Newbie smoker & Hello

Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by mrcoffeegeek, Jun 1, 2014.

  1. mrcoffeegeek

    mrcoffeegeek Newbie

    Hi, I've just finished modding my Brinkmann gourmet this weekend. Raised charcoal grate for the pan, fitted 3 dampers to the bottom, 1 to the top and fitted a new thermometer towards the top of the main unit. I also bought a high temp gasket for sealing off the lid so no smoke can escape (even thought it is just a little)

    I've tried playing around with it this weekend without much luck, I think the main problem was using quick light bags from Costco (bar-b-quick stuff) so I've remedied that by getting some bags of Big K lump wood which I haven't tried yet.
    Put a couple of bags of the instant light stuff on yesterday, waited till it ashed over then put the body and lid on with all 3 bottom dampers half open and the top one fully open. The temp rocketed to 400F, so I left it for about 45 mins then checked and had had dropped to 100F. I closed down the bottoms to 1/4 and the top to about the same and had to go out. Came back about 2 hours later and the temp was back up around 350F again. It then died off without any real stabilising
    I went to Lidl this morning and noticed some King of the Grill briquettes for a couple of quid so I bought some of them, dropped some into the charcoal pan cold and lit a bag of the quick light stuff on top of them (going for minion method here). Opened the bottom dampers fully and the top, temp was up at 400F again, let it drop slightly then I had to go out so I closed down to 1/4 open. Came back 4 hours later and it was pretty much cold.
    I didn't intend cooking anything this weekend, just wanted to see if I could get stable temps & season the smoker, however I don't think I've used the correct charcoal or enough of it!
    So next weekend I'd like to smoke a couple of racks of ribs, I've got a chimney starter now, the king of the grill briquettes and 10kg of Big K lumpwood. Any thoughts?
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2014
  2. Hello and Welcome to the "family".  I have sent you a couple PM's that I send to all new U.K. members.

    OH No, No, NO!  Don't use any thing that says insta light, instant lighting or any thing like that.  That stuff is vile!  It is soaked with lighter fluid and by the time you can burn that off the coals are almost gone.  Makes your food taste like petrol.  Good job on buying the chimney starter.  

    Big K is not the lump wood you want.  It is cheap for a reason.  There are big heavy chunks in the bag that I can only describe as petrified wood charcoal.  They are heavy ( and you buy the bag by weight ) and they WILL NOT BURN.  The rest of the bag will be small pieces of lump wood that will not burn for very long.  Also there is always a large amount of dust in the bottom of the bag.  Remember you buy the bag by weight.  There is much better quality lump readily available.  Restaurant quality is usually a good choice.  Maybe more expensive, but is it really?  If you lose maybe half a bag of cheap stuff because it won't burn, is just dust or have to add twice as much to smoke for the same amount of time; are you saving money?  Since you have already bought it, use it.

    I personally don't like the flavour of briquettes,  but I know many folks use them, just a personal thing.  They DO last longer than MOST lump.

    You haven't mentioned wood chips, chunks, dust or pellets.  Do you plan to just use the lump wood for flavour or are you going to add something else?  Either way is fine I was just curious.

    Now for temp control:  You need to get to know your particular smoker.  Each one can be a little different.  First of all, leave the top vent fully open at all times and control the heat with the bottom vents.  With each trial run you mentioned you had to leave, you need to know your smoker REALLY well to leave for hours or sleep for hours.  You WILL be able to do that, but just not right away.  For example, if the wind is blowing a nice breeze and you have your bottom vents 1/4 open and the smoker is holding temp you might leave it for a couple hours.  IF that nice breeze dies down in that time your smoker may lose air flow.  No air flow equals no heat.

    For your 1st smoke:

    I always advise the same with this question.  Chicken leg quarters and maybe some burgers with just salt and pepper.  Easy to do and cheap to buy.  I know!  I know!  You have been reading for weeks, now have your smoker, you are ready to get started and this idiot says chicken legs and burgers??  WHAT??  The first few smokes are about learning to control temps in YOUR smoker.  Each one can be different.  If that first smoke burns, the dog gets a good meal.  If it ain’t done, finish it in the oven.  Little money lost and with luck you still get a good meal.  TEMP CONTROL!! IS THE KEY!! 

    Sorry for the novel but you had several different issues in your post.

    Well, now that I have rained on your parade I hope you won't be a stranger.  Many new U.K. members ask one question and are never heard from again.  I hope you will stick around.  Have fun.  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!

  3. mrcoffeegeek

    mrcoffeegeek Newbie

    Thanks for the reply, I did figure the insta light stuff was rubbish but I had some in the garage and thought I'd try it anyway just to get a burn going ... even just to season the smoker after coating with oil.

    I've got some hickory wood but decided since I was just playing around I wouldn't waste it.

