Author Topic: Cooking Temps vs Elevation  (Read 265 times)

Offline dubob

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Cooking Temps vs Elevation
« on: April 17, 2019, 08:27:56 am »
In pressure canning of fish and fowl, you must account for your elevation/altitude above sea level to achieve the safe cooking temperatures to kill the harmful bacteria.  Is the same true for regular cooking of meats or fish in a smoker?  I’ve never seen that in a recipe or in my manuals for my Bradley smoker or my CC pellet grill.  Any thoughts or links to previous discussions on this subject?

The reason I ask is that a friend told me he pulls his brisket/pulled pork cooks at 195 instead of 200-205 because we live at 4200 MSL.  I never heard or read that before and kind of think it is not valid.  So, what say you?
Bob Hicks, from Utah
I’m 77 years young and going as hard as I can for as long as I can.
“Free men don't ask permission to bear arms.” ― Glen Aldrich
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Dr. Seuss

Offline Orion

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Re: Cooking Temps vs Elevation
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2019, 10:31:38 am »
When cooking with a bbq, smoker or oven you do not adjust temperature dependant on altitude when cooking meat, fish ect. 250 degrees is 250 regardless of whether you are at sea level or in Denver Colorado. The only reason you would adjust temperature is to alter the speed at which your meat cooks or the level of rareness you have want it.

What changes with elavation is the temperature at which water turns from liquid to steam (boils). As  elevation increases atmospheric pressure decreases. Less pressure on a pot of water means it will boil at a lower temp. Sea level fresh water boils at 212 F. In Denver at pot of fresh water will boil at about 204 F.

The purpose of a pressure canner is to simulate an increase in atmospheric pressure so the water boils at a higher temp. At sea level a pressure canner should be set to operate at a minimum of 10 psi which causes the water to boil at about 240 F.  Think of it as taking the water deep into a mine shaft where the atmospheric pressure is much higher than at sea level.

The reason for needing to raise the boiling point to 240 F is to kill bacteria that will spoil food in a long term canned storage environment. If you are high in elevation (Denver) then you need to start with the baseline 10 psi in a pressure canner and add another psi for every 1000 ft above sea level. This means you need about 15 psi in your Denver pressure cooker to achieve 240 F.

The key is that once water is boiled regardless of elevation it will not get hotter unless you subject it to pressure. On the other hand I can turn my bbq or smoker on and achieve any temperature I want at any elevation to cook a steak.

Long story short ... your friend is mistaken. Cooking in your Bradley and pressure canning are entirely different processes and require entirely different knowledge. Do not use any of the figures or numbers I used as examples to illustrate the point. Always cook meat to your local health regulations and always use canners (water bath and pressure) according to health regulations. The two are not the same.

Hope that clarifies the subject for you.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2019, 10:45:42 am by Orion »
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Offline dubob

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Re: Cooking Temps vs Elevation
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2019, 11:34:10 am »
Yes, that mirrors what I found out from another website suggestion that I contact my local extension service.  I emailed the Utah State University Extension Service and this is the response I got back:
Quote from: Utah State University Extension Service
There are two different safety concerns here.  With canning, the danger is the spores of Clostridium botulinum. Acidic foods such as fruits, tomatoes, and pickles have a low enough pH (< 4.6) to control C. bot growth. Because meats have higher pH (typically 5.5 – 6.5), any C. bot spores in the bottle can become vegetative and produce toxin.  So for bottling/canning meats you must apply sufficient pressure to raise the temperature well above boiling point to destroy spores.  This is basis for higher pressure at higher elevations (because water boils at a lower temperature here than at sea level).

With normal cooking, the danger is living bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella.  There are some cases where we worry about spore formers, but that is due to improper cooling or holding hot foods at temperatures below 140F.  So in smoking brisket, the important factor is to reach a safe internal temperature.  Often the internal temp is well above what’s considered safe, because long cooking times are required to achieve the desired texture (being able to “pull” the meat apart).
Bottom line is - no adjustment needed.
Bob Hicks, from Utah
I’m 77 years young and going as hard as I can for as long as I can.
“Free men don't ask permission to bear arms.” ― Glen Aldrich
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Dr. Seuss