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I need some guidance on my first smoking voyage

Discussion in 'Beef' started by midwestpatsfan, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. First off, this site is great! I have wasted almost an entire morning of work just reading up on smoking.  I was recently given a small smoker and was going to give brisket a shot this weekend, but I am a little nervous and have some questions that I have not seemed to be able to find the answer to quite yet. I did some ribs last weekend and they turned out great but I honestly think it may have been dumb luck, so any answers to these questions would be very much appreciated.

    1. Should there be a lot of smoke coming out of the smoker during cooking. This is probably a stupid question, but during the ribs, I saw little to no smoke coming out of the smoker at all.

    2. How much of the wood chips should I be using?  I made up several small tinfoil wrapped packs that I put in each time I added more charcoal, maybe 2" by 3" in size.  Since I have never smoked anything before, I am not sure how much I should be using. Like I said, the ribs were very good, but I wouldn't say that I really got the hickory wood coming through all that much, but maybe subtle is ideal.

    3. Do you recommend dry rubbing or putting BBQ sauce on the brisket, or both. I cannot seem to get a feel for if I should be doing one or the other, or both.

    [​IMG]. Should I be putting something on the piece of meat before I put the rub on it? I was confused by some postings talking about smothering it in mustard but then later talking about their rub and mop they were using. Is that a 3 step program that is recommended?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions and help.
  2. shooter1

    shooter1 Smoking Fanatic

    Welcome aboard! I'll try to help with your questions the way that I do it and I'm sure others will be along soon with some pointers as well. I have a question for you as well. What type of smoker/brand do you have? You definitely came to the right place.

    1. Around here it is called TBS or Thin Blue Smoke. You don't want billowing white smoke coming out. Many times you can hardly tell smoke is coming out. Once you get your fire going and your smoke wood added you want the smoker to settle in and let the smoke diisipate. Heavy white smoke will make the meat/food taste bitter and unedible.

    2. If you don't have chunks you will have to use a substantial amount of chips for a long smoke like a brisket. Kinda hard for me to tell how much wood chips you will need to use. Maybe someone else can be more helpful.

    3. I do reccomend putting a dry rub on of your liking. Plenty of recipes on this site or you can also go store bought till you find something you like. Many inject their briskets with various concoctions. I would not use a BBQ sauce unless you were to do that at the very end or if you were going to make burnt ends. During such a long smoke the sauce will burn.

    4. You can use a slather of mustard before you apply the rub as the mustard taste cooks out. I personally do not. You can also use Extra Virgin Olive Oil or just put the rub directly on the meat. Some let it sit in fridge overnite or longer others put the rub on right before it goes in the smoker. The mop is what you use to baste or mop the meat during the smoke to keep it moist. Once again many different concoctions for mops as well.

    You my friend have lots of experimenting to do. I hope this helped you a little and good luck on your smoke. Look forward to seeing some pics.
  3. subzero

    subzero Newbie

    1. A lot of smoke could create creosote. You definitely don't want that. TBS, or thin blue smoke is what you're after. If you can barely see it, but you can smell smoke, you're doing it right.

    2. How much wood to use is a tougher one. It depends on how "smokey" you like you're meat. I use both a UDS and an offset Brinkman smoker. I usually start with 2-3 fist size chunks of whichever wood I'm using. That will typically give me the right amount of smoke for my taste. Although I have added more throughout the smoke if I want to add some wood chips of a different flavor, like mixing Mesquite and Apple.

    3. I typically use only dry rubs. It just suites me better. I do on occasion add some bbq sauce towards the end of the smoke. Like the last 20-30 minutes. Sweet Baby Rays is my personal favorite. Just keep in mind, that adding it too early could cause the sauce to burn instead of creating a nice "glaze". 20-30 minutes seems like the right time for me.

    4. Some people suggest slathering with mustard to help the dry-rub to stick. I've never really seen a need for it. You won't taste the mustard when done. It's just used for the stickiness factor.

    Hope this helps. Of course this is all just my opinion, and what I've gotten from personal experience. YMMV.
  4. Thanks a bunch for all the advice! I am really excited to give this a try.  I have a small smoker, it is the brinkmann smoker that I see on the main homepage. Looks like a big black bullet I guess. Has a little silver door on the side to check the meat and add more coals to the fire. If you have any rub suggestions I will take them. I have a store bought one, but a recipe from a veteran smoker would be much better.  Not sure the wife has a whole lot of confidence in me on doing this. Also, where can I buy the correct type of thermometer and where do I put it. I am guessing stick it in the meat for the internal heat temp. but I do see people talking about temps for the fire as well. Do I get one and just set it inside the smoker?

    Thanks again. I will let everyone know how this goes. Saturday is the big day, so I will probably keep asking questions until then. Also, I have a little over a 5lb brisket (cut it in half, just me and the wife, cannot see smoking all 10 as I am trying to learn) what is a rough timeline I should be looking at as far as cooking time?
  5. solaryellow

    solaryellow Limited Mod Group Lead

    Here is a simple rub that I like to use on beef including brisket.

