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2nd time smoking ribs same problems

Discussion in 'Beef' started by dawydiuk, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. dawydiuk

    dawydiuk Newbie

    I'm new to the forum, and have been following trying to come up to speed on using a new side smoker I picked up. Anyway, the first time I smoked ribs I ended up throwing them out as they had this really strong flavor that would burn your lips. From reading around I thought the problem was I had to much smoke from the mesquite wood I used. This time I used primarily charcoal, only added a small amount of swoaked hickory and did my best to prevent the fire from smoking to much(although when I had to add charcoal/wood there was typically always smoke). Anyway long story short same poblem :( The outside of the ribs has this really stong flavor that burns you lips, the inside is delicious... Any suggestions on what I'm doing wrong? (PS followed these instructions http://wyntk.us/3-2-1-rib-method)
  2. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Most obvious question is what rub did you use.  If you have an offset smoker they take a while to learn.  Of all the smokers available small offsets are the hardest to keep temps right.  Try using just good lump charcoal as fuel the next time around and take your time, keep a good eye on the temp gage and learn to adjust your dampers.  Small offset do need constant watching and adjusting if you want to maintain the 240-260 cooking range.

    Welcome to the forum tell us a bit more about yourself and we will be glad to try and help

  3. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm with Al, given the information we have. I think it may be the rub you're using. Perhaps too much heat from pepper in the rub.
  4. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    I'm assuming your using a side fire box smoker. First off tell us what kind of smoker your using and what fuel, charcoal, chunks, lump. etc. Now we need to know how your vents were? You want the exhaust wide open and the intake cracked open just a bit. Now onto Thermometers, Don't assume the factory units are correct, you need to calibrate them or get some new ones that are accurate. Now onto wood, forget the mesquite and hickory for now and stick to milder woods until you understand the TBS "thin blue smoke" . Stick around here and you will be a pro in no time. [​IMG]
  5. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Mesquite is a very strong wood mostly used with beef, hickory is fine with ribs as long as you don't use too much.

    Too much cayenne pepper in the rub will burn your lips and tongue( I've made this mistake).

    Too much smoke will give you a numbing sensation on your lips and taste like, well very, very smokey ( I've also made this mistake).

    If you post the rub recipe that you used, or at least the ratio of cayenne to the rest of the ingredients we may be able to determine if too much pepper is the culprit. Or if your lips were actually numbed by the ribs it was probably too much smoke.

    BTW you don't need to soak your smoke wood.
  6. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    You saying you tried to limit the amount of smoke tells me it isn't too much smoke, but every time I hear that "burns your lips" or "Numbing of the lips", I think one thing ----CREOSOTE !

    So let us know a little about your rub too, but my suggestions are:

    Don't soak your wood.

    Open your top vent to keep the smoke from hanging in there and getting stagnant.

    Keep trying for "Thin Blue Smoke"----NO billowing white smoke.

  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    The smoker has to be able to breath so it can vent out the smoke before it's stale. Don't try to maiintain temperatures with the exhaust vent. Temp should be controlled by intakes only.

    You may find that with the exhaust vents opened up more you will have a bit higher fuel burn rate and the intakes may need to be closed down a bit more, but this coincides with a more efficient heating of the food inside the smoke chamber. If the air inside is not being exchanged at a high enough rate, the cooking process can be slower even though the chamber temps are maintained in the target range.

  8. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I agree with Bear I am thinking Creosote. What is this numbing you are talking about? Can you explain it a bit is it a spice numbing or a burnt stick taste that numbs your lips?
  9. pigcicles

    pigcicles Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When starting out with a new smoker and new to smoking, it's pretty common to want to get the smoke rolling. You say you tried to control the smoke by soaking the wood. Don't soak your wood as it is said to inhibit proper combustion which can lead to creosote build up from the smoke (tars that taste strong and burn / tingle your lips). There is a lot to be said about starting off slow and working your way up to what you like - such as starting off with just salt and pepper on your ribs, then baste the last half hour with sauce.

    Keep your temps under control with the intake as stated, keep your exhaust open. Use a good amount of charcoal - lump or briquettes. Make sure you have a good amount of airspace under your coal pile for air flow (proper combustion) and use little or no extra wood chunks (chunks work better in a sfb than chips) until you find your level of smokiness.

