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mredge73

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I have been on this forum for years and have gained substantial knowledge on home brewing. When it comes to smoking I am still just winging it. I bought a pretty nice smoker last year but haven't had the chance to use it much. I would like to get a my process ironed out and gather the right tools and ingredients to smoke meat as well as I brew beer.
Where is a good place to start?
 

JonM

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The meat forum here is good and I've also found lots of good info (and fun people) at bbqbrethren.com.
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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I second bbqbrethren.com

If you have any specific questions or anything I might be able to help? I've been smoking meat for some time now.
 
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mredge73

mredge73

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Last thing that I smoked was a pork butt. Stayed up all night working on it so it would be ready for lunch the next day.
Outside was black and crusty but not burnt, too much smoke for my taste. However the smoke only penetrated 1/4" or so into the meat.
I wanted the smoke to penetrate deeper instead of just building up on the outside. Smoked 8 hours at 180-240F using wood only. Would have tasted better if I smoked it for 1-2 hours at 400F.

I do have some beginner questions:
1. Fuel Source, what to use? Most people use commercial charcoal squares, some use lump charcoal, few use wood. I have a bunch of oak from storm downed trees that I have been using.
2. What determines smoke penetration? How do you get really deep smoke penetration like a store bought smoked ham? At what point does the smoker just become an oven?
3. How do you balance the amount of smoke being produced vs the amount of heat being produced?
4. Seasoning, grilling vs smoking? Would I season my ribs the same if I was to grill vs smoke?
5. My smoker leaks around both doors, fire box and meat box. What can be done to improve temperature control, gasket material?
6. What do you smoke? I have only smoked pork and fish, I know brisket is often smoked but I don't care for brisket.
 

JonM

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Jus a couple thoughts: Lump vs briquettes is one of those topics like glass vs plastic fermenters. Lots of strong opinions. Just figure out what works best for you. I like briquettes because on the summer holiday sales at HD and Lowe's, you can get about 80 lbs of the stuff for $20.

For smoke, I usually throw a racquetball sized chunk of apple wood on the coals. Beef gets oak.

As for smoke, you really want just a thin smoke ring around the outside of the meat. I think the color you see in ham is from the sodium nitrate brining.

Brisket is great, but it's finicky and not as forgiving as pork butt. Plus, it's expensive as hell nowadays. Last pork butt I did was $25 or so. Last brisket I did was well over $100.
 

JonM

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Oh - and BBQing is about slowly breaking down collagen in the meat. Low and slow is the way to do it. If you do a pork butt for 1-2 hours at 400°, you won't get that pull-apart tender melt in your mouth thing BBQ is famous for.
 

jbunton

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For me it's always lump. I find briquettes have an odd flavour. I think it's the binding agent they use. Also different woods will produce severely different flavors. For a more subtle flavour I've been using peach wood I think it has a nice balance. BBQ brethren is definitely a good forum
 

jamorgan3777

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Last thing that I smoked was a pork butt. Stayed up all night working on it so it would be ready for lunch the next day.
Outside was black and crusty but not burnt, too much smoke for my taste. However the smoke only penetrated 1/4" or so into the meat.
I wanted the smoke to penetrate deeper instead of just building up on the outside. Smoked 8 hours at 180-240F using wood only. Would have tasted better if I smoked it for 1-2 hours at 400F.

I do have some beginner questions:
1. Fuel Source, what to use? Most people use commercial charcoal squares, some use lump charcoal, few use wood. I have a bunch of oak from storm downed trees that I have been using.
2. What determines smoke penetration? How do you get really deep smoke penetration like a store bought smoked ham? At what point does the smoker just become an oven?
3. How do you balance the amount of smoke being produced vs the amount of heat being produced?
4. Seasoning, grilling vs smoking? Would I season my ribs the same if I was to grill vs smoke?
5. My smoker leaks around both doors, fire box and meat box. What can be done to improve temperature control, gasket material?
6. What do you smoke? I have only smoked pork and fish, I know brisket is often smoked but I don't care for brisket.
WRT:
1. I always use lump as its cleaner burning and I think briquettes impart an off flavor. Most of the flavor compounds come from burning wood. To get the "best" smoke, you need to burn real dry wood, however this takes the most attention and is the least "automatic". Second best is to combine real wood (chips or chunks) with lump charcoal. This takes some of the attention requirement out, but does still require some hand holding. Briquettes offer the closest thing to set it and forget it (eg. Minion method) but also impart some off flavors (again, my opinion)

