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I am new to smoking and I just got a Brinkmann vertical smoker with fire and water bowl. I read the 5 day email course on smoking meat and jumped in by trying to smoke some pork steaks. This was my experience.

I filled the water pan and I allowed the charcoal to get grey all over before putting it in the smoker. I had a pretty hot fire. I had a bag of hickory chips and I took a large handful and wrapped it in foil as directed. Because of the layout of the smoker, there is not much space between the fire pan and the water pan, so I was forced to place the pouch of wood chips directly on the charcoal. The hickory smoked and then burned up in the pouch after about a half hour. With the water pan in the smoker never really got over 150 degrees and was slightly less than that most of the time. There seemed to be more smoke coming out the door than the chimney. I do not think I got the meat cooked enough and will finish it on the grill today.

My questions for anyone familiar with this type of smoker are:

1. Where do I put the hickory chips? Directly on the coals or try to get them away from direct contact? How long should they last?

2. Should I soak the hickory chips and if so for how long?

3. Is the water pan really necessary? If so how do I get the temp up?

I had expected to make a few mistakes and want to do better the next time. Any feedback or suggestions is truely appreciated. Thanks in advance

Pinto in Michigan