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Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking

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Offline  Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#1

Posted: May 24, 2016, 12:29 PM Post
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Anybody use a smoker? I have a non-electric one but haven't tried it out yet, partly for the time commitment of 8-12 hours of checking on the thing regularly.


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Offline  Re: Random thoughts that are pointless and too dumb to say anywhere else thread: 2015–16
#2

Posted: May 24, 2016, 1:58 PM Post
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I have an electric smoker, and not sure I have the attention span to have a "classic" one. I still have to check/add chips hourly, but I don't have to worry about maintaining temperature. One of the best gifts I've received, we've really gotten good use out of it.


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Online  Re: Random thoughts that are pointless and too dumb to say anywhere else thread: 2015–16
#3

Posted: May 24, 2016, 2:46 PM Post
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I do and love it. Do you have a propane assist or is it straight up wood? If you would like there are a few adjustments to the smoker that I found to be useful. The time commitment is real but you can usually get away with about four hours of smoke time and still end up with a decent end product. You don't even need four hours if you are smoking chicken cut into pieces. I smoke steaks for about half an hour and finish them on the grill or broil them. Not only do you get the smoke flavor but the smoke process firms up the steak so rare steaks aren't so mushy. You can also smoke a full beef loin in about 4 hours that turns out really well. Pork butt and brisket takes longer. Ribs are fine after four hours then wrap them in foil and finish in the grill or in the oven. I tend to smoke my stuff at around 150 instead of 250 as it leads to less dry meat. I have heard that isn't high enough a temp but have done so for over 20 years and have never had any trouble at all. Feel free to ask about specific cuts of meat and which wood to use.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.


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Offline  Re: Random thoughts that are pointless and too dumb to say anywhere else thread: 2015–16
#4

Posted: May 24, 2016, 8:51 PM Post
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How do you smoke at 150? Isn't that flirting with the "danger zone?" Also, don't most meats require a higher internal temp than 150? Just curious, not judging!

I just jumped in to the smoking world and got the green egg. I'm really enjoying it so far. The nice thing with the egg is once the temp is where you want it, you rarely have to touch anything. Very hands off.

Had great luck with ribs and pork butt and pork tenderloin (half grilled half smoked). Chicken came out bitter (too much smoke I think) and had awesome flavor on a brisket but had some bad texture issues. I think I had the wrong part of the brisket for the way I was cooking it (big end) and didn't trim any fat off. I always get nervous with my first bite. It's a huge bummer when you spend a day smoking and it doesn't taste right!


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Online  Re: Random thoughts that are pointless and too dumb to say anywhere else thread: 2015–16
#5

Posted: May 25, 2016, 12:26 PM Post
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I smoke at 150 until it hits around 140 then usually finish on the grill or in the oven. If I'm doing a pork butt or just want to finish in the smoker I just run the temp up after it hits around 140. As far as the danger zone A smoking temperature of 150 is safe temperature to smoke at for whole cuts of meat, because bacteria grows on the surface of food and smoke has anti-microbial effect. I sear my meat to make sure any surface bacteria is killed. If the food has not been cured, then you need to make sure that you can accurately monitor the cabinet temperature, because you are very close to the danger zone of 140 F. A lot of people say that once you go over 180 your are no longer smoking; you are technically barbecuing. So I aim for 150 as the low and let it bounce to 180.
I tend to bounce my heat up and down a little because I end up with better results. It mimics the Texas style that rotates closer to the fire then away again.
If you had problems with the texture in brisket, or any tougher cut of meat for that matter, the longer you can keep it between 110 and 120 it helps break down the meat better. Here is an explanation of what happens at certain temps. http://www.scienceofcooking.com/meat/slow_cooking1.htm
One thing I've noticed is meat tends to hit a stall point where the temp seems like it sits forever. I smoke through to where it starts to go up again and finish it on a grill or in the oven.
You can easily over smoke chicken but it helps a lot to use fruit wood as opposed to oak, mesquite or hickory type woods. one thing you have to get used to with chicken is the longer you smoke it the worse the skin turns out. If you are really into chicken skin then smoking it is not for you. The meat though is outstanding.
Wood wise as a general rule I use cherry for chicken, sugar maple for pork, oak for beef and alder or olive for fish. Avoid using bark if you can.

