I have been using an UDS for about 7 years and now I have a CharGriller w/ side firebox. I find my heat on the smoker at about 225-250 but I am finding that I am "burning" my food. With no direct heat how is this possible? I was thinking at first that I did not have a good thermometer in there and the heat was high but that is not the case. I also thought that the smoke was too much and I adjusted that as well and I am still burning food. I am very frustrated and I am at a loss for what to do next except throw my hands up and walk away for a while. I love smoked food and I was good in my UDS but this CharGriller is a different beast.
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You say you're "burning" your food... does this mean it's physically burnt, as in charred, dried out? Or does this mean the food tastes like it was marinated in cigarette butts and charcoal juice?
The two are completely different things. The former can be solved by lower temps and less time, pretty simple actually. In some cases smoker adjustment is the key. Try doing a biscuit test to see if you have extreme hot spots in your smoker. (place biscuits in various spots around the smoker for a specified amount of time. the ones in the hot spots will cook more than the others)
The latter, however, is another story entirely. Burnt, sour, bitter acrid tasting food is most often the result of nasty white puffy smoke. Creosote settles on your food and it's ash tray city. Since you didn't share what fuel/wood combo you're using, I can't hazard a guess as to the cause. Try to get your fire burning more efficiently and producing thin blue to almost invisible smoke.
I'm sure you didn't nail your UDS on the first try, so give this one a little time. You'll get there.
Actually my food looks like it is burnt black, charred. I used the temp that I smoked in my UDS (225*F) for my butt for a total of about 8-9 hours, reached an internal temp of 195*F. That is what I did on the UDS and I did not open the smoker at all. I use Cowboy charcoal and hickory chunks in the side firebox. The butt was in the middle of the smoker grate as well in a tin pan as I like the renderings for my BBQ sauce, that being said the drippings were ok. I think I will do the biscuit test this weekend and see if there are hot spots on the grill. Also it did take about 2 hours to get the smoker up to the 250*F range before I added the chunks of hickory but I did need to add a bit of cowboy charcoal to get it hot. Clearly I need more experience with this smoker over my other as the heat was directly below the water pan and this is offset. I have alot to learn all over again with this smoker. I'm just frustrated.
Yuck! Now we're getting somewhere!
Is Cowboy Charcoal your go-to fuel? If not, try something else. Or you may have got a bad bag. I heard just such a story today while at a BBQ seller of Big Green Eggs. A client of his shelled out a bunch of money for a BGE and after a few months it was putting out lousy BBQ. The client was doing everything right. Turned out to be the charcoal he was using that he picked up on sale.
Not saying that's the issue, but might as well eliminate one of the simplest variables first by switching fuels.