    1/3 cup kosher salt

    1/3 cup ground black pepper

    1 tbsp garlic powder

    1 tbsp onion powder

    1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder (if you want to kick it up use chipotle or cayenne instead of ancho)

    *A quick edit since you are new. Do not use the all of the rub unless needed. I made the mistake of giving a rub to a buddy of mine recently who was new and he thought he had to use it all. Rub enough on to coat. No need to use it all. :o)

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
  6. scarbelly

    scarbelly Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

    Here is a rub I have used many times with good success

    Wild Willy's Wonderful Rub

    3/4 cup paprika
    1/4 cup ground black pepper
    1/4 cup salt
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    2 tablespoons garlic powder
    2 tablespoons onion powder
    2 teaspoons cayenne

    Mix it all together in a bowl. I like to use a small wire whisk to make sure everything gets mixed very well.

    Store in an airtight container.
  7. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to SMF glad you decided to join us.

    As the others have said you want thin blue smoke or no smoke and only the smell of the wood. The amount of time a foil pack lasts will vary with temps, dryness of the chips etc. You can add new chips as you need them based on smell more than smoke.

    A coat of mustard just helps the rub stick and if you don't taste the mustard when done many of us just buy the cheapest mustard they have. Some people inject the brisket others don't. Many people will spritz/mop with liquid every hour to hour and a half after the first couple hours as well other people don't as they don't want to loose all the heat by opening the smoker.

    Thermos can be bought at most Home Depots, Lowes, or even Walmart many use more than one thermo. They use one to monitor the smoker temp as most stock thermos that are on the smoker are inaccurate. If you do this stick the probe thru a potato or block of wood with the probe sticking out the other side at least 2-3" and place it on the grate next to the meat. Another thermo or if you have one with dual probes goes into the meat to measure internal temps. Heres a link to the type thermometer we're talking about


    Heres another link to a very good thread on a basic brisket smoke


    Have fun and happy smoking
  8. you are all a wealth of knowledge and I hate to ask for any other answers, but just one more. It sounds like a mop is a good idea to keep the meat moist, are there any mops you recommend that compliment the dry rubs well?
  9. solaryellow

    solaryellow Limited Mod Group Lead

    My personal opinion but I have never mopped a brisket and don't see a need for it.
  10. disbe81

    disbe81 Smoke Blower

    I dont mop anything. I have a water bottle that is about half water half apple juice and 1 shot of scotch or bourbon and mist my meat when i am flipping it or checking on it.
  11. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    For your first go keep the brisket simple. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper - good, solid, basic, hard to go wrong (unless you use too much cayenne... lol).

    If you don't have chunks of wood, role down to Home Depot, Lowes, ect. and in the BBQ section they will have a 5 lb. bag of wood chunks, usually mesquite and hickory - get one of each. Start with 3 or 4 chunks for the first 2 hrs., then add 1 or 2 chunks every hour or so till you are ready to foil the brisket. Note - when you first add the chunks you will get thick heavy smoke for a couple of minutes till they heat up and start to burn cleanly, don't worry it's OK.

    When you buy your brisket, if it is a full packer with a fat cap on it trim the fat cap down to approx. 1/4" thick, score with a knife down to the meat, and apply your dry rub. Let is sit for 6-12 hrs. in the fride, pull from fridge about 1 hr. before you start your smoke to let it warm up a bit.

    If you buy a trimmed flat that has no fat cap on it, then rub it all over with dry rub, fridge for 6-12 hrs, pull while getting smoker ready.... and the new part - lay a couple of slices of bacon over the top of it to help keep it moist.

    During the smoke try to not open your smoker as much as possible. If you are peeking/mopping/sauceing/ect. you are losing heat and not cooking. Each peak can add 10-15 minutes to a long smoke, so peak 6 times and you add 1-2 hrs. to your smoke!

    Main secret of brisket is don't rush it. Keep your temps between 200° and 220° as much as possible, and let it do it's thing. Every piece of meat is differant, and you just have to be patient an wait.