2. You should think of smoke as a "flavoring" or a spice. Penetration is not necessarily what you are shooting for. You want the smoke flavor to be present in each bite. The "shape" of your meat has a lot to do with how much smoke you will get. Think of ribs, almost entirely surface area. Think of brisket, lots of surface area compared to the internal volume (if you were smoking a basketball, you would have issues:D). Smoking is different also from curing. A ham may have smoke flavor on its surface, but the meat is cured internally (through brining or salting). You can smoke cure, but that is a whole other beast.

3. Temps are critical in smoking. You are typically taking tough cuts of meat and cooking them "low and slow" to break down connective tissues (collagen and elastin, etc.). Typically, the time needed to develop smoke flavor is not nearly as long as the time to break down the connective tissues. Also, smoke tends to build to a certain point and then stop. In fact, many times I will finish a brisket or pork shoulder in the oven after smoking for a few hours on the smoker. Get the flavor right, then work on tenderizing (you can do that on the smoker too). Early in your "game" foil is your friend!

4. For ribs probably. Again, think of smoke as a spice that you dont have in a jar. I have had excellent ribs with little/no smoke flavor. I have also had excellent ribs that has nothing but salt, pepper and smoke added to them (beef ribs can be sublime this way). You also dont want a "lot" of smoke coming out of your smoker. you should just be able to tell that something is going on. Lots of white smoke can be really harsh and bitter tasting on the end product.

5. Wouldnt worry so much around leaking unless its really throwing your temps off. Smoke coming out of the leaks is okay in that hot air is escaping. What would be more worrisome is cold air getting in. A properly set up smoker will have a good flow (like a fireplace) combustion air enters from the side or bottom and is heated by the fire/coals and then passes by the meat and exits out the chimney/vent

6. I have smoked many things!:D pork ribs, beef ribs, beef roasts, sausages, cheese, chicken, you name it. Imagine if you have a shaker full of "smoke" and could sprinkle it on things what would you put it on. Smoked mac and cheese if phenomenal. Smoked pineapple rings are excellent.

Hope this helps.
 

mikescooling

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I've been building my own drum smokers. Love the way these thing operate. I think almost everyone on the brethren has built one
Those are the best UDM I've ever seen. I think you could drop the U off UDS.
OP, the wood for smoking must be dried fully, before you use it to smoke. It may take months to cure green wood. The more it's split or chipped the faster it will cure. That will stop the backing of the meat on the outside. A hatchet is your friend
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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Last thing that I smoked was a pork butt. Stayed up all night working on it so it would be ready for lunch the next day.
Outside was black and crusty but not burnt, too much smoke for my taste. However the smoke only penetrated 1/4" or so into the meat.
I wanted the smoke to penetrate deeper instead of just building up on the outside. Smoked 8 hours at 180-240F using wood only. Would have tasted better if I smoked it for 1-2 hours at 400F.

I do have some beginner questions:
1. Fuel Source, what to use? Most people use commercial charcoal squares, some use lump charcoal, few use wood. I have a bunch of oak from storm downed trees that I have been using.
2. What determines smoke penetration? How do you get really deep smoke penetration like a store bought smoked ham? At what point does the smoker just become an oven?
3. How do you balance the amount of smoke being produced vs the amount of heat being produced?
4. Seasoning, grilling vs smoking? Would I season my ribs the same if I was to grill vs smoke?
5. My smoker leaks around both doors, fire box and meat box. What can be done to improve temperature control, gasket material?
6. What do you smoke? I have only smoked pork and fish, I know brisket is often smoked but I don't care for brisket.
First of all... "Would have tasted better if I smoked it for 1-2 hours at 400F." no way low and slow is way better. Now that is out of the way here is my two cents.


