Black coating

Discussion in 'Pork' started by iowaniansmoker, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. I joined this forum because I am very frustrated with smoking.  I will start with my problem...  I have been smoking for a few years now, about 10 times a year.  It is usually ribs but i have also done pork chops, pork loins, turkeys, chickens, and some other random things.  When I smoke stuff, it always comes out with a layer of black char-looking stuff all over the outside, making the meat appear to be very badly burnt.  The meat is always perfectly done and tastes amazing, but I am sick of going through all the work and time to make it and have it come out looking like crap.  Plus I then have to explain to everyone else that it is not burnt and talk them into trying it.  I would very much appriciate any help I could get.  I will give a history of what I have done to solve the problem...I began using an upright, simple small smoker(dont remember the brand but it was one with the coal pan, water pan, then 2 racks with the lid on top).  I put the charcoal in the bottom, soaked wood and put it on the coals, filled with water and went.  When searching for reasons for the blackness, I heard that soaking the wood could cause it so I stopped and it didnt help.  That smoker rusted out so I then got a Char Griller smoker with side firebox.  I started by putting charcoal in the firebox and put wood and a pan of water on the rack above it but the blackness continued.  I then used less wood thinking the reduced smoke would stop it, but of course it did not.  I have tried keeping the vents open all the way and closed all the way and saw no difference.  My most recent attempt was using an all wood fire instead of the charcoals and it did the same(but tasted better).  I should also mention that I almost always use hickory wood that I buy from the store in a bag, but have used mesquite a few times which, as I remember, had the same issue.  I am now all out of ideas and would like any help I can get, because I truly love bbq food but spending most of my day smoking meat and having it turn out ugly is just demoralizing.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  2. tulsajeff

    tulsajeff Master of the Pit Staff Member Administrator OTBS Member

    Do you have some pictures you could post?

    I will admit that meat cooked in the smoker is usually quite a bit darker than what you would see if it was cooked in the oven. We also tend to cook meats that require long hours in the smoker to obtain tenderness. This does bring tenderness but can also make the outside pretty dark.

    What I would say is that foil is your friend.

    Ribs for instance can be smoked for 2-3 hours then wrapped in foil for a couple of hours. You can unwrap the ribs for the final hour to firm them back up a bit as the time in the foil will make them very tender.

    Ribs cooked this way will not be as dark as the foil protects it.

    I also use foil to prevent the Thanksgiving turkey from getting too dark.. the wings are really bad about getting dark too soon and I will wrap small pieces of foil around just the wings to stop the browning process.

    Pork shoulder and brisket are 2 meats that are almost always very dark, almost black when they get done cooking. These can also be wrapped in foil or placed into a foil pan and covered with foil once they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

    Some other questions I have are:
    • Are you using a thermometer to tell you when the meat is done?
    • Are you using any kind of rub on the outside of the meat?
    • What temperature are you maintaining in your smoker?
  3. I did not even think about getting pictures but will for sure if I smoke again in the near future.  I do expect darkness, but comparing to the picture from others on this forum, mine is a bit darker.  I do use a thermometer, just a simple one but I believe to be accurate.  I had not used a rub until today, which I only put on the ribs and not the pork loin.  I will put the rub recipe at the bottom.  The temp for the smoker is between 225-275, but I am using the thermometer on the lid of the smoker that came with it.  Rub recipe-

    .5 cup brown sugar

    .25 cup paprika

    1 tbsp Pepper

    1 tbsp Salt

    1 tbsp chili powder

    1 tbsp onion powder

    1 tbsp garlic powder

    1 tsp cayenne pepper

    (removed membrain, put mustard on ribs, then applied mix evenly on both sides)
  4. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    "but I am using the thermometer on the lid of the smoker that came with it"

    Have you calibrated that therm? Many factory therms can be way off as far as accuracy is concerned. If you can remove the therm, place it into a cup/small bowl of boiling water. it should read 212° or close it it, the difference being your altitude. If there is a big difference that can't be adjusted for, invest in a good therm.

    Also, the temp on the lid of your smoker may not be the same as the rack/grate temperature. Use your meat probe and stick it through a potato, leaving about an inch exposed. Compare that temp reading to the one on the smoker lid.

    Good luck my friend.. 
  5. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Just FYI the factory thermometer on my Chargriller reads about 50* too low.
  6. hdsmoke

    hdsmoke Smoking Fanatic

    With that amount of brown sugar its going to make your meat even darker...its something that comes with smoking.  Some (most?) of us take pride in the dark outer layer (bark).  With a rub that dark layer will be tastey!  As long as its not a coating of creosote you are good to go.  I just did a 9lb butt with Jeff's rub over the weekend and for the first time i didnt foil it.  was in for almost 12 hours, and it was black.  Yes, a couple people questioned if i screwed it up, and I always just say dont eat it if you dont want to.  Because once the rest are RAVING about it they will no doubt go back to the serving pan for a taste test!  I even had 2 people that told me they didnt like pulled pork go back for seconds.  Needless to say i should have cooked 2 of them! 

    ETA: I agree with 2 posts above, factory therm is no good.  You want to get a true reading of your cook temp.  Maybe one more suggestion would be to NOT soak your wood.  If you are using chips maybe try dry chunks. 
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  7. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    +1 for the lid therm being junk. My old Char-griller's lid therm was off by 75°! At the very least go to Home Depot or Lowe's and look around in the BBQ area. They should have some therms for about $8 each, buy two and install them just above the cooking grate level on the left and right sides for your smoker. You will find there is a big differance from left to right and from the factory therm.

    Also look under the charcoal smoker forum and you will see a sticky about how to modify your Char-griller to even out the temps and make it a good smoker.
  8. Thank you all for your advice.  I have just purchased 2 thermometers to put inside the smoker and I am going to give foil a try next time to see how it works for me.  Its also nice to know that dark is normal and good, I guess I am just a little paranoid with what I cook.  I hope to get the smoker going again before the end of the week and get some pictures to see what you all think.
  9. Also the brown sugar caramelizes and will make it look darker as well.  If you continue to have blackened outsides even with foil... try using a rub that doesn't have so much brown sugar in it.

    edit:  ( oops missed HDsmoke's reply above, he already mentioned this )  But it is still a very valid point.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  10. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yes definitely need to see pics.

    Good luck with the smoke.
  11. dasmoker

    dasmoker Smoke Blower

    It sounds to me that you are just referring to the meats "bark".  My pork butts come out looking black, but man, that bark is sooooooooooooo good.  lol.

    You say the meat is perfect and tastes delicious. If so, the black you are referring to is the bark, and is sought after by us smokers. Enjoy it. :)

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