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First time spare rib fail.

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
So I did my first st louis spare rib on the smoker (this was actually my first time smoking) and it didn't come out good. Before i did them i browsed some forums on here to find the best methods. First of all it was not cooked all the way. I had a hard time maintaining the heat at 225. I would get it up to about 300 then after 20 minutes it would drop 235. When it was time to add wood, it would drop to 170. Finally i would get it to maintain at 225, but does the big drop to 170 affect the cook time a lot. Btw, I was using a newbraufels smoker with a side fire box. I used charcoal and added mesquite wood chunks on it. I waited until the wood chunks burned to almost a white coal before i threw the ribs on. I also used the 3-2-1 method. When i tried the end of a rib that was cooked through, it had almost like a spicy smoke taste (almost like the smoke sat around the ribs too much, even though i had the smoke vent fully open the whole time.) Can anyone help me out, where did i go wrong. I wish i took pictures, but i didn't expect it to go this way. Everything looked good, it just didn't taste good. Any suggestions anyone?
 

vmastros

Fire Starter
72
12
Joined Sep 11, 2013
I cook on a propane smoker,BUT, I think you need a little more practice controlling the heat by adjusting the air vents. My understanding is the more air in the fire box, the hotter it will burn. When you learn to adjust the vents properly, your charcoal Will burn longer and at a lower temp.

Your patience will be rewarded.:yahoo:
 

bmudd14474

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Did you have a thick white smoke coming out of it or was it this with a blue tint?


Sounds to me like you have a major heat management issue. Have you dont any mods to the smoker?

If I was you I would worn on heat control with some chicken or pork butt. Then once you get the heat to be steady you then will have great results with the rubs.
 

cliffcarter

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Joined Feb 28, 2010
How much mesquite did you use?

Did you start with charcoal and switch to all wood?

Did you wait until the temp dropped to 170° before adding wood? I don't understand how opening the firebox door to add wood chunks causes a big drop in temperature like that unless you were cooking with wood and not preheating your splits before putting them in the firebox.

What did you use for a rub?

How often did you open the main cooking chamber to look or spray?

Were the ribs whole spares or cut St. Louis style?

I suspect that your ribs got exposed to too much mesquite smoke, which can be overpowering....but
 

radio

Master of the Pit
1,069
390
Joined Jul 28, 2013
Was the Mesquite well seasoned and dry?  I have a New Braunfels SFB and usually have no trouble maintaining temps after adding wood.  I use Oak and sometimes I keep splits/chunks in the CC while cooking and sometimes lay a few pieces on top of the FB.

When I add wood the CC temp will drop, but bounces right back within  a few minutes.

One possibility is that you might be letting the fire die down a bit too much and it isn't igniting the new wood you are adding.  I've got busy and done that a time or three and had to leave the FB lid open and fan the coals to get the new wood started.  Early on, I would freak out about temp drops or spikes, but found unless it is dramatic and lasts a long time it doesn't affect the cook

Don't get discouraged and look at this as a learning curve.
  Keep smokin"
 

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
When added new wood, i would get a thick white smoke at the beginning then it would settle to a thin blue smoke. I don't have any mods to the smoker.
 

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
 
How much mesquite did you use?

Did you start with charcoal and switch to all wood?

Did you wait until the temp dropped to 170° before adding wood? I don't understand how opening the firebox door to add wood chunks causes a big drop in temperature like that unless you were cooking with wood and not preheating your splits before putting them in the firebox.

What did you use for a rub?

How often did you open the main cooking chamber to look or spray?

Were the ribs whole spares or cut St. Louis style?

I suspect that your ribs got exposed to too much mesquite smoke, which can be overpowering....but
I got the heat started on a small bag of charcoal, then i switched to all wood chunks.

I would notice that the temp was at 200, then i would add (i did open the top of the firebox instead of the side latch)

Should i have been pre-heating my wood before adding them to the firebox? (I know this is probably a stupid question, but i am a newbie.)

I used a rub i found on here salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, chili powder.

