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Just bought Masterbuilt extra wide propane smoker, have a few questions...

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

As the title says, just bought my 1st "real" smoker. So far, I have only smoked using my propane grill using foil pouches, aluminum baking pans, and stainless steel smoke boxes, sometimes a combination of the 3. My grill has about a 1 - 1.5 inch gap all the way across the back so unless I used A LOT of smoke, the meat would only have a hint of smokiness. 

 

I bought this grill after a lot of research, and it was a toss up between this one and the 24" Camp Chef Vault Smoker. I went with this one partly due to the $100.00 (approx) price difference, and partly because I could just run down to Bass Pro shops and pick it up on my lunch break. The camp chef had a better wood chip pan design, but I still read about people switching to a cast iron skillet due to it warping even after just seasoning the grill. 

 

Anyway, on to my questions: 

 

The cast iron skillet: 

1) Does this prevent the wood from catching fire, or does it need to be covered with foil to restrict oxygen? On my propane grill this didn't seem to matter, I frequently had issues with the wood chips catching fire no matter the number of holes I poked, how many chips I used, or whether or not I soaked them. In fact, I noticed the wood chips in my smoke boxes really didn't start smoking until the chips pretty much completely dried anyway (I'd open the smoke box lid periodically and look), And I said, even then they'd still flare up sometimes. 

 

2) Would a thinner metal cake pan work as well? It seems like the cast iron would take a lot longer to heat up. Or, would the thinner metal help cause flare ups? 

 

Next... Smoking wood: 

 

1) Are chunks better than chips? Damn near any big store carries bags of chips. I'm sure I can find chunks somewhere, I haven't ever looked, but I've heard with chunks there's less times you need to open the door to change the wood. Are chunks less likely to catch fire? 

 

2) Has anyone really experimented with soaking vs not soaking on propane smokers? My experience on the grill has been that soaking only makes it take longer before the chips catch fire. I've used both with very little problem with it, and times where it was constantly flaring up. 

 

3) This might be a "depends on what you like" type question... but how much wood? Like I said, on my grill theres so many holes and gaps I have to use a crap load of wood, using two to three smoke boxes/pouches/baking pans at a time to get a decent smoke flavor. 

I tried using rolled up wads of aluminum to seal off the large gap in the back, but then I'd have to turn down the burners so far the wood would barely smoke, otherwise the temp would go way too high. 

 

Last... Smoking multiple racks of ribs (or other items) 

1) I've only ever smoked 1 rack at a time, due to lack of grill area, since one half was for smoke boxes. Probably 90% of the time I'd only smoke 2 racks at a time. Are there any considerations as far as smoking two racks on two of the built in horizontal racks, or would it be better to buy a rib rack and smoke them vertically on the same rack? 

    When I saw considerations, I mean things like heat... would the lower one cook faster than the higher one? Would they need to be swapped half-way through the cook to even that out? 

 

2) Does anyone know what the temperature difference would be from the lowest to the top rack? The thermostat is always at the top of these things it seems like, so I wondered how to know what your temp is like towards the bottom. 

 

Thanks in advance for any replies. 

post #2 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by markusm View Post
 

As the title says, just bought my 1st "real" smoker. So far, I have only smoked using my propane grill using foil pouches, aluminum baking pans, and stainless steel smoke boxes, sometimes a combination of the 3. My grill has about a 1 - 1.5 inch gap all the way across the back so unless I used A LOT of smoke, the meat would only have a hint of smokiness. 

 

I bought this grill after a lot of research, and it was a toss up between this one and the 24" Camp Chef Vault Smoker. I went with this one partly due to the $100.00 (approx) price difference, and partly because I could just run down to Bass Pro shops and pick it up on my lunch break. The camp chef had a better wood chip pan design, but I still read about people switching to a cast iron skillet due to it warping even after just seasoning the grill. 

 

Anyway, on to my questions: 

 

The cast iron skillet: 

1) Does this prevent the wood from catching fire, or does it need to be covered with foil to restrict oxygen? On my propane grill this didn't seem to matter, I frequently had issues with the wood chips catching fire no matter the number of holes I poked, how many chips I used, or whether or not I soaked them. In fact, I noticed the wood chips in my smoke boxes really didn't start smoking until the chips pretty much completely dried anyway (I'd open the smoke box lid periodically and look), And I said, even then they'd still flare up sometimes. My opinion only.....I'm a non soaker & I'd use the skillet

 

2) Would a thinner metal cake pan work as well? It seems like the cast iron would take a lot longer to heat up. Or, would the thinner metal help cause flare ups? Even heat with the cast iron IMO....won't take long to get hot....thinner metal would probably heat warp

 

Next... Smoking wood: 

 

1) Are chunks better than chips? Damn near any big store carries bags of chips. I'm sure I can find chunks somewhere, I haven't ever looked, but I've heard with chunks there's less times you need to open the door to change the wood. Are chunks less likely to catch fire? Numerous opinions on this....I prefer chunks....I've rarely had flames using propane. Home Depot has chunks

 

 

2) Has anyone really experimented with soaking vs not soaking on propane smokers? My experience on the grill has been that soaking only makes it take longer before the chips catch fire. I've used both with very little problem with it, and times where it was constantly flaring up. Again, expect numerous opinions on this. I was a soaker....converted to non soaking shortly after joining SMF

 

3) This might be a "depends on what you like" type question... but how much wood? Like I said, on my grill theres so many holes and gaps I have to use a crap load of wood, using two to three smoke boxes/pouches/baking pans at a time to get a decent smoke flavor. 