1. Fuel Source, what to use? I usually start with a chimney of briquettes sometimes I use lump for me I don't really mind using one over the other. The real trick is this, dont ever use lighter fluid. Get Weber Lighter Cubes and then once the coals are nice and hot put them in your smoke box and have the smoker lid and everything wide open. You don't want the first bit of smoke in your box its bitter and thick. Now start adding wood, I highly recommend Pecan its versatile and soft. Fruit wood is soft also but burns fast, hickory and mesquite have its place in the smoking word but will give you heavy flavors especially if your doing a long smoke like a brisket.

2. What determines smoke penetration? Low and slow CLEAN smoke. The smoke should just gently be coming out of your exhaust stack and be white, not rolling black puffs of smoke.
2.(a) At what point does the smoker just become an oven? Once you wrap the meat in foil.

3. How do you balance the amount of smoke being produced vs the amount of heat being produced? Good question, this to me is the trickiest part of the whole art. So going back to Q1 once you get the bed of coals hot and put some wood on it to get going you leave the smoker wide open so air gets in and it burns once it gets going and the coal starts burning down add more wood (eventually you will be burning wood only in the fire box) When this happens put the meat in, close the lid and never open it again. Only box you need to be getting into is the fire box, remembering that air controls your heat. The more air you let in the hotter your fire is going to burn. You have to find the sweet spot on your smoker in your vents that allows just enough air to keep a solid temp and the smoke will adjust accordingly. If the temp is to low or to high you will get thicker blacker smoke, so really all you need to do is figure out the air temp and the smoke will follow suit.

4. Seasoning, grilling vs smoking? Would I season my ribs the same if I was to grill vs smoke? You can...this is a preference thing completely. I would suggest trying your hand at brines, injections and so forth it really helps the meat stay moist when smoking. Also put a pan of apple juice in the cooker to keep things moist. You can also have a spray bottle of apple juice to spritz the meat when you are checking temps to help keep moisture.

5. My smoker leaks around both doors, fire box and meat box. What can be done to improve temperature control, gasket material? Ideally the smoker won't leak although most do at least a little.how bad are we talking here? Its really an issue controlling heat that much?

6. What do you smoke? If its meat, it smokes and I have probably tried smoking it. (exception of fish, not a huge fish fan)
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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Also, once you get your desired level of bark (the black crust on the meat when smoking) just wrap it in butchers paper or foil. Personally I like the bark and the burnt ends are my favorite part of the brisket so I don't usually wrap my meat but for each is own thats how you would control that. If you wrap it too early you will lose some smoke flavor and not establish a nice smoke ring.
 
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mredge73

mredge73

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How deep should the smoke ring go?
I have also heard somewhere that the meat will only take on smoke flavor while it is cold, is there any truth to this?
When using wood for fuel/smoke, does it need to be de-barked?
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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I will post a few pics of my bbq you can see rings and crust. (I added the chicken just b/c its a cool idea if you haven't tried to smoke a chicken like this.)

I have no idea about the cold meat, I mean...it all starts cold when you put it on the smoker no one smokes hot food? Not sure where that argument would go.

Take the bark off.

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betarhoalphadelta

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I have been on this forum for years and have gained substantial knowledge on home brewing. When it comes to smoking I am still just winging it. I bought a pretty nice smoker last year but haven't had the chance to use it much. I would like to get a my process ironed out and gather the right tools and ingredients to smoke meat as well as I brew beer.
Where is a good place to start?
Well, much like a homebrew newbie question you're asking a question without necessarily giving us enough information to answer ;)

What kind of smoker is it? That's a HUGE determinant on how you smoke meat.

Based on your description, it sounds like a horizontal offset smoker with a separate side fire box. Is that accurate?

If so, your first step is that yes, you can smoke with wood. A few thoughts:

1) Generally it's better to get your wood burning down to coals unless you have a big smoker IMHO. A lot of people do this with some sort of an external fire and then they shovel the coals into the firebox. The reason for this is that when wood first starts burning, it throws off volatile organic compounds (VOC) that don't taste good. A really hot fire will combust those without a problem, but if you have a SMALL smoker, trying to run the fire that hot will mean that your food chamber will be too hot. So you can use raw wood, but if you have a smaller smoker with a small firebox, let it burn to glowing coals and shovel those in rather than throwing in fresh logs/splits.

