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23 Hour Pork Butts Using Billows Fan

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A few months ago I finally bought a ThermoWorks Signals / Billows setup. Needing to clear the freezer of a 19 pound package of pork butt (which was taking up a lot of space) and having house guests to help eat it, I decided to try an overnight cook using the controller / fan to check it out. After three days of thawing, I separated and trimmed the two bone-in butts. I marinaded one overnight with Wicker's Marinade, then rubbed with Wicker's dry rub. The other I rubbed with a 50-50 mix of KC Butt Spice and Bad Byron's Butt Rub, using duck fat as a binder.

Butt Number Two (number one was very similar in size and fat content):


KC Butt Spice/Bad Byron's Butt Rub over duck fat binder:


Both were refrigerated until placed into the KK23, set at 225° and heat soaked for 1.5 hours. The double drip pan was used and smoke wood was a mix of cherry and apple wood chunks. The meat (33.5°F) was added to the KK at 8:00 pm (which was under a tarp as we were expected to have 2 - 4 inches of rain over to coming 24 hours). Adding 19 lbs of cold pork to pulled the smoker temperature down to about 140° and it took about 1.5 hours to get back to 225° with the Billows fan (I had choked it down for the KK using the accessory damper since the Billows cfm is ridiculously high for a KK).


Billows fit into the KK Guru port using the Billows accessory snout:


Billows damper setting I used to tame the cfm (via inspection mirror), which turned out about right:


Since dinner was not to be until 23 hours later, I decided to not wrap the butts at the stall, but to instead see how the KK/Signals/Billows setup worked for a long cook (without any intervention on my part). Plus, I didn't want to get up at 0' Dark Thirty to wrap them.

Butts at 45 minutes in: Left (green probe) is Wicker's Marinade; Right (yellow probe + toothpick) is KC/BB dry rub


The Billows overshot the 225° setting in the initial push to return the KK to temperature by only 10°, then was within 5° of the set 225° temperature throughout the 19.5 hours of the cook. I was very impressed with the consistency. Here is the graph at 9:00 am, 13 hours into the cook (the slight dip in pit temp at 6:00 am was to check the results after the overnight smoke):


Temperature readings at 13 hours:


The butts continued to leisurely accrue internal temperature throughout the day, reaching high 190°s by around 2:00 pm, at which time I bumped the set temp up to 250° to get a bit more temperature differential to push the butts to 203°, which was to be my pull target. The Wicker's butt reached 204° at 3:10 pm (19 hours in the smoker) while the KC/BB butt reached 203° at 3:30 pm (19.5 hours). They were wrapped in foil and a towel, then placed in a cooler for a three hour rest until dinner. I didn't get any photos of the finished butts in the KK as it was pouring rain then and the activity was a bit frantic.

Here are the results.

Left is KC/Bad Byron Rub; Right is Wicker's Marinade & Rub:


Partially chunked up / pre-pulled. Notice the internal color difference between the dry rub (left) and marinade (right - more intense and deeper into the meat) versions. Bark was about the same on both. These are not the entire butts; just the amount for dinner (19 lbs of pork butt is A LOT of pork butt...).


Plated at 7:00 pm, 23 hours after the meat was placed into the KK:


In summary, I found the KK/Signals/Billows combination to be very satisfactory. It was my first use of a controller & fan combination and while I probably won't use it often, I will likely use it for future brisket and pork butt overnight cooks. I will probably do the normal butcher paper wrap to cut down the time in the future as well (I typically do so but wanted to experiment with the new gear). There was no lack of moisture in the pork without the butcher paper crutch. I was impressed with the low temperature variation of the Signals / Billows combination after the system stabilized. With the large cfm of the Billows, I was concerned it might repeatedly overshoot the set temperature but this was not the case. Other than the first return to temperature after the cold meat was added to the KK, the temperature variation was 5° or less. I set the Billows diffuser to almost closed, and fortunately it seemed to be about right. The KK was miserly with the use of its charcoal (FOGO Super Premium - large chunks). I started with a full basket and 1.5 hour heat soak, then a 19.5 hour cook at 225°, followed by a run up to 350° for 2.5 hours waiting to grill the corn and mushroom. At the end, I still have over one-half basket of charcoal left.

As I have mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of pulled pork but this certainly was a moist and tasty result. Between the marinade and dry rub versions, I preferred the marinade version. As for the guests, the preference was evenly split between the two butts among the carnivores (the vegetarian had no opinion about the pork, but pronounced the EVO/Balsamic grilled portobello to be superior).