I tried using rolled up wads of aluminum to seal off the large gap in the back, but then I'd have to turn down the burners so far the wood would barely smoke, otherwise the temp would go way too high. After a few runs you'll figure out your wood consumption. I normally started with about 4-5 fist sized chunks when using propane. Your mileage may vary

 

Last... Smoking multiple racks of ribs (or other items) 

1) I've only ever smoked 1 rack at a time, due to lack of grill area, since one half was for smoke boxes. Probably 90% of the time I'd only smoke 2 racks at a time. Are there any considerations as far as smoking two racks on two of the built in horizontal racks, or would it be better to buy a rib rack and smoke them vertically on the same rack? 

    When I saw considerations, I mean things like heat... would the lower one cook faster than the higher one? Would they need to be swapped half-way through the cook to even that out? Again, my opinion only here. I used a rack once and tossed it. Prefer the laying flat for ribs. 2 on a rack should be no problem, rotating probably not necessary if close in size. Doubtful much deviance in cook times.

 

2) Does anyone know what the temperature difference would be from the lowest to the top rack? The thermostat is always at the top of these things it seems like, so I wondered how to know what your temp is like towards the bottom. You gotta figure this out....all are different. Built in therm probably way off so don't rely on that. You need a dual probe unit, like a Maverick, and put the probes in the spots you want to check and note the difference.

 

Thanks in advance for any replies. 

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tips. I also quit soaking my chips. I've read all over the place some people saying you must soak them and some saying not to. I quit doing it because, as I stated before, the only thing I noticed soaking did was make it take a lot longer for the chips to actually start smoking. 

 

I knew about the built in thermometer not being any good (on pretty much any grill or smoker) so I planned on getting something else. On the maverick thermometer, how do you run the wires for the probes? On this the only openings are the vent on the upper back side of the smoker, I guess I should run them through there? Also, those look like probes for the meat... Should I also use an oven thermometer in addition to those?

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by markusm View Post
 

Thanks for the tips. I also quit soaking my chips. I've read all over the place some people saying you must soak them and some saying not to. I quit doing it because, as I stated before, the only thing I noticed soaking did was make it take a lot longer for the chips to actually start smoking. 

 

I knew about the built in thermometer not being any good (on pretty much any grill or smoker) so I planned on getting something else. On the maverick thermometer, how do you run the wires for the probes? On this the only openings are the vent on the upper back side of the smoker, I guess I should run them through there? Also, those look like probes for the meat... Should I also use an oven thermometer in addition to those?


Yep, run the probes down the vent. Use the meat probe just as a tester for temp checks....will work fine. Oven therms no help since you can't see them unless you open the door a lot which is not recommended. You'll become more comfortable with this as you progress and smoke some stuff on a regular basis.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Great, Thanks a lot for the help. 

post #6 of 12

Chef Willie has you going in the right direction for sure. The Cast iron is a must for that smoker. Only need to use chunks, chips will always catch fire. Soaking only delays the smoldering, not necessary at all. The amount to use depends on what you like. I usually use 2-3 chunks at a time. You should be able to fit 3 racks on each smoker rack. Either way, space the racks close together to little variation. Keep the racks to the top for the most even cooking. Leave the vent wide open all the time. The maverick 732 is the way to go for sure. 1 probe for the meat, 1 for the smoker. But for ribs, look up the 3-2-1 (2-2-1 for baby backs) method. The meat temps aren't needed with this method.  Enjoy that smoker, with a little fooling around, it will work very well for you!

post #7 of 12

I would like to make a pitch about soaking. There are two very good benefits to soaking your wood prior to using. First as the wood heats up it releases vapors that help keep the meat moist and reduce drying. Secondly, depending what you soak the wood in you can actually flavor the wood. For example soaking in apple juice will release an apple vapor further enhancing the flavor of the meat.

post #8 of 12

I would argue against that. Any cooking we do in our smokers, no matter the humidity of the smoker, will cause the meat to loose any 'moisture'. Offloading moisture is a part of the cooking process where dry heat is concerned. I have had braised beef (cooked in liquid) overcooked and dry. The key to moisture is fresh meat and cooking to the proper temps. The short blast of steam you generate will cause no appreciable difference to the finished product.

post #9 of 12

have you tried smoking some stuff with this unit yet? I'm thinking about picking one up if I can find a supplier in Canada.

post #10 of 12

As far as the number ribs go, you can increase that number by using a Rib Rack

 

 

As far a soaking the wood, I soaked mine until joining this forum, so do as you want, only your experiences will tell you what is best.

post #11 of 12

Not to attempt to hijack the thread but does the cast iron skillet go on top of the standard wood box or is it a replacement for it, and sits right on the burner ?

 

Newbie here so lots of interest in this thread.

post #12 of 12

Sit it in the stock pan. If you sit it on the burner, it won't allow the burner enough space to burn properly and will limit airflow through the smoker which is vital.

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