raw12 if you want an easy smoke to start with that takes very little time try steak. I get my smoker up to temp and smoke them for 1/2 an hour then finish them in the broiler for 2 1/2- 3 minutes each side. Quick easy and no real time spent. A beef loin can be done in about 4 hours to a temp around 130. I tend to think medium rare is burnt so take that into account. Though smoking beef firms up the mushiness that some people don't like when done rare.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.


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Offline  Re: Random thoughts that are pointless and too dumb to say anywhere else thread: 2015–16
#6

Posted: May 25, 2016, 1:08 PM Post
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I think it's time for a grilling/cooking/smoking thread so this stuff doesn't get lost [smile]

"I wasted so much time in my life hating Juventus or A.C. Milan that I should have spent hating the Cardinals." ~kalle8

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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
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Posted: May 25, 2016, 1:12 PM Post
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Done. [smile]

That’s the only thing Chicago’s good for: to tell people where Wisconsin is.
-- Sigmund Snopek


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#8

Posted: May 25, 2016, 4:27 PM Post
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I have a "refrigerator" style propane smoker that I got last summer. So far I've used to smoke packer cut briskets, flat cut pastrami briskets and St Louis-style ribs. I'm looking to do a pork butt sometime this summer, and I've love to try making my own bacon.

My smoker is divided into two parts: The very bottom of the smoker has a propane burner that is used to provide heat to get wood chips smoking. Above that is my water pan. The burner, wood chips and water pan are all services by a small door at the bottom of the smoker. Then above that I have four racks for the meat that I am smoking, also served by it's own door. I usually put a drip pan on the bottom most rack to help limit the amount of drippings that end up in the water pan and it's cover.

When I smoke my means I always do so between 200 and 225 degrees. So far I've had good results keeping things most because I am pretty diligent keeping the water pan full and the smoker closed. I have gotten to the point where I usually add wood chips and water every 90 minutes or so, but otherwise I keep the smoker closed unless I'm doing something specific with the meat.

Also, even tho I may not smoke the meat the entire time I cook it (ribs, for example, only get smoked about 1/2 the time they are cooked), since the cooking is almost always done at the same temp I use the smoker to do all the cooking. That frees up the oven and stove for other things.

For ribs, I smoke them for about 2 1/2 hours, followed by about 90 minutes in a "Texas Crunch" and another 45-60 minutes being grilled. I've done two or three briskets and I usually let them go for 14-16 hours, plus another couple for the burnt ends. The pastrami I smoked was done in about 4 1/2 hours. It's kinda a long time, but I usually use my tablet and Netflix to help pass the time, which helps. Also, the end results have been good, so it is time well spent for me.

One recommendation: Make sure you keep your heat below 250 and make sure you clean your drip pan (if you use one) when you add wood and water to help prevent any sort of flair-ups. I had a bit of an issue the last time I did a brisket so it ended up a bit drier than normal.

EDIT: The first time I ever did ribs I used a competition method I found on the Internet. If you read the article, it's more about the method for smoking the meat than a recipe, so after a while you'll find your own flavor profile as well as your own methods. When I do ribs, I tend to only cook them about 5 hours- just long enough to be tender but not so long they are falling off the bone.


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Online  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#9

Posted: May 25, 2016, 4:51 PM Post
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I used to use the propane with a wood chip basket in it but changed to all natural fire in a larger pan. Maybe it's in my head but I think it turns out better. A friend of mine who also does a lot of smoking agrees. We came to the conclusion it might be because of the variance in temperatures is greater than when I used the propane to regulate the heat. Either that or with the heat coming totally from the wood it ends up getting a fuller spectrum of the smoke flavor. Not sure though just believe it is slightly better.

