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I screwed something up....badly.

Discussion in 'Pork' started by cobble, Oct 21, 2010.

  1. cobble

    cobble Smoke Blower

    Hi All,

      Totally new to this smoking thing, but I'm disturbingly enthusiastic about it. I bought a Brinkmann Smoke'N Pit (http://www.brinkmann.net/products/details.aspx?item=805-2101-0) and I've grilled some burgers and things on it, but this weekend was the first time I've had the time to make an attempt at actually smoking something. Things went bad from the start, really. I tried to get a bone-in pork shoulder from the local supermarket, and all they had was a boneless butt. I would've preferred bone-in, but figured I'd give it a shot.  I got a 6.5 pount butt, and went home and gave it a light mustard coating, and hit it with a BBQ rub. Then I put it in a ziplock with a bit of cider and cider vinegar, and put it in the fridhe for 16 hours or so.

    The following morning I patted it dry, and hit it with another coat of rub, and let it get to room temp while I fired up the grill. I live right in the middle of Boston, so large quantites of hardwood are tough to come buy (That stuff doesn't just grow on trees around here) so I had to settle for lump charcoal and hickory chips. Anyway, I fired up the charcoal and put it in the firebox. Waited until it hit 230 in the smoking chamber, then added the butt and made sure that the chimney vent was open, just about all the way, so as not to over-smoke. I also opened the firebox vent to keep air flowing there.

    Very quickly, I found that the temperature was dropping below 200, forcing me to add more charcoal. Obviously, this added more charcoal smoke. The temp would rise to an acceptable range,, but then it would fall really quickly, within about 10-20 minutes, forcing me to add more charcoal. After about 7 hours of this cycle of me adding more charcoal every 20 minutes, the meat temp was only 135, so I had to remove it and finish it off in the oven, wrapped in foil. This resulted in an excess of moisture, like something that resembled crock pot pulled pork, but I figured that it was my first attempt, and so forth. I started shredding it, and I tried a piece, and it was awful. WAY oversmoked. Tasted like pure charcoal. Bitter and disgusting. Instead of a nice light pink smoke ring, the ring was leaning toward purple. Nasty nasty stuff.

    Obviously, the combination of opening the fire box to add more charcoal, thereby dropping temp, and the massive amounts of charcoal I used, lead to the oversmoking of the meat. The problem is, that I'm a a loss on how to maintain tempurature for long periods of time, without having to keep feeding my smoker like its a steam engine. I'm thinking that if I used logs, it would burn longer, but would it not lead to that oversmoked taste? I just cant figure out how to keep this thing between 220 and 230. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
  2. pineywoods

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

    Welcome to SMF glad you joined us. I'm going to let the charcoal guys help you out since I don't use charcoal
  3. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    First off Welcome Cobble to SMF. I would recommand that you run right ove to the E-course and start it right away.  You'll like it here for there are alot of really good folks here that would just love to help you with just about anything to do with smoking. Now there are alot of proven recipes for some amazing things here too. So the next big thing for you to do is go out and get you something to smoke and if you happen to have any questions just post it here and we will be happy to answer them for you.

    Welcome To Your New Addiction    
  4. arnie

    arnie Smoking Fanatic

    Cobble, welcome to SMF

    Check out the 5 day E-course.

    I moved to an electric to get away from the constant adding to keep the temp up.
  5. I'm not a charcoal guy either, but am thinking the minion method is what  you are looking for...i'm sure there are some good mods out there too that will help with temp control....
  6. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF .

     First thing you need to do if you have not done so is, Toss that pig in the garbage can.

    1 hr out on the counter and 7 hrs in the smoker is WAY past the 32 deg - 140 degrees in 4 hours  safe zone limits.

     Now on to your other problem ,Temp controll., The smoke n pit is notorius for being hard to controll temps as it comes out of the box.

    There are a bunch of modifications that can be done to help w/ this problem.

