Welcome to the SMF Family. Lots of good advice above. Water in the pan is needed for the charcoal smoker you had to maintain temp easier. But in a Gasser, you set and maintain temp with the adjustment knob and if needed the tank knob. Take a look at this thread...http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/128297/needle-valve-mod-using-bayou-classic-regulator At some point you will need to do this for greater control. Make sure you have a Wind Break, some plywood or your smoker location, so there is no risk of the fire being blown out. Wind can also cause temp fluctuations. Before this big cook get some Chicken legs, clip the short, blunt BBQ Probe (air probe) on the same shelf as the meat, the Meat Probe (the longer pointed one) in the center mass of the meat, not touching bone or in fat and PRACTICE maintaining temp. Small changes in the controls can make Big changes in the smoker temp and will take 15 to 20 minute to register on the therms so make small changes and be patient. It may be difficult to keep at 225 in an un-insulated gasser, wind, sun, weather, time of day, opening the door, will all effect and cause changes to the temp you set. Your goal will be to keep the temp between 200 and 250°F for an overall average of 225.
For the big cook place the BBQ Probes on the upper and lower shelves, if you are going to use both thermometers, to measure the average temp in the smoker. Place the probe on the middle shelf if using one. The BBQ probes can not be used in meat but you can purchase an extra Meat Probe and plug it into the BBQ port of the ET732. If using one therm, put the Meat Probe in the Phattie since that will be coming out first then move it to the Butt. The rest can go by look. At 225 I have found ABT's (Atomic Buffalo Turds aka Bacon Wrapped stuffed Jalapenos) take about 2 hours. Poppers around here are cheese filled Jap's that are Breaded and get Baked or Fried so I want to make sure we are talking about the same thing. You have some choices to make. If you are smoking the Phattie, the Butt and the Beans in Pans, it don't matter much which shelf you put each on. If you like to smoke meat directly on the Grate, no pan, " I " would place the Phattie on the upper grate, Butt in the Middle and the Beans on a lower shelf to act as a drip pan catching all the fat and flavorful juices from the meat above. Since you seem to be a Low Fat kind a Guy and still wanting to smoke on the grates directly...Place the Phattie on top, Beans in the middle and the Butt on the third grate with a Drip pan on the forth grate below it or let the Foil covered Water pan catch the drippings but that can get messy.
I ran a poll a couple of years ago and the overall majority found that at an average of 225°F, a Butt will take 2 hours per pound to get done and it is not a bad idea to add 2 hours to your estimated time to CYA and give it a rest wrapped in a cooler. I HIGHLY recommend you follow this especially since this is a New Smoker for you. Once the Butt hits an Internal Temp (IT) of 195-200°F, double wrap in foil and some towels or old blanket and put it in the cooler. I suggest pulling at an IT less than 205 because it will continue to cook and the temp will rise above 205F. Some folks find going in the cooler at 205 causes the meat to way over cook and get mussy. Anyway, it will still be ready to pull and serve Hot (140-160°) 5-6 hours after it goes in and will be falling apart tender. That means for your 8lb Butt plan on 18 hours for this cook and you will be guaranteed to be serving at precisely the time you want. Just last weekend a member was smoking an 8 lb Butt at an average of 250 and after 17 hours it was only at 165°!!! Now in spite of the fact that the member said all went well except for temp fluctuations between 180 and 320, I am confident something went wrong and apparently he didn't plan for it. Good luck with the new Smoker and the cook...JJ
Lots of good advice here too! I had heard about fine-tuning these LP valves, but hadn't looked into it in much detail yet. Thanks for that link--hopefully I can follow it! But I won't have time to do that before this cook.
I like your ideas about which shelves to use. While I am a generally a low-fat kinda guy, that's in part a response to getting my wife to like this kind of cooking, but also because I've grown to really enjoy the taste of some turkey products better over beef or pork. I know that sounds weird, but if you try some brands of turkey bacon (oscar meyer) i just think it tastes great in a frying pan. I also prefer ground turkey in my chili--like the texture better, and it all tastes the same once you put chili spices in. Now... smoking is a different story, and I think I'll prefer regular bacon over turkey bacon. But that's where the wife's tastes come into play. :-) Thus I'm wrapping my fattie in a weave that is 1/2 turkey (thin) and 1/2 regular bacon (thick cut). I think the turkey bacon will take longer to crisp, thus my choice of thicknesses.
Having said all of that, I like YOUR idea of putting my beans underneath it all to catch some of those juices! I'm not cooking up a family recipe of beans--straight out of the can (we like Bush's) so having some additional smokey fat drop in there is fine by me!! Hey... WHEN SHOULD I put the beans in the smoker?
18 hours... hmm... That means I'm starting my cook at about 11PM the night before, right? I'm a little worried about that because I don't want to baby sit this thing all night long. I get grumpy on no sleep! But I guess I'll start it up and see how well it maintains temp. I have to tell you that my last smoker (cheapy that wasn't worth a can of beans) was SO BAD that I had to adjust the temp every 15 minutes. I got zero sleep. But this one should be much better.
My current remote thermometer doesn't do well passing the signal from outside my house through to the inside, but I did order a nicer (more expensive, long range) one from Amazon that should show up in time. Hopefully that one will transmit and I can sleep with the remote nearby. I'm a light sleeper and will hear the beep if it alarms.
Thanks for the tips on probe placement, and the notion that I can buy another meat probe. For this cook, I'll use the two bbq probes (my current one, and the one on order) like you said, with one up-high and one down-low. I'll use one of the meat probes for the fattie, and the other for the pulled pork..
PICTURES--for sure. My wife already thinks I'm a little nuts cause she caught me taking pictures of my aluminum foil wood chip packets! I guess if the quality of my pictures declines as you go from prep to cook to eat, you'll know that I didn't get any sleep!