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several "advanced noob" questions

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I recently bought a MES and am very new to smoking. I've done a lot of reading so far (including the 5 day ecourse) and have a few questions. Perhaps they should be separate topics but I decided to put them into just one.

1. What is the purpose of a vent in an electric smoker? Why would I want to let the smoke out?

2. Is it bad to "over brine"? I've left some chicken thighs in brine for 10 hours and they turned out great. Would less time in the brine make them even better? I've read that it is bad to thaw out your meat while in brine. This sounds like a very convenient idea. Why is it not the suggested way?

3. Is it OK to presoak your wood chips weeks and months ahead of time? So far, I never remember to soak the wood, until I am ready to put the meat in. It seems like it would be really easy to put a whole bag of chips in a bucket of water and put a lid on it. Then I always have soaked wood when I need it. Does anyone do it this way?

4. Does anyone smoke their meat in a pan? Or just straight on the smoker racks? It seems to me that a pan would keep the meat juicier and keep the smoker cleaner. I've smoked a little chicken in cake pans and it was VERY tasty. Do some meats do better in pans and some better straight on the racks?
post #2 of 15
hashbaz
All good questions....

1. Too much smoke and the food will get too much creosote which will create a bitter taste. I keep the damper wide open and try too keep te smoke thin so I do not over smoke.

2. I brine my turkeys for 4 to 5 days, gives the dark meat a ham like taste.

3. I think wood setting in water for weeks will rot, mildew and/or mold. Two things I do because I forget to presoak also. One is put wood in water and microwave on high for 5 minutes, this seems to make the wood soak up moisture rapidly. The other is too soak the wood, drain the water and put wood chips in a ziplock labeling what type of wood and put it in the freezer. This way it is always ready.

4. I smoke prime rib in a pan to keep it moist, but I do know the meat would get more even smoke on the rack. Also with pork being fatty the rack is nice cause the pork drips the grease away and the pork is not sitting in a pan of grease.

Hopefully others will be along shortly with more knowledgable answers, these are just my opinions.
post #3 of 15

desertlites

hello hash,welcome to smf-u gonna get a ton of answers here-u want to vent your smoke-will build up and ruin your food like mossy says and creosote,over brine and your meat will start to fall apart and be very salty,and yes u can soak your chips to long-2 hrs is all it needs-good info mossy on the freeze idea-will have to use that-and some meats can go in a pan-I really don't but use a drip pan to catch drips-after done I wrap in plastic&foil and in the ice chest it goes-makes juicy-like I say tomarrow when all get up u gonna get a ton of info. hope we can help
post #4 of 15
It that all one sentence??? Have mercy on the rest of us, dude! This isn't instant messenger.
post #5 of 15
Hi hashbaz! Welcome to SMF. I'll try to give you start on your questions.

1. The purpose of a vent is to let the smoke out. You never want smoke just sitting still. It will cause a creosote build up on your meat and make it bitter tasting. Air in - Smoke out.

2. Brining is a form of osmosis or trying to equalize the salt content of the meat to that of the water. As it pulls the salt in, it also pulls in the water and other flavors to enhance the meat. So yes you can over brine your meat and make it salty, which can be slightly reversed by soaking over brined meat in plain water (reverse osmosis).

3. Soaking wood chips is a debate. Mostly we know that wood will not burn until it dries out. Really there is no need to soak for days or weeks in advance. Some will say don't bother soaking at all.

4. Smoking meat in a pan is acceptable, but may reduce the amount of bark that is produced during the smoke. But makes it easier to foil or cover the meat in the later part of the smoke. Usually pans will be used for something bulky such as a butt or brisket. Not recommended for ribs.
post #6 of 15
Great comments.

Regarding #3, I just want to add that wood will mildew easily, so keeping it wet for an extended amount of tme is not good. Personally, I soak because that's what works best in my setup. When I soak for longer than an hour or so, the water takes on a brown tint, so I am assuming (***-of-you-and-me) that some of the goodness that I want in my smoke is coming out in the water.

I tend my GOSM gasser every hour. I throw the next hour's chunks in to the water when I tend. That works out about right for me.
post #7 of 15
Welcome to SMF. It looks as if all your questions have been answered.
Goodluck and ask more if you have them.
post #8 of 15
10hrs isn't all that excessive. I usually brine ¼'s 4-6 hrs.

Long brines for whole birds like mossy mentioned, Can be a acquired taste.
Some like the hammy flavor some don't.
You normally have a 12-24hr brine.