     Hopefully someone can post some links for these mods or you can do a search on the site.

     Alot of us have had to toss things and start over and just remember .Prafctice makes perfect.
  7. bob1961

    bob1961 Smoking Fanatic

    don't know what people mean by the charcol thing and maintaning temp's with it....after the mod's i did to my char broil SFB smoker just like yours, i fill the charcol basket light it with the minion method and forget it....it will burn at 240 to 260 for 12 hours if i want it to by adjusting the air intake and exhaust stack....the 18 pounds of pork butt i smoked not to long ago was in there for 11 hours with only another half full load of charcol, but i lit it first and got them to red coals before adding them to the SFB with a  charcolchimminey....like others said get the e course and do the mod's to that smoker you have and you will have a great little smoker there....here is what i did to my SFB smoker and works like a charm....


    as you will see in my 1st picture is it just like yours...........bob

  8. Hi Cobble,

    I've got the same unit. It can be a bit cranky about keeping it's temperature.

    The best thing I have found is to make sure that you run the unit for at least 1-1.5 hours before adding any meat. Let the metal heat up. This will help you keep the temperature.

    The second thing that I have taken to doing is keeping my kettle grill going as a fire pit. I keep a fire of charcoal and hardwood running in there and add coals and embers into the SnP, although I will occasionally drop a couple of unlit hardwood chunks into the unit to beef up the smoke. For the most part the smoke flavor that you will get off the coals and partially burnt hardwood will be enough.

    I also modded my unit a bit and have found it helps to both regulate temp and smoke. I extended the smoke stack internally to bring the stack down to grate level. I also added a a baffel in the food chamber in front of the firebox pass through and a couple of plates with holes in them along the bottom of the chamber to draw the heat and smoke more evenly through the chamber.

    The last thing is don't use the temp gauge on the top of the unit. It's not really worth much. Instead make sure to get a grate level thermometer. I use a temp probe that clips to the grate and has a digital readout outside the chamber so I don't have to open the chamber to get a temp read.

    Hit me up if you have any other questions.

  9. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Bob got you off to a good start. If you go to the forum for charcoal smoakers and do a search for Char-griller or Char-broil mods, you  will pull up a lot of mods that show various ways of doing them. The charcoal basket is a must for any long smokes, it allows you to do a minion method burn, which is filling the basket with unlit charcoal, then putting a small amount of lit charcoal on top of that. The lit charcoal slowly works its way down and to the sides, creating a long slow steady burn. The other must do is useing metal dryer duct flex tubing to extend the chimney down to grate level - not the super flimsy foil stuff, or the rigid pipe, there is one that bends like the foil stuff, but is actually made out of metal and will hold its shape.

    Now the flavor you so wonderfully described was probably creasote - nasty, bitter, yucky stuff. Since you now probably have creasote coating the inside of your main cook chamber, you will need to clean it out real good with some soapy water and a good scrubbing for all exposed surfaces, the reseason the inside of the smoker. If you don't clean out the creasote it will continue to affect future smokes for quite a while.

    To get a nice smoke flavor/ring when you do a minion burn put a layer of charcoal in the bottom of the basket then top it with a couple of fist sized chunks of wood. Fill the basket the rest of the way up and then top it with another couple of chunks of wood. It will give you a nice thin blue almost invisible smoke that flavors the food nicely - remember if you smell the smoke you are getting smoke regardless of if you can see it or not.

