Frustrated and confused

Discussion in 'For New Members' started by smokecurl, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. Hello! I'm a complete newbie here and to smoking. I'm currently attempting to smoke chicken leg quarters in a cheap bullet-style smoker. It's not going well. Or it might be...I'm not sure.

    I'm not sure the smoker brand would help but for what it's worth, it's a Master Chef Vertical Smoker from Canadian Tire.

    Aside from problems of getting this thing up to temperature (currently holding steady at 220F or so), my main issue right now is the temperature of the chicken. I have a probe in one of the quarters which runs to an external thermometer.

    It'll go up to 168F, then drop to 160F. Then go up again to 167F, then drop down again. I've been smoking for 3.5 hours and it's been doing this weird temperature thing for the last hour or so.

    Is this normal?? Any quick way to get this thing up to a higher temperature for crispy skin?

    Any help would be most appreciated. Thanks for your time reading!


    This is my second smoke. First smoke I did Trout which had it's own share of problems but turned out anyways.
  2. Update: The chicken finally got up to 170F and then kept climbing. It was well over 200 when I filled the water bowl up again and then the temperature dropped considerably.

    I've now learned a valuable lesson - keep water bowl empty for chicken as it seems to have sucked all the heat out of there when I refilled it.

    Since the temperature dropped so much, I tried getting the fire going hotter in the bottom. Thought it was going nicely, but when I went out there just now the temperature had dropped to 150F. Ack!

    I panicked and stuck the chicken in the oven where it's cooking at 350F.

    Is the chicken still safe to eat if I finish it up in the oven? Just worried about all that temperature fluctuation.

    Anyways, just talking to myself here. Going to go read some more. If anyone can save me from salmonella, please do respond :)
  3. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Did your bird get to 140 in 4 hours?

    It looks like it did, if so your good to eat.
    smokecurl likes this.
  4. Yes, it did! Thank you!!

    It'd break my heart to have to toss them after all this. They look mighty tasty for all that I've been clucking over them.
  5. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Enjoy your supper.
  6. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I don't own a Master Chef and have never used one before but a couple of general questions to try to find out what was happening...

    I know that it has side monitoring doors but did you keep the lid closed all the time that it was cooking - or did you keep opening it to check on how the chicken was doing?

    Were you using the minion method to maintain the internal temperature?

    Did you fill up the water bowl with cold or near boiling water?

    Keeping these smokers as steady low temperature in a fine balancing act between providing just enough heat from the burn to raise the IT to 220 F and then to just compensate for the heat loss from radiation through the sides, heat loss through the top air vent and in raising the temperature of the meat being cooked. It can take quite a while for the environment in the smoker reach equilibrium and by taking off the lid this balance is completely destroyed. The whole of the IT of the smoker will drop and it will take a period of time for the equilibrium to be restored. With something relatively small like chicken legs this could easily result in temperature fluctuations within the meat itself - especially as there is a lot of bone in chicken legs and bone is also a good conductor of heat. It is inevitable that you will take the top off once or twice (more if you are not used to the smoker) but you need to keep this to a minimum.

    From what you describe it looks as if you may have added cold water to the pan (?). If you did this would have certainly reduced the IT and would have taken quite a while for the equilibrium to be restored.
    As C Farmer said - it looks as if it was perfectly safe to eat however you did exactly the right thing... As you were uncertain you took additional steps to make absolutely sure.

    I hope they tasted good [​IMG]  
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
    smokecurl likes this.
  7. After adding the chicken, I treated it like a crock pot. No peeking! The first time I lifted the lid was to add more water to the water bowl (which had evaporated). I checked IT of the chicken at the same time using another thermometer in case my probe thermometer wasn't working. The lid was off for about five? minutes I would guess. I tried to move quickly.

    Following a similar thought, the lid had been off for quite awhile BEFORE adding the chicken. I had the smoker going for about 45 minutes to get it nice and hot, went to add the chicken, and the lid separated from the handle with a clang. I had to fix the handle before getting the lid back on. That took about 20 minutes with lots of swearing.

    All this to say that even though there was a lot of user error going on, I'm going to take the smoker back and save up for a WSM. The handle falling off was in addition to another problem with it I had to fix during the first smoke. I think with a good smoker I'll have a bit more wiggle room for new smoker mistakes.

    Thanks all for your help and have a great day!
  8. brooksy

    brooksy Master of the Pit

    How bout some pics of the bird in question?
  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    A WSM is a good smoker and in my opinion is worth the additional money. You will still find that it has its idiosyncrasies too and will have to learn its ways.
  10. Thank you, Wade. Yes, I'd imagine a WSM has its own quirks. At least I'll be able to get advice based on that smoker and not this cheapo one that nobody has :)

    Brooksy - Here's a couple of pics from one of the quarters cold from the fridge. I didn't think to take any last night. Still just as tasty as the night before.

    aceoky likes this.
  11. hangin1

    hangin1 Fire Starter

    Good luck with future smokes and I agree the WSM is a great smoker but a little on the pricey side, and hopefully your future smokes will go a little more smoothly for you!
  12. brooksy

    brooksy Master of the Pit

    Good looking bird!
  13. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Tasty looking chicken. Just and FYI the food safe temp for chicken is 165*f.
    wade and aceoky like this.
  14. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    As said, safe temp is 165.

    That is where I like the breast.

    For the thighs, I like about 175.

    Not a food safety thing once it reaches 165.  But I like the thigh texture better at 175.

    Personal preferences.

    You will decide for you and yours.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  15. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Smokecurl , hello and welcome the group . We hope you enjoy it here and decide to become a neighbor .

    As for your problems , I have only one I feel will help you on all you future Smokes. Keep a BBQ Log.

    This will hold all your accomplishments and recipes (there no failures on this forum , someone knows...) .

      I have a bunch of these around . I've found they increase confidence tremendously .

    Thanks for reading and as always . . .
  16. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I am similar. I prefer 75C (167F) for breasts but i take my whole birds up to 80C (176F). I think the thighs have a much better texture there - especially around the joints.
  17. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  18. knifebld

    knifebld Smoking Fanatic

    Hey Hannah I love my WSM, but my brother bought the Master Chef Vertical Smoker from Canadian Tire, and I taught him how to use it...after playing around a little with it, here are a few comments;

    1) It is a good little smoker and your meals should turn out as good as any $500 just requires a little more tending too!

    2) Make sure that water pan stays full and initially fill it with warm/hot you's a bitch to heat up (if you don't like the water, try sand instead)

    3) Keep feeding the has a very small chamber so long smokes will be a pain

    4) Keep it away from any wind; it has an open bottom...and I found that any wind would make temps fluxuate by a lot!

    5) Buy a temperature probe to monitor your chamber temps; most factory built thermometers that come with smokers are off a little...but the Master Chef is by far the worst I have seen.

    If you love smoking and really get into it as a hobby, you will want to change smokers very soon, but my brother turned out amazing whole chickens, ribs, and pork butts on this little guy that tasted very good...just needs a little more attention. :)

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
    smokecurl likes this.
  19. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Looks like an adventure still turned out great Chicken. I just wanted to add a bit of info. Bones in meat are actually terrible conductors. Countless times in my Restaurants I have customers order their steak Medium and send it back to be cooked more because the meat against the bone was too Rare or even Raw. If the bone was a good conductor the meat by the bone would be Well done, not raw. The same situation can be seen in Chicken. The meat in the legs are done and juicy at 165°F but cut the thigh open and it will still be bloody against the bone...JJ

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