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What Next?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

As some of you already know, I purchased my first smoker last week and made St. Louis ribs for my first attempt.


What should I try next? I'm debating between brisket and chicken but am open to suggestions.




post #2 of 25

Save the brisket until you have a few successes under your belt and have the patience to just let the smoker and meat play together for hours and hours without you checking on them.  Chicken pieces are easy.  Sausages too.  Meatloaf .......... yum!  Whole chickens a little more of a challenge.  Pork butt/shoulder is the most forgiving piece of long-cook meat you can put on your smoker.  Then try a lean beef roast like round or rump.  Chuck roast is a good stepping stone to brisket.  Once you trust your sense of timing, process, and the smoker, then throw a brisket on that baby. 


If you look through the threads, you'll find a few folks that have great luck with brisket right off the bat, but the majority of questions folks ask is "what went wrong with my brisket smoke."  It can usually be attributed to a lack of experience.  Leaving a $50 to $100 chunk of meat alone to play with your smoker is a skill that only comes with experience.      

post #3 of 25
I second the pork butt suggestion. Nothing like a pulled pork sandwich you made yourself, and those babies always come out good. BUT, this is important, dont listen to anyone else...use eastern nc style sauce ;)

post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 

Ok, pork shoulder it is! Now here come the questions.


How long should I cook it?


Should it be wrapped at any point?


Any advice, tips, or concerns?




post #5 of 25

If you're doing a pork butt for Pulled Pork, really depends on size.  As many on here can tell you it's more about thickness than weight.  The standard 6-8 pounders, cooked at 225-250 for me seem to take between 10-12 hours, unwrapped (usually stay closer to 225-235).  I would cook it till it is 195 or so, then every few degrees stick it with a round toothpick, when it slides in and out like it's butter, you're good.  Every piece of meat is a little different.  Some may be tender and fall apart at 195, some 205.  


I have wrapped at 160, and not wrapped as well.  Wrapping will help get through the stall.  Really up to you, get better bark without wrapping.  When I wrap, I'll let it get to 180 or so, and then like some do with ribs, unwrap and throw back on the smoker that way to dry off the bark some.


I try to plan on it being done 2-3 hours before I want to eat, and then wrap in foil and a towel and into an empty cooler.  I try and guess about 2 hours, so if it takes a little longer or shorter I can let it rest for at least an hour or up to 3-4.


Biggest thing I struggled with when first cooking big pieces of meat is the stall.  It will happen usually, it is very weird if you're not ready for it.  Just have to ride it out, even foiling can still happen to a shorter length.

post #6 of 25
Add rub, let sit overnight in fridge if possible. I smoke it at 225. At that temp a rough rule of thumb is 1.5 hours/lb but it can be quite a bit more or less. You need to go by meat temp. Go to 195 or so, the bone should be really loose and want to pull right out when you tug on it, and the meat should be fall apart tender.

As far as foiling, you will get a lot of opinions. I don't because I like a nice bark mixed in the pulled meat. You will get a pretty good stall around 170 or so but be patient. You can even bump the temp up to 275 or so when you hit the stall.

Other tips- trim the fat cap down to 1/8 inch before you rub. If you leave it you will need to trim it off after you cook and you will throw away much flavor. I also use a heavy smoke for pork butt since the flavor gets diluted a lot when you mix it in with the ret of the meat. I keep a nice steady hickory smoke going for the first few hours. I also add a bit of mesquite but that's not for everyone. Be sure to rest the meat for a good 30 mins to an hour before pulling it. If you go no foil for the cook, just loosely tent the butt with foil during the rest or you will soften up the bark.

If you go for Carolina style, this is a really nice sauce recipe below. I make a slaw with only the same sauce and makes a great Sammy. Lots of ways to have it that are equally good though.

2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, or more to taste
5 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
4 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
post #7 of 25
Oh...what jirod said lol. icon14.gif
post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 

Wow, 10-12 hours, huh? There is bad weather predicted for that day, so maybe something with a shorter smoke time might be better? Suggestions?

post #9 of 25

I have heard/read some people cooking butts at like 275 without causing an issue.  I've upped the temp towards the end because I was running short on time and it was taking longer than I planned, but never done it the whole time at that temp.  I'm sure someone else can let you know how that will effect the cooking time, but shouldn't be an issue.


And agree with what robcava said about trimming.  I usually take the fat caps on those big pieces of meat down to about an 1/8 inch as well.  With those big fat caps it seems people generally either cut them off or tear them off and throw them away after the meat is cooked.  I think the smaller fat cap is still enough to help baste the meat some, and protect it from drying out, but is also palletable enough to eat, so you don't lose any of the rub, sauce, bark, smoke flavor from that part of the meat.  But that is just me.

post #10 of 25
If you're looking for a shorter cook I'd go to chicken. I do my whole birds between 280-290 and they're done in under 3 hours most times. Higher temp helps with crispier skin too. Same goes for wings or pieces. I'd also suggest a fatties, meatloaf, or country ribs or pork steaks as quicker cooks. Have fun!
post #11 of 25
Good idea on the chicken. Do a beer can chicken. That's a classic. The beer can doesn't really do much probably, but makes the kids laugh and looks cool.
post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the support and advice. Keep it coming!

post #13 of 25

I'll throw something different out there. My first several smokes were all fatty's. They are pretty forgiving and a shorter smoke, 3-4 hours. You can find several different recipes on here where you can stuff them with a lot of different things. 

post #14 of 25
Originally Posted by stevetheteacher View Post

Thanks for the support and advice. Keep it coming!

