A little Advice for New Smokers

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All so very true! Thanks for posting! I too still like my $10 weber instant read, yes takes a few seconds but also still works after being dropped in a pot of hot oil.

After many times of not remembering which is the picnic and butt, I believe it was thirdeye thirdeye Explained it in a post which I then thought...it's like having a picnic under a butt... might be dumb but I bet I'll remember now!

A few thoughts for newbies, regardless of the smoker used.

I’m basically a self-taught cook and smoker. I cooked in the kitchen and outdoors for decades. The only technology I used was the oven, stovetop, and charcoal grill themselves. Heck, I didn’t even own a meat thermometer until I started cooking turkeys.

The smoking world is migrating toward more and more technology, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is often necessary due to outdoor cooking restrictions. Remember, though, heat and technology generally don’t play well together in the same sandbox. Something will eventually fail. As my well cared for and properly cleaned temperature probes fail, I find myself returning to my non-technology days.

Am I anti-technology? I sit here literally surrounded by desktops, laptops, monitors, and cell phones, so the answer should be apparent. With cooking, though, whether an oven, grill, smoker, or stovetop, the art is in the process of heat, time, and flavor profile, not the technology.

With that in mind, here are a few one-liner thoughts from my experience to stimulate discussion. Feel free to add your own one-liners.

Cold meat will NOT reach a 65-70F degree room temp in an hour on the counter unless you’re on a planet with an outside temp of 200F+ degrees and left the windows open.

More is not always better with rubs, but excess rub will generate more sales for the seller or spice dealer.

What’s the rush to load meat in a smoker when it takes several hours to smoke and rest before serving?

Smoking requires patience, period.

Know your woods, fuels, and what works best for your tastebuds.

Competition smoking is not backyard smoking and generally requires a LOT more experience to get right.

Some of the worst advice I’ve seen on occasion for new smokers is on YouTube videos or competition TV show demonstrations.

Smoking two hunks of similar meat will take as long, or just a tad longer, than one chunk of meat, depending on your smoker.

Loading cold meat in a smoker does not chill the fire; it absorbs available heat like a sponge absorbs water.

Higher chamber temps for smoking meat works great for saving time as long as there’s no sugar in the rub that can burn.

If you never inject a whole muscle and smoke at a temperature of 225F or higher, you don’t have to worry about the 40-140F four-hour rule.

ALL ground meat is safe when the 40-140F four-hour rule is followed, but the type of meat may require a higher finishing temp.

Bark tastes best on the day meat is smoked.

There’s nothing magical about low temps or constant temps when smoking meat.

Only the clock cares at what temp you smoke meat.

It is a waste of natural resources and chamber heat to smoke water.

Technology is an aid, not a guarantee of success or a replacement for the instincts necessary to create the perfect taste and texture.

Technology CAN accelerate the accumulation of smoking and cooking instincts.

Internal meat temp is a guide, NEVER a destination, UNLESS you’re cooking poultry, ground meat, non-commercial pork, or wild game.

Print out a meat pasteurization time-table and know when meat is safe to eat.

Chuckies are the most ornery hunks of meat on the planet.

Your mind cannot impact the meat; it’s done when it’s done.

An over-thought brisket is an under-cooked brisket.

A blindfolded pitmaster with a sharp two-pronged fork has a better chance of identifying a perfectly tender brisket than a wireless thermometer with a meat probe.

Learn the art of interpreting what the meat is telling you when you insert a probe for tenderness.

A pork shoulder is not the pig’s derriére, even though it’s called a butt.

Hands-off smoking is convenient until technology fails.

Hands-off smokers should be monitored every three to four hours, especially on overnight smokes, and that becomes MUCH easier with age.

Meat smoking experience is sharpened with failures, stimulated by successes, and both are generally enjoyable to eat.

No failure is a waste of meat or effort unless burned to a crisp or unsafe to eat.

Almost any failure can be converted into chili or soup.

No smoking success is a guarantee of the perfect process, as your next hunk of similar meat will often demonstrate.

Keep a log as a reference for your smoking experience.

No two smoking sessions are ever exactly the same, no matter how much experience you accumulate.

Meat doesn’t care about time or its finishing temp, but it always seems to know when to sweat and stall.

Whole poultry is the perfection of madness; skin likes high heat, white meat the opposite, and dark meat snickers at the smoker to cook it safely without drying the white meat or creating soggy skin.

How much is your time worth if a $10-$15 instant-read thermometer takes five seconds to record a turkey’s internal temperature compared to a $100 instant-read in one to two seconds?

Not all smoke is a good smoke, and the person smoking must learn to recognize the difference.

Often, a smoked hunk of meat will not reach perfection until it has rested wrapped for several hours in a warm and cozy place.

Never smoke to a serving time, or you may have a lot of hungry or disappointed eaters.

Always finish early to avoid unnecessary stress and give the meat time to rest.

Fall-off-the-bone pork ribs will make non-smokers think you are a divine pitmaster.

Don’t try something new for the first time when you intend to serve others the meal.

Always have a backup plan to wrap, change chamber temp, etc. when ignoring the above advice, and the clock is finishing faster than your meat.

A great smoke ring is a thing of absolute unfettered joy, even though it is purely for appearance.

That’s it for now.

Have a GREAT day!

thank you for the time and advise you posted. A lot of good info there
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Man I smiled several times reading that list. I resemble so many of those mistakes (and I still don't take notes - and I should!)
Awesome list Ray, thanks for posting.
I take notes...but not always good notes that I can find or always interpret if I can find them... note taking and my filing needs improvement!

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I am a note taker on every type of smoke, until I have done it enough times to memorize it. Then I still review my old notes before each smoke.

I especially like this one below & it’s why I never smoke unless I’ve got that sucker loaded full. I’d rather vacseal and freeze a bunch vs run that smoker 8 separate days/times.

“Smoking two hunks of similar meat will take as long, or just a tad longer, than one chunk of meat, depending on your smoker.”
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