Novice Smoker Needs Advice

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by smokinstitch, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. smokinstitch

    smokinstitch Newbie

    Been smoking for about 6 months now; using a Masterbuilt electric smoker.  I just smoked a 9 lb turkey breast for Easter and it was done at 163 degrees in about 2 hours!!  Not long enough to get a great smoky flavor nor long enough to crisp up the outside.

    I set the temp to 225 degrees (like I have in the past).  The outside temp was about 50-55 degrees.  It was adequately (I am still a novice and still learning) seasoned with oil and rub.  There was water in the pan and the proper amount of wood on the hopper.

    I smoked a 13 pound turkey for Christmas and it was perfect in both flavor and crispness; and that took about 4 hours.

    Is it possible that my thermostat is off?  Should I try to cook at a lower (200? 210?) heat?  Any thoughts to help the novice smoker?
  2. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    Yes it is possible that the unit's temp settings are off (most MES units are off).

    First, you will not achieve crispy skin at low temps (not without over cooking the meat). And adding oil only makes it worse at low temps. You have a few options to fix that and the easiest one is to smoke it until it is almost done and then finish it on a hot grill to crisp the skin.

    As for smoke flavor, what type of wood were you using? For short smokes you might want to try something like hickory that has a stronger flavor. If you are using the stock chip tray you can't really increase the quantity of chips so you are limited in your options (unless you start modifying your setup).

    The outside temp doesn't matter if the unit is holding a proper internal temp.
  3. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    bmaddox is right. Let me also suggest the biggest thing that I do to get a crisp skin. Make sure to predry or dehydrate the fowl's skin. This is easily done by either allowing it to set in the reefer uncovered overnight or by placing a fan blowing across the bird for 15 to 30 mins before you start your smoking preperations. The dry skin will form what is called a "pellicule" its a tacky to the touch, normally a darker yellow skin. Its the accumulation of fat beneath the skin. It can even be dryer if left in the reefer over night. There are numerous refrences to it on the boards. It forms on all meats when slightly dehydrated. IT makes all the difference!

    If you want dryer skin, leave the water pan empty.

    As to the smoke, when you cut your cooking time in half, because of the size of the bird, you will see less smoke absorption  just due to lack of exposure. If you want more smoky taste, lower your temp a little so the bird spends the same 4 hours in the smoker. 4 hours on fowl, is the majic number you shouldn't exceed inless you have modified your birds. Thats a whole 'nother discussion.

    So besides what you've already heard, for dryer closer to crisp skin, dehydrate and form that pellicule. It also greatly helps the smoke adhere to the meat.  Or you can finish the bird in the oven/grill at 300 to 350 degrees.

    More smoke as mentioned use more wood, use harder smoke, or just cut back temp and allow to smoke longer.

    Lastly I want to remind you of sonething often said here, no two smoker do it the same. Its about getting done, how you want to do it. Well I use oil to rub the skin before smoking, why? Cause thats how my Pop did it.  Pop called it the suntan lotion. If you happen to smoke on a higher temp sometimes it can dry the skin so much it will dry and crack and the juices escape and thats not good. The oils just helps keep it from getting there quite so fast, or maybe it doesn't. But I do it cause its how Pop did it and his were mighty tastee and pretty as well.

    Remember different sizes can require a change in the game plan besides just a longer cook to achieve the same end result.

    Souds like you are on track though.
  4. smokinstitch

    smokinstitch Newbie

    Thanks Folks

    Any advice or tip is greatly appreciated.  I'm wondering if my heating element is out of whack; I had to transport my smoker in a car a month ago.  Maybe I should get one of those cheap oven thermometers from the 60's (I'm dating myself) to see if the built in thermometer is accurate.

    Maybe turning it down to 210 degrees  might help in the meantime; although when I tried to smoke some fresh polish sausages the other day at around 172 degrees, I noticed that I didn't get much smoke because the chips didn't burn.  Oh well, I suppose the adversity makes the meat taste sweeter
  5. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    A stock MES unit will not cold smoke very well since there is not enough heat being generated to burn the chips.

    You might want to invest in a good thermometer to track the temp as you smoke. When I start my unit up it is actually about 30 degrees over the set temp but after 6 hours it is spot on.
  6. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Just go ahead and do yourself a favor.
  7. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    The ET-732 is what I have and I bet you could get a screaming deal right now as they have just released another new model. I love mine and it works great.
  8. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    100% correct, they are not made to cold smoke without modification.

    You can use either an AMP's with pellets or a Masterbuilt Cold Smoker for about the same.

    In the MES30 the AMPs will work best with a mailbox mod or its really great at warm smoking, (about 100 degrees, plus or minus30 degrees) . Its enough heat so the box will pull a draft. The pellets need fresh air to smolder.

    The MES cold smoke attachment uses chips and clips into the hole where the reloader goes thru the wall.

    From personal observation, the MES cold smoker gives an excess of smoke for 4 to 6 hours where the AMPs give a smaller controlled smoke for 12 to 18 hours.

    I use both, just not at the same time.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015

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