how do i judge the temp in this kind of smoker by hand , i dont have money for a better temp gauge
I agree that a thermo is your best bet, but if you're really strapped sometimes even 5 or 6 bucks is a stretch. Just build a medium small fire if you're burning wood, or use the Minion method if you're burning charcoal. That'll get you in the ballpark. Most importantly, watch your meat to see what's happening. It's unlikely that your cooking chamber will get hot enough to totally burn up what you're cooking, so just keep an eye on it. If you're doing pork butts, let it go for 4-5 hours and then foil if you're doing that. If you're not foiling, check your color and bark at the 4-5 hour mark. Provided it's looking good and not too crusty, let it ride, checking every hour or so for tenderness. After 10-11 hours start checking every half hour. If you wrap, start probing for tenderness at 10 hours or so. It'll take anywhere from 10-20 hours. Butts are fickle. Same basic rules for brisket, but honestly, I'd wait a while before tackling a brisket.
For ribs, let them go until you like the color and bark, anywhere from 2-4 hours, then foil for an hour or so, then unwrap and put them back on the grate to firm up and set the sauce if you're using it. When they bend over almost double if you pick them up in the middle, they're done. If they break in half, they're over done but will still be good. Or you can just let them smoke without foil until they start to weep liquid on top and they pass the bend test. Usually 4-5 hours. This "weep method" is usually done at a higher temperature, 300˚+, so just make a bigger fire or add more lit coals.
For chicken, just let it go until it's done. You'll also want higher heat here. When the skin is nice and brown, a leg wiggles and you can twist the joint and the juices are clear, it's done, If it's cooking too fast or looks like it's burning, move it to the cooler (far) side of the cooking chamber. You're probably going to want to brine, since you wanna err on the side of caution with chicken. Too done is far preferable to not done enough.
Hope this helps. Get a thermo as soon as you can, but you can cook without one. BBQ is an old, old method of cooking first practiced by natives using meat hung over a hole with a fire in it. I don't think many of them had remote probe thermometers.
Hello. ANDREW! You have been holding out on me! GREAT instruction! Not your first go at "old school" Hello zardrel. Md has given you the best advice you could have for your question. If you must go without a therm then his method is what I would use. The other answer to your question is yes you can smoke meat without a therm but you need to be taught by old folks who didn't have the use of a meat therm and then you need at least several years experience doing it on your own ( you also need asbestos hands, I welded for many years ). I grew up in Texas. I smoked my first packer brisket when I was 16, just turned 56. I tell all new folks the same, buy a therm. If you are doing speciality things a therm is a MUST! Keep Smokin!
Just had a thought. That looks like a temp gauge on your smoker. you should be able to remove it and do a boiling water test. Depending on your altitude, water's pretty good about boiling right there at 212˚. If it works at all, just make a note of how far it's off. Knowing my lack of short term memory, I'd probably write it with a sharpie right on the glass, something like +37˚ or -25˚, just so I'd remember. If you're REALLY lucky, there might be a little nut (maybe 3/8" or so) that sits around the shaft on the back of the thermometer. Not the one that you used to remove it, but right up against the back of the dial. If it's there, you can put a wrench or a pair of pliers on it and while holding the dial firmly, turn it to calibrate the thermometer. It's best to do this while it's not directly IN the boiling water. That steam gets pretty hot.
This is what the nut will look like.
If it's not there, you can still just see how far off it is and adjust your reading in your head.
**Edit; After a little googling, looks like most smoker thermos can't be calibrated. Oh well.
i like old school better, as a teen i learned it backwards for say, my dad is old school, so everytime i cook i only use wood, nonthing else, and its just right. i need alot of experience as you said, but over all, i can cook all wood without thermo.