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Cooking Temps vs Elevation


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?


New member
Bob, check out U of Georgia extension service website. They have probably the most extensive food safety and research program in the country. They do a lot of food safety testing for the FDA. It's also a great resource for food processing, canning, etc. You might find the info you seek there. If you can't find what you're looking for, contact them. They'll probably have your answer.


Never even thought about the Extension Services as a source for that type of information. I do know that they will test my pressure cooker for accuracy. I'll check with my local service with the Utah State University first. Thanks for the tip. 👍


I contacted my local extension service - Utah State University Extension Service - and this is the response I got back:
Utah State University Extension Service said:
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.
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