Steve Chicken Thighs,or CSR they don't cost a lot and do come out tasty. You will get to learn your smoker,be sure to get some good meat probes.

post #15 of 25

Steve, I looked through your other threads and see you have a BM offset.  Chicken would be a good way for you to learn how to build and maintain a hot fire in that baby.


Understand I've been cooking for others for almost 4 decades and had never roasted a chicken in the oven at less than 350F.  For some reason I thought a smoker magically allowed things to happen at lower temps.  It does for most meats, but not for poultry if the skin is still on.  Skinless?  You can smoke at 225F just like any other meat. 


I'm a huge fan of brining chicken.  It gives it more flavor and I like the meat texture better of the denatured protein.  It also makes the chicken breast more forgiving.  It can contribute to rubbery skin but there's a way to fix that. 


Below is a chicken recipe in my recipe software from when I first started smoking.  It has both a fail and a success logged on it.  BTW, I no longer rinse chickens but some do. 


Smoked Whole Chicken or Bone-in Split Breasts or Leg Quarters


Everything I'm reading about smoking meat recommends starting with something simple and move on from there.  Fish is the easiest and quickest thing to cook on the smoker, followed by chicken.  My fish turned out great so I moved on to whole chickens.


Chicken is better and safer at the higher temps, 300°F or higher.  Cooking at the higher temperature saves time and gives a bite through skin.


1st Attempt (unbrined) Results were good, but not knock your socks off:  I washed, trimmed, and butterfly'd two whole chickens, then put in a roaster pan.  For seasoning I just rubbed with chipotle oil and rib rub on the skin.  Put temperature sensor at grill level and kept close to 225°F for low and slow.  Checked breast temp at 4 hours 45 minutes and it read 175.  That's done for both the breast (165) and the dark meat (175).  Pulled off the fire and tented each chicken to allow it to rest for an hour or more.  Result was tender and juicy, but it needed more flavor. Skin was rubbery.  I found the brine recipe and used it the next time.


2nd Attempt Leg Quarters:  Brined with water, salt, molasses, and brown sugar for 18 hours.  Dry smoked with fresh mesquite, leftover hickory, and Kingsford Blue Bag fire, no water pan.  Rubbed with Sweet and Smokey rub.   Took right at 2 hrs at 300°F.  Last 20 minutes mopped with Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory/Brown Sugar sauce doctored with Kentucky Bourbon and apricot-pineapple preserves.  Was knock-your-socks-off good.


Whole chicken, Split chicken breasts, or Leg quarters
Favorite BBQ rub or simply salt, pepper, and garlic powder


6 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
any spices you want to add to the brine using 1 tsp each



1. Mix all the brine ingredients in a non-reactive pot and stir until all the salt, sugar, and molasses is dissolved.

2. Rinse the chicken and trim away any extra skin or fat.  If cooking whole chickens you can butterfly or leave whole.  I prefer to beercan whole chickens.

3. Arrange the chicken in the brine so it is completely covered.  You can add more water if needed to cover the chicken.

4. Let the chicken brine for 12-24 hours, but no more than 24 hours.

5. Discard the brine and pat dry the chicken.  If time allows, put back in the refrigerator uncovered for 12 hours to allow the skin to dry.  Not absolutely necessary but it does make a difference. Just be careful not to contaminate your fridge.

6. Lightly sprinkle with your rub or salt/pepper/garlic powder.  A sweeter rub works well with this recipe.

7. Fire up the smoker to 300°+F and either put the chicken directly on the grill with a drip pan underneath, or put the chicken on a rack in the roaster to save all the drippings and juices.

8. Place the meat probe in the thickest part of the meat.  In the thigh if doing whole chickens or leg quarters.

9. Keep the temperature of the smoker above 300°F.  If you want a crispier skin, let the temp climb to 325-350°F for the last 30 minutes.

10. If mopping with sauce, mop for last 20 minutes.  I'll sauce quarters and breasts, but not whole chickens.

11. Remove when the internal temperature of the thigh is 175°F, 165°F if split chicken breasts.

12. Let rest for 15 minutes or more.

13. Serve.


post #16 of 25

Frankly , you need to get to know your smoker intimately , learn all it's nuances and quirks. Start with a lot of Chicken Fatties and CSR's . You'll thank us later. . .


After , say 10 Smokes , you should have enough notes in you "BBQ LOG" to be confident in your Smoker's abilities and yourself .


Have fun and. . .

post #17 of 25
Perfect color! I noticed you saved drippings. Did you make a gravy?
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tropics View Post

Steve Chicken Thighs,or CSR they don't cost a lot and do come out tasty. You will get to learn your smoker,be sure to get some good meat probes.

How long and how hot?  What is CSR? Thanks!

post #19 of 25
Originally Posted by stevetheteacher View Post

How long and how hot?  What is CSR? Thanks!

I like to smoke at 225* to 250* for CSR Country Style Ribs 

Chicken Thighs around 275* 300* 


You really need to know the hot spots on your smoker,good thermo probes help, and do the boiling water test on the one that came with it.

post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tropics View Post

I like to smoke at 225* to 250* for CSR Country Style Ribs 

Chicken Thighs around 275* 300* 


You really need to know the hot spots on your smoker,good thermo probes help, and do the boiling water test on the one that came with it.

Approx. how long does it take and what's the ideal internal temp. please.

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