    Don't give up, and keep asking questions, we gots lots of great advice here on the forums.... usually because we were in your shoes at one point and made the exact same mistakes... lol. [​IMG]
  10. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF...
    I would have to agree with eman... TOSS IT OUT... It is not worth taking a chance of getting sick over it having been in the danger zone for too long of period...
  11. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Sounds like what you are tasting is creosote. Its a nasty foul better taste that reminds me of licking a burnt stick.This usually comes from thick white colored smoke in your smoker. You want to have a thin blue smoke coming out of your smoker.
  12. I think the only thing I can add to what everyone else has said is don't give up and I can say this since my first attempt was inedible. With the help of these folks we are eating good. [​IMG]
  13. cole

    cole Fire Starter

    I will have to agree with the others.  You are probably tasting smoke from the coal and not from the wood.  The first thing that I noticed in your post is that you left the door open and the pipe open.  This will give a lot of oxygen to the fire.  Actually, too much.  you want to close the door to the fire box and I would start with closing the smoke stack to 1/4.  Instead of burning super hot, which can also damage the firebox, you will burn steadier.  Start the coal off in a weber fire starter tool that will get the coal hot enough.  It sounded like your fire was peaking every 20 min for a short time.  You want the fire to stay as hot as possible for as long as possible, that is why you control the O.  Too much O is bad for cooking and too little O is bad for cooking.  You want to find a happy medium where there is limited access to the Oxygen.  And when you do get a good slow burn and it starts to turn cooler, don't immediately add more charcoal (I would recommend hardwood charcoal), stirring the existing coal to get some of the parts that are not burning as hot into the mix can make your stash last longer.  The second burn will be shorter, but why waste what you have?

    Best of luck and nice to meet you.
  14. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Cobble Hello and welcome,

    Pretty good advice so far
    1. E-Course,
    2. Search and read read read!
    3. Mods
    4. Educate yourself on food safety
    5. Try again
    I agree, I would trash that Butt
  15. cobble

    cobble Smoke Blower

    Wow. Thanks for all of the good (and positive) feedback here, folks. This being the internet and all, I half-expected to be called various names, and sent on my way, but every post has been helpful, especially knowing that I should've tossed the butt out after 4 hours if it wasnt above 140. After I wrote my post here, I did some searching on the mod thread, and found some fantastic stuff. I dont know that I'll be able to make a baffel or basket, but I'll figure something out with those. I think that part of the problem was that I had read somewhere online that you should never close your chimney stack more than halfway or you'll end up with creosote, but you guys are telling me that I should actually have both vents mostly closed. Good to know. I just have a couple other questions, if you dont mind. I'm wondering what charcoal is best to use. I have a few bags of the Cowboy lump charcoal, and I find that it burns very quickly, though this is probably a result of me leaving the vents open. Is there a spefific brand you guys would recommend? Also, I've added an aftermarket thermometer to the hood of my smoker, and I have a  wireless meat thermometer, but I cant seem to find a wireless digital grate-level thermometer. I would love to be able to know that the grill temp is at food level without having to open it to look. Any recommendations?
  16. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Most people will tell you to keep your exit holes wide open to keep the smoke from building up in the smoker that way it should keep constantly circulating. If the smoker gets too hot then you regulate the heat by closing your air intakes.
  17. Put a digital thermometer through a potato or onion and set it on the grill with the monitoring unit on the outside of the pit.

  18. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Won't be no name calling on this site. Everyone here does their best to get along.

    You should allways run your exhaust vent wide open and use your intake to controll your heat.

    I know the instructions that came w/ my smoker  said to run the exhaust fully closed, But them folks build smokers what do they know about cooking ???

    A baffle can be made out of an old cookie sheet and be better than no baffle.

     I don't have the link but there was a test done on different brands of lump. And if i'm not mistaken (wrong).

    Cowboy lump came out pretty near the bottom.

     Keep on smokin , Keep on learning , Take some pictures and make us hungry!
  19. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Royal Oak lump is one of the most common ones you can get, and it usually gets great ratings. Do a Google search for Naked Wiz Charcoal, and it will pull up the site that compares about 50 differant types of lump charcoal, great site.
  20. I'm not real loyal to any brand myself, I usually get Royal Oak or Kingford orginal. My dear wife brought me home some Cowboy Lump and I thought the same thing. It wasn't very dense and seemed to burn faster.