I've been living in Rwanda for about a year now and recently decided I had to get back to smoking meat. In the US, I used to fire up my Weber Smokey Mountain almost every weekend with dependable results. Since I couldn't bring the Weber out here with me, I've worked with some welders to put together a horizontal smoker out of an old water heater. It only has one chamber and the smoke doesn't always pull perfectly, but I just put the charcoal on the far end I don't find the the pieces closer to the charcoal cook much faster than the others. Unfortunately, after 4 attempts at smoking ribs here, I can't quite get them right.
Ribs aren't very popular out here, so it's tough to find a butcher who really knows what he's doing. Most of the time, they pull out the full rib frozen and then I ask them to cut just the baby back for me. The ribs are often very meaty with a .25 to .5 inch thick layer of fat coating the top. I let the ribs thaw and then get started, keeping the smoker between 225 and 240 with some hickory wood chips. However, the ribs just seem to take forever to cook. Last night I had three racks on for 7 hours and they weren't even close to being done. The meat was almost undercooked and I was far off the actual finishing point of pulling the bones apart easily.
Any idea what could be going on? I have a remote thermometer that is wedged in the door which might be reading too high of a temperature. I'm also concerned that the meat has been poorly frozen, thus drying it out. Any insight into what I could be doing wrong would be greatly appreciated.