First timer: Two attempts, two failures...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by slickcav, Jan 26, 2015.

  1. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    In laws bought us a MES 40 for Christmas this year (awfully kind of them) and in my excitement I was anxious to try it out...

    Quickly ordered the Jeff Phillips Smoking Meat book and was on my way reading reading reading.

    First trial:

    Four or Five one and a half inch thick goose breasts following a fellow forum recipe:

    Now I am a super direction oriented person.  I could build anything or do anything if I had great detailed instructions and step by step how to do it.  I followed the above recipe from the brine to the smoker, my only possible first screw up was post-brine: patted dry, didnt know how much SPOG to apply, and may have gone overboard considering I had already brined the meat.  Got the smoke rolling, temp to 225, shooting for an IT of 155, and off I go on my first adventure, drooling at the thought of tasting something like the above mentioned thread had talked so highly of.  After an hour, as per Jeff Phillips book, stuck the MES 40 equipped thermometer in, and sat back drank a beer and watched the temp.

    Problem number two:  I do not believe this thermometer at all, within an hour and 10 minutes (OP of thread smoked for 4 hours), my IT was reading over 200 degrees, I thought no way, maybe the probe is too deep and real close to the rack maybe, pulled it out a quarter to half inch, still reading the same, let the smoker get back up to temp for a few minutes, put the probe in another breast, still reading IT >200deg. WTF.  Let them cook for another hour, only smoked for the first hour or so (wasnt sure if I needed to have the smoker smoking the entire time or not, it was unclear #directionfollower).  Took them out, not trusting my MES 40 IT probe, let them rest for 10 minutes, cut in, nice rare/medium rare, saltier then all get out, didnt taste good, to the trash can it goes.

    Second Trial:

    Four 1" thick+ chicken breasts. Following Jeff Phillips "Smoking Meat" book page 60-61, "Smoked Chicken Breasts" - "If you try this recipe, I dont think youll ever cook them any other way"

    Heat Brine Method: 1/2 gallon, 1/2c kosher salt, rosemary, brown sugar, garlic,  Cooled brine after cooking, added chicken breasts, brined 24 hr, smoked the next day.

    Smoking: Patted dry chicken breasts, 1tsp cayenne pepper, 1tbsp table salt, 1tsp rosemary leaves, 1tbsp garlic powder, covered breasts in halved bacon slices and into the smoker they went with apple smoke rolling.  Checked them this time with both the MES 40 probe and a digital probe (cant leave in oven style spot check one) Got to 160-165, took them off, sat 5 minutes or so, cut into them, dry ish, little too smokey/salty. Ended up slicing thin and using in a fajita style wrap, and serving in my omelet the next morning or two as well with some fried onions and peppers. NOT TOO BAD, better and more tolerable than the goose breasts ( I admit I should have started with something "simpler", but had fresh that day killed goose breasts and said hey why not) but still not lighting the world on fire as OMG I LOVE SMOKING MEAT, I am more likely thinking why did I ask my in-laws to drop 350$+ on this smoker.

    My Thoughts:

    The salty tastes in both could be from using too much salt in both my brine, and my seasoning after brine before placing into smoker.  I am trying to stick with what the book recc'd as "Brining increases a meats capacity to hold moisture, osmosis, etc."

    I also feel that I am a more slab some good sauce onto the meat kind of guy.  IE: Smoke the meat, homemade bbq sauce on top after smoking or during smoking ( believe I would have to wrap in aluminum foil?), yum yum. Like my ribs at Texas Roadhouse or something, I am not sure, never really had smoked meat before, besides when a menu item says "mesquite, hickory smoked ribs, etc"

    My plan for Third Trial is in your hands:

    I need to use an idiot proof recipe on an idiot proof meat that yields super tasty results to restore my faith and drive to continue to use my smoker.  I have a freezer full of 3 Whitetail Deer, roasts, backstraps, tenderloins, ground venison.  I am also not against hitting up the local BJ's/ACME/etc for a good piece of organic meat that you would all recommend.  Would love a bbq sauce topped recipe of some sort, as I cant hardly ever pass a roadside BBQ without getting a dish.

