New to Smoking....Harder than I thought!!

Discussion in 'Roll Call' started by ajohnson, Dec 6, 2015.

  1. ajohnson

    ajohnson Newbie

    Hello All,

    I suck at smoking, like bad, I'll admit it 

    I'm in Rio Rancho New Mexico.  I recently bought a large Traeger Electric Smoker.  I'm definitely new to smoking and could really use some advice.

    My wife sold me on buying this electric smoker.  So far I've tried Salmon, Filet Mignon, Pizza, Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs and Brisket.

    Every one of these items has come out poorly and during the cook, quite nerve racking and frustrating.

    I hope that I can learn from the pros and quit feeling like I wasted money on this thing,

    Thanks for having me - look forward to the intel.

  2. mike5051

    mike5051 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Welcome Aaron!  I'm not familiar with your smoker, but the smoking principals never change.  Where have your previous smokes gone wrong?  

  3. ajohnson

    ajohnson Newbie

    I'm not sure where they've gone wrong but here is a list of the meat and the result.

    Filet Mignon- a little under cooked, had to grill for about 10 mins longer
    Salmon Steaks-under cooked, but ok
    Pork Ribs- decent, kinda chewy
    Pizza- Burnt
    Beef ribs-awful, no meat on the bones, wasted a whole day on this, had people over to enjoy ribs. There was nothing to enjoy. Garbage, maybe just a bad cut, but result was awful.
    Brisket-cooked for 9.5 hrs, meat was slightly under cooked and rubbery. A whole day.

    Disclosure-I've been following recipes that came with the grill as far as temps, cook times.

    Also, the digital t stat on the grill will climb and drop far from the set temp. For example, setting at 180 and at times its up to 315 and down to 140.

    I need help.
  4. Welcome to the forums, Aaron. Don't get discouraged yet. You have had some smokes go bad, but it will get better and we will help you get there.
    The first thing you need to do is get yourself a good digital therm. The maverick brand is very popular here. I love my maverick 733. Two probes means one can be used to regulate smoker temp since most factory therms are wrong, even digital electric smokers read wrong. My masterbuilt electric is off by 10 degrees. The other is used to monitor the internal temp of your meat.
    Ribs can be cooked by time, everything else should go by internal temp. That is why you have had issues with things being undercooked. I have put two identical Boston Butts side by side in the mes and had then finish an hour apart, so don't go by time.
    So get yourself a good digital therm and we will have you churning out some good smoked meats soon enough.

    Smoke it up.
    billy34 likes this.
  5. hoity toit

    hoity toit Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I see you used the term under cooked/rubbery. That is an indication to raise the temp a little. Low and slow is used on some meats while low and then raising the temp 10* each hour until your target temp is reached works for other cuts. You might start by checking the thermometer on your grill. A lot of them are off. A lot of us here use temp probes placed into the meat to monitor the internal temperature of the meat so we know exactly when it is done. You can also use an additional probe placed in the smoker to monitor the temperature of the cooking chamber. It is best to check the probes for accuracy by placing in a pot of boiling water (212*) and see if both read the same temp. I know on my smoker I added a couple additional cheap thermometers installed at the different grill heights because the thermostat settings on the smoker are off like by 40 degrees so I always go by these auxiliary thermometers and probes to monitor both the cooking chamber temp and the internal temp of the product being smoked. I am sure others will chime in here shortly with more tips/methods. Hang in there, it really isn't that hard once you figure your smoker out and how it cooks.Tons of information available here along with a centurys worth of knowledge from forum members. Good Smokin.

  6. ajohnson

    ajohnson Newbie

    Great, sounds like I need some temp probes.  I will invest in that.

    My question though is that if the digital thermometer is wrong on my unit, how do I regulate the pellets?

    The pellet auger spins at speed based on the setting I choose.  When changing speeds. it heats way up and cools down.

    I see what you're saying and when I do go with better thermometers, I'll surely disregard the one on the unit. But, I just wonder if the auger/feed will still mess me up.

    The whole "set it and walk away" sales pitch is pretty lame.
  7. I have never used a pellet feed grill/smoker but the premise will be the same as an electric. If your smoker is showing 225 but the maverick shows 200, you account for the difference by setting the smoker to 250. You won't disregard the factory therm, you just need to know how far off it reads so you can adjust accordingly.

    Smoke it up.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015
  8. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Welcome from SC, Aaron. It's good to have you on this great site. You have already experienced that folks are eager to help. I think that William and HT have given you some excellent ideas. I don't know anything about your particular cooker, but I will just add my $0.02. The factory therm is probably crap. I have River Country therms on my smoker and you may want to even add a couple more. I use the Maverick ET732, but any Maverick is better than none. Also, it's good to have an instant read probe. I use the thermowand. Some folks like the thermopen. It's no better, but it's much more expensive.

    I don't know if Rio Rancho is in the hill country or not, but be sure to adjust the boiling point of your test water to the elevation where you are.

    Good luck and keep smokin'. Remember, you can always eat your mistakes, so practice on. Joe
  9. ajohnson

    ajohnson Newbie

    Thanks Joe!

