Can someone explain to me, exactly, how to use an offset charcoal smoker?

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by d4nnyb0y02, Apr 20, 2010.

  1. d4nnyb0y02

    d4nnyb0y02 Newbie

    I've never smoked a thing in my life. I have always used charcoal grills, though.

    So, how exactly do I use this thing? What do I do w/ the chips? Where do I put them? Where do I put charcoal?

    I really know nothing about how to smoke meat. I know how to grill on charcoal, and that's it. How do I use this contraption!? :)


  2. hdsmoke

    hdsmoke Smoking Fanatic

    your probably want to invest in at least 1 good digital thermometer with probe. 2 is handy, or one unit that can accomadate 2 probes, as your stock thermos probably are not accurate at the cooking grate level. Her is my routine:

    1. Fill my charcoal basket with lump charcoal and some wood chunks. (Side firebox side)

    2. open exhaust and open intake both all the way. exhause stays open fully through the whole cook.

    3. Light chimney of charcoal (i only use a half full chimney)

    4. when those are going and hot i dump them in the basket. I try to move some lump away from one side of my charcoal basket to make an open area to dump the hot coals. Then i put a couple chunks on top of the hot coals

    5. watch your thermo that you put at grate level (yeah, forgot that step) when it starts getting to around 200 close your intake half way. keep watching temp

    6. if still climbing when you hit 220 or so close half way again (1/4 open). You want to then continue to make SMALL adjustments to the intake to reach your desired cooking temp. Depending on what your cooking thats 225-250 usually. Again make small adjustments once you come close to your target temp and allow 10-15 mins for that adjustment to take effect.

    Look around there is ALOT of info here.

    Oh, and stop in at Roll Call and introduce yourself and tell us about your smoker. It will help with more detailed instructions!
  3. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    What he said.
  4. erain

    erain Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    practice is gonna be your greatest learning tool. the charcoal, whether briquets or lump are your heat source. you have to learn to control the heat with the draft. more air will burn faster hence more heat.

    for wood i suggest chunks instead of chips, set the chunk a few inches away from the coals and in a bit it will start to smoke. while you are playing around learning your temp control, expierment with moving the chunk further away from coals, better yet set several chunks at different distances and see how they smoke and how long they last. you want the chunk to smoke well but at the same time maximize the amount of time you can get from it.

    the big trick is when to add more coals to maintain the heat for the duration of the smoke. i use a thermo to monitor my smoker box temp and when it starts to go down i add some lump and open the draft for a bit to get it going. then move draft back to where it maintains desired temp... repeat as many times as needed along with replacing the chunk as neccessary. i am new stick burner as well so someone can prolly add to this and i be interested in any advice as well.
  5. d4nnyb0y02

    d4nnyb0y02 Newbie

    Okay, so all the charcoal and the wood goes in the side box part only? Do I need to wet the chips for awhile first, and should I put them directly on top of the charcoal, or keep them separate somehow?

    Thanks :)

    Smoker looks like this:
  6. timtimmay

    timtimmay Action Team

    HD hit the nail on the head.

    I would add that most of the cheap models (like I have) require a little modification to run very efficiently, and never, ever trust the factory thermometer on a cheap offset What model to you have?

    Welcome to the addiction!
  7. erain

    erain Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    great advice on draft control!!![​IMG]
  8. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another thing to be aware of... most of the starter horizontal offsets don't do well in wind, even if the outside temp. is warmish. If it is windy you need a realy good windbreak, or you will get frustrated on trying to controll temps. Start with something simple, like chicken leg quarters - they only need approx 3 hrs. or so to reach an internal temp. of 185°. Check your chamber temps via your thermometers regularly, but don't open the lid if you can help it. If you are peeking, you are not cooking - you can add 10-20 minutes per "peek" to your time if you aren't carefull.
  9. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Good advice all around.

    Only thing I can add is; use it. Only through trial & error will you learn how your smoker behaves.
  10. caveman

    caveman Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Turning into the wind will help if your temps drop. Try it before you get frustrated. (The end with the open grate into the wind.)
  11. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    .... You use it as a beer rest while you fire up your WSM.... lol... sry couldn't resist that one [​IMG]. The Char-griller is a great place to start, but if or when you decide to add another smoker take a look at the WSM's.
  12. hdsmoke

    hdsmoke Smoking Fanatic

    +1...i bought a chargriller last summer and used it alot. BUT, i just couldnt get it to stay hot enough in the winter without more mods...i just bought a WSM and have 2 smokes on it. Its great...STEADY as a rock. However, i still like playing with fire as much as the next, so i imagine when i feel like having a lazy beer drinking Saturday i will fire up the Chargriller and tend fire. It does turn out just as good food once you learn your own's personal quirks. WSM is more light it and then go get some work done! We dont want to have to do that EVERYTIME do we?
  13. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    What they all said but I would ask you to stop into Roll Call and introduce yourself and then we can give you the welcome we like to give to new members.
  14. I have two smokers. A cheep brinkman offset smoker and a Weber smoky mountain 221/2" I do well on the weber but often my wood burns up to fast and the meat gets a bit over smoked. I smoked on a cheep built type gas smoker for 15 years and never had that problem. The offset smoker I have never gotten up to a good smoking temp let alone held a steady temp. what can I do?
  15. I've cooked on an old cheap Chargriller for nearly 15 years now. It's sure got it's faults, but eventually you'll learn to cook around them. Here's some tips.

    Keep your fire box clean, clean out the ash every time you use it. Nothing will screw up a good smoke like getting your ash level too high and choking off your air to the fire.

