Tested out my smoker - Turkey breast and beer can chicken

Discussion in 'Brick Smokers' started by drummermom, Nov 17, 2014.

  1. Hi all.  Here are some pics from my first smoke on the brick smoker I made.  This was my first time using brick and mortar. Obviously it is not perfect, but it WORKED.  However, I made the mistake of putting in way too much charcoal which led to high temperatures (over 500) that I could only bring down to about 400. On Thanksgiving I will use less charcoal and will reposition it. Hopefully that will keep me closer to 300 for a slower cook.  My 7.5 lb turkey breast hit 165 IT in only an hour and a half at a near constant 425 smoker temp.  I wanted it to cook at 250 for 3 hours or so.  Oh well.  This was a test and the point of a test is to fix mistakes, right?  I'll tweek things til I get it right.  Feel free to comment, but please leave insults to yourself.   Thanks!  -Deb

    Temps in this area here in southern IL are 20 degress colder than normal so I cooked in 36 degree weather and in the snow.  As you can see, this is an open top smoker that I put a lid on.  There is no "door".  I have a large vent area that I can slide more coal in and close off with bricks to control temps.

    Firebricks worked well to keep this thing HOT. It got up to 500 in less than 15 minutes.  I was NOT expecting that!


    I put loose split firebrick in to support my coal rack. 

    I am using a curved piece of a fire pit screen to hold the coal.

    This is about a half bag of coal.  Too much!  

    Steel rods to support the rack for drip/water pan and the food rack.

    Put some cherry wood chips in as well as two 14 X 5 X 3" Weber charcoal baskets (which I honestly did not need.

    Lit a half chimney of charcoal and poured it on the left side over the left basket and on just the left side of the middle charcoal rack.  I anticipated that this would burn slowly across to the right side.

    Put the food rack on. Should have put my drip pans down first, but I did that later.

    7.5 lb turkey breast and a beer can chicken (can't remember the weight).  Only seasoning was olive oil then sprinkled with salt.  I will be looking for some decent rub for the thanksgiving turkey.  I did brine the turkey over night in a 1 gallon water, 1 cup salt and 1 cup sugar brine.

    I am using a Master Forge Digital Meat Thermometer that I got at Lowes for $27.  This will be my back up thermometer once my maverick ET-732 arrives, which should be tomorrow, so I will be counting on that baby to keep track of my smoker temp and meat temp better than this system.

    This is the "before" pic before the temp skyrocketed to 500 degrees.  I drilled two vent holes on top and attached a fairly cheap thermometer that I got at Lowes.  I installed a rope gasket on the inside of the lid rim.  Clearly, this lid does not fit with an air tight seal.  It just sits loosely on top of the brick. 

    I have the "vent" area almost completely closed off and I am using a towel to try to at least muffle the smoke.  I was not expecting this to be an airtight smoker. My only worry was that it wouldn't get hot enough, especially in such cold weather, which is why I overcompensated with an abundance of coal.  I have an old ceramic floor til near the vent in case I wanted to kneel down to look in.  The ground was wet from melted snow so it was pretty soggy for getting on my knees.

    Pulled the beer can chicken off at about an hour.  Again, I couldn't get the temp below 400, so it cooked much quicker than I meant for it to cook.  The effect was basically that of a brick oven rather than a true smoke.  I will reduce my coal usage for the next one!

    I covered the turkey at about the 35 minute mark since my Master Forge digital remote thermometer was telling me the IT was climbing quickly.  This pic was taken after I pulled the beer can chicken an hour into the cook.  The coal on the left was still very red hot and there was lots of coal left to burn.  Too much coal!

    7.5 lb turkey cooked at a near constant 425 for an hour and a half to an IT of 165.

    Originally, I pulled the turkey 15 minutes after the beer can chicken since the Master Forge digital remote thermometer told me the turkey was at 165 IT. I brought it in, double checked the IT with two other analog thermometers and they both showed about 158 IT. Maybe the Master Forge probe was touching a bone, not sure.  After repositioning the Master Forge probe, I went ahead and put it back out on the smoker for about 10 more minutes and watched the IT temp climb from about 158 to 165.  I forgot to put the aluminum foil back on though, oops!  Anyway, after I brought it in the house, I wrapped it in alumninum foil and let it sit for an hour.  Both the turkey and the chicken were absolutely delicious.  I was expecting them to be dry due to the high heat, but they were both very moist!  I do think soaking the turkey overnight in brine helped as well.

    I realize that due to the high temps of the smoker, my brick smoker acted more as a brick oven.  This was not my intention.  Again, I will reduce the amount of coal for my next cook and hopefully get that temp under 300 for a slower smoke/cook!

    Any (nice) comments, questions or suggestions are welcome!

    Thanks!   :)

  2. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looks great for first time.

    You have a smoker, oven and pizza oven.

    Once you master that monster, Look out.
  3. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That is awesome, love the build and that turkey looks awesome!
  4. r hagan

    r hagan Fire Starter

    I agree with c farmer. You get that thing figured out and you're gonna be in some serious business. 
  5. thesmokist

    thesmokist Meat Mopper

    Chicken looks killer! If you could make a bigger closable vent in that lid to let some heat out you could regulate your temp better.
  6. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I think thats a good idea. Firebricks are super effective at retaining heat,in some old school village ovens there would a removable brick or 2 to cool it down a bit.Normally in the back wall.

    I love the build [​IMG].I see now its essentially a top loader & you have to get your fire right because you don't want to be pulling racks out to reload or stoke fire.

    I have this idea of how you might run just a simple flu pipe out the top of the metal lid to give you a good burn on less fuel. Or you could just leave it.[​IMG]

    Dave Omack has great input on flues & dampeners 
  7. wes w

    wes w Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Deb, welcome to the BS page!   No insults here, only good people willing to help.

    Try starting your smoker with only a chimney of coals.   I notice you have an opening at the bottom.   Is it big enough you can feed  the coals?   If so, you could start small and feed in a few sticks of wood.  Also,  would it be possible to  maybe put a couple steal plates over the fire (coals) to baffle the heat a bit and let the smoke come through?   There is just something about true wood smoke that can't be beat.  You also have to remember with wood, you want thin blue smoke. (TBS)    If you are burning white, your not getting enough air to the fire.

    I also agree, the bird looks awesome!   Love this idea.  As stated you could also use it as an oven. 

    I admire your ability to do what you have done.   Great work!

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