    I live at about 5300' above sea level.
  10. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Heck, that elevation, water might boil just sitting in the sun. You can go on line and find a chart that will tell you exactly the boiling point for any given elevation.
  11. Someone had posted that chart a while back. Cant remember who, but I will see if I can find it.
  13. Rut roh. Just saw where it says image may be subject to copyright. If yall don't hear from me again, it's been nice knowing yall.
  14. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Two things I know 

    1) There's no one "smoker"  that cooks everything well.  I'd spread out things you like to eat and cook with different style cookers. 

    2)  I'm just not a fan of electric cookers although it's good for some things and they have their purpose. 

    If you don't want to build any simple cookers than I'd look at the Weber Smokey Mountain and a Weber kettle grill.  Between those both you'll turn out some great food but with all things it takes practice, trial and error. 
  15. hoity toit

    hoity toit Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I just learned something, I did not know water boiled at different temp at higher elevations. Interesting.
  16. halfsmoked

    halfsmoked Master of the Pit Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    Just saw this and I just want to say welcome I'm no help because I did away with my electric smoke had element burn out and could not get replacement from MES just wanted to sell me new smoker. But anyway I see you are getting a lot of help. Again welcome and keep trying there will be trial and errors but keep at it.
  17. We come to the forums. I started out on an electric smoker (MES) because I had failed else where. That being said, your pellet smoker is just as good. Everyone here hit it on the nose. Get a good thermometer (I also use a Maverick and Thermpop). If your temps at grate level (or where the built in thermometer) Flux a lot and there are no outside influences like wind or people opening the smoker you might want to contact the maker. Stick with it, you will get better.


    Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
  18. travisty

    travisty Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    You started off by trying some of the harder things to master, so don't get down on yourself! I would start with an easy pork butt, bone in. The biggest "secret" to smoking is time and patience, you cant necessarily follow recipes or at least the times since every piece of meat is different.

    If you want to start easy and build yourself a bit of confidence, go grab a pork butt from the store, and grab a pork rub (store bought) so you don't have to worry about finding your own flavor. Rub the thing down liberally and throw it on your smoker at 235 for 8-14 hours or until the temp comes up to 200 IT or so. I don't know anyone that can mess that up! as far as the smoke goes you can apply as much as you like, but you'll want it for at least the first few hours of cooking.  
  19. travisty

    travisty Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Also, if you want to make some good ribs, as @hamrhead1971  mentioned, they can be cooked to time and are really pretty easy to master as well. Just search the "3-2-1" method in the search field and you cant go wrong! [​IMG]

    I am suggesting these easy things because that is the best place to start to get a feel for your smoker and to build up some of your skill and experience, as well as please and impress friends and family! I don't mean to say that you cant get to those things, but I've been smoking for ages, and think I turn out some amazing stuff but still haven't mastered brisket, ive made some good ones, but still haven't turned one out that I was very impressed with. On a sliding scale, Brisket, Pizza and beef ribs are among the hardest things to get right on the smoker.
  20. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Howdee Aaron I spend a few years over north of Hobbs in the SE corner in a small place called Tatum. As you are already learning for every question you'll get a multitude of answers or suggestions. Everyone wants to help and everyone has their way which we all think is best. Once you get up on your feet, you'll see that some folks will more favor the style of cooking you'll want to use, simply because you'll have the same ideas and/or cookers.

    My first suggestion, read the instruction book that came with the unit after every smoke again. Small details cause Large problems. LOL.. I just went and looked at it. 

    Since you said electric and I don't have a pellet cooker but I do have electrics, my very first suggestion is quit opening the door. Its not your Daddy's old charcoal grill.  Leave the door closed, don't spritz, mop or sauce. You simply don't need it.

    To start, forget the brine, the injections, the marinades and rubs. Take a whole chicken, with paper towels dry it. Thats it, once its really dry, rub the skin with oil. This prevents breaking and cracking which lets the moisture out of the bird. Thats it! Put in on the smoker, close the lid, and walk away.

    Your learning time will shorten and you'll enjoy the learning curve more with an remote thermometer. You can at least safely eat something that will taste good when you mess up. Its gonna happen! Its a small learning curve also. 

    Do not expect your your smoker to maintain perfect exact temperature 100% of the time. I know I couldn't afford to buy a professional uniit that does that, learn to roll with the flow. Cavemen could do this over burning sticks, it can't be an exact science.

    Put in some time , I'd use chickens, fast cooking, easy to get, and fairly cheap (when compared to other meats). do two or three, keeping notes at first to learn from. A well smoked chicken is better than a badly smoked prime rib roast anyday.

    Thats it, no sense loading you up with suggestions yet. Kinda like golf, you must develop a consistent swing before anyone can help you improve it. Forget all that flavor enhancer BS, thats what you do after you can smoke the chicken. Prove the basics than go after the modifiers.

    Remember its supposed to be fun and enjoy it. The good smoke will come, you just have to get your feet wet.

    Good luck.
    gwschenk likes this.

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