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Few questions before smoking my first butt

bigwalk

Fire Starter
35
10
Joined Jan 2, 2011
Smoking my first butt in the morning and had a few questions. First, I just got some hickory chunks and fired up the smoker to play with the smoke. I only put three pieces in and let them sit for a while. I never got any smoke at all coming from the smoker. Picking the wood up, it was charring and smoking a little. How many pieces do I need in my pan? Load it down or just three or four? Also, could I sprinkle a few chips in with it to get just a little more smoke? Second, I have a Brinkman vertical gas smoker. I have heard that the factory thermometers are unreliable so I put my meat probe on the rack and let it sit a while tonight. At the lowest setting, it was reading 267. Is that too hot? Is using the meat probe a reliable source for the smoker's temp? What could I do to cool it off? The door was reading about 180 or so. I know this is a lot of questions, but I really do not want to mess up two butts tomorrow. Thanks!
 

les3176

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Joined Feb 10, 2009
First, how big of ckunks are they? 3-4 golfball size should be enough for a good amount of smoke.How long did you give it to start smoking? If you can smell smoke,your smoking. Yes you can use a combinationof botl chips and chunks,do it all the time to mix flavors.Second i would never trust a factory thermo,but do not just lay it on a grate.You could use a small block of untreated wood and drill a hole threw it and run your probe threw it so about 2 inches stick threw.Or you can do the same thing with a potatoe,then put it on your grate.Last i don't know about your smoker but i would think you should have some type of regulation to your gas to slow the flow??If not maybe try your valve on the gas tank.Hope this helps some.I'm sure more people will be along that have your type of smoker to help ya.
 

pineywoods

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Les had you going the right direction. What you are looking for is Thin Blue Smoke (TBS) it should be a light blueish color or no smoke and just the smell of the wood. If you can smell it so can the meat. Don't let the temperature probe touch the grate try inserting it through a potato just make sure you get enough though it so you get a proper reading. Place the potato on the grate and that should give you a good reading.  Good luck with your smoke and don't forget the Qview
 

meateater

Legendary Pitmaster
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If you can smell it and not see it thats a good thing. Wisps of smoke is what you want. Get yourself a chef therm for now, avaliable in the grocery store. Run it under cold tap water and set to 78* and you will be very close. I smoke between 225*-250* myself.
 

forluvofsmoke

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I haven't seen any of your other posts yet, so I'll begin by welcoming you to SMF. Let me inject my thoughts in bold into your quote so we can both follow this easier.

 
Smoking my first butt in the morning and had a few questions. First, I just got some hickory chunks and fired up the smoker to play with the smoke. I only put three pieces in and let them sit for a while. I never got any smoke at all coming from the smoker. Picking the wood up, it was charring and smoking a little.

The chunk smoke wood should begin to smoke slowly for a longer smoke, but if you're not getting much smoke within about 15 minutes, you may need more heat to the smoke tray. If you get a rolling white smoke that doesn't seem to stop, and the smoke wood is burning up, you need less heat and/or less air to the smoke wood. With a gasser, you should have charred smoke wood after an hour or so, with little ash on/near the wood. If it's burning, it won't last and won't provide proper smoke.

How many pieces do I need in my pan? Load it down or just three or four? Also, could I sprinkle a few chips in with it to get just a little more smoke?

The more you use, the heavier the smoke, but it really doesn't take much. One chunk about 1/2 a fist size should do for about 4-5 hours if heat and air getting to the wood is the combination. The smaller the wood, the faster it will smolder and the shorter time it will smoke, but if you make a small pile of chips and have a little less heat, they should start smoldering on the bottom of the pile and that should slowly begin to work it's way up to the top of the pile, in succession.

Second, I have a Brinkman vertical gas smoker. I have heard that the factory thermometers are unreliable so I put my meat probe on the rack and let it sit a while tonight. At the lowest setting, it was reading 267. Is that too hot?