2) Another thing that determines smoke adsorption is the temperature of the meat surface. You may want to wrap larger cuts (like butt/brisket) in saran wrap and throw them in the freezer for an hour after seasoning to get the surface cold. For ribs, since they're thinner, maybe only 30 min. That will help pick up smoke flavor. Also, see point #1. You want a clean burning fire so if every time you throw another piece of wood on there it smells like a campfire, you're doing it wrong. You want that smoke to be thin and blue, not billowing clouds of white.

3) Balancing smoke vs meat in an offset smoker is how I described above. You want a clean burning fire that keeps your chamber at 225-275 degrees. For most small smokers, starting the coals outside the smoker and shoveling them in will keep it clean. For very large commercial smokers, there's so much air to heat that a big fire is fine and you can just throw logs in there to maintain heat. I assume yours is the former.

4) You can... I generally don't grill ribs though, so I'm not an expert here.

5) This makes me think that your smoker is a smaller, more budget offset model. Research the exact model with the term "mods" on google, like "Oklahoma Joe offset smoker mods" on google or youtube, and you'll see what other people have done. But reducing leaks will help maintain temperatures greatly. And you might find other mods for your model that will help.

6) A bunch of stuff lol!
 

jbunton

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Those are the best UDM I've ever seen. I think you could drop the U off UDS.
OP, the wood for smoking must be dried fully, before you use it to smoke. It may take months to cure green wood. The more it's split or chipped the faster it will cure. That will stop the backing of the meat on the outside. A hatchet is your friend
Thanks I have built about 5 so far

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Mismost

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I am a BBQ rebel. I don't believe anything good happens to meat left on a smoker after 2 or 3 hours. Smoke only goes so deep, more smoke just mucks up the outside and dries out the inside.

Foil is your friend. We rub, smoke for 2-3 hours, pull it, double wrap it in heavy foil, add a cup of strong black coffee, pop it in the 200 degree oven (or back in the smoker IF you can control the temp)...how long? Depends on how you like your brisket...my wife likes it falling apart, 8-10 hours. I like it to slice well and more texture...5-6 hours. Always moist done this
way and no, it does not taste like coffee at all.

We we sometimes do a big whole untrimmed brisket in a big old foil turkey roasting pan. Rub it down, throw it in the pan, stick it on the cool end of the smoker, keep it all day long...fat melts away, the meat just sits and simmers in it own juices. Now, it ain't as pretty as smoked brisket with a perfect bark and pink smoke ring. But, it'll have plenty of smoke flavor and be really juicey brisket.

Lotta ways to skin a cat, but they still don't taste good, even barbqued! Meat costs to much ruin and I have ruined my share. Frankly, we do not have the time to sit and feed a fire all day every other week end. We have two big smokers and tend to do big batches...6-8 briskets...6-8 pork butts...maybe 50# of chicken quarters...start early, stay late...getter done and packed in freezer bags...set for another year.

I admit, my competion BarBQue buddies scoff at my methods....they also scoff down my BBQ and want my rub recipes too!
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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Well, much like a homebrew newbie question you're asking a question without necessarily giving us enough information to answer ;)

What kind of smoker is it? That's a HUGE determinant on how you smoke meat.

Based on your description, it sounds like a horizontal offset smoker with a separate side fire box. Is that accurate?

If so, your first step is that yes, you can smoke with wood. A few thoughts:

1) Generally it's better to get your wood burning down to coals unless you have a big smoker IMHO. A lot of people do this with some sort of an external fire and then they shovel the coals into the firebox. The reason for this is that when wood first starts burning, it throws off volatile organic compounds (VOC) that don't taste good. A really hot fire will combust those without a problem, but if you have a SMALL smoker, trying to run the fire that hot will mean that your food chamber will be too hot. So you can use raw wood, but if you have a smaller smoker with a small firebox, let it burn to glowing coals and shovel those in rather than throwing in fresh logs/splits.


