Well the smoke turned out much better this time around since i didn't have a 300 degree smoker torching the duck breast the whole time and even though i didn't notice the same amount of smoke coming out of the smoker itself the smoke flaver is MUCH more intense than it has been the previous smokes.
I've found that the higher the smoke chamber temp, the less smoke reaction with the meat. Sometimes, I'll start a smoke at much lower temps than I plan to actually cook at just so I can get more smoke reaction right out of the gate...then, bump temps up afterwards. On larger cuts which have not been injected or de-boned, I may start the smoke @ 200*, then bump to 230-240* for the duration.
Smaller pieces generally take on alot of smoke in a very short time if the chamber temps are in the 200-220* range, so I'd say your smoker was definitely running too hot.
the digital temperature probe makes a big diference in taking the guess work out of the smoking process and allows me to keep the door closed for much longer periods of time.
Digi-probes are a must for most items in the smoker, IMO. You don't need it right away, but eventually you want to know what the internal temps are. Also, for monitoring grate/chamber temps, they're a very good tool. Oh, on larger cuts of intact whole muscle meat, I don't probe the meat until several hours into the smoke. As soon as anything punctures the meat, it can no longer be considered whole muscle meat. Probing later on allows you to waive the 40-140*/4-hr guideline, as long as I've kept reasonably hot chamber temps (220* or so).
teh biggest problem i noticed was with the position of the pans in the smoker itself. if i wanted to keep the temp at around 200 - 225 the chip pan was far away enough from the burner that it would not smoker... if i bumped it to 250 or so then the TBS would start to vaguely show up...
With my gassers, I put my meat into a cold smoker, fire-up with the burner on high and the smoke is coming on pretty well before the chamber temps are very high. Then, I back off the flame to dial-in the chamber temp I'm looking for. If the smoke wood is dry, it should continue smoldering for several hours, depending on how it's placed into the pan. If you have trouble with the duration of smoke from chips, you may want to try a larger volume piled up a bit and not spread out, or just one larger chunk instead of chips. I haven't done anything to mod my smoke box/pan (raise/lower) in my GOSM or Smoke Vault. I just get the smoke going before I dial in the chamber temps and it seems to work out pretty well.
The smoke will always come on heavier when it first starts...white smoke. This is the stage where water vapors and some volatiles in the wood are being off-gassed. Once this has stopped (usually in 5-10 minutes), you'll notice what we call thin blue smoke...this what you want for as much of the duration as possible. When this smoke seems to disappear, you'll still be able to smell smoke exiting the vents, and I consider this to still be prime smoking conditions.
Proper size, amount and loading of the smoke wood into the box/tray are the main keys. More smoke wood for longer duration, less for shorter smokes. Smaller size will help for lower chamber temps, also, as it will heat and smolder more readily at lower temps.
should i consider drilling holes to drp the chip pan even further down? how far from the burner are all of your guys' chip pans?
I would try the other method I mentioned first. Get it hot, and cut the burner flame back as soon as you smell smoke, and dial in the chamber temps from there. The smoke should slowly come on heavier as it finishes heating up from residual heat in the box/pan, and the lower burner flame should carry it through to a slow smolder for a continuous smoke for a few hours or more depending on the size and amount of wood is used.