Something's not right there at all. I have no experience with your particular smoker, but my stock GOSM gasser would run down to about 100* over ambient temps, and my Smoke Vault has much more fine adjustment and can run to within 50* or less of ambient. If you had the burner control valve on low, I'm thinking that the pot vent was closed too much, or if it has lower intakes, they may be closed to much. Another thought is the water pan...if it's dry, the smoker can run very hot compared to when full of water. Even after the smoker is running at a stable temperature for an hour with water in the pan, if you were to remove the pan and dump out the water, replace the pan, close the door and leave everything else alone, the smoke chamber temp will spike very soon afterwards.

And yes, for most of the items we smoke, with the exception of some folks smoking poultry at higher temps, 267* is way too hot. For larger cuts of beef or pork, 225-240* is a good range.

Is using the meat probe a reliable source for the smoker's temp?

Yes, digital themometers are the most accurate. Analog thermometers are very susceptable to accuracy problems from vibrations, shock (dropping), etc. and need to be calibrated ocassionally, or at least verified if they can't be calibrated. that includes analog meat thermometers, btw, which due tio being handled alot, can tend to be inaccurate for the same reasons.

What could I do to cool it off?

As I discussed above, start with the vent positions, have water in the pan, be sure the burner valve is set on the lowest position. If the control is one of the weird kind with a detent to hold it in the high position while igniting, be sure the detent will release so you can rotate the knob away from the high setting.

The door was reading about 180 or so.

The door therms are notoriously inaccurate, and some (not all can be calibrated to the reading of a known accurate temp reading device such as the digital probes. If the door thermometer has a stem/probe which protrudes into the smoke chamber, they typically can be calibrated. You'll see a hex "nut" on the stem next to the back of the temp gauge body. This is where the calibration adjustment is made by rotating the stem with a wrench to read the same as another thermometer used for verifying the temp gauge in question after smoke chamber temps have stabilized for 5-10 minutes.

I know this is a lot of questions, but I really do not want to mess up two butts tomorrow. Thanks!

Are these bone-in or boneless butts? Just had a thought about if they were boneless, needing to get over 140* in 4 hours, but bone-in is not an issue. Also, don't stab the butts with a temp probe until several hours into the smoke...and don't inject them with marinades...both of these make for more comlicated smokes when cooking low and slow, and are food safety issue hurdles to overcome, so you'll want to keep things simple on meat prep. This will make it easier to be sure your meat is safe for consumption. Not to spook you or anything, just a heads up so you can have a more enjoyable first smoke with less things to worry about.

We'll get you through it. And pork butts are actually one of the easiest things I've ever smoked, so don't worry about that. If all else fails and you actually have pretty high smoke chamber temps, you could run the smoke at higher temps. It won't give quite the same resulting finished product as you would get with low & slow cooking in the 225* range, but it won't ruin the meat in any way. The smoke reaction with the meat at higher chamber temps doesn't last as long, so less smoke flavor (evidenced by a reduced amount of smoke ring) would result. The meat may not get quite as tender either, but wouldn't be ruined by any means.

Don't get yourself over concerned about the temps being too high at this point...if they were too low, I would worry as that can be a food safety issue depending on the meat. But if you can't get them jacked down, you can still smoke the butt. We can discuss the food safety issues another time...I don't want to overload your fresh smokin' brain too badly! LOL!!!!
One last note: you never want to regulate the gas flow with the tank valve. The valves have either brass or nylon packing washers, and brass valve stems and valve seats. The packing washer will get forced tightly against the vale stem and valve housing simultaneously when opened fully to prevent gas leakage, and this will only seat tightly when the valve is either fully opened. The valve stem will only seat tightly when the valve is fully closed. There's no inbetween with these valves if they are to be used safey. If gas flow regulating is not handled properly by the regulator and control valve, then there could be a defect in either one of the two, or possibly foreign matter (debris/dirt) could have gotten inside the gas regulator and this can cause the regulator valve to not fully seat, which in turn can cause excessive pressure being fed to the burner control valve.