I opened the cooking chamber once during the first 3 hours, then maybe 2 or 3 times after that.

The ribs were cut st louis style.
 

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
 
Was the Mesquite well seasoned and dry?  I have a New Braunfels SFB and usually have no trouble maintaining temps after adding wood.  I use Oak and sometimes I keep splits/chunks in the CC while cooking and sometimes lay a few pieces on top of the FB.

When I add wood the CC temp will drop, but bounces right back within  a few minutes.

One possibility is that you might be letting the fire die down a bit too much and it isn't igniting the new wood you are adding.  I've got busy and done that a time or three and had to leave the FB lid open and fan the coals to get the new wood started.  Early on, I would freak out about temp drops or spikes, but found unless it is dramatic and lasts a long time it doesn't affect the cook

Don't get discouraged and look at this as a learning curve.
  Keep smokin"
The mesquite was dry, not sure if it was well seasoned ( i bought it from the grocery store).

Would you suggest only using a couple of pieces of splits/chunks on top of some charcoal and keep using coals as fuel?

I did notice that some of my wood was not being fully ignited after checking on it 20 minutes after putting it on.
 

turnandburn

Master of the Pit
1,116
47
Joined Mar 12, 2013
id definitely worry about getting some heat management techiniques in before i worried about getting TBS. just takes practice and patience. learn that smoker from top to bottom and learn the way it cooks. and as was stated before, practice on something cheap like chicken. lol. youll get the hang of it, even a bad smoke is helpful to others comin in behind you. this is a forum full of members here to help ya learn. dont get discouraged, fire that smoker back up and get your learn and smoke on. :)
 

andypanda

Newbie
17
12
Joined Sep 10, 2010
Do what my wife does when my smokes go bad. Chop up the rib meat make PF Chang's style lettuce wraps. They are actually very good...LOL.

I have never had good luck with mesquite. I would recommend apple if you are a newb smoker. It is a sweeter flavor and much more forgiving. Work your way up to mesquite and consider less smoke when using it.

Also I would recommend if you are very new to smoking try pork butts for you first few smokes. Ribs can be tricky. They too are more forgiving. But the 3-2-1 is the ticket.

Good Luck!
 
Last edited:

radio

Master of the Pit
1,069
390
Joined Jul 28, 2013
 
 
Was the Mesquite well seasoned and dry?  I have a New Braunfels SFB and usually have no trouble maintaining temps after adding wood.  I use Oak and sometimes I keep splits/chunks in the CC while cooking and sometimes lay a few pieces on top of the FB.

When I add wood the CC temp will drop, but bounces right back within  a few minutes.

One possibility is that you might be letting the fire die down a bit too much and it isn't igniting the new wood you are adding.  I've got busy and done that a time or three and had to leave the FB lid open and fan the coals to get the new wood started.  Early on, I would freak out about temp drops or spikes, but found unless it is dramatic and lasts a long time it doesn't affect the cook

Don't get discouraged and look at this as a learning curve.
  Keep smokin"
The mesquite was dry, not sure if it was well seasoned ( i bought it from the grocery store).

Would you suggest only using a couple of pieces of splits/chunks on top of some charcoal and keep using coals as fuel?

I did notice that some of my wood was not being fully ignited after checking on it 20 minutes after putting it on.
If it was good sized pieces, try splitting it and preheat it in the CC or on top of the FB before adding to the coals. If the pieces are 12 inches or longer, try cutting it in half also. An electric miter saw works very well for this task, but be very careful about it kicking the wood across the shop  Also make sure to keep fingers intact.


Have the cap over the stack wide open also and manage the heat with the vent on the FB door.  The door on my New Braunfels has gaps around the edges so my vent is usually open about 1/2 to one inch

Also make sure the grate in the FB is at least 3 to 4 inches off the bottom of the FB and not filled with ashes so the air can come up underneath your coals and wood
 

cliffcarter

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Group Lead
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Joined Feb 28, 2010
 
I got the heat started on a small bag of charcoal, then i switched to all wood chunks.