    Good luck! Don't forget the Q-View! [​IMG]
  12. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    My friend you have the classic ECB or extra cheap brinkman smoker. Like everyone said, get A good accurate thermometer, two is better. I am poor at the moment so I use A turkey fryer thermometer and drilled A hole just under the top rack of my ecb. I would not be able to rely on this thermometer if I had not checked it in boiling water. I actually check it before every smoke. Boiling point at sea level is 212 degrees. I live at 5200 feet so for me it is 202. I just pull it out and stick it in the meat to check internal temps. My birthday is in A week and the wife knows I want A digital dual remote probe set up. We shall see. There are many great and easy modifications you can do to your smoker to make it work better and much more user friendly. I switched one of mine to propane and use it way more than the other now. Make sure you use your water pan with as hot of tap water that you can get to start with. It sounded like you may not be using it as you said something about checking the meat through the door. The water in the pan will not go over 212 degrees and holds A more even temperature because of thermal mass. In the charcoal smoker section of this forum you can see all kinds of cool stuff you can do to your little R2D2. I have also added an old weber air vent into the lid and this seems to help with venting some heat on overly hot days. Temperature is crucial and like someone else said you can't rush A good thing. Just remember, low and slow, and most importantly thin blue smoke. Good luck and happy smoking.
  13. realtorterry

    realtorterry Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    someone here once posted this for me & ive always saved it. time to pass it on! This is how your smoke should look [​IMG]
  14. deannc

    deannc Master of the Pit

    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
  15. Okay,

    Well, a change of plan has moved up the smoke date to today. I put the meat on right at 10 am this morning and have my fingers cross.

    I went out and got 2 thermometers last night, I put the rub on last night as well, made the cross cuts in the fat and it looks like I have smoke just like the picture above like realtorterry shows, so we are off and running. I will be monitoring my ecb's temp closely as well as my meats.

    I plan on letting the meat get to 165 then wrapping it in tinfoil, putting it back on the smoker until it hits 190 and then wrapping it in blankets in a cooler until its eating time. Does all that sound good.

    Still have not decided on weather or not to use a mop. I have not recieved any mop recipes so I may just go with the rub unless I hear otherwise throughout the day. If anyone feels strongly that I should, please let me know.
  16. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    Honestly I think I would only mop/spritz when I already had the smoker open. Many things can be used for a mop/spritz I like apple juice and Captain Morgan's spiced rum mixed 3 parts apple juice to 1 part rum but I've used just plain apple juice too. Make sure to seal the foil tight to prevent juice loss
  17. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    If you have a smaller smoker getting to and holding the correct cooking temperature is both tricky and important.  I mop, baste everything I smoke but not at the expense of loosing a stable cooking temperature.  If I have the smoker stable I will forgo mopping.  But, since you have a smaller smoker you will need to add fuel during the process, this is when I mop.  I usually get a bit of temp spike after adding fuel so that's when I mop to help reduce chamber temperature.  I also put a large foil pan under the meat (not chicken) while in the smoker,  it catches the extra basting liquid and rub that gets washed off.  Not to mention all that good fat that renders during the smoke.  I use these pan drippings as baste, add to the foiling step or skim the fat out of it and use to season the baked beans.

    Great to have you on the site.  One thing I have learned while here is that other then safe internal temperatures there are no hard and fast rules.  You can be creative and original when you cook, just be sure to share those experiences with us.  I've used anything from pure apple juice, to diluted blackberry juice, to pineapple juice, to a million combinations of spices and liquids as bastes.  And you know what, the only time my food has disappointed is when I use too much rub or cook to the wrong internal temperature. 

  18. Dutch

    Dutch Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    To help confuse you further- a mop is thinner than a spritz and requires a BBQ mop or a basting brush to apply. A spritz is a combination of liquids that is placed into a spray bottle and sprayed or spritzed on the meat.

    I like to use different fruit juices for my spray. I'll sometimes pour my juice into a small sauce pan and then add a couple of tablespoons of my rub and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat off and let the liquid cool. Pour the contents of the pan through a piece of cheese cloth or a fine colander into a bowl. and pour into your spray bottle and use. A word of caution- if you don't remove the bits and pieces of your rub that did not dissolve, it will clog up your spray bottle. Been there, done that and it's aggravating as all get out trying to clear a clogged sprayer.
  19. okay, well, I am 2.5 hours into this sucker and here is what I have learned on the fly so far. In my little brinkmann cheapy smoker, it is really hard to keep a good constant temp. I think I started out with a little too much charcoal at first as my temp spiked to 300 degrees. I left the little door open for quite some time to get the temp down. I have had a good solid temp now for about a little less than 2 hours but was getting low on charcoal so this time I only filled the chimney 1/4 the way.

    However, when I was loading my new coals I took the thermometer off the rack that I have the meat on so I would not knock it off or something and when I was ready to put it back in I noticed that it had a reading of 130 degrees. Now it is hot here in Kansas today, but not 130 so now I am panicking that my new thermometer is not very accurate. I am going to error on the side of it reading high so now I will be maybe meeting in the middle and trying to cook around a 200 degree chamber rather than the 220 I was shooting for earlier. I have not put in the thermometer into the meat yet as I figure I might as well wait a few hours for that reading.  There is a lot of pressure riding on this 5lb slab of meat as now people are coming over tonight for a BBQ.
  20. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You can check your therm in a pot of boiling water. Just put the tip of it into the water, should read 212° ± 5°. All else fails run to your local grocery store and grab an oven thermometer and put it on the grate next to your meat.