So, let us know if there are still high temp issues with the smoker, and we'll talk about what to do about compensating for it...I'm sure there are a few tricks we can come up with for you on that...like baffling with aluminum foil...I'm thinking a foil fence hung from the grate going around the meat, but under it, just above the water pan to redirect most of the heat upwards along the chamber walls instead of it circulating inwards as much once it passes around the water pan...another one not quite as low reaching could be attached to the upper grate if two meats were being smoked...there's more than one way to skin a cat...
...we'll figure it out brother, no worries.

Eric

EDIT: started this reply quite awhile ago and didn't see most of the other's replies before I started...getting slow, and/or long winded...LOL!
 
Last edited:

bigwalk

Fire Starter
35
10
Joined Jan 2, 2011
Thanks for all the input guys. That is a big help. I am warming the smoker now, the butts are about to go in. I will try and post a follow up tonight!
 

pussiwillow

Newbie
6
10
Joined Jan 16, 2011
i just made my first pulled pork tonight in the same smoker you have. smoked a 3.18 pound picnic roast for 5.5 hours. i found if the temps get too high and you cant lower it, make sure water is in the pan, and since it isnt insulated well put a small desk fan blowing on it. cools it down pretty good. good luck and have fun hope it turns out great!
 

scarbelly

Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
14,319
71
Joined Jul 26, 2009
I haven't seen any of your other posts yet, so I'll begin by welcoming you to SMF. Let me inject my thoughts in bold into your quote so we can both follow this easier.

 
Smoking my first butt in the morning and had a few questions. First, I just got some hickory chunks and fired up the smoker to play with the smoke. I only put three pieces in and let them sit for a while. I never got any smoke at all coming from the smoker. Picking the wood up, it was charring and smoking a little.

The chunk smoke wood should begin to smoke slowly for a longer smoke, but if you're not getting much smoke within about 15 minutes, you may need more heat to the smoke tray. If you get a rolling white smoke that doesn't seem to stop, and the smoke wood is burning up, you need less heat and/or less air to the smoke wood. With a gasser, you should have charred smoke wood after an hour or so, with little ash on/near the wood. If it's burning, it won't last and won't provide proper smoke.

How many pieces do I need in my pan? Load it down or just three or four? Also, could I sprinkle a few chips in with it to get just a little more smoke?

The more you use, the heavier the smoke, but it really doesn't take much. One chunk about 1/2 a fist size should do for about 4-5 hours if heat and air getting to the wood is the combination. The smaller the wood, the faster it will smolder and the shorter time it will smoke, but if you make a small pile of chips and have a little less heat, they should start smoldering on the bottom of the pile and that should slowly begin to work it's way up to the top of the pile, in succession.

Second, I have a Brinkman vertical gas smoker. I have heard that the factory thermometers are unreliable so I put my meat probe on the rack and let it sit a while tonight. At the lowest setting, it was reading 267. Is that too hot?

Something's not right there at all. I have no experience with your particular smoker, but my stock GOSM gasser would run down to about 100* over ambient temps, and my Smoke Vault has much more fine adjustment and can run to within 50* or less of ambient. If you had the burner control valve on low, I'm thinking that the pot vent was closed too much, or if it has lower intakes, they may be closed to much. Another thought is the water pan...if it's dry, the smoker can run very hot compared to when full of water. Even after the smoker is running at a stable temperature for an hour with water in the pan, if you were to remove the pan and dump out the water, replace the pan, close the door and leave everything else alone, the smoke chamber temp will spike very soon afterwards.

And yes, for most of the items we smoke, with the exception of some folks smoking poultry at higher temps, 267* is way too hot. For larger cuts of beef or pork, 225-240* is a good range.

Is using the meat probe a reliable source for the smoker's temp?

Yes, digital themometers are the most accurate. Analog thermometers are very susceptable to accuracy problems from vibrations, shock (dropping), etc. and need to be calibrated ocassionally, or at least verified if they can't be calibrated. that includes analog meat thermometers, btw, which due tio being handled alot, can tend to be inaccurate for the same reasons.

What could I do to cool it off?

