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Smoking fails

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

In an effort to help each other learn from our mistakes I'm throwing out a "feed"back challenge...

Tell us about a smoking failure.  What went wrong. Was it fixable. What did you learn.


Here's a recent one from myself....


Made a batch of deer jerky recently I wanted to come out a little moister so I basted the strips with BBQ sauce for the last 45 minutes or so. The sauce caramelized and made things way to sticky.  Flavor was a bit off.  I was able to salvage things by rinsing the strips under cold water and using my thumb to scrub off the excess. Press dried them immediately after with paper towels and they were OK.  Caused me some smokin' stress and wasted some time that could have been better spent prepping something else to smoke :wife:

post #2 of 31

I once was smoking a brisket on a BGE. I was going to have to run to town to pick up a friend work. She was a bar tender on the day shift. She was going to call me when it was time for a ride. I wanted to kick the heat up a bit. I opened all vents wide open. I was thinking i would be leaving in about 15 minutes so I would close top and bottom vent as I was leaving. (Anyone who knows anything about a BGE knows that it is a very well mannered smoker or grill. It will hold temps anywhere you set it from 200°-750°+). Well you guessed it. I forgot to close down the vents as I left. I picked her up and had a drink. A few people their were wanting to play some pool. Since both of us were pull players we started playing doubles. Anyone who plays pool knows that you have the table until you loose. Well we were both playing well. We did decide to give up the table and go home a couple of hours later. (you know a BGE will keep the Brisket warm for hours if not days. That is with the vents closed not wide open.) When we pulled in the driveway you could smell the burnt brisket as soon as the doors to the truck were opened. The temp gauge on the BGE pegs out at 750° and it was pegged. All of that nice fat cap was burnt to a crisp. I am pretty sure the brisket had been on fire for a while till it burnt all of the fat.......Was it save able? NO!

  Beer and sides are good when your with friends. So I would say it all worked out. UNLESS YOU WERE THE BRISKET!  :beercheer:

Happy smoken.


post #3 of 31

I was doing ribs on a smoky mountain charcoal smoker, when i foiled my ribs i put a little Jack in there for flavor. I didn't realize i punctured the foil, until the smoker hit 400 degrees. The were a edible but i have made better ribs.

post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 

Great story Dave. Thanks for sharing. Sorry bout that brisket :hissyfit:  - Ed

post #5 of 31

I had the same results as themule69!  But it was with first smoke on my offset SFB smoker which was a cheap char griller. I got everything going with the temps, I put the brisket on and went into the camper  to prep some other fix'ins. It only took less that 40 minutes to burn that little 3.5 lb brisket to a crisp, except for the little thin strip in the center of it that was still edible but dry, and then I only got a 4 bites of  that and I had to pitch it..

The lesson learned is that I keep a closer tab on the offset and it requires a little more baby sitting than  my lp vertical smoker. I have a BTMLE now and get along fine with it.

post #6 of 31

A long, long time ago... The first time I ever lit up my very first offset I was really pleased at the amount of thick billowing smoke I managed to achieve from burning the logs I just happened to have in the garden. After just 4 hours the pork has a thick black sticky coating - some was where it had charred and some was from smoke tar. It was as dry as sawdust inside. My wife refused to try it and I am embarased to say that I wimped out too. I have no idea what the logs were - probably a mix including pine. At that time I had previously only used my Webers and I though offset smoking wasn't really smoking unless you had Autumn bonfire quality smoke.


After that disaster I decided to admit defeat and RTFM - or at least go looking for advice from some American friends I worked with then.

post #7 of 31

I think "fails" have a wide range from catastrophic to just didn't turn out the way we wanted.  Sometimes the action or lack of an action can be very small.  I've been forgetful and not put the water pan in and had dryer results than I wanted.  I've not been diligent about spritzing and had dryer results than I wanted.  All things considered, I believe that bbq is very much about the details, even small.  I hear a lot of guys talk about "set it and forget it" smokers and I just can't imagine. 

post #8 of 31

I don't think I've had a single fail since upgrading to the WSM, but I cut my smoky teeth on a Weber Kettle with a Smokenator.  I had a few fails on it. 


When I first started smoking with that setup my first chuckie was a tasty disaster.  I tried to do it on time alone, no internal temp check while smoking and I didn't know about the toothpick test.  It was a 2.5-3 lbs chuck roast and I expected it to be done in 4.5 hours at a chamber temp of 225F-250F.  At 6 hours I took it off the smoker and the IT was like185.  I figured it had to be done.  Good flavor but hard as a rock.  Definitely undercooked, not overcooked. 


I'd cooked so many delicious chuck roasts in my life on the stovetop and in the oven that's when I decided to return to what I knew and began viewing the smoker as just a smoky oven. I believe it was after that chuckie fail I bought a Maverick 732.  I also read the meat science section of Amazing Ribs website.  After that first fail I started smoking by internal temp.  I also started wrapping meat once it stalled, saving the wrap juices, cooling them in the fridge, scrapping the fat and adding them back to the meat the next day.  Heck, as I type for breakfast I'm eating on one of two fork tender, smoky Mexican Chuckies I did last weekend.  Mmmmmmm good.     

post #9 of 31
I think it would be quicker to list my successes than my failures, but I'll share some of the more epic failures.
I once forced the evacuation of a 12 story apartment building trying to grill a brisket next to the intake for the ventilation system. 7 or 8 fire trucks showed up. They weren't nearly as amused as I was. That one was a twofold failure, as I'm sure you've all noticed I said I was tying to GRILL. a brisket. It wasn't pretty.
Then there was the 10lb prime rib I converted to carbon on a gas grill at my brothers house one Christmas. I still hear about that one from time to time.
I've had runaway fires from chicken fat a time or two. I've ruined more ribs than I care to admit.
Despite my many failures as a pit master, the ones that come to mind more often are the few successes and the enjoyment of wonderful meals with friends and loved ones.
post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks to all of you for sharing. Good, yet sad stories and a chance for each to learn from others mistakes.th_INGardenbbq7.gif



Here's a blast from the past fail from my Mom when I was a kid.