It's kinda a long time, but I usually use my tablet and Netflix to help pass the time, which helps. Also, the end results have been good, so it is time well spent for me.


Having an OCD border collie really helps on the early morning startups. [smile] She'll go a full 8-12 hours if I want. Really helps with winter smoking. Doing it on a Sunday means you can listen to a Brewers game for a portion of it as well. Wiffle ball is also a good way to pass time. Biggest hassle for me is when I do things like pork butt or shoulder or a brisket which means getting up anywhere between 3-5 am to start it. Not a morning person but, as you said, it is worth it.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#10

Posted: May 25, 2016, 5:30 PM Post
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I have an electric one and well the summer isn't all that great for smoking here in Arizona when it is 110+ outside though it doesn't take long for the smoker to get to a nice temp which is good.

I was thinking about doing some pulled pork either this weekend or next. Maybe just put the pork in the smoker for a 2-3 hours and then throw it in the crock pot after. Not sure on how I am going to do it yet.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#11

Posted: May 25, 2016, 7:13 PM Post
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This is all great. I bought a pork tenderloin specifically to try out the smoker. I have my charcoal and I'll soak the hickory chips. Finish off on the grill and I bet it's going to be awesome.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#12

Posted: May 25, 2016, 9:10 PM Post
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This thread makes me happy. I'm actually doing ribs this weekend. First time they turned out so good, so hoping for similar results.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#13

Posted: May 25, 2016, 9:30 PM Post
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Ive got a smaller smoker that we use for ribs, briskets, or wings. I don't like to use propane, natural flame makes the meat taste better imo. We also have a smokehouse that we use when doing larger batches. We make our own polish sausage and process all of our own venison each year.

The biggest thing to consider is the quality of meat. I've gone for cheaper ribs, such as the Lloyds brand you can get at Wal-Mart and even if you prepare them perfectly they won't be anywhere near as good as meat you get from a butcher shop or butcher yourself. Favorite place to get meat from is Maplewood Meats in Green Bay.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#14

Posted: May 26, 2016, 8:04 AM Post
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Thurston Fluff said:
I used to use the propane with a wood chip basket in it but changed to all natural fire in a larger pan. Maybe it's in my head but I think it turns out better. A friend of mine who also does a lot of smoking agrees. We came to the conclusion it might be because of the variance in temperatures is greater than when I used the propane to regulate the heat. Either that or with the heat coming totally from the wood it ends up getting a fuller spectrum of the smoke flavor. Not sure though just believe it is slightly better.


When did it all natural I had more trouble controlling the temp, so my results were a bit uneven. The very best meat I smoked that way was better than my current setup, but I also had some poor results that I think are largely due to poor temperature control. That was probably largely because I was/am a relative novice and also because my all wood smoker had a really poor layout that didn't lend itself to adding wood quickly. I'd like to upgrade at some point to a bigger model so I can smoke larger cuts a bit more comfortably, and when I do that I will look strongly at an all wood model. Of course, any tips or trade secrets that you have would be appreciated. [smile]


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Online  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#15

Posted: May 26, 2016, 11:36 AM Post
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Of course, any tips or trade secrets that you have would be appreciated. [smile]


When it comes to cooking I have no secrets. Outside of restaurants I never understood why some people refuse to share tips. Ditto for food competitions. I've had a couple people hound me for years to enter competitions but just don't see why food should be a competition. As for why you might have had trouble I've found it usually ends up being because you didn't add wood soon enough, added the wrong size of wood or added to much at once. It helps a lot to look at the fire like stopping a boat instead of a car. You have to do it before it needs it or it's to late. Once it's going add larger chunks and only one or two at a time. If you do add too late you may have to add a few smaller pieces or chips but only a few to get it moving or it goes too far the other way.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#16

Posted: May 26, 2016, 11:48 AM Post
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Is the top rack just for water so it steams and you throw the soaked wood chips directly on the charcoal, or do you put the wood chips in the top water basket?

