Noob with his first smoker, walk me through please!

Discussion in 'Mini-WSM' started by gopher darbid, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. gopher darbid

    gopher darbid Newbie

    My mini will be fully operational tonight so I want to do a smoke this weekend! I've never smoked meat before in my life, I'd say the closest I've done to smoking is cooking hamburgers/hotdogs/cedar planked salmon on the gas grill. Some questions I have are:

    1. Break in - Is there any special procedure/seasoning I need to do before I do my first smoke? I understand I probably want to clean the inside of the pot/cooking surfaces with warm soapy water but do I need to do a run where I do a smoke without any meat inside?

    2. Fuel/wood amounts - To achieve the TBS, how many lumps of wood should I use, and how do you control the type of smoke you get? I've read to let the wood chunks burn on the coals for a while before putting the meat on to transition from thick white smoke to thin blue smoke. What are your empirical findings for amounts of charcoal to use based on length/temperature of cooks?

    3. What do you pros suggest as a good beginner recipe/cook?

    Thanks in advance for your help!
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Others can give info on Seasoning the Smoker and the right amount of Charcoal and Wood, but Recipes I can give. You need to learn how to control the Temp in that smoker. Chicken Leg Quarters or Thighs are cheap and do well at any temp between 225° and 325°F. I like to Brine Chicken, makes it Juicy and Tender. I like to add a Rub and Smoke them. They will take about 3 hours at the low end and about 1 hour at the higher temp...JJ

    Families Favorite Brine

    1/2C Kosher Salt

    2T Paprika

    2T Gran. Garlic

    2T Gran. Onion

    2T Dry Thyme

    2T Black Pepper

    1C Vinegar (Any)

    1-11/2Gal Cold Water to cover Chix

    1/2C Brown Sugar, Optional

    1T Red Pepper Flake Optional

    Mix well and Soak the Bird over night or up to 24 Hours.

    Remove the Chix, rinse if desired and pat dry with paper towels.

    Place in an open container in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours for the Skin to dry.

    This will give a crispier skin when Smokng or Roasting...

    Bubba Chix Rub

    1/2C Raw Sugar

    2T Paprika (I use Smoked if I'm just Grilling)

    1T Cayenne

    1T Gran. Garlic

    1T Gran. Onion

    1tsp Black Pepper

    1tsp Wht Pepper

    1tsp Allspice

    1tsp Bell's Poultry Seasoning or Thyme

    Mix well. You can put directly on the skin or mix with Butter, Oil or Bacon Grease and rub on and under the Skin.

    Reduce Cayenne to 1 teaspoon if less heat is desired. Add 1T Kosher Salt if the bird is not Brined.

    KC Bubba Q Juice

    2C Ketchup

    1/2C Brown Mustard (Gulden's)

    1/4C Apple Cider Vinegar

    1/2C Molasses

    2C Dark Brn Sugar

    1T Tomato Paste

    1T Your Rub

    1-2tsp Liquid Smoke

    1tsp Worcestershire Sauce

    Combine all and warm over low heat just until it starts to bubble. Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring very frequently, to combine flavors and to thicken slightly.

    Use or pour into a sterile jar and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.

    Makes 3 1/2 Cups.
  3. gopher darbid

    gopher darbid Newbie

    This sounds awesome, thank you!

    I've got the Maverick 733 thermometer so I'll be able to keep track of the smoker temp and meat temp. I will definitely be trying that chicken recipe this weekend!
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No need to season a mini. Fire it up and cook away! Fire it up and see how the temps go. Might as well throw some chicken parts or something on it.
  5. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Welcome Gopher,

    I have to tell you that you have come to the right place.  I did my first smoke this past weekend.  I started reading and posting on this sight the week before I started my smoke.  The folks here could not be nicer and more helpful.  They have all shown so much patience with me.  I'm sure I've asked dumb questions but no one has confirmed it.  lol

    Good luck and remember there is a search engine here also at the top of the page.  That was good and bad for me.  It saved me lots of time posting questions already posted.  however, It gave me so much more to read.  :)

    What kind of smoker do you have?  I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to run some smoke through it first.  I know had a bunch of leaks when I ran my first smoke through it.  I wish I had checked here first before.  I would have learned to anticipate leaks and I would have tried to address them as I assembled my smoker.  Now I will have to disassemble my smoker to fix a leak.  Not big deal.  Just giving you an example.

    Search for you model and ask if any mod's are suggested.  That's why this site is great.  We all learn from others mistakes.

    Good luck with your first attempt this weekend..  Be sure to start a post to document the smoke and load pickers of it.  You will come up with questions as you go and you will probably get replies before your chicken is done.

    Good luck,

  6. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    To help with the wood question. You just need enough chunks smoldering away in there at any one time to create a thin blue smoke. Light is alright. You do not want heavy smoke. If it smells good and you can just see it whisping out the top vents then you are doing it right.
  7. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Another thing about wood.  Buy a big bag.  This way you don't have to worry about running out, plus, it won't go to waste!  :)
  8. gopher darbid

    gopher darbid Newbie

    Thanks for the advice everyone! Rob, I've got a mini WSM with all the mods already (charcoal basket, ash deflector, two ball valve air intakes, etc.). I'll let y'all know how it goes!
  9. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    With the mini there are several ways to get going. For hot smokes start by lighting a chimney if lump or briquettes. For slower smokes fill your charcoal basket and the light one side with a torch or use the minion method.

