at the Red Cross.
It’s just a general rule, not exact, but if the food is kept between 40F and 140F for more than 4 hours, then it really shouldn’t be served.


that is a tragic story indeed. fare thee well, smoked pork butt.


How well covered was it? Was is hot when covered, hot enough that the container may have been rendered sterile? I use this principle when, for example, making a big pot of soup. I’'ll frequently cover it well and leave it on the stovetop for hours to begin to cool so I don’t subject the fridge to such a large temperature shock (if I make soup I tend to make SOUP - I have a silly-large stockpot). So far I’ve had good success with this.

YMMV and I’m no food safety expert. Caveat emptor.



80 degrees here yesterday, flowers budding and birds starting to get promiscuous … it’s BBQ season again.


Missed opportunity for the title: “Perfect smoking hot butt destroyed!”


“Pounded in the smoked butt by the chance of bacteria”


Sounds like a common sense rule.

So raw meat can be safely low and slowed for 13 hours to reach a safe high temperature, but can’t go back? This doesn’t really make sense. Unless it never was safe but now 20 hours have gone by.


That was a low-moisture, salted surface that you pasteurized and then covered. That meat was safe to eat, my friend.


Yeah, I would have eaten this in a trice. Survivorship bias warning, but my mom used to leave white rice (which is basically a starch petri dish) in the pot overnight on the stove, and we’d chow down on it the next day without care or concern (or ill effect).


It can be a little more complicated if a person’s goal is a lab-grade culinary practice. It’s possible to kill bacteria at lower temperatures, but it just takes longer. But I do think it’s best to be careful when doing that, and to ensure that there is an accurate and reliable way read temperatures.


Yeah, I’d eat that, one night is fine. Not my wife though, she freaks when I eat things that have been in the fridge for more than 4 days.


Did you do this???


Fracking frack frack fracj…! I’m actually in bed right now, surfing the internet while waking up. Reading this post I just realized my late night gumbo from last night is still sitting on the cold stove. :disappointed:


Friday of Failure


I would have eaten it without a second thought. If you assume it was safe to eat when it came out of the oven and it was covered for the 7 hours then the only chance the bacteria had was to land on the surface before you covered the roast. That’s the most inhospitable place - it’s as hot as the air temp inside the oven and it’s salty. If it was mopped with anything containing vinegar, it would be acidic, too.

A friend of mine lived in Indonesia for a while and they would make a big pot of rice in the morning, eat some with their breakfast and store the rest in a covered container at room temperature until eaten with dinner.


Everyone has their own standards (apart from the legal ones which all business should follow to the letter), but I’m trying to come up with environmental conditions where I wouldn’t have just eaten it at 7 hours. Uncovered with flies about is my starting point right now.


I usually start the charcoal side of my grill with charcoal, then add some apple logs every few hours while smoking. I watched the snake method which seems pretty good, but not a fan of mustard rub.

Maybe you should set a phone alarm to remind you to take the butt off the grill at a set time, or a repeated alarm every couple hours to check on it.

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The rule is between 40f and 140f, internal temperature. The temperature of the food item itself, inside. Not the ambient temp or the surface temperature of the food.

A very large pot of soup will take hours to drop below 140f. Once it does that’s when the 4 hour window starts.

The same is not true of a much smaller lump of pulled pork, especially after it’s been shredded or carved.

No food item is going to be hot enough to sterilize the container it’s stored in a reasonable time frame.

Being covered has nothing to do with it. The potential problems are already in the food, they’re not drifting around waiting till things get cool enough to sweep in.

This rule is also (roughly speaking) for food items without additional cooking. It’s fairly unlikely (but possible) something will straight up spoil with an hour or two of extra time. Reheating or cooking will kill most of the problem stuff if it hasn’t taken hold.

So what you’re talking about works fine with soup, and is within the guidelines given that it’s soup.

But 7 hours is definitely pushing it for leftover pulled pork.

Rules are a bit different for raw ingredients. 40-140 for 4 is technically for prepared foods that will be consumed with no additional cooking/heating. Though in the US we tend to apply it anyway.

The interior of a muscle is basically sterile, contamination is on the surface. And the surface will hit a safe or sterilization temp much faster than the middle of the meat.

Food can also be pasteurized/sterilized at much lower temps than are often quoted. As low as 131f, it just takes longer.

You can’t generally low and slow a piece of ground meat, in a way where the temp won’t hit the safe zone in a reasonable time frame for example. Because once you grind it, the interior is the exterior and any contamination is everywhere. Which is why you need to add lots of salt, and some nitrates when smoking sausage.

How pasteurized was the container it was placed it?

Surface to surface contact is the big risk. Not bacteria floating around, which they generally don’t do.

The cover, the plate/bowl/counter, the tools you used on it, your hands.

Not air.