Edited by jonj
deleted extra photos
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I have a Signals and have been enjoying it a lot. I think they’ve managed to get the earlier software bugs worked out. My daughter and son in law law gave me a Billows for Father’s Day. I’m looking forward to trying it. Thanks for the play by play Jon. Helps to know what to expect. Oh, and your cook looks wonderful. 

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@jonj, that is a LOT of pork.  Glad the cook went well and thank you for the blow by blow account of how the kit performed.  As always, I am tempted by the prospect of shiny new things but I know I am unlikely to really need this as I do not do long low and slows very often. I will bow deeply in gratitude for this expose and step smartly away from the “add to cart” button.  

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I've just been reading your thread because I'm looking at buying a Thermoworks Signals & Billows setup for our BB32. I have a question:

How did you manage to get 3 of the Thermoworks probes through your access port. With a lot of push & pull, and pulling of the first cable, I can just get 2 through (using probes from an older Thermoworks unit). And yes, I checked that they haven't changed the probe transition diameter. I'd love to know, thanks.

Also, it's now a couple of years since your post. How are you finding the Signals/Billows combo now? Still liking it? Anything you'd prefer over it? (the Fireboard 2 seems to be popular, but my inclination is still towards Thermoworks).

Are you still using the Billows regularly, or was it just a fun gimmick for a while?



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I’m looking forward to @jonj response.  

Paul/ @jonj, I hope it’s alright to chime in here as I have the Signals/Billows setup as well.  I’ve been using it for a couple of years and I use it every time I do a long cook.  I couldn’t be happier with it!!  And, I have had no trouble getting 3 probes in my 32BB, inserting one at a time.  Although I did have to gently bend a couple of my angled probes slightly so they would make it through the port.  I’ve not used any other type of setup, so I can’t compare it.  I’ve always been partial to Thermoworks and they have great customer service, who you can actually speak to.  The phone (Apple) app software works very well, while away from the house, as long as you can get a Wi-Fi signal to the Signals unit. 100% would purchase it again.  Lastly, the Billows damper is a must with the KK to reduce some of the cfm airflow.  It’s a $4 part that you can’t be without.  


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12 hours ago, PaulJ said:

:How did you manage to get 3 of the Thermoworks probes through your access port. With a lot of push & pull, and pulling of the first cable, I can just get 2 through (using probes from an older Thermoworks unit). And yes, I checked that they haven't changed the probe transition diameter. I'd love to know, thanks.

If you slit the rubber port plug lengthwise, you can slip the probe cables thru it without having to try to push the actual probes thru the hole. In case it's not clear what I mean by "lengthwise", looking at end of the plug where you can see the hole, you make it look like a "C" instead of an "O".

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@PaulJ, I still use (and am happy with) the Signals/Billows combination when I have a long cook requiring low temperature control. It is not a gimmick, but a useful tool, at least for me. For short (6 hours or less, plus or minus) cooks like ribs, I just use the inherent stability of the KK and don't bother with the Billows. For brisket or pork shoulder, the Billows is always in use.

As @Dono, @MacKenzie, and @tony b have already noted, there is no problem getting three food probes and one pit probe through the access hole, then opening the rubber plug to encompass the cables and inserting it into the access hole. You can carefully bend the right angle probes to about 60° to easily go through the hole, or just use straight probes. 

I did buy the ThermoWorks power bank to use with the Billows when it became available so I don't have to run an extension cable out to the KK.

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3 hours ago, MacKenzie said:

The rubber plug with the hole for probles comes with a slit in it lengthwise so that you can get the probe wires into it.

I guess that shows how long I've had my KK! I'm pretty sure I had to cut mine but now my confidence in that has taken a hit.

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Hi all,

Thanks for the responses. Interesting. I have a feeling we might have different port dimensions.

Background: We've had our 32BB for just under three years now. There was no manual in the crate, and I couldn't find a pdf on the website, so I just assumed it didn't come with one (I've now downloaded it from the forum:  thanks. Lot's of interesting info in it). The forum wouldn't let me join: I tried a few times and never got a confirmation email they said they'd sent, so I just gave up (I just tried again this week as I was searching for posts on the Thermoworks, still didn't get a confirmation email, accidentally left the confirmation page open overnight, and next morning it magically said that I didn't need the email). Without being a member, search use is limited, so I never tried to explore much. We also didn't get an inventory in the crate, so I didn't even realise that the probe ports should have come with plugs: They didn't in ours. But I did wonder what the bag labelled "spare plugs" was for - never opened it and tried them - duh. 

I wonder if the assembly and crating team was having a bad day when they packed up ours.

Anyway, this week's been a revelation for me.

