I need help with a few lingering questions

Discussion in 'Beef' started by andookc, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. andookc

    andookc Newbie

    So I'm slowly starting to get the hang of this smoking business but the devil is in the details and so I have some questions. I hope someone has the time to answer. Thanks in advance.

    I have a PS PK 50 PP Electric Smoker.


    My questions...

    1. The manual says to close the dampers for brisket to cook at 225F. Now ive noticed that i think i get creosote forming. Ive noticed this when ive used a full water pan. When I open the smoker, theres water dripping from the top of the smoker. On occasion after ive foiled a brisket, theres been this dark nasty black liquid on top of the foil (Thankfully not on the meat). Is that creosote or just water and smoke or is that the same thing?

    2. Ive read all I could on vent positions. Having an electric smoker, there's only adjustable top vents. The manual only recommends wide open for making beef jerky. Normally I keep them closed the whole time but now I worry about creosote. Keeping them open keeps my surface temperature from getting much over 215F (with full water pan) even when I set the thermostat up to 250F. When I close the vents the temps go up to 235-240F when set to 250F. My question is, how should I adjust my vents and should i use a water pan or not since im getting alot of condensation and possible creosote.

    3. With my electric smoker, should I preheat the smoker, put the meat in, then immeadiately place a pan of wood chunks on the coils or should i put the meat, turn the smoker up to the right temperature then immeadiately place a pan of wood chunks on the coils. Ive been having trouble getting thin blue smoke. It always starts out white and thick.

    Sorry for the rambling and I hope my thoughts were coherent enough for you all to follow.

  2. placebo

    placebo Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    1. If it numbs your tongue when you taste it then yes it is creosote.

    2. Never seen that particular smoker but it apparantly is well insulated. I have an MES watt burner and the ONLY time I ever close the vent down is to pre-heat the smoker with no meat or chips in it and even then I leave it opened a little bit.

    3. I always pre-heat. Does that smoker use both sawdust and wood chunks/chips? The info on the link suggests sawdust.
  3. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The normal rule of thumb around here is to always keep your vents wide open. Now if you are having trouble keeping heat maybe you can close them down a bit but you want those vents to be open so the smoke can exit the smoker.
  4. I've never used an electric smoker before, and I'm not familiar with what you are using, so I will give it my best shot....

    1) With the dampers fully closed, more than likely you will get creosote forming because the smoke has nowhere to go and becomes stagnant. I would think that it is possible for it to be forming on your food, but if its not very bad, you might not notice it when you eat it. I would try opening the damper some to see if it eliminates this problem.

    2) Adjusting the dampers is one of those things you jsut have to play with. Every smoker is different, so there is no real guide to how much they should be opened or closed.The use of a water pan (in most cases) is optional. You may want to try (if you havent) filling the pan with hot water. Cold water will drop the temp in in your smoker, and can take a while to heat up.

    3) I always pre-heat my smoker. I don't want my meat sitting in there while its heating up, if something were to go wrong, (i.e, you forgot to plug it in [it happens]) you could get sick by the germs that build up on the food. I like to have TBS when I put my meat on, so as soon as i start preheating the smoker, I put my wood chunks on as well.

    As far as the white thick smoke, this is what we need to know..

     What kind of wood are you using?

     Do you do anything to it before placing it in the smoker? (like soaking it in water)

     Are your chips actually catching fire? (thats bad)

    Anyway, like I said, I don't have any experience with the equipment you are using, but I hope I have helped in some way. There are a lot of helpful people on here, i'm sure someone is smoking with the same equipment you're using.

    Good luck, if theres anything else I might be able to help you with, just let me know.

  5. andookc

    andookc Newbie

    I appreciate everyone's input.

    As far as the wood I use...I buy chips and chunks (Cherry, Apple, Hickory) from a local grocery store here in Texas called HEB. The wood seems to be pretty decent but then again I'm no expert. I used to soak the chips and chunks but I never do that anymore. The instruction manual says that you can use chips and chunks in addition to the sawdust. Im not even sure where sawdust is sold for smoking.

    Im not sure how to tell if they are catching fire or not. What is the best way to tell if I cant see into my smoker.

    I always use hot water so as not to drop my chamber temps. That keeps it from dropping but doesnt help it get really hot like I want it to.

    It just seems im having a hard time with vent positions and temperatures but I suppose thats the art of smoking right there...vents and temps

    From what CKH mentioned, it seems that the initial smoke you get is always gonna be thick white smoke then it settles into thin blue smoke. Is that correct?

    It seems the thermostat turns off in the electric smoker while theres wood in there. Some suggest placing lump coal with it to help burn when the thermostat shuts the coils off. What do you think? Usually I have white ashes when im done, but some of the larger pieces are just black and brittle like charcoal but after some time they turn into white ash.

    Thanks again!
  6. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Practice practice practice!

    With my electric I like to preheat it then toss in the wood, it will smoke heavily at first but when it settles down throw the meat in. I like to leave the vent open all the way but you need to adjust it to the smoker temp and the amount of smoke coming out it.. It's just a matter of trial and error, but when in doubt error on the side of less smoke and all will be good.'


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