    What do you all recommend my 3rd attempt should be: Keywords: Specific Instruction Direction Follower here :)

    Thanks for your time, sorry for the long read, just want to pull the smoker back out and keep trying...
  2. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Did you happen to wash all the brine off all that stuff before drying the skin, seasoning and smoking? If not that is why it was so salty. Also, when brining you are adding some salt to the fowl so you need to adjust the amount of salt in your seasoning accordingly. You can undersalt meat and use the salt shaker at the table but if you over salt you can't fix it. Ok, unless you are set on fowl why not try a larger muscle meat like a pork Butt? This way you can get intimate with your smoker for a long smoke and get to know the subtle ins and outs of your equipment. Then after you have some confidence in what you are doing you can try some more delicate stuff. Pork Butts are relatively cheap, easy and very forgiving. The only thing is that they take time. You can not rush it or you won't be happy with the results. I always try to steer brand new smokers to doing a simple, long smoke for their first time. Now that you have found this website let us ride along with you on your next project whatever it may be. Take pictures and ask questions all along the way. There are really well experienced guys on here just about all the time to help you to get a good smoke under your belt. I would suggest you try this recipe to the t for your next smoke. No brine, no delicacy just good old fashioned smoking meat.
  3. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    One more thought. You may not know this but most of the supplied digital thermometers in those units are way off in temperature. You can check them with boiling water to see if they are close to correct. Boiling water is 212 degrees at sea level. You can also check them with very icy ice water which is 32 degrees. Most if not all of us end up getting a good two probe digital thermometer like a Maverick et-732 or 733 or an Igrill or something similar. It is one of the best investments you will ever make for your smoking and cooking in general. I recommend before your next smoke to check the unit therms and also get backup in case they are way off. 
  4. You really have to watch white meat (chicken breast) they get done and dry out pretty quick.. I brine, and rinse real good, if you don't like very much salt add spices that are not salty, Mrs. Dash makes some pretty good stuff

  5. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    maverick or igrill? which do you prefer? both are around the same price, I do like the Iphone compatibility of the igrill..

    Thanks for your post, I will follow your recommendation and it will be my next project.
  6. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I have the Maverick and love it. If you have an I phone though the guys that have those Igrill 2 probes love them. Either is great and way better than not knowing for sure.
  7. red dog

    red dog Smoking Fanatic

    Good advice from timberjet. The best thing I ever did for my smoking was getting the Maverick. You might want to consider trying a whole chicken or two. Another thing, I do brine whole larger birds but wouldn't brine smaller portions. If you want to use a rub with salt in it cut back on the salt in your brine and brining time. Good luck on your future smokes.
  8. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    Well guys the last few months my MES 40 has stayed in its corner, picked up a pork butt/shoulder yesterday from the local ACME, and following Bear's step by step as suggested above, I am currently smokin.  Went in at 7am this morning, just threw the probe in, reading 190's IT.  In a bout of frustration guess who just dropped 100$ on the igrill, this guy.

    7-12noon @ 225. IT probe inserted @ 1200, crazy readings, pulled it out a little, pushed it in a little, oh well.

    Gonna keep on smokin.  Stay tuned.
  9. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    Still new to this wonderful hobby. Would suggest trying something along the lines of a pork butt. Fairly simple to do. Coat with olive oil and apply a rub. We started with Jeffs...set the smoker up and in it goes. We have yet to foil so our times are a bit long. Get yourself a good remote style thermometer. Let it run...we use 198* as the magic number. Wrap, into a towel filled cooler for at least 90 minutes.
  10. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    Did you calibrate the igrill first to ensure it was correct? Also, how close are you to the bone? If you are anywhere close to the bone you will get bad readings.

    I have also found that if some rendered fat solidifies on the probe it will mess up the readings. If I have any doubt I take the probe off and clean it completely then reinsert it.

    What size is the butt?
  11. Don't get down and don't give up, as they say practice makes perfect.  I started with a side offset smoker and at first I tried some fancy recipes but I did not like the outcomes either.  I went back to the basics and smoked burgers and dogs.  This allowed me to find the hot/cold spots of the smoker and dialing in all of my temp probes at minimal cost (while providing for some good weekend bbqs).

    I recently set a friend with a MES 40 and what I have did was to take some digital probes (I have a Maverick ET-732 and some basic kitchen ones) and slide the probes through half a potato so that the probe is about 1 inch above the grate.  We then moved these probes from front to back, left to right and top to bottom of the MES, leaving the probe in each spot for 20 minutes.  This allowed us to see all of the hot and cold areas.  

    From a seasoning perspective, I started with the basic salt & pepper path as you can always season later.  Remember taste is also very subjective.  What one person may like another may not. I keep some chicken, pork and beef on hand that I found cheap to test recipes out on so I am not waiting a good piece of meat if I do not like it.  I have also been known to cut up a pork butt or brisket and try multiple recipes during the same smoke.
  12. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Your brine is pretty close to mine, but for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I only brine for 4 hours.  Then smoke / grill them on my UDS at 325, until the thickest part reaches 160 IT.  Then I pull them from the heat and let rest about 15 minutes before slicing across the grain.    
  13. inkjunkie

    inkjunkie Master of the Pit

    From my reading here I have gathered a few things. The MES units, while being very good are what they are. A lower $ electric smoker. With that said, and keeping in mind that you don't NEED to be at 225* on the money don't sweat the temperature to much. My MES has a 35* or so temperature swing, which from what I understand is normal. You will pull your hair out trying to monitor/regulate the temperature. Keep in mind you are cooking to a certain you get there, within reason, is not all that important. Some folks make this sound like some sort of science...for me, that takes all the fun out of it.