As I discussed above, start with the vent positions, have water in the pan, be sure the burner valve is set on the lowest position. If the control is one of the weird kind with a detent to hold it in the high position while igniting, be sure the detent will release so you can rotate the knob away from the high setting.

The door was reading about 180 or so.

The door therms are notoriously inaccurate, and some (not all can be calibrated to the reading of a known accurate temp reading device such as the digital probes. If the door thermometer has a stem/probe which protrudes into the smoke chamber, they typically can be calibrated. You'll see a hex "nut" on the stem next to the back of the temp gauge body. This is where the calibration adjustment is made by rotating the stem with a wrench to read the same as another thermometer used for verifying the temp gauge in question after smoke chamber temps have stabilized for 5-10 minutes.

I know this is a lot of questions, but I really do not want to mess up two butts tomorrow. Thanks!

Are these bone-in or boneless butts? Just had a thought about if they were boneless, needing to get over 140* in 4 hours, but bone-in is not an issue. Also, don't stab the butts with a temp probe until several hours into the smoke...and don't inject them with marinades...both of these make for more comlicated smokes when cooking low and slow, and are food safety issue hurdles to overcome, so you'll want to keep things simple on meat prep. This will make it easier to be sure your meat is safe for consumption. Not to spook you or anything, just a heads up so you can have a more enjoyable first smoke with less things to worry about.

We'll get you through it. And pork butts are actually one of the easiest things I've ever smoked, so don't worry about that. If all else fails and you actually have pretty high smoke chamber temps, you could run the smoke at higher temps. It won't give quite the same resulting finished product as you would get with low & slow cooking in the 225* range, but it won't ruin the meat in any way. The smoke reaction with the meat at higher chamber temps doesn't last as long, so less smoke flavor (evidenced by a reduced amount of smoke ring) would result. The meat may not get quite as tender either, but wouldn't be ruined by any means.

Don't get yourself over concerned about the temps being too high at this point...if they were too low, I would worry as that can be a food safety issue depending on the meat. But if you can't get them jacked down, you can still smoke the butt. We can discuss the food safety issues another time...I don't want to overload your fresh smokin' brain too badly! LOL!!!!
One last note: you never want to regulate the gas flow with the tank valve. The valves have either brass or nylon packing washers, and brass valve stems and valve seats. The packing washer will get forced tightly against the vale stem and valve housing simultaneously when opened fully to prevent gas leakage, and this will only seat tightly when the valve is either fully opened. The valve stem will only seat tightly when the valve is fully closed. There's no inbetween with these valves if they are to be used safey. If gas flow regulating is not handled properly by the regulator and control valve, then there could be a defect in either one of the two, or possibly foreign matter (debris/dirt) could have gotten inside the gas regulator and this can cause the regulator valve to not fully seat, which in turn can cause excessive pressure being fed to the burner control valve.

So, let us know if there are still high temp issues with the smoker, and we'll talk about what to do about compensating for it...I'm sure there are a few tricks we can come up with for you on that...like baffling with aluminum foil...I'm thinking a foil fence hung from the grate going around the meat, but under it, just above the water pan to redirect most of the heat upwards along the chamber walls instead of it circulating inwards as much once it passes around the water pan...another one not quite as low reaching could be attached to the upper grate if two meats were being smoked...there's more than one way to skin a cat...
...we'll figure it out brother, no worries.

Eric

EDIT: started this reply quite awhile ago and didn't see most of the other's replies before I started...getting slow, and/or long winded...LOL!
What he said X2

 
 

SmokinAl

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Eric, You da man!
 

mattyboombat

Newbie
1
10
Joined Jan 19, 2011
I also just got the Brinkmann Vertical gas smoker recently and have had great success but I have notice that just using the control on the grill set to the lowest setting will make the smoker run way too hot and it's been really cold out when I've used it.  I have been closing down the valve on the gas tank to regulate the temperature more accurately. Am I about to kill myself using this technique?? An suggestions on modifying the smoker to get lower temps using a safer method?
 

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