!
So, I have a really large smoker, so I do use a fire pit to make coals and shovel them in the fire box, however; I still put a log of wood on my coals to get smoke. If you just do the coals your basically just off-set grilling. We have a restaurant around us that does this method and you can't taste any of the smoke flavor in my opinion. But the restaurant does well..so not everyone likes the same kind of bbq.

I guess the reason for the post is..this method is effective and does work but gives less of a smoky flavor to the meat. So you as the OP has to decide what type of flavor profiles you want to build.
 
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mredge73

mredge73

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I have a bad ass gas grill that I know my way around pretty well. I have had a small cheap gas fired smoker for years that imparted little smoke flavor with the wood chips; it was basically an outdoor oven.
When it rusted out last year, I broke down and bought a real vertical smoker. I am looking for deep smoke rings and full smokey flavor that I cannot get from my gas grill.

The VOC that you guys are talking about is probably my problem as I have basically been building a camp fire in the fire box.
I start a handful of coals in one of those round starter baskets, dump them in the firebox and feed wood on top.

Sounds like I need a hot fire that is also a small fire as not to overheat the meat chamber?
I have been doing the opposite; a big fire that wasn't very hot. I was hoping that this would allow me easier control and fewer additions.

This is my smoker, it isn't commercial size but it is heavy and fairly large.
http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/old-country-bbq-pits-smokehouse#repChildCatid=3321871
 

Weezy

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How long to smoke cured bacon? My smoker gets down to about 140F.
 

wishingiwasfishing

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Outside was black and crusty but not burnt, too much smoke for my taste. However the smoke only penetrated 1/4" or so into the meat.
I wanted the smoke to penetrate deeper instead of just building up on the outside. Smoked 8 hours at 180-240F using wood only. Would have tasted better if I smoked it for 1-2 hours at 400F.

There are many successful ways to make good bbq. Different temps, different fuel sources...different wood choice, wrapping methods or not...on and on. There is no one set way to produce good Bbq. However, while good bbq can be made from many different temperatures...400f is not one of them. Not saying you wouldn't produce a good piece of meat, but the fat and connective tissue won't get converted to gelatinous goodness at that high of a temperature.

Having said that...you want to cook at a low, consistent, temperature. The temperature you cook at can vary in temperature...but if you decide on a set temperature you want to try and maintain that near that set temperature. Your temperature of 180-240f is very wide. Also, was this at the grate, where the meat was being cooked, or from the pit thermometer? If it was at the pit thermometer your temperatures may have been further off than you realize.

For pork shoulder I would use a temperature range of 250f-275f. Anywhere between these temps is great for pork...but which one really depends on your smoker and where your temperature reading is from. On my BackWoods smoker I cook at a consistent 275f with really good results...on my off-set smoker at work...I'll cook with a target of 250f trying to keep between 240f-265f. It's a leaky smoker and we have pretty good winds out there. My point being, use smoking temps as a guideline. Listen to your smoker and listen to your meat. You'll need to take different approaches for a dry off-set Vs a vertical wet smoker. This doesn't mean, either, that all off-sets cook the same, they do not. This also doesn't mean that all vertical wet smokers cook the same, there are some pretty large differences...and you need to tailor it for your smoker. and the meat your cooking. (bbq is about breaking down muscle fiber and connective tissue...if I get a store bought pork shoulder it's going to cook different than the Berkshire I get from the farm)

The most important thing you can do at first, is learn your smokers habits...how does it burn, what's the appropriate amount of fuel to add and how often, etc, etc. Best advice to learn this? Get some beer and spend time with your smoker...at first...make sure you're out there watching it, learning it, for a good portion of the smoke. Take notes if needed. As you learn the smoker, have confidence in it and keep that darn pit door closed!

Moving from your 180-240 temps, what target temperature did you cook it to? You want to cook for your preferences and choose a target temp that you like. I like to cook mine to 195f-203f and then pull it out an give it a good long rest in an igloo cooler, with or without a few crumpled up newspapers. Bbq meat will hold in a cooler for a good long time...use that to your benefit. I prefer to let it rest at least an hour in the cooler and have gone of 5 hours and the meat was still piping hot.