    So far my best food had come from my DigiGuru controlled BGE. Set it at 225* and it floats from 224*-228*.

    That being said I did build a UDS. I am struggling with it because I didn't understand a few things.

    Blah blah. Just relax, get an understanding on your device. Have some fun trying to figure things out. And accept the fact that your dog may be eating a few of your projects until you begin to get a handle on things.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  14. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    see above post. I was just updating this thread with my first BUTT
  15. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    I ordered it off amazon, wont have it for two days.

    Pulled out and readjusted the probe 4 times, still reading close to smoker set temp (220-240).

    Butt is 7lb
  16. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    thanks for the kind words, going to go stick the digital quick read thermometer I have from thanksgiving to get an idea of where were sitting now, after adjusting the probe 4 times the MES unit is still reading close to the actual smokers temp.  I have to wonder if the cable its attached to is broken and touching the inside of the smoker and thats why my IT is reading so close to my set smokers temp.

    Headed to acme to get some apple juice! in the home stretch few more hours.
  17. Poultry can be tough, especially skinless, boneless - easiest thing you can do - protect it.  Most chose a bacon wrap, but there are plenty of ways to wow em with a bird[​IMG]

    If you are bent on skinless/boneless - try won't regret it....

    Brine your poultry.....

    3tbspsns apple cider vinegar

    1/4 cup Kosher Salt

    3/4 cup dark brown sugar

    enough Apple Juice to cover all of the meat

    mix well until you do not feel the sugar clogging up your whisk

    Take your meat and trim nerves, fat, etc....(a turkey tenderloin is amazing)

    You wan the meat to soak between 12-20 hours in a covered bowl (not metal) in the fridge.  Remove from the brine and rinse well with cool water.  Let rest on counter to room temp.

    When it starts to rest - get to your smoker fired up to where it is maintaining 235-245 degrees (you will notice with the MES it rarely holds steady, sometimes even 10-degree swings are tough....I would recommend a 50/50 blend of Pecan and Peach or Pecan and Apple for the smoke.  You want the room temp "surprise" going into a hot (240-degree) smoke filled chamber...

    Back to the kitchen...

    Your smoker is heating, your meat is resting and warming to room temp, now time for the surprise....

    You will want to make a bacon weave (there are directions all over the place on how to do it, probably on SMF too, but I am new here) - I highly recommend a thick center-cut bacon - the flavor his up to you. You want the weave to be large enough to wrap the entire piece(s) of brined meat.  Here is where you can get creative - one of my favorites....I coat the surface of the bacon with some sauce - my wife an kids are big fans of Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory Brown Sugar (SBR) so I usually use that and coat the bacon just a bit, I don't want it running all over the place.  On top of the SBR, I will lay out some spinach, on top of the spinach goes some thinly sliced onions and garlic.  I then wrap the meat in pepeprjack cheese, and place it at the end of the weave closest to me.  I will usually add a little more pepeprjack to weave above the meat and then roll that weave up, thus wrapping the meat in the bacon, SBR, spinach, onion, garlic and cheese.  Once it is wrapped, I typically position it on the rack so that the seam of the weave is down and I will brush the delicacy with a light coat of the SBR.

    By now the meat is likely at room temp and your smoker probably close to the sweet spot.  Get the surprise in the smoke, make sure your probe is securely into the thickest part of the internal meat. I usually add 1 cup of apple juice and 2 tbspns of apple cider vinegar to the pan, close it up and wait until you get in IT of 165.  Sometimes I will brush it lightly again, wrap it in foil and let it rest for about 30-45 minutes (usually while I am cleaning up the smoker). If you prefer a crispier bacon you can put on a grill or stovetop to crisp - I usually don't.

    I have done this with everything from chicken, turkey, goose, and pheasant breasts, to turkey tenderloins.  It is typically a first class crowd pleaser.

    Good luck - if you try it, share your results.

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  18. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    You must have a defective probe. A 7lb butt after 5 hours at that temp should still be in the stall around 165.

    I would check it with another thermo and see what it says.

    Fortunately butts are forgiving and if you overshoot by 5 or 10 degrees it isn't the end of the world.
  19. slickcav

    slickcav Newbie

    Just did my 3 o clock apple juice>double cover in a tray, went to use my quick read digital thermometer, batteries dead lol.  No reason I should be too off on temps if I am following the write up to the T.  I have a Fork style digital temp for the grill that I will try in a little bit.
  20. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    If all else fails when you reach the 1.5 hours per pound mark you can test it by pulling on the bone. If it pulls out with little to no resistance than it is done.

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