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Questions on coal preference and tips for an off set smoker

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Hey Folks, 


I recently started using my Brinkmann Limited Edition Trail Master Off-Set Smoker and now I have a ton of questions. Hope you guys have the patience to read through these and give me some guidance here. 


1.  I understand that this type of smoker is also considered a "stick burner"?  Meaning you can perform a full cook by simply continuing to add wood?  


2. If I start my fire off with a little charcoal and as additional heat is needed I add only add wood will it ever over power the meat?  Meaning can you over smoke a piece of meat?  Or does that depend on the cut of meat and the type of wood I'm using?  Meaning if I smoke a chicken and only use mesquite it may over power the food but using something like apple wood will not? 


3.  What kind of coals do you prefer when smoking?  Do you like the natural hardwood lump charcoal or is anyone partial to the Kingsford briquettes? 


4.  When the heat is starting to die down and you need to feed it do you add unlit or lit charcoal?  Last week I was smoking chicken and had to add coal to the fire box.  I added some natural hardwood lump charcoal and it created very heavy white smoke.  I added the charcoal unlit and after thought about adding it after first lighting it on a chimney.  


I welcome any an all comments. 



post #2 of 4

You are correct about the "stick burner."

Many folks burn wood exclusively, and yes, it is possible to over-smoke the meat if the cook is of sufficient duration. The secret is to have the wood burning cleanly. This can be accomplished by several means, such as using smaller diameter "splits" of wood, which will catch fire and start burning faster than the telephone pole-sized pieces. Sometimes it can be a pretty groovy thing to leave the fire box door open until the added splits super-heat past the smolder stage and begin to burn cleanly. You will know you have clean burning wood  because the Fire Dept will cancel the call, the heavy white smoke will subside, things will start to smell good again, and the crackle of a nice fire will emanate from the fire box. Although this can take a few minutes, the cooking chamber shouldn't lose too much heat, and, it will recover anyway.

  It can also be helpful to place the next intended splits on the top of the closed firebox, while it is heating away, so that they will become thoroughly warmed, which can vastly reduce the time they will need to push through the "smolder"" stage and into the "hell fire" stage when they are added to the fire. This will allow you to get clean-burning wood close the fire box door sooner, and get back to cooking and drinking.

  Some people go so far as to create a burn pile near the smoker, burn their wood down to coals in this pile, and shovel a load of coals into the smoker's fire box, as required to maintain the desired level of heat.

  Some woods are indeed stronger than others and these species can most-definitely cause over-smoking sooner than using the milder varieties. The main thing is to keep from getting too much smoke, however that needs to be achieved: shorter cooks, smaller splits,an open fire box door during the stinky- smolder stage of freshly added wood, shoveling coals, etc. Since the "shorter cooks" part doesn't usually apply to low-and-slow cooking, some means must be utilized. These are only a few of many ways to help one have cooking success.

  People have as many opinions towards charcoal as they have towards beer. However, genuine hardwood lump charcoal can be hard to beat.

  Whether one adds unlit lump to the fire can depend on various factors, such as how hot it the fire, and has it died down too much. Pouring unlit lump on a too-small fire can cause some of that stinky smoke as it takes a bit for it to really get going. An easy way around this is to just light another chimney full of lump ten-fifteen minutes before it is needed, and just dump fully-ignited lump into the fire box.

  One major principle to adhere to is that you never want heavy, billowing, stinky smoke passing over your food for an extended time, however you choose to avoid having this condition. Another inviolate principle is to make sure you have fun with this whole thing. Good luck, and hopefully you will find this a little bit helpful.

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Wow!  Thank you so much for the the information you provided.  This is honestly becoming one of my favorite sites because of the awesome people that contribute.  


I can think of a few mistakes that I made during my last cook with the information you provided.  I added charcoal when the fire was low and I needed to keep the temperature up.  That created the heavy smoke that may have over powered my food.  The same goes with the wood. I added the big size wood logs that I picked up at Home Depot and did not leave the fire box open when the burn started.  


Again, than you for the information.  I really do appreciate it.  



post #4 of 4
I fill a chimney full of charcoal/lump mix and when it's lite and all glowing. I dump it in my firebox and then add 2 splits. I then let the smoker stabilize. "20 - 30 mins"
And start cooking, adding a split about every 30 mins or when your temp starts dropping. You then maintain your temp by the size of your fire.
I usually use cherry or oak for wood.
I also warm my splits up on the firebox. Before adding them to the fire.

Excellent post by RogerWilco icon14.gif
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