How to Figure BBQ Cook Time...

Dear BBQ Friend:

Timing is very important with BBQing... One of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is how long does it take to smoke a cut of meat? After all, you don't want to be late for that dinner party, tailgating, smoked brisketcatering event, or contest turn in, do you? So... this month's newsletter is about BBQ cook time and getting your BBQ done on time every time and never making your guests wait for that mouth watering smoked delicacy.

I'm sure you've all heard the general rule of thumb that goes something like this... 1 hour to 1.5 hour per pound. OK, that all fine and dandy if your pit temp is 250 deg. And you understand that's not the total pounds you have on your smoker, it's just the pounds in one cut of meat.

So let's say you have 4 - 8lb butts and one 17 lb brisket on your smoker. That's 49 lbs of meat. You're obviously not going to smoke them for 49+ hours, right!? So just exactly how do you keep from having to call dominos to feed your guests when your BBQ is only half way done at dinner time?

Here are some rules you can use to figure out your timeline...

1) I think the #1 rule should be this - it's always better to get done early rather than late. If it's not too early, you can just hold it under a moving blanket until it's time to eat. You can also use cambros or ice chests for holding, but be careful as those insulated holders will hold in all the heat and your BBQ will continue to cook and get overdone if you are not careful (tip - burp an insulated holder every now and then to make sure it's not too hot in there). If you really want to get done ahead of time, cook your BBQ the day before and just reheat it the day of the event.

2) That rule of thumb is a good one if your pit temp is 250 deg. You can count on 1 hour to 1.5 hour per pound. Tip - use 1.5 hours per pound to be safe and get done early. At a pit temp of 225, you have to add some time - maybe use 2 hours per pound. At higher pit temps, subtract some time. Maybe 275 deg figure on 1 hour per pound. And at 300 deg, maybe 45 minutes per pound.

3) How many pounds to use in your calculations... don't use the total amount of pounds you are cooking. Just use the pounds in your largest cut of meat. Even on something like a whole hog, you just try to estimate the weight of a shoulder or ham and use that number. So, cooking a 20 lb fresh ham could take about the same time as cooking a 160 lb whole hog (maybe just a little less).

4) If you put a lot of meat on your smoker at the same time, you have to add in some time. All that meat will absorb heat and it will take some time for your pit to come up to temp. So about 4 butts maybe add 1 hour to your calculations. 5-10 butts add two hours. Get the picture? This isn't an exact science! Also, with a lot more meat, you also have to figure in extra time "servicing" your meat. By servicing, I mean all the preparation, injecting, applying rub, foiling, pulling, slicing, etc.

5) Remember, these are just estimates to figure your approximate finishing time to feed your guests. When your meat is actually done should be measured by internal meat temperature not by any fixed time.

Hope you get it done on time!


Bill Anderson