So, the plugs from the bag don't really fit in the holes: certainly not as far in as in JonJ's photo. This has been wedged in as far as I can.


I measured the opening with Vernier Calipers:


Internal diameter is about 10.8mm (maybe 27/64 th's of an inch). It gets narrower towards the inside, down to about 10mm (just over 12/32nd's inch). This photo shows a Thermoworks ambient probe coming through with 1 other probe in place:


I actually cracked the plastic transition housing of the probe doing this. Thermoworks specs say the probe plastic transition part is 8.9mm, and the cable is 2mm, so getting a second probe through is 10.9mm: much bigger than our probe hole. There's no way I'm getting a third through.

And also not a chance of even getting a single probe jack end through since the Thermoworks jacks are right angled.

So, I'm wondering if there was a spec change for the Komodo probe ports, or they had a batch where the threaded stainless sleeve in the probe holes had smaller openings.

If any of you have the inclination, I'd love to know what diameter probe holes you have (I've never used that sentence before).

Meanwhile, we've been happily cooking low and slow lamb shoulders, pork ribs, beef tomahawks, briskets, etc etc for almost 3 years using a low cost Weber thermometer with probes where the jack end fits through. Those probes failed last week, which is what got me looking. I never did the initial burn (luckily we've only cooked low temp, so I can probably do it next week), didn't know what some of the bits and pieces were for, etc, etc. You don't know what you don't know, until you do. But perfectly happy with our BB32. Funny.

I still want to go with the Thermoworks unit, but I might have to use other probes, which would be unfortunate.

Thanks for all the input.




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I know I'm going to be called Captain Obvious but besides bending 90 degree probes a little to straighten them out, I add probes one at a time. The ambient temperature probe goes first. When the KK is up to temp, and you're ready to add the meat and the associated meat probe or probes, pull the rubber plug out (slide it along the probe wire of the ambient temperature probe) and then add your second or third probe.  With the rubber plug still out, slide all the wires into it by way of the slit in it. Now push the rubber plug into the KK. 

The probes I have (Fireboard) will let me insert the plug in part of the probe through the hole in the KK from the inside.  So I'm rarely putting the temperature sensor part through the hole first. This way I can put the probe into the raw meat ahead of time, stick it on the hot grate, and then push the plug of the probe through the hole in the smoker from the inside (with the rubber plug removed). Finally, I slide the rubber plug into place with all wires inserted into it.  A long winded explanation for something that takes seconds to do but everyone was a beginner once. 

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Sorry to drag anyone into a discussion of the "bleeding obvious", or probably more accurately the "bleeding insignificant" 😁. I probably should have PM'd JonJ rather than a full broadcast post. This is really a discussion for Thermoworks owners because the Thermoworks probes can't be put through the ports plug end first because the plugs are a 90 degree type that just don't go through the ports due to the thickness of the KKs. So, you need to put a Thermoworks probe through by threading the probe end through. 

But I do appreciate everyone's comments.

I was resigned to the idea of only being able to fit 2 probes through each port; and then I came across this thread that clearly shows 3 probes through in one of JonJ's photos, and they're all Thermoworks probes. Hence the posts I made. I most definitely cannot fit 3 Thermoworks probes through my ports. So, the only conclusion I can reach is that my ports are smaller than JonJ's and Dono's.

It's not a major issue, but it is interesting to me.

In the end, I could use other probes (Fireboard, BBQ Guru, and Weber probes all look like they can go through plug end first), or just use 2 Thermoworks probes through each port, or put them over the lip and clamp the top down on them (not my preference).

But I'd still like to know if my ports are smaller diameter than JonJ's or Dono's (just in case I'm missing a trick)

Anyway, Friday night 11:45pm here, and I've just put a mutton shoulder on the KK for tomorrow's dinner. And that's the most important thing: Using the KK to cook beautiful food.

Thanks for all the input.

Time for another drink.



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@PaulJ, I saw your post this morning (before full coffee awareness obtained), so I measured my 2016 KK23 probe port, plug, and a typical, current Thermoworks probe wire: 

KK Probe Port, Internal Diameter = 0.548"   


KK Probe Port Plug, Outside Diameter (near lip) = 0.551"


ThermoWorks Probe Wire (current version) Outside Diameter = 0.065"


I hope this helps. It seems to me your port internal diameter may be somewhat smaller than mine, especially if your port plug won't fit into it flush against the tiles. Also, I know ThermoWorks has reduced the outside diameter of their probes over the years, as I have some old probes which are a bit larger than the current versions (won't fit the modern clip holders).



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