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Newbie needs help - cooking time and smoke flavor

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

Please help!!! I'm new around here and to the art of smoking. My wife and I recently received a silver smoker for our wedding. I made the recommended mods and set out looking for a few "beginner" recipes. I've done 2 test runs with the smoker and both times were failures. I need some help before I subject any of my friends to my finished product.

First time I smoked a few whole chickens (applewood) and just yesterday did a flank steak (hickory). I think I'm pretty good at maintaining a good smoke temp (approx 215-225) but as far as I see it, I have the following 2 issues:

(1) getting the cooking time and "doneness" of the meat down.....I relied on the recipes I found to tell me the approx cooking time and both times I've had to cook for several hours more (while my wife stares at me hungry and like I'm some sort of idiot). Yesterday I did a 2 lb flank steak. The recipe called for 2 hours at 225 but after 3.5 hours I still wasn't even at 150 degrees for the meat temp. Am I doing something wrong or is it normal to allow for a lot more time than a particular recipe would recommend?? Do I need to get the smoker temp up more around 250?

(2) Smoke flavor of the meat > I was satisfied with the smoke flavor when I did the chickens using applewood chunks. But when I did the flank steak using hickory it turned out way too smokey. I used about the same amount of chunks as I did for the chickens. On average, what do you all recommend in terms of how much wood chunks to put on. I'm using lump charcoal, wood chunks that have not been soaked in water and I'm putting them just off to the side of the coals. How many chunks on average should you use or will that depend on the flavor of the wood being used?

I appreciate any help. I've got a lot of good info on this site before but am a little frustrated with myself right now. I usually can pick up new cooking methods quick.....but not so far with smoking. Thanks!
post #2 of 6
Welcome to SMF bigduke...glad ta have ya here!
First off, what are you using for a chamber thermometer....the OEM thermos are not very reliable. Do ya have another thermo on your grates?
post #3 of 6
This would be the first thing I would check.

I tend to run my smoker at about 235. I try to keep it above 225 but below 250 for most meats. The exception would be chicken. Chicken I try to do at 275-300 to get a more crisp skin.

You said your steak was at 150? were you going for a well done piece of meat? I pull my steaks off at 130ish wrap in foil and let it rest. Gives me a nice med steak when its done.

also I would test the thermos to ensure they are good. Boil water and the temp should be near 212 put it in a bowl or ice water and it would be near 32.

Welcome to SMF. Let us know if you need more help.
post #4 of 6
The smoke flavor issue could have been the type of wood you were using.
Hickory is a much stronger flavor than apple.
That said... 5 or 6 hours of hickory should not have produced an overbearing smoke flavor.
My guess is you were getting dirty white smoke instead of a nice clean blue smoke.
Apple or Cherry will be much more forgiving flavor wise. Once you step up to Hickory or Mesquite you do have to be more careful about the quality of the smoke...and even then, you can sometimes oversmoke.
If I might make a suggestion, try Oak. To me it's not as strong as hickory, but you will get more flavor than apple....and what Oak does to beef can be just shy of heaven.
post #5 of 6
First off, congrats on your wedding. Wifey and I just hit 25 years. I wouldn't trade away a single minute of it. And no, she's not looking over my shoulder........

Doneness. You sound like you're on track with thermometers. You know your pit temperature, and your meat temperature. You didn't say exactly what the problem with the chickens was. Flank steak can be tough and chewy if over-done. I agree with BMUDD, except I pull my flanks, or any London broil type cut at 125 myself. By 150* I would expect it to be very tough. What temperature or doneness did the recipe call for?

Smoke. Apple is (IMHO) a very mild wood. Hickory is fairly strong. Useing the same amount of Hickory as Apple is going to get you a much stronger smoke taste. Mesquite is even stronger. And the smoke would have been even more pronounced. Experience is the key here. You already know Apple is mild, and how much to use. Next time, start at about half with the Hickory and see how it goes. Hickory to me, is not a great choice for beef. I like Pecan or Mesquite for beef. Hickory seems to go much better with Pork. But that's personal taste.......

I'm not familiar with your smoker. But, one problem that every Newbi has is checking the meat too often. 225* is not very hot. And every time you pop the lid to check the meat, you lose most of your heat, and the pit has to heat back up when you put the lid on. Many of us don't even think about opening the lid for the first 2 hours. After that, perhaps once an hour to mop the meat. There really isn't much to see in a smoker. No flames licking up, or sizzling meat like on a grill.

Keep plugging. Magic Johnson didn't hit his first few three pointers, I'm quite sure.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the quick replies.

I bought 2 thermometers from some BBQ site and put them on both sides of my chamber. One on the left closest to the smoking chamber and the other on the right about where the chimney is. I've noticed about a 25-30 degree difference so I try to rotate the food. Maybe the thermometers aren't as accurate as advertised.
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