Mom had a camping cookbook which had some great stuff, including cooking bacon and eggs in a paper bag over the fire ( this works if you are VERY careful ). Anywho... there was instructions for a mustard rubbed beef roast cooked under the fire in the dirt. I was too young to have paid attn to what she did but have a vivid memory of a charred hunk of lump not much distinguishable from a burnt log. Ended up roasting dogs over the fire.  Mom heard about that one for a loooong time !

post #11 of 31

The secret is to cook for folks that are themselves terrible cooks.  They love your fails almost as much as your successes. 

post #12 of 31
I overcrisped\burnt a whole bunch of almonds one time. Had a friend invite me to watch a football game and told him I couldn't as I was getting ready to do a batch of almonds. No problem he says, come do them on my Traeger. I usually do mine on indirect heat and did not even think about getting the temp too high for the Traeger as it was all direct. Needless to say I thought it was a wasted two lbs. of almonds.

Had some friends that still ate an awful lot of them though, even though they gave me crap about it.
post #13 of 31
Heck, I've got a desk drawer full of "blackened" almonds I've done recently as I've experimented with recipes I'm creating. Still yummy!
post #14 of 31

Just saying burn't nuts makes a chill go down my spine.  smiley_snowball.gif

post #15 of 31
When cooking Brussel sprouts, do not I repeat do not forget about them! One of the worst ever smells to come out of a kitchen. It's also a great way to ruin a pan, skillet or whatever you were cooking them in.

Let's see this year my most memorable failure was thinking that the silicone tipped tongs would be adequate to carry a spatched chicken from the smoker to the table Wrong grease and silicone and beer do not mix. Sandy loam, pine needles, just adds flavor right? Five second rule! Needless to say that was served skinless. On the way from the smoker to the kitchen I got tripped up in our heard of dogs and the tri tip and smokey Au jus bit the dust. Couldn't rescue the Au Jus, barely for the tri tip before the pack did. Them there was the pork loin that I forgot about.. Okay had a few too many beers and didn't hear the alarm going off. Yeah it was a bit dry. Ughhhh. I know there's more...
post #16 of 31

I've undercooked a few times when I didn't stoke enough fuel, then I add fuel and get a sharp smoky flavor on meat that still isn't completely cooked.


My overcooking/flare-up mistakes have mostly been on propane grills. Some things like fatty bratwurst or chicken get out of control very quickly.

post #17 of 31
Ten or twelve years ago I was in a local watering hole with friends and we were solving all of the worlds problems. After that was accomplished we discussed a way to hold the greatest amount of stocked Pennsylvania Trout in my smoke hollow electric smoker and accomplish an even smoking process. It was decided that if I used the top rack only, and hung the trout by its gill on an s-hook, I could fit nearly 20 trout in there and I'd get a nice even smoke. So, the next day (now sober) I followed the great idea we discussed while becoming intoxicated the previous night. I put the top rack in the smoker and hung around 20 trout (12-15 inches) by the gills on s-hooks. Before closing the door I took a picture and gave myself a pat on the back and said yep, they are going to be great. Now fast forward a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and the good old boys come over and we pop a few beers. So, in some time, we go to check on our great idea from the night before. I open up the door expecting to see a beautiful smoky sight and instead see disaster. The heat caused the thin gill cartilage to soften and the fish melted right off the s-hooks and were piled on the bottom of my smoker making an absolute mess of it. Moral of the story, have enough common sense to rethink genius ideas created at the local watering hole the previous night. beercheer.gifhit.gificon_redface.gif
post #18 of 31
post #19 of 31
What a great thread. I have plenty of gems, but the two that stick out are:

I had just gotten my ECB and did a test burn with it. Seemed easy enough, charcoal in bottom, water in pan then slap the lid on. The next day I proudly announce on Facebook that I got a new smoker and was going to smoke ribs. A bunch of friends show up and by some divine intervention (because I had no idea what the hell I was doing) the ribs came out really good. Not yet quite understanding the dynamics of charcoal management, I left the lid off the smoker when I brought the ribs in. The remaining charcoal, with unlimited oxygen, did what charcoal does and burned really hot. Hot enough to boil what was left of the water in the pan. Water that had a nice thick layer of fat drippings from the ribs. The combination of hot charcoal and overflowing grease/water in the confined tube of the smoker essentially made a jet engine. I looked out the door and saw flames at least 20 feet high. By that point all of the paint melted off the smoker so I just let it burn out. I never really liked that green color on the ECB anyway. Haha.

Another time, actually my first brisket, using the same yet slightly discolored ECB, I once again thought I knew what I was doing. The brisket went on and the probe went in. I set the thermometer to medium-well because I wanted to make sure it was done enough for everyone. Hahaha... I pulled it at 168° (just to make sure it was done...) and took it right in to slice it. I managed to cut it up without bending the knife. A friend stopped by and we had many beers while letting it rest (yeah... that's what we we're doing,resting the meat). We each tried the brisket, but I think we were too drunk to realize how bad it was, at least I was... Before he left, I wrapped up a big to-go platter for my friend. The next day I walked out to throw the garbage away and saw the to-go platter still wrapped up in my garbage can. I never said anything to my friend. I don't think the dog would have eaten that meat.

Live and learn....
post #20 of 31
I know it has to just be coincidence, but I'm thinking there's an outside chance beer might play a small part in many of these "failures"
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