    Keep trying and feed these folks what they ask and you'll be on your way to plating up some of the best pigcicles you've ever had.
  10. This is all great info for us newbies... doing my third smoke today (high temp almost 60!).

    As to ceyanne pepper, I exlude it from all my rubs for exactly that reason... potent stuff!

    Ooops, gotta go check the vents on my off-set system....

  11. dawydiuk

    dawydiuk Newbie

    Wow, what a great forum. I really appreciate all the helpful responses :)

    The first rack of ribs I ruined I thought was due to creosote, and hadn't considered other possible causes. Although, after I had the same problem again I thought it might be something else as I did my best to have no white smoke. Although, everything I've read about creosote sounds exactly like what I tasted. Which makes me think I'm doing something wrong with the fuel/exhaust....

    I'm a bit unsure of how I should be adding more fuel to avoid white smoke as typically I have "coals" when I notice the temperature starts to dip so I add more fuel by putting it on the coals. This typically results in the fuel catching fire and creating white smoke, I usually will open the fire box(not sue if this is the correct term) so the smoke doesn't get to the meat although I know some does make it's way to the meat. Further occasionally I'll check the temp to find the fuel creating white smoke I'll usually try to put out the fuel that is smoking(typically on fire) to stop the smoke. So in short I'm not quite sure what kind of a fire I should be creating. I've been trying to create coals(no actual flames) but struggle with how to add more fuel with out creating white smoke, and I'm not sure what to do when I see the fire creating white smoke. Also, I've never actually seen blue smoke but assumed if I see no smoke coming out the exhaust and my temperature is in range them I'm doing good... 

    Burning Taste:


    I enjoy spicy food, I cook a lot with cayenne pepper and I would not describe this as a spicy flavor. It burns my lips for several seconds(maybe even a minute or so) after taking a bite. The flavor smells a lot like the smoke coming out of the exhaust at times. I'm not quite sure how else to explain the taste, it's not like anything I've tasted before and is terrible.  From reading the responses I'm wondering if this smell is the smell of "stail/stagnant" smoke? Which makes me think I need to somehow improve air flow, but I had my exhaust all the way open the entire time so I'm a bit stumped here...?



    New Braunfels Black Diamond, offset smoker(http://bbq.about.com/od/smokerreviews/gr/aapr072405a.htm)



    I hadn't considered the rub to be the problem, although it very possibly could as I used the same rub on both occasions. I got this recipe from a friend and may have written it down wrong... Does this look like a possible cause?

    1/2 cup paprika 

    1/4 cup fresh ground black pepper

    1/4 cup brown sugar

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

    1 tablespoon celery seed

    1 tablespoon cumin



    I used lump charcoal mainly and added a couple pieces of hickory that had been soaked in water(very very small amount of wood maybe three or four very small pieces total). I left the exhaust wide open as the first time I used the exhaust to try to help control the temperature and thought this may have been the cause the first time. This time I attempted only used the intake to control temperature although I'll admit had frequently open the fire box(again sorry I'm not sure if this is the correct term) to bring the coals closer to to create more heat or spread them out to create less heat. I see a comment where it is mentioned that I should have space below the fuel for airflow. I did clean out the ashes below the fuel the first time but did not this time, so I see there is not much space for air to flow under the fuel.



    I maintained the temp between 225-240 according to my factory installed thermometer. I'm fairly confident 99% of the time the temp was in this range, although I hadn't considered the thermometer may be inaccurate. What is a recommended reliable thermometer? I wireless one would be really cool :)

    I've found lots of information about temperatures, rubs, and techniques specifically related to the meat your smoking, but not a lot of information describing how to maintain and create the proper fire that produces blue smoke so I'm thinking I'm doing something wrong with my fuel/fire.

    Thanks again so much for all the helpful people out there. I'm looking forward to giving smoking another shot :)
  12. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Ah, wide open exhaust vent? OK, here's what I see happening: adding cold lump or briquettes over a hot coal bead will generate a ton of smoke. I add preheated fuel straight from the charcoal chimney. I don't always let it get glowing red hot unless I let my fire-base get too low.

    You know how a charcoal chimney billows out an incredible amount of smoke when you first get it burning? The same thing will happen in your smoker if you add cold fuel...tons of smoke. As long as the briquettes of lump is heated up before adding to the fire, there should be very little smoke from the fuel.