I would notice that the temp was at 200, then i would add (i did open the top of the firebox instead of the side latch)

Should i have been pre-heating my wood before adding them to the firebox? (I know this is probably a stupid question, but i am a newbie.)

I used a rub i found on here salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, chili powder.

I opened the cooking chamber once during the first 3 hours, then maybe 2 or 3 times after that.

The ribs were cut st louis style.
Yes, you should always preheat the splits when cooking with wood, they will begin burning as soon as you add them to the coals thus minimizing any smoldering and excessive smoke. I preheat on top of the firebox. IMHO your tasted foul because they were over smoked with mesquite, a wood that should be used sparingly(again my opinion, based on my experience with mesquite).

Try and find some seasoned oak to cook with, it should be plentiful in and around Austin.
 

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
Thanks for all your help guys. I am going to take all of your considerations and put them to good use when i hit the smoker again this weekend. Thanks again!!
 

rabbithutch

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
1,600
46
Joined Oct 15, 2011
Howdy, neighbor!

Just up I35 from you in Temple. I can't offer any help with the NB SFB 'cause I don't have one and have never used one but I'll join the others in saying that you need to work on temp control. Have you looked into the Minion method for charcoal? Don't know if it will work in the SFB, but I do know that it gives me tons of heat control in my weber kettle and my mini-WSM. Again, I don't do any all wood smoking - use charcoal for heat and wood for smoke - so I can't offer you any help there except to say that charcoal is a more consistent heat which should help you while you're learning to control temps on your smoker.

How were you measuring your temps? I had trouble maintaining temps until I got a good dual probe thermometer so that I could measure smoke chamber temp without opening the door and could also monitor meat temps. The Maverick ET732 seems to be the favorite.

Opening your smoke chamber causes an awful lot of heat loss every time you do it. Takes awhile to build it back up which causes your meat to slow down a bit. I'd suggest you suppress the urge to look and rely on the thermometers more until you have more experience with it.

Remember, if you ribs don't come off the smoker fully cooked, you can always wrap them in foil and use your kitchen over to finish them.

HTH.
 

backwoods bbq

Meat Mopper
256
21
Joined May 2, 2012
heres the deal on good BBQ. Good BBQ doesn't start with seasonings, marinade, or rubs. Good BBQ starts with Fire management. Spare ribs are better at 275-300 degrees since they have less fat than country style, Kansas city style. Other ribs I prefer 250 or so. Post oak is pretty popular in the ATX and is a decent wood even though it does not burn as hot as red oak or mesquite. That being said, You need to experiment with how woods burn, season your own wood, there are learning curves to venture down. You are using a small offset. GOOD FOR YOU! electric smokers as a beginner will make you lazy and will prohibit learning the basics of bbq. It sounds ridiculous, but you should probably practice burning a fire in your smoker and seeing how steady you can keep the temp. I wouldn't even stick meat inside that thing until you get halfway decent. It sounds strange, but you will learn more by watching and keeping a fire then focusing on cooking something on your smoker and distracting you from the fire.  Also, mesquite is a very strong wood. It burns very hot. Each wood will put out different amounts of BTUs. Experiment with log chunks, split stathes, and wood chips. Eventually you will not need charcoal, you will be able to pick up a piece of wood tell if it is green or seasoned and tell how hot it will burn just by diameter and how heavy it is. (I know people laugh, but when they ask me how I make good BBQ I say "I'm a good fire maker." There are more facets to BBQ than people realize. some people never take into consideration when a log breaks open it gets hotter from unreleased heat due to coals that will spike your temp upward. You should have some wood 12 month seasoned and maybe 6 month seasoned. I like to use multi types of wood and multi types of log lengths, and cut sizes. Sorry I got off on a tangent, BBQ is my life and I get excited when I get free time to discuss it. What did you do wrong? temp was not steady, fire was to dirty, temp was to low, ribs could have not been cooked thoroughly. If you decide to cook something again instead of working with a fire first try this: Burn a nice bed of mesquite coals down in your smoker with the lid up on both lids. (Mesquite coals will still be burning hot when other wood coals will have burnt to ash) Once you have a good bed of coals burning you can add a small amount of wood to your coals this will enable a few things to happen 1. Your fire will burn clean and can attain thin blue smoke. 2. your fire will be easier to control. With ribs you may only need a few loads of mesquite coals and I would suggest burning them into a separate receptacle and shoveling in as needed. Don't be afraid to smoke ribs at 275-300 on your narrow spares, and 250-275 on country style. use a water pan and leave fat on them you will be just fine. Its a lot of work becoming a pit master and it all starts with fire management! You do have a leg up though...your from Texas, and you have some great BBQ restaurants and plentiful wood supply all around you! Good Luck and just remember "A true Pit Master is born from managing a great fire, not sprinkling seasoning and mopping meat"
 