I can't do my first smoking today. I have to go bowling with the co-workers later.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#17

Posted: May 26, 2016, 12:19 PM Post
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This might just be my go-to off-topic thread.

Thurston Fluff said:
As for why you might have had trouble I've found it usually ends up being because you didn't add wood soon enough, added the wrong size of wood or added to much at once. It helps a lot to look at the fire like stopping a boat instead of a car. You have to do it before it needs it or it's to late. Once it's going add larger chunks and only one or two at a time. If you do add too late you may have to add a few smaller pieces or chips but only a few to get it moving or it goes too far the other way.


The boat/car analogy is something I never thought of, but now that you say it makes a lot of sense. That's something I can practice on our Weber before I buy my next smoker.

GAME05 said:
Is the top rack just for water so it steams and you throw the soaked wood chips directly on the charcoal, or do you put the wood chips in the top water basket?


In my opinion you will want to have a water pan separate from your wood (which some people like to soak and others like to keep dry). My setup is to place a pan containing wood chips or small chunks above the burner, and then a pan of water above the wood. My understanding is the water serves two purposes: it helps regulate the temperature and it also provides some moisture to help keep things from drying out.


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#18

Posted: May 26, 2016, 2:43 PM Post
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http://amazingribs.com/

This has been a great resource for me. Site is called "Amazing Ribs" but it is much more than that. Gets into how to use wood, a lot of myths about smoking, etc. And covers how to cook far more than just ribs.

I bought a ceramic cooker (Primo) a few years ago, and have never looked back. It was expensive, but I cook out at least once a week but usually more often. Serves as both a smoker and a grill. And it will last forever. (That's how I justified the cost.)

What I have learned through a lot of trial and error, wood chunks are better than chips. Chips burn away quickly, and have to constantly be added. Meaning you're opening the grill a lot, defeating the purpose of smoking. It also makes it more difficult to maintain a constant temp when you do that. Now, once the meat goes on I never touch it again until it's done.

Another rule of thumb, if the smoke is white (or especially when it's gray) that is "bad" smoke. "Good" smoke is blue or clear. Also, meat can only take on smoke for the first hour or two of cooking. After that, it won't be ruined or anything if you add more wood, it just won't matter.

When you're done, if the meat is tender and you have a smoke ring, you "did it right."


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Offline  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#19

Posted: May 26, 2016, 3:33 PM Post
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I would love to start this as a hobby but good cuts like briskets, ribs, etc are just crazy expensive. That's a lot of money if the meat turns out good and a lot of money if it ends up terrible.


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Online  Re: Using a smoker… plus grilling and cooking
#20

Posted: May 26, 2016, 5:47 PM Post
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Is the top rack just for water so it steams and you throw the soaked wood chips directly on the charcoal, or do you put the wood chips in the top water basket?


The water should go above the wood. The reason for the water is to help increase your smoke ring. Mop sauce also helps with that. When it comes to soaking the wood there are differing opinions on it. The reasoning behind soaking the wood is to create more smoke for the wood used and increase the smoke ring. I personally haven't noticed much of a difference with or without soaked wood when it comes to the smoke ring. I don't use it to start because it's makes getting started harder without propane but when I add wood I use soaked ones.

Another rule of thumb, if the smoke is white (or especially when it's gray) that is "bad" smoke. "Good" smoke is blue or clear. Also, meat can only take on smoke for the first hour or two of cooking. After that, it won't be ruined or anything if you add more wood, it just won't matter.

Avoid using bark and it helps a lot.

When you're done, if the meat is tender and you have a smoke ring, you "did it right."


Not totally true. You can get a smoke ring by adding curing salt with sodium nitrite in it. There are a lot of store bought rubs that have that in it. If you are using your own rub and know it doesn't have sodium nitrite in it then you are correct.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.


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