Back to target temperatures, I said I like my shoulder to 195-203f...don't think one persons 197f is going to be the same as another persons 197f. If George cooks his shoulder to 200f and has dried out pork doesn't mean that Pete's shoulder will be dry at the same temperature. It's more important how you get to that target temperature (consistency in temp), your smoker and the meat.

To my liking, if I find I have to shred or pull apart the pork I don't feel I did my job correctly. For me, if the meat and gelatin are smoked to my liking, I more of squash the shoulder to prepare for serving.

You can have ten people bbq a shoulder to a target temp of 203f and likely get ten widely varying results because of the methods they used to get to their target temp. Target temperature is certainly important...use your target as only a goal but also read how the meat looks and feels to let you know what's going on. Cooking is about reacting and interpreting...this is the reason recipes are only slightly useful, the important stuff is technique.



I do have some beginner questions:
1. Fuel Source, what to use? Most people use commercial charcoal squares, some use lump charcoal, few use wood. I have a bunch of oak from storm downed trees that I have been using.
Doesn't matter, good results can be had using any fuel.

I usually use lump for my main fuel...I know how it works with my smoker and I have confidence in it. I also use local woods to smoke with...I'll use Oak, Hickory, Cherry, Alder and more than a few others from local trees. I use my MAPP torch to light my charcoal, works great

2. What determines smoke penetration? How do you get really deep smoke penetration like a store bought smoked ham? At what point does the smoker just become an oven?

Like someone else mentioned, use smoke as an ingredient or as a spice. Like beer, smoking is about cooking with balance.

Nitrates give ham it's "hamy" taste. While it changes the flavor, it will also, slightly, change the texture as well.

While the smoke ring looks cool and does make you feel good...don't worry about it. There are reasons that it forms and, sometimes, reasons that it doesn't form. There are tricks you can do to enhance the smoke ring...but it's better to use good smoking practices and proper bbq'ing skills. This is what will give you a tasty piece of bbq'd meat...smoke ring goes however the smoke ring goes...don't worry about it.

3. How do you balance the amount of smoke being produced vs the amount of heat being produced?
You don't.

You manage the heat...you manage the heat...you manage the heat. If you're using good smoking woods the flavor will get there. Don't manage the smoke, mange the heat with a mix of your charcoal/wood. You don't want to manage or see tons of smoke pumping from your smoker...just a nice slight trace is good...but you get this by proper heat management, focus there.

4. Seasoning, grilling vs smoking? Would I season my ribs the same if I was to grill vs smoke?
What hop schedule do you use in beer?

You get the idea...to cook is to create

5. My smoker leaks around both doors, fire box and meat box. What can be done to improve temperature control, gasket material?
You can let it leak and still get good results. On my off-set at work I made a few gaskets out of tin foil. You don't want to go too big...just enough to help. What type of smoker do you have?

6. What do you smoke? I have only smoked pork and fish, I know brisket is often smoked but I don't care for brisket.
pork, fish, beef, chicken, meatloaf, bacon, corned beef, salt, paprika, etc, etc, etc.
 

betarhoalphadelta

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This is my smoker, it isn't commercial size but it is heavy and fairly large.
http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/old-country-bbq-pits-smokehouse#repChildCatid=3321871
Okay, that's a vertical smoker, not an offset. That smoker will be FAR harder to run with wood than an offset as a woodburning fire has to be MUCH hotter to combust the VOC. If you have that hot of a fire, you're going to be burning the meat because it will cause too much direct heating being below. An offset smoker by defnition is an indirect heat source.

In your case I would use charcoal as your main heat source and use hardwood chunks.

This is what people with grills/smokers like mine (Kamado / Big Green Egg) do since we have the fire source underneath, it's what people with things like the Weber Smoky Mountain or the UDS (ugly drum smoker) you see above do, etc.