    For wood I usually place 2-4 (2"-3") chunks either mixed in the charcoal or on too of the charcoal. Chips pellets etc don't work well. Initially you will have some white smoke but as the smoker comes up to temp it will him out and become TBS. The Mini really is super simple to control and run. Should only take a fee smokes to get the hang of it.
  10. gopher darbid

    gopher darbid Newbie

    Fired the mini up for the first time last night, and I'm happy to report that it was a success! It was the best smoke flavor I've experienced to date, which isn't saying much. My roommate picked up a chicken and threw some oil/seasoning on it. We didn't have time to brine it but he said since it was kosher it didn't need it (I still think a brine would've made it even better). Some things to note are:

    It was a bit of a premature smoke since my drill ran out of batteries when I was drilling the hole for the first ball valve so we ran it with a 3/4" hole constantly open on the side. The smoker ran pretty hot as it was about 450 degrees when we first dumped the coals into the charcoal basket and eventually settled at about 370 after completely closing the bottom vents (SJ silver). Will installing the ball valves and having everything mostly closed allow me to bring the steady state temperature down for low and slow cooks? Perhaps it was the way we started the smoker or the amount of charcoal we used, but I would think that amount of fuel only has to do with the length of cook and not necessarily the temperature.

    Is there a different method of starting the charcoal if you're doing fast and hot cooks versus low and slow cooks? I lined the outside of the charcoal basket with coals/wood chunks while leaving a hole in the middle of the basket. When the coals that we started in the chimney were ready I dumped them into the middle of the basket. For low and slow cooks should I follow dirtsailor's advice and just dump everything into the basket before hand and light one side?

    Also, when I'm done with the cook, is there a way to kill the fire so that you can save any unspent fuel or am I stuck using all of what I pour in?

    I'm super excited for this and can't wait to do another smoke! Thanks for all of your help!
  11. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yes the ball valve will help you control the air flow, thus help you control the heat. Honestly for chicken 350°-425° is okay. You'll get plenty of smoke flavor and a better skin than low and slow. For lower temp cooks (which also means that I typically am also cooking for longer time 6+ hours) I fill my charcoal basket full. I place 3-4 2"-3" wood chunks scattered on top. Then using my propane torch I light one side through the side vent. All vents at this time are wide open. I run the torch for 2-5 mins. After pulling the torch I watch the temp climb. IF it's not climbing fast enough I give it another 2-3 minute shot. When the temp starts to get near where I want it I close the lower vent. Usually I'll let it climb above the target temp 10-15 degrees, out the meat on. Don't be alarmed when you see a big drop it will come back up. Then if it starts going above target temp I will start closing te side vents a little at a time. For high temp cooks I start with the same process, except I light both sides through the two side vents. If I'm in a big hurry I will torch a chimney full of coals. and dump that in, Yesterday I experimented with a very small fire as I want to make some fish jerky. I used for briquettes and one chunk of apple wood. Lit one briquette, put them in a row and the apple wood on top. That burned at 170° for over two hours before I needed to fire it up for dinners cook.

  12. gopher darbid

    gopher darbid Newbie

    Got a couple of runs in over the last week and have a few more questions:

    I got a big bag of lump, but realized I've never worked with it before. Can you start lump with a chimney like you do briquettes?

    When adding wood chunks during the smoke, do I have to remove the meet and let the smoke settle back down to a TBS before putting the meat back on, or is it ok for the meat to be exposed to the initial thick white smoke?

    I must say it's pretty addicting, and I'm really trying to work on controlling the temp. I smoked some chicken last night at around 315F but didn't have a chance to eat it (was done at 11:15 pm). I guess we'll see how it turned out!
  13. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yes you can start lump in a chimney. If you add wood during the smoke, don't set it directly over the super hot coals. That should help with your smoke issues. I usually don't add more wood. I mix enough in to allow for it to take of as the coals around ignite.
  14. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    This is what my charcoal basket looked like before my 13 hour pork butt cook. What you can't see in the picture is there were several more smaller chunks of wood mixed in with the charcoal.
  15. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead


    I'm very new to this also and I have to agree with you, this is very addicting. I found it to be also a Zen feeling of peacefulness. Keeping the fire going was so much fun with the added bonus of having this great meal after.

    I agree with dirt sailor, I use lump also because of suggestions from folks on this site.  I was able to start it with my chimney with no issues at all.  I don't have the problem of losing smoke when I reload the coals because I have an offset FB.

    Chicken is my next item to smoke.  I have been working on sealing the leaks all week.  I think I have it almost air tight.  I would guess that is the advantage of using the mini that you have.  When assembly is required I guess I should expect smoke leaks.  The folks here helped me get through that also.  This really is an awesome source of knowledge.

    Good luck and keep posting threads and pictures of your smokes.  they are very informative.
  16. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Just want to add, the few minutes it takes for the White smoke to clear will have no effect on the taste at all. People " use " White smoke all the time for quick smokes, 1 hour or so. It is only an issue if your fire is Belching the White for several hours or the entire smoke that becomes an issue. 20 years ago my Wife bought a new Mecco Bullet Smoker, was some where around $40. TV cooking shows always showed lots of White Smoke so I added another handful of Chips every 5-10 minutes...CARS had to slow down passing my House from the Smoke that Bad Boy was putting out! Needless to say, I learned a lesson that day and actually didn't smoke again for quite awhile until I read up to learn what to do and that was only because there were no sites like this yet. Hang with us, keep reading and asking questions and you will see an OTBS Badge next to your name some day...JJ

    OTBS...Order of the Thin Blue Smoke. Guys around here that have proven through their posts, Qview and helping others that they know what they are doing. The Moderators are all Trusted Authorities in our art and especially in their assigned Forums...
  17. I don't have much experience with my mini yet, but I wanted to chime in and +1 Case's method for getting the mini going/up to temp. I saw his post in an earlier thread and followed it to the T with great results. I did my first pork butt on Sunday and it was amazing!  In this forum, you are in very good hands!

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