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Just used a smoker for the first time and made a brisket........

Discussion in 'Beef' started by stretch90, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. stretch90

    stretch90 Fire Starter

    Hey everyone,

    So I finally got everything together for my smoker and smoked a brisket on Saturday. Things didn't really go as planned, but in the end the meat tasted great! Since I ran into some trouble I ended up having to do the last 40 degrees wrapped in foil in the oven, but it was still some of the best meat I've ever had.

    So I had two main problems and I'm hoping somebody has some advice for me.

    1) I couldn't keep the temperature high enough.

    I think I will use lump charcoal next time because it seems to have a better flavor, lights easier and is hotter. Also, somebody mentioned drilling holes in the bottom of the charcoal tray and I think I will definitely do that next time to keep oxygen coming in. Also, when the temperature did get high, it made the water boil in the tray above it and caused the water to fall on the charcoal.

    2) I had some problems with the wood.

    I mainly used wood chips and I think that was a mistake because they burnt out so quickly and I would have to keep refilling them, which is a pain when making something that takes as long as a brisket. I had a couple of wood chunks as well, but I don't know if I used them properly. I put them in with the charcoal, which caused them to just light on fire and sky-rocket the temperature and also make some unpleasant smoke. I've seen other people have wood chunks in a different tray, but I only have one other tray for the water and that's it.

    Overall it was still a great experience and I'm hoping to improve on it for next time, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    What kind of smoker do you have?

    Why are you tackling briskets if you aren't sure how to build a fire, maintain temp and use wood chunks for smoke?

    My suggestion is to use some good briques, not the store brand crap. Learn the minion method, then move to lump after you get a little better at fire building. Smoke some ribs or small chicken pieces a couple of times until you learn how to get a steady temp for at least eight hours. Then smoke a pork butt. These take forever like a brisket but aren't nearly as finnicky.

    You said your water was boiling?? You must have your water pan dang near sitting in your coals to do that. I'm assuming you have some sort of bullet smoker. I have no experience witht hose but I do know they work very well so you must be doing something to get it too hot. Are you opening the lower dampers all the way? They are your "throttles" for the temp. Don't look for immediate temp changes when you adjust them. Is your top damper wide open? It should be while smoking meat.

    Take some pictures of your next smoke from coal loading to finished product and post them up. This will help people identify what's going on..

    Good luck
  3. northern greenhorn

    northern greenhorn Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I have to echo Pit 4 Brains statements, start out with cheaper and more forgiving pieces of meat, until you have more control with your smoker.
  4. stretch90

    stretch90 Fire Starter

    People were telling me to start off with something easier but I really wanted to try a brisket, since that was the main reason I bought a smoker.
    I'm using a cheap meco vertical charcoal-water smoker and the water tray is really close to the charcoal tray, but that's where they put it on this unit. I also did keep the vents open all the way because the fire wasn't staying hot enough, but when I added more coal it caused temperature spikes which caused the water to boil.

    What do you think I should be doing about the wood chunks? Do they belong in a seperate tray from the coal?
  5. ddigitalpimp

    ddigitalpimp Smoke Blower

    its OK if the water boils.  just add less of it and refill during the smoke if you need to.  the water shouldnt be boiling over the sides of the pan.
  6. rowdyrawhide

    rowdyrawhide Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I am assuming you meant MECO and not "mevco".  Get rid of the wood chips, and get chunks, if you can't find them in the local stores then find a local orchard or fruit farm, they usually have some fruit wood for sale.  sounds like you really need to just fire up your smoker without anything in it and try to get it to temp and maintain it for several hours.  I would also get a good digital thermo with a probe on a cord, and check the temps at different places in your smoker, also try to put it near the  temp gauge you have in the smoker to verify that your gauge on your smoker is accurate.  Some guys put sand in their water pan instead of water, I use water and just refill it when I need to.  

    You say your wood chunks were flaming up and causing temp spikes, to me this sounds like you are getting plenty of oxygen........this goes back to double check your temp gauge on the smoker, you might be running hotter than you think you are.  Yes, use lump, to me it is easier to use.

    Are you leaving the top damper open? or closed?

    Definitely leave it open all the way.

    Hope this helps some
  7. Stretch,

    Don't listen to all that negativity.  You are off to a good start.  Just lower your water level a bit.  As far as the chunks are concerned, try and cut back your oxygen supply to keep your chunks from bursting into flames.  You also may want to consider soaking them in water, or wrapping them in foil.  And in my humble opionion, stick to the lump charcoal.  Briquettes make too much ash and will smother your fire out, especially in a setup like you have where there really isn't sufficient oxygen flow to begin with.  Try drilling those holes, it really helps.  Keep experimenting, you will be putting out some awesome briskys in no time.
  8. stretch90

    stretch90 Fire Starter

    Hey, thanks for the advice.

    Wrapping the wood in foil sounds like a good idea for next time. I really want to start using chunks instead of chips so that I won't have to keep checking on the smoker. I really am having a problem finding chunks at local places but I'll keep trying. And yeah, definitely need a lower water level next time I'm doing a brisket.

    I'm going to attempt doing a whole chicken next and I think I'll want to keep a higher temperature for that. So, do you think it would be better to not use water when smoking the chicken?
  9. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

     What negativity??

    I saw nothing but good advice in the replies. It's ok to want to cook briskets, believe me, I love 'em. It just seems to make more sense if one learns how to set up and use a particular smoker properly before one sets out to perfect a cut of meat.

    After all, to walk a mile, you have to make the first step. I know i didn't try pulling an all-nighter with my first horizontal until I got to making some edible ribs first..
  10. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Good to hear the results were edible and tasted good! Not bad for a first smoke, especially with brisket. [​IMG]

    You might want to read some of the forums where people have modded the ECB (El Chepo Brinkma) bullet style smokers. A lot of those mods will transfer over to your smoker and make it a lot easier to controll fire and temps. Once you get confortable with your smoker and can hold temps. better give brisket a try again and see if the results are more to your liking.
  11. coffee_junkie

    coffee_junkie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I just want to echo what some others have stated, Read up on the "minion method" you can google it or search for it on this site,  or look in the wiki section. If you build a fire like this using chunks of wood, you will have good results and not have to add more chunks until the lump (or briqs) are all burnt up. I have a ECB smoker, it sounds kinda like yours, and yes if is hard to keep the temps right at where you want them, they will fluctuate, but if you use the minion method you will have better luck at it. Sounds like you are off to a great start, and I am glad to hear that your brisket came out ok. Also if you do see some pork butt on sale (like 99-129/lb) you should buy a couple. They are way more forgiving then briskey, and IMO just as good! Good luck, be good, and have