Well, my first real smoke in the CharGriller is done. Overall, I guess it wasn't bad. I did have temperature problems, and it showed in the final result.
The ribs were good. It was pretty obvious that they'd been cooked too fast - the sugar in the rub burned a very little bit on the end that was closer to the firebox during the initial temperature spike. It wasn't bitter or charred, just a bit caramel-y.
The "pastrami" wasn't quite so good. When I've cooked a corned beef brisket in this manner in the past, it wasn't quite so tough. This brisket was more than a little leathery. It was also extremely salty - if I use this particular brand again I won't use any salt whatsoever in the rub.
One other thing that I noticed was that the smoke flavor really wasn't as strong as I would like. Both the ribs and the beef had a little smoke ring, but I didn't taste the smokiness the way I wanted. I used a couple of great big handfuls of hickory chips for this cook, but I'm thinking I'm going to have to buckle down and try to find a good source for chunks or splits of hickory and oak.
Another issue I had was with the temperature gradient at the 2 ends of the smoke chamber. I had read that that's a problem with most offsets, the CharGriller included. I really noticed it today, though - during cooking it was very obvious that the ribs at the "cold" end of the smoker just weren't getting the same heat as the ones at the hot end. I've seen plans for tuning plates, and I think I'm going to have to go re-read those.
All in all, it was a good dinner, though. My sweetie is a rib fanatic, and if my ribs got past her high standards they couldn't have been all that bad, right?