turnandburn

Master of the Pit
1,116
47
Joined Mar 12, 2013
heres the deal on good BBQ. Good BBQ doesn't start with seasonings, marinade, or rubs. Good BBQ starts with Fire management. Spare ribs are better at 275-300 degrees since they have less fat than country style, Kansas city style. Other ribs I prefer 250 or so. Post oak is pretty popular in the ATX and is a decent wood even though it does not burn as hot as red oak or mesquite. That being said, You need to experiment with how woods burn, season your own wood, there are learning curves to venture down. You are using a small offset. GOOD FOR YOU! electric smokers as a beginner will make you lazy and will prohibit learning the basics of bbq. It sounds ridiculous, but you should probably practice burning a fire in your smoker and seeing how steady you can keep the temp. I wouldn't even stick meat inside that thing until you get halfway decent. It sounds strange, but you will learn more by watching and keeping a fire then focusing on cooking something on your smoker and distracting you from the fire.  Also, mesquite is a very strong wood. It burns very hot. Each wood will put out different amounts of BTUs. Experiment with log chunks, split stathes, and wood chips. Eventually you will not need charcoal, you will be able to pick up a piece of wood tell if it is green or seasoned and tell how hot it will burn just by diameter and how heavy it is. (I know people laugh, but when they ask me how I make good BBQ I say "I'm a good fire maker." There are more facets to BBQ than people realize. some people never take into consideration when a log breaks open it gets hotter from unreleased heat due to coals that will spike your temp upward. You should have some wood 12 month seasoned and maybe 6 month seasoned. I like to use multi types of wood and multi types of log lengths, and cut sizes. Sorry I got off on a tangent, BBQ is my life and I get excited when I get free time to discuss it. What did you do wrong? temp was not steady, fire was to dirty, temp was to low, ribs could have not been cooked thoroughly. If you decide to cook something again instead of working with a fire first try this: Burn a nice bed of mesquite coals down in your smoker with the lid up on both lids. (Mesquite coals will still be burning hot when other wood coals will have burnt to ash) Once you have a good bed of coals burning you can add a small amount of wood to your coals this will enable a few things to happen 1. Your fire will burn clean and can attain thin blue smoke. 2. your fire will be easier to control. With ribs you may only need a few loads of mesquite coals and I would suggest burning them into a separate receptacle and shoveling in as needed. Don't be afraid to smoke ribs at 275-300 on your narrow spares, and 250-275 on country style. use a water pan and leave fat on them you will be just fine. Its a lot of work becoming a pit master and it all starts with fire management! You do have a leg up though...your from Texas, and you have some great BBQ restaurants and plentiful wood supply all around you! Good Luck and just remember "A true Pit Master is born from managing a great fire, not sprinkling seasoning and mopping meat"
gentlemen...a toast!.. :) :) :)
 

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
Howdy, neighbor!

Just up I35 from you in Temple. I can't offer any help with the NB SFB 'cause I don't have one and have never used one but I'll join the others in saying that you need to work on temp control. Have you looked into the Minion method for charcoal? Don't know if it will work in the SFB, but I do know that it gives me tons of heat control in my weber kettle and my mini-WSM. Again, I don't do any all wood smoking - use charcoal for heat and wood for smoke - so I can't offer you any help there except to say that charcoal is a more consistent heat which should help you while you're learning to control temps on your smoker.