I know this has been mentioned but do not soak your wood for long periods of time. A few hours at most will be efficient.

The wood soaking debate click here
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the help guys.
post #10 of 15
Welcome to the forum. Lots of friendly folks here who are always ready to share. Lots of good info provided already.
post #11 of 15
I will take a stab at a few of these questions. I am hardly an authority, but I am an old know-it-all!

1. What is the purpose of a vent in an electric smoker? Why would I want to let the smoke out?

As silly as it seems - if there is no where to let the air out, there is no way to let the smoke in. Plus, a steady and consistent air stream ensures the rich mahogany color we all try for. This is the reason you want to space stuff out in the smoker as well - even smoke!

2. Is it bad to "over brine"? I've left some chicken thighs in brine for 10 hours and they turned out great. Would less time in the brine make them even better? I've read that it is bad to thaw out your meat while in brine. This sounds like a very convenient idea. Why is it not the suggested way?

From my perspective, you can learn a lot by the first big chunk you smoke. If you were to cut into say, a turkey breast that had not sat in the brine long enough, you would find a white/pink boundary, showing just where the cure stopped. As far as doing less time on wings, you probably could, but after a time the salinity of the brine and the meat will equalize, so there is no harm in brining too long. (within reason - not weeks!) I brined my Xmas turkeys for 4 days, and I gotta tell you they were terrific! Although I think it unlikely, there probably comes a point where leaving something in the brine risks bacteria. Make sure to keep your brine consistently cold! I have gone so far as to put the bucket in a cooler and then pack around it with ice.

As far as thawing in brine, I prefer not to do it that way, although I have in a pinch. The brine does not seem to 'take' evenly, and the whole process seems to slow down. Maybe it was an accident, but my results were less than satisfactory when I have tried thawing in brine. It worked OK for some mooneyes (like whitefish) I smoked, but certainly not for any kind of game meat.

One last suggestion about brining - people will disagree on how the process technically works, but no matter; you can add some really great flavors by letting the brine carry them into the meat. From as simple as brown sugar or bay leaf to some pretty exotic tastes and smells.

3. Is it OK to presoak your wood chips weeks and months ahead of time? So far, I never remember to soak the wood, until I am ready to put the meat in. It seems like it would be really easy to put a whole bag of chips in a bucket of water and put a lid on it. Then I always have soaked wood when I need it. Does anyone do it this way?

I would not, only because they really don't need it, and I don't like mold! Frankly, I often don't remember to soak the chips or sawdust either. They only need to be wet to slow the burn and keep the fly ash down, so you could just get them damp before you use them. The moisture in the soaked wood seems to help with the color adhering to the meat as well, though, so for a lot of reasons I prefer wet or green wood. Try green wood, if you can get it!

I suppose the dry wood could flare up and smudge the meats as well.

4. Does anyone smoke their meat in a pan? Or just straight on the smoker racks? It seems to me that a pan would keep the meat juicier and keep the smoker cleaner. I've smoked a little chicken in cake pans and it was VERY tasty. Do some meats do better in pans and some better straight on the racks?[/quote]

Well, I think you would end up with a meat that is only smoked on one side. Just like if you have two sausages that are touching, the area without air flow will turn a pale color. The whole point of smoking the meat was to help preserve it, give it flavor, and make it appealing to eat - and that is why I try to hang whatever I can, and rack what I cannot.

I do use a shallow pan between the meat and the fire when hot smoking so that I can catch the drips and keep things clean. Other than that, I like as much surface dried to a nice skin and then exposed to as much of the the smoke as possible.

Again, I am pretty much a newbie to this site, but those are my two cents worth! Good luck, and report back!
post #12 of 15

I really am a newbie!

Good grief! I just gave a long-winded answer only to realize everyone else had already replied! Guess I gotta get used to the scroll down format of this forum! Sorry guys, glad we agree on most things, though!
post #13 of 15
It never hurts to have more than one set of answers. We don't always agree and even when we do, different explanations helps make sure that at least one of them is understood. smile.gif
post #14 of 15
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post #15 of 15
Looks like you got a but load of info. But thats good. I use pans on some foods and the rack on others, just depends on what I am making and how its being prepared for the smoker. And if I am lazy or not. I myself don't soak my chips. I tried when I first started out with my smoker and it took for ever to get smoke going, so I stopped soaking and now I get smoke fairly quick. I might go through chips faster but that not a big deal, I normally only use a couple of pans full. Welcom aboard and always feel free to ask for help. Most are always willing to help out.

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