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First smoke could have been better (long post)


Fire Starter
Joined Mar 21, 2007
Did my first smoke on a WSM yesterday, and made several errors.

I intended to use the timeline that Zardnok gave me as a baseline, modified for a much smaller butt. I wound up putting about 12 pounds of ribs (two racks of spares), and a 3.5 pound butt on at the same time, ribs on the top shelf.

First mistake: didn't trim the meat from the ends of the racks (the skirt meat?), resulting in uneven cooking of the meat.

When I noticed a foul odor coming from the smoker, I assumed it was paint or something else from the factory burning off. I opened the bottom vents all the way to bring the heat up, hoping it would clean everything out so I could still smoke yesterday, and let it go for about 1 1/2 hours (my thermometer, which read 210 degrees in boiling water, said the temp got up to about 330). I was burning two weber chimneys full of coals.

Which leads to...

Second mistake: failing to prepare more coals in the chimney to make up for the fuel I lost with the vents wide open. I just threw a few more briquettes in, and put the meat on, but couldn't get the temp to stay at 225, even with the vents open. When the temp started to drop, I stirred the coals and realized that there were hardly any left, and the extras I had tossed in didn't even appear to be lit. In a blinding flash of the obvious, I realized I must have burned them up with the vents wide open in the 1 1/2 hours before the meat went on. I fired up another half chimney and put them in. By this time, the average temp had been about 210. With the new coals in, I still had to keep the vents wide open to maintain 225-235, so the fire was burning pretty fast.

Third mistake: After a couple more hours, it was getting late, so I decided to take my chances with the ribs, and leave the butt on for a while. The ribs looked done, but the internal temp of the butt was only 140.
It turned out that the only ribs that were done all the way were the smaller ones on the short end.

Well, OK, with the beans, corn, and biscuits, there was enough chow to feed us with the ribs that were done, so dinner wasn't a total loss. It was also starting to rain, and the temp in the smoker was starting to drop, so I decided to put the butt, along with the undercooked ribs, in the oven at 225, wrapped in foil.

About midnight, we were falling asleep on the couch (weren't prepared for an all nighter) so I took them out. I couldn't believe it, but the butt still wasn't up to 195 (got to about 160) and even some of the ribs were not quite done. I figured it must be because I didn't have a consistent 225 long enough while they were in the smoker. I probably should have left the meat in the oven and gone to bed with the alarm set for about two hours.

This morning I pulled what was edible off the ribs and butt, and threw out a lot of undercooked meat. The cooked meat is edible, but nothing to write home about. I used the BRITU rub, and the finishing sauce that Jeff posted, which was very good. The salvaged meat is all mixed together in the fridge with the sauce. There's enough left for sandwiches for a few days.

Next time:

Trim the ribs

Do a better job monitoring fuel consumption

Start earlier

If I still bone it up, at least leave everything in the oven until it's done

Thanks for reading my rant. I'll probably give it another whirl next weekend.



Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined May 21, 2006
It happens
, as long as you learn something from the experience, it isn't a total loss.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Jul 16, 2006
Every time you work with a new proceedure or piece of equipment there is a learning process. We all have experienced that. Hang in there and make your mistakes this time work for you next time.

Take care, have fun, and do good!




Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jan 25, 2007
Tom, for every bad smoke you have, I bet you will have 5 great one's....don't get discouraged, It's a learning curve for all of us.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Feb 7, 2007
Chalk it up to a learning mistake. Been there, done that. I promise, you are not the only one! Do a smile, learn, and keep on smokin!


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Feb 22, 2007
hey at least you learn what to do and not to do for next time...


Legendary Pitmaster
Joined Nov 18, 2006
Tom -

As long as it's edible and you leaned something it's not a total loss!


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