How were you measuring your temps? I had trouble maintaining temps until I got a good dual probe thermometer so that I could measure smoke chamber temp without opening the door and could also monitor meat temps. The Maverick ET732 seems to be the favorite.

Opening your smoke chamber causes an awful lot of heat loss every time you do it. Takes awhile to build it back up which causes your meat to slow down a bit. I'd suggest you suppress the urge to look and rely on the thermometers more until you have more experience with it.

Remember, if you ribs don't come off the smoker fully cooked, you can always wrap them in foil and use your kitchen over to finish them.

HTH.
Temple's just up the road from us. Nice to see some neighbors helping a fellow Texan out!

I have a thermometer on my cooking chamber, but i was noticing it was ticking up or down 25 degrees at a time, it would rarely fall in-between. I think i might change it just to be on the safe side. As for a meat thermometer i have a non-digital one that i picked up at a local restaurant supply store.

I do have an urge to open the chamber to check the meat, but i only did it 3 times during my cooking process. I will look into getting a thermometer that i can keep in the meat without opening the CC.

Thanks for the advice!
 

bigbodytexas

Newbie
9
10
Joined Aug 23, 2013
 
heres the deal on good BBQ. Good BBQ doesn't start with seasonings, marinade, or rubs. Good BBQ starts with Fire management. Spare ribs are better at 275-300 degrees since they have less fat than country style, Kansas city style. Other ribs I prefer 250 or so. Post oak is pretty popular in the ATX and is a decent wood even though it does not burn as hot as red oak or mesquite. That being said, You need to experiment with how woods burn, season your own wood, there are learning curves to venture down. You are using a small offset. GOOD FOR YOU! electric smokers as a beginner will make you lazy and will prohibit learning the basics of bbq. It sounds ridiculous, but you should probably practice burning a fire in your smoker and seeing how steady you can keep the temp. I wouldn't even stick meat inside that thing until you get halfway decent. It sounds strange, but you will learn more by watching and keeping a fire then focusing on cooking something on your smoker and distracting you from the fire.  Also, mesquite is a very strong wood. It burns very hot. Each wood will put out different amounts of BTUs. Experiment with log chunks, split stathes, and wood chips. Eventually you will not need charcoal, you will be able to pick up a piece of wood tell if it is green or seasoned and tell how hot it will burn just by diameter and how heavy it is. (I know people laugh, but when they ask me how I make good BBQ I say "I'm a good fire maker." There are more facets to BBQ than people realize. some people never take into consideration when a log breaks open it gets hotter from unreleased heat due to coals that will spike your temp upward. You should have some wood 12 month seasoned and maybe 6 month seasoned. I like to use multi types of wood and multi types of log lengths, and cut sizes. Sorry I got off on a tangent, BBQ is my life and I get excited when I get free time to discuss it. What did you do wrong? temp was not steady, fire was to dirty, temp was to low, ribs could have not been cooked thoroughly. If you decide to cook something again instead of working with a fire first try this: Burn a nice bed of mesquite coals down in your smoker with the lid up on both lids. (Mesquite coals will still be burning hot when other wood coals will have burnt to ash) Once you have a good bed of coals burning you can add a small amount of wood to your coals this will enable a few things to happen 1. Your fire will burn clean and can attain thin blue smoke. 2. your fire will be easier to control. With ribs you may only need a few loads of mesquite coals and I would suggest burning them into a separate receptacle and shoveling in as needed. Don't be afraid to smoke ribs at 275-300 on your narrow spares, and 250-275 on country style. use a water pan and leave fat on them you will be just fine. Its a lot of work becoming a pit master and it all starts with fire management! You do have a leg up though...your from Texas, and you have some great BBQ restaurants and plentiful wood supply all around you! Good Luck and just remember "A true Pit Master is born from managing a great fire, not sprinkling seasoning and mopping meat"
Wow, those were great words of advice. I'm motivated to hit the pit now and just learn how my smoker works. I'm going to just burn wood and coals to get the feel of it and when i am ready i will throw some meat on. I'll make sure to take pictures this time and post them as soon as i get up and running. Thanks again for your great tips!
 