    Right now go on Amazon and get a Maverick ET 73 dual remote temperature probe. It will soon become your best friend. One probe is for the temperature at the cooking grate and one is for your meat.

    Make sure to season the grill properly, you can find out how on the forum

    I line the bottom of the actual smoker with tin foil. Sure helps with clean up.

    I never grill in the smoking chamber. I know you can, but grease dripping down onto old ash makes a huge mess.

    There are lots of modifications you can make to improve the smoker. You'll find there's about a 50 degree temperature difference between the hot side next to the fire box and the cooler side next to the exhaust. Ideal would be a uniform temperature. One easy mod is to go to Lowes and get an elbow for a dryer vent and lower your stack vent level to damn near cooking level. Another mod is a tuning or convection plate to help even out the temperatures. You can get as fancy as you want . Personally I just take the charcoal basket for the smoker side, the one I'm not cooking on, turn it upside down and hang it high over the fire box opening and only a couple of inches off the bottom on the exhaust side. Sounds crude but it works.

    There are lots of leaks on the smoker side. A good fix is fireplace gaskets, but I do something simpler. Take a sheet of tin foil, fold in half, then half again and again until you have a fat strip. Just bend the strip over the edges and when you close the lid it will crush the foil and seal the leak.

    Most importantly, this is an art not a science. You learn by asking, reading watching and making mistakes. With temps go low and slow. I put my meat on at about 280, the temps will drop and then start to come to you. Most of us smoke at 220 to 250 degrees.

    I hope this helps. Let us know how it's going for you.

  16. I can't quite wrap my mind around that convection plate modification?

    I also have a 221/2" WSM that works well except it burns the wood chucks up to fast, producing to much smoke to fast. For 15 years I smoked on a $59.00 Brinkmann All In One gas smoker and turned out some really good brisket, butts and ribs that smelled and tasted like bacon. It craped out on me and I bought the Brinkmann offset smoker that I could never get to work for me so I bought the WSM . Switching from gas to brackets was a little different but not so much. What has been a challenge that I am working on is the wood chunks burn up to fast even though I soak them overnight. No my old gas smoker I wrapped the wood chunks in foil and placed them on lava rock that was between the fire and the wood chunks. The result was a smoldering smoke that you could hardly see until the wood was spent at which time white smoke would be produced informing me to add another chunk of wood. This produced a nice smoke ring on everything and a delightful smoke flavor, compared to what I am getting now that causes the meat to taste smoke damaged. do you have any suggestions?      
  17. @REMSR
    I have the same WSM and it can be a bugger to get a handle on. For wood I use mostly splits and rarely use chunks. There're a bunch of threads here about pre soaking your chunks. I think the balance of opinion is it doesn't do much good. It sounds a little like you're building too big a fire in the WSM. Are you using the Minon method to start your fire? With a smaller fire you can open your bottom vents a little more, the top vent is always open. With the smaller fire you can put your wood around the fire not in it. You're looking for pale, light blue smoke. There's a good YouTube on BBQ With Franklin about building a proper fire. Also I quit smoking at 140 F internal temperature. Maybe these tips might help a little. Over smoked meat is a big disappointment.

    I've never cooked on a Brinkman so don't know what the trouble is. But I prefer my off set for cooking ribs, while I cook my briskets and butts on the WSM. Under about $1,500 most offsets need modifications. Lowering the stack to grill level, some sort of tuning plate and a beefed upped charcoal holder are three of the most popular. Lots and lots of threads here to describe each in detail.

    As for my poor boy's modifications posted previously, I was just playing around with the Chargriller while I had a super hot fire going to clean it up a bit. I used my trusty Maverick FT 73, with probes at both ends of the smoking box. With no mods I was getting 350 on the hot side and about 300 on the stack side. Then I started playing with the charcoal basket for the smoking side. It's U shaped with welded grills and runs the length of the smoking box. It hangs from height adjusting hooks on either side of the smoking chamber. As I posted previously I never grill in the smoking chamber so the basket is excess.

    I simply turned the darn thing and the hanging hooks upside down and hung it where it was over the top of the firebox opening, and on the cold side it was about 3" from the bottom. No big deal.

    Then I started watching my temperatures again. With the firebox wide open I still had a 30 degree split, but as I started closing down the dampers the damnedest thing happened. The temp on my firebox side dropped more rapidly until the exhaust side was slightly hotter, about 10 degrees difference. Eventually both ends equalized at 250 and the little smoker just hummed along. When ever I opened the door to the smoker the temps would offset once more, but would consistently pull back to being equalized within 20 minutes. Also the smoker was much more sluggish when responding to damper setting changes.

    As I said it's an art not a science. I have no idea why it behaved like it did or if the mods would work else where, but is cocked 6 slabs of baby backs and a 6 pound pork loin and they were all pretty good.
  18. I cooked, not is cocked. IPad "helping" me out.
  19. I just got a Oklahoma Joe's Highland Smoker/Grill and I'm doing my first smoke on it today I didn't like my other one hope this one works better. I just bought some cheap ribs to try the first time on this one. But as I'm smoking I see I need to add a few more mods. All I can say is it takes time to get the hang of it don't give up to easily. It's going to take time and you will fail but as you go it will get easier. There's lot of good videos on you tube to help you a long. Plus all these guys on here are ready and able to help you along. Good luck just have patience   
  20. smokinfoodude

    smokinfoodude Newbie

    Smokenator on Weber grill. Works great. I can keep the temp between 220 and 240 degrees by adjusting the bottom vents.

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