From here:

FUEL TO USE

Straight charcoal briquettes and or charcoal briquettes mixed with wood chunks up to a ratio of 80% charcoal 20% wood chunks (small fist size pieces work best evenly distributed throughout the charcoal for even smoke throughout the burn). We recommend regular charcoal you can use lump charcoal however it burns faster and hotter than regular charcoal. Also using more than 20% wood will burn faster than the charcoal and yield inconsistent temps and inconsistent smoke flavor throughout the cook.
For your smoker, you just shouldn't use wood as your primary fuel source. Primary fuel should be charcoal.
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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I have a bad ass gas grill that I know my way around pretty well. I have had a small cheap gas fired smoker for years that imparted little smoke flavor with the wood chips; it was basically an outdoor oven.
When it rusted out last year, I broke down and bought a real vertical smoker. I am looking for deep smoke rings and full smokey flavor that I cannot get from my gas grill.

The VOC that you guys are talking about is probably my problem as I have basically been building a camp fire in the fire box.
I start a handful of coals in one of those round starter baskets, dump them in the firebox and feed wood on top.

Sounds like I need a hot fire that is also a small fire as not to overheat the meat chamber?
I have been doing the opposite; a big fire that wasn't very hot. I was hoping that this would allow me easier control and fewer additions.

This is my smoker, it isn't commercial size but it is heavy and fairly large.
http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/old-country-bbq-pits-smokehouse#repChildCatid=3321871
Nice smoker, this also helps knowing its a vertical smoker. I would highly suggest a water pan so when that heat rises it hits the water pan and creates a little moisture in your cooker. You can put apple juice, beer, or just water. Sometimes i'll even put some rough chopped veggies in there.

Anyhow, don't start a large fire in there it needs to be a smaller more manageable fire controlled by air intake. If the fire gets to big close the vent off some if it starts to go out..I usually have some really dry chips to help me get it back going just as a tip. They catch easy, and if you want the full smoke flavor and ring then don't cover your meat with foil or butcher paper until you get a good bark (the black coating around the bbq).

Also, once I get a good bed of coals I only put like one log on there to start..sometimes too..and feed it about every 30-45 mins. Don't build a camp fire it will def make things too hot. Its an art and you have to see what your smoker does and how fast it eats wood to keep that perfect temp.

Think of it like using another guys gas grill (first thats again man code but..lets just say) You don't know the hot spots or ins and out of that grill and it probably cooks different than the one you have at home...smokers are exactly the same if not worse. The best advice I can give is keep smoking on it over and over and fine tune your process and learn your cooker.
 

TexasDroughtBrewery

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In your case I would use charcoal as your main heat source and use hardwood chunks.

This is what people with grills/smokers like mine (Kamado / Big Green Egg) do since we have the fire source underneath
I respectfully disagree completely here. If you were smoking with a Kamado or BGE I would say yes he is right...but your situation is completely different b/c your fire box is separate from cooker itself, in the grills he mentioned...they are all the same box in which case that would be true.

I have a vertical smoker, an off set smoker, a komado smoker/grill, and an electric smoker (I can prove it you'd like) and you need full wood logs with a charcoal BASE to get that thing going.
 

brew703

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A lot of great advice given. In addition to BBQ Brethren, you can go to smoked-meat.com. Good group there as well.
For your smoker, I second using charcoal as the primary heat source. I only use Stubbs or RO lump, sometime Cowboy lump. Complement using wood for smoke. If you are smoking a pork butt, use a fruit wood, like cherry or apple. pecan is good too. Start with a couple of chunks in the charcoal basket then add a few more during the cook.

One important part is get a good meat thermometer like a Thermapen. Also get a thermometer to monitor temps in your smoker. the one that came with your smoker is probably off.

Inkbird has a new thermometer out on Amazon. You can use that one for watching the temps on your meat. Get one to monitor your smoker temp as that is very important.

Also get a couple BBQ cook books. Franklin BBQ is a good one. Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson's BBQ book) is another good one. There are a lot on Amazon.
 

jbunton

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+1 on the thermapen. Javelin makes a good one too. And get yourself one of these. Makes life so much easier

IMG_3943.PNG
 

jbunton

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Stick one on the grill for smoker temp and stick one in the meat
 
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