rabbithutch

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
1,600
46
Joined Oct 15, 2011
heres the deal on good BBQ. Good BBQ doesn't start with seasonings, marinade, or rubs. Good BBQ starts with Fire management. Spare ribs are better at 275-300 degrees since they have less fat than country style, Kansas city style. Other ribs I prefer 250 or so. Post oak is pretty popular in the ATX and is a decent wood even though it does not burn as hot as red oak or mesquite. That being said, You need to experiment with how woods burn, season your own wood, there are learning curves to venture down. You are using a small offset. GOOD FOR YOU! electric smokers as a beginner will make you lazy and will prohibit learning the basics of bbq. It sounds ridiculous, but you should probably practice burning a fire in your smoker and seeing how steady you can keep the temp. I wouldn't even stick meat inside that thing until you get halfway decent. It sounds strange, but you will learn more by watching and keeping a fire then focusing on cooking something on your smoker and distracting you from the fire.  Also, mesquite is a very strong wood. It burns very hot. Each wood will put out different amounts of BTUs. Experiment with log chunks, split stathes, and wood chips. Eventually you will not need charcoal, you will be able to pick up a piece of wood tell if it is green or seasoned and tell how hot it will burn just by diameter and how heavy it is. (I know people laugh, but when they ask me how I make good BBQ I say "I'm a good fire maker." There are more facets to BBQ than people realize. some people never take into consideration when a log breaks open it gets hotter from unreleased heat due to coals that will spike your temp upward. You should have some wood 12 month seasoned and maybe 6 month seasoned. I like to use multi types of wood and multi types of log lengths, and cut sizes. Sorry I got off on a tangent, BBQ is my life and I get excited when I get free time to discuss it. What did you do wrong? temp was not steady, fire was to dirty, temp was to low, ribs could have not been cooked thoroughly. If you decide to cook something again instead of working with a fire first try this: Burn a nice bed of mesquite coals down in your smoker with the lid up on both lids. (Mesquite coals will still be burning hot when other wood coals will have burnt to ash) Once you have a good bed of coals burning you can add a small amount of wood to your coals this will enable a few things to happen 1. Your fire will burn clean and can attain thin blue smoke. 2. your fire will be easier to control. With ribs you may only need a few loads of mesquite coals and I would suggest burning them into a separate receptacle and shoveling in as needed. Don't be afraid to smoke ribs at 275-300 on your narrow spares, and 250-275 on country style. use a water pan and leave fat on them you will be just fine. Its a lot of work becoming a pit master and it all starts with fire management! You do have a leg up though...your from Texas, and you have some great BBQ restaurants and plentiful wood supply all around you! Good Luck and just remember "A true Pit Master is born from managing a great fire, not sprinkling seasoning and mopping meat"
gentlemen...a toast!.. :) :) :)
Hear! Hear!
 

kcphilaflyer

Fire Starter
40
10
Joined Jul 2, 2012
A SFB smoker definately takes time to get used to.  I have a Yoder Cheyenne 16" built like a tank so it holds heat well.

I start out with dumping about half a chimney of unlit lump into the firebox, then light up a full chimney of lump, wait until its fully lit then dump it in, along with a few 8"x3" splits of hickory/oak, leave the chimney, firebox lid  and vent door wide open for about 15 minutes, then shut the firebox lid and close the vent halfway, by then I have a solid bed of very hot coals, the smoker is starting to heat up nicely, then add splits of wood as needed and some lump here and there depending on how long of a smoke I'm doing.  And I put the splits and even the bigger pieces of fresh lump somewhere in a corner in the firebox to warm up so when they need to hit the fire, no white smoke to fight with.
 

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