    As for the Big K, it was available locally and a guy who runs a local smoking business recommended it if restaurant grade stuff wasn't available?? I've noticed Makro are doing 12kg bags of fuel express restaurant grade charcoal for less than £10 so I might pickup some of that. As for this coming weekend, weather permitting I might try the Big K with the briquettes as a starter in the chimney. See how that goes with the temperatures.
    How much charcoal should I be aiming to use?
  4. Hello.  I know I sent you info overload.  Sorry.  It's just the stuff I send to new U.K. members to help get them started.  In my humble opinion if the local guy recommended Big K he is one of the many U.K. folks who pre cook chicken in the oven before putting it on the smoker, JUST my opinion, may be wrong have been before.

    How much charcoal to use....  Now here we go.  What temps are you trying to hold?  For how long?  Lump wood or briquettes?  I know you have bought a chimney starter but how large is it?  There are different sizes.  For someone totally new I would say get yourself a measure.  An old plastic bowl,  a large size coffee tin, something you can use to as a measure.  The chimney starter will work.  Then spend time and learn that 1 full chimney starter ( bowl, tin whatever ) will last ? 4 hours at 225 for instance.  Now if you go to 350 that same amount will only last ? 2 1/2 hours.  As I stated in the other post it is all about learning what your smoker does.  If I can help further you know where to find me.  I am usually here at least once a day.

  5. Hello.  I forgot THE  most important advice I can give, start a smoking journal!  Write down EVERYTHING you can think of.  Recipe, ENTIRE preparation process,  smoking temp, what charcoal used and how much, how often did you have to add coals under these conditions, was it in the cold of winter or a warm summer day,  was it a still day or blowing a gale,  wood used for smoking and how much and how often you added it, final taste and texture, Etc. Etc.  If this smoke turns out FANTASTIC you want to be able to recreate it, if not you want to start tweaking ONE  thing at a time.  Keep Smokin!

  6. osprey2

    osprey2 Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Just got Australian Heat Beads to give a go this year, supposed to be good. 16kg = £26.00

    And welcome to the band of brothers.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  7. markuk

    markuk Smoking Fanatic

    Hello and Welcome

    I got on okay withe the B & M lumpwood only £ 3.99 for 5 kg - bits were quite small but it did burn well ....

    did have a temporary over heat as I hadn't got the pork in the right place and the fat dripped onto coals and it flared up but I chucked some water on and it soon calmed down.

    Was able to maintain around 150c for 3 hours apart from the overheat point.

    I probably only used around a kilo of charcoal but I was using my foraged oak for smoking and oak sawdust which kept everything ticking over.  Had to "wiggle" the charcoal every half hour or so but I've found my slightly unconvential smoker is fairly easy to control as it has a big chimney with a damper on it so when you need heat I close it off as soon as it's up to temp it's opened right up then back to say half once it's stabalised.

    You do have to work at getting this right but if you read any of my posts you'll see I try and combine smoking with either a normal oven or - more recently for pulled pork , a slow cooker. - which IMHO makes life a little easier....

  8. mrcoffeegeek

    mrcoffeegeek Newbie

    Had another go at this today as i was desperate to get some ribs smoked. Outside temp was around 17 degrees with virtually no wind. I used a mixture of Big K lumpwood charcoal and restaurant grade lumpwood charcoal from Makro. Dropped about 2kg into the charcoal pan and made a hole in the middle (going for minion style), i then filled the chimney starter with the Big K stuff and lit that. Once it was firing i tipped it into the charcoal pan and left it for a bit.
    I put the body on the smoker the temperature was right up to 350f so i left the top exhaust open and closed all 3 bottom dampers. I just couldn't get the temperature back down again so i'm guessing i left it too long before putting the body on the smoker and everything had got too hot? Made the fatal mistake of putting some weber hickory pieces on the coals when too hot so they burned up quickly! I started the process around 10am this morning, about 12:30pm the temp was still around 300f (after trying to get the temp down by removing the body again), i decided to put the ribs on anyway and shorten the cook time. Left it slightly too long and had slightly overcooked ribs! However by 5pm the temp was down to 225f and dropping so i opened the bottom dampers about 1/2 way and the temp stabilised at 225 for a good hour or so. I checked the coals and there was still a couple of large unburnt chunks on the outer edges.
    Guess i need to work on getting the coals hot enough but not too hot from the start. Can't work out how the temperature sat at over 300f for so long with the dampers closed :th_crybaby2:
  9. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi, first time I have caught one of your posts. Welcome to the group. Sounds like an eventful day today.

    Smokin Monkey
  10. markuk

    markuk Smoking Fanatic

    IMHO I maybe think 2 KG of charcoal is too much to start with as once it all takes that will get very hot - I normally only use enought to half fill an oven roasting tin which I think on lighting is probabably only 1 KG at the most and then I add a little bit at a time once it starts burning off so probably only use 2KG in total for a 3 hour smoke on Pulled pork - I'm maybe wrong but I think the charcoal provides the base heat as once the smoking wood  gets hot it's going to generate quite a bit of heat - i occasionally have to grap a lumb out as it bursts into flames sending temp up
  11. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have used Heat Beads for years and they are great for lengthy cooking and stable temperatures. For additional flavour simply lay some seasoned lumpwood chunks or pellets on top.

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