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ribs possibly oversmoked

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I am very new to smoking, using a masterbuilt electric smoker. I tried to smoke ribs for the first time last Sunday. I took them out of the fridge about an hour before cooking. I warmed the smoker at the 30 minute mark, with wood chips in smoker. Getting short on time, I put them into the smoker at the time I had planned even though we were not quite at 225 yet. They were pork spare ribs.

As far as loading the smoker, I had 2 half racks of ribs each cut in half since lengthwise they would not fit in my smoker. I had ribs on each of the 4 racks, one of which was on the bottom of the smoker.

Keeping an eye on the temperature, I ended up bumping up my setpoint on the smoker a few times trying to get to temperature, since as I read here, the temperatures on the masterbuilt are not quite calibrated. Long story short, my temps were very low on the smoker for the first period of time.

I was trying to use the 3-2-1 method, but having read to wait for some pullback on the ribs, I ended up with about 4 hours in the first phase from what I can only assume is my low temps. They did do some pullback, but not nearly the quarter inch I was looking for.

I was using Mesquite chunks of wood. From what I was reading, I think I want a small wisp of smoke coming out of the smoker at all times during smoking. I was having difficulty achieving this a bit. I had many times when I could not see smoke coming out, but when I opened the smoker it would be billowing out of there. I did try to keep the top of the smoker vent open, but it did not seem to help. At times I would load wood and I would have a ton of smoke for a bit of time but it did not last. I did not presoak the wood, not sure if I should have. I put wood in 3 times.

After 4 hours, I put them into foil for 2 hours. The temps were good for this whole phase. I assumed smoke was unneeded for this step.

When the foil step was done I put wood back in to smoke for the final step. I smoked them until they got up to temp, which was about 1.5 hours. I put on no finishing sauce or anything like that.

The ribs smelled great and looked good. I had one of the top set of ribs which seemed a bit over smoked, but tasty. The ribs on the bottom of smoker were oversmoked. A burning taste and by the end of the rack my tounge was numb. I did later eat more off the other rib parts which were on other racks. They were more edible but still oversmoked.

I know I wrote a lot, but just wondering where I went wrong. I have some ideas, but I have no experience so I was hoping someone would have some ideas.

Thanks for any ideas,
post #2 of 8
Too much smoke. That numbness comes from makin creosote. Mesquite is a heavy smoke wood, if ya smell it yer smokin. You should have just a thin blue smoke. Try adjustin yer dampers some more, the top en should be wide open an ya might try openin bottom ones some more ifin ya got em. I ain't got the smoker yall do, so somebody might be long that does ta hep with temp control.

Get yerself a digital thermo ta put at grate level, will give ya a far more accurate readin a whats goin on in yer smoke box.

I don't soak my wood niether. Now ya can try usin chunks instead a chips, they tend ta burn a bit better in my opinion. Next time yall might try sumtin like apple which is great on ribs to. So is maple, there lighter smokin woods.
post #3 of 8
welcome, josh -

by the sounds of it, you did just about everything right, but still managed to get some creosote going and that will impart the bitter, over-smoked taste much as you described. it's easy to happen when beginning this and a few mosre smokes under your belt will take care of most of the problem, because with experience comes mastery.

a couple of suggestions would be to make sure exhaust is always wide open and that intake is always at least half open. this keeps airflow and heat at maximum so that you can maintain some hot, dry temps in there, for a lot of creosote is excess moisture at too cool a temperature. i know this sounds contradictory because many smokers use a water pan, and i can't exactly explain it, but to me it comes down to the observation that there is good moisture and bad moisture, and the difference usually depends on airflow and heat.

good luck and keep us informed! this is a great hobby that can quickly make you an artist - your family and probably your neighbors will thank you for learning it.

one last suggestion i will make is to download and look through the BBQFAQ. i cannot tell you enough how this word document helped me when i was starting out. many, many fundamentals can be found there and it can be kept right on your desktop for easy reference. if you want this, here is a link to a download of a SAFE zip file. it is a word ducment that is zipped, NOT an exe file:


if you're not comfortable with a zip file, i can email it to you in the plain ol' word doc format. PM an address if you prefer that.

good luck and keep in touch!

post #4 of 8
Well first off always keep the top vent wide open. On the MEs I find you can't over load the wood because you can't load any untill the last batch burned up.

Did you have the water pan full?

Sometimes I will notice some billowing smoke inside, I have the one with the window, and I will open the door for a couple of seconds and let it out.

I can't see where adding wood 3 times would oversmoke, never happened to me. I add wood when I can't smell it anymore and sometimes that is only 45 minutes or so.

Sorry I can't be of more help, maybe you need to change to a milder wood as suggested.

Good luck and don't give up.
post #5 of 8
It might have been the 4 hrs of Mesquite, next time try Hickory or Apple. Mesquite has way too sharp, bitter and heavy taste for my ribs.
post #6 of 8
Dont be afraid of mesquite. But save it for beef. For pork you should go for pecan and if you cant find that then a blend of hickory/apple will work. However I prefer mulberry to apple.

Get a good thermo at grate level and keep trying.

Very few of had our first smokes turn out the way we thought it would.
post #7 of 8
I used my master built electric for first time last week with baby backs. did not over smoke but pulled 160 after only 2 hrs at a temp of 225 (had thermo on grate to make sure temp was accurate) droped to 200 for another two hours. turned out ok. plan on getting alot of practice to figure out the electric.
post #8 of 8
Also seems that 1.5 hours after braising was to much. I only use .5 to .75 hour after braising to firm it up a little.

I have never needed that much time with my MES for ribs. I smoke them at 230, but I wouldn't think that 5 degrees would make that much difference.

I only have two positions for the top vent; closed for storing, preheating, and if foiled and nothing else needs smoked. Then wide open for everything else.

Give it another whirl with all this input you should be good. Any other questions just PM me.
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