    Even with charcoal briquettes, I notice a very strong smoke odor and taste if I added cold fuel a couple times, and it seems that all it takes is a couple times.

    I think you'd have to include some really exotic and funky spices before you'd ever get the taste and burning sensation you desrcribe from a dry rub...I just don't see it happening.

    Oh, and the thin blue smoke we speak of will happen when you have a nice slow burn of the smoke wood...actually it's a smoldering instead of burning...you don't want the smoke wood to burn with a flame. The first smoke you'll see from smoke wood is always a heavy white smoke, and this is normal. It will soon change to a lighter blue color after the volatiles and water vapor have flashed out of the wood. I look for an end result from my smoke woods being a charred piece of wood, similar to hardwood lump charcoal...that's when I know I got everything right.

    So, preheat the fuel in a chimney before adding it to the fire, don't soak the smoke wood, use chunks instead of chips, place the chunks close to the fire but not directly over/in the coal-bed for a longer slower smoke...I think that'll get you headed to smoke-heaven real soon

    (EDIT): you should verify the factory temp gauge with an oven rack thermometer or digital probe. Even if you can't calibrate the factory gauge, you'll be able to have a reference as to what it reads in comparison to another. That's a critical step for proper cooking, IMO, as temps are everything when you cook low & slow, while time for the most part (other than the danger zone) is irrelevent.

    Last edited: Jan 1, 2011
  13. bbqthundar

    bbqthundar Newbie

    I would drop the cayenne pepper down to about a tsp and see how that works.  If it is creosote that is causing the numbing you will also get a bitter taste. 
  14. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Using lump charcoal you should seldom have a serious White Smoke problem. That is one of the neat things about using lump.  As described you control the temperature of the fire by adjusting the dampers on the fire box and the amount of fuel in the firebox.  Leave the exhaust stack open.

    Rub looks good to me.  I don't like to move the fire around to much, just add a couple of pieces of lump from the side, not the top door on the firebox.  I think opening the top door on the firebox lets out to much heat.  Coals are good.

    Only thing I see is maybe try a smoke without the hickory.  Use a bit of oak or pecan chips without the water soak.  Maybe 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, thrown directly on top of your coals every hour or so.  Get back to base line, using clean fuel, fully open stack and adjust the fire with the dampers.  If you are smoking at to low a temperature you will also have a creosote/soot taste so check the smoker thermo if possible.   You may kick cooking temps up to 260  see if that makes a difference but where you are should be fine.

    Good luck

  15. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    One other thing, you are letting the smoker come to temp before loading the cooking chamber.  I find that if the meat goes in wet and stays wet while the fire builds it will grab every little bit of the sooty smoke generated when you first light the fuel.
  16. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Are you lighting the coals before you add them? If adding unlit coals to the firebox creates the white smoke then this may be the problem. Try adding lit coals.

    The rub is a bit heavy on the pepper but does not seem to be overly spicy hot IMHO. Good luck [​IMG]
  17. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    That's another good point Al makes.

    We don't worry about forming a pellicle when doing ribs (unless they're cured), or anything else not cured, but try getting your smoker up to temp & settled down with as little smoke as possible for the first hour, to get it to dry some on the surface. Then push the smoke.

  18. ellymae

    ellymae Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I agree with the folks above - you may want to keep a smaller, hotter fire, or you can try the Minion method.

    1/4 cup of pepper seems like a lot to me. I like spicy food too, but too much black pepper is a deal breaker for me.
  19. smoksignlr

    smoksignlr Smoke Blower SMF Premier Member

    i totally agree with ellymae. Black pepper is 25% of your rub to me that is really high. I would try a standard rub or buy Jeffs rub. By the sounds of it smoke is not your issue.  
  20. jojo22

    jojo22 Smoke Blower

    I may be crucified here, but I have always since the very start simply used stick as fuel in my SFB, easy to find (I generally cut my own, check CL tons of adds for wood), let it season fro most the year and smoke with it, or I steal (to read its given) some from my friend. But I never really have an issue with creosote or too much of a smokey flavor. The only time this has come back to bite me was on my BBB when it got a bit warmer than I wanted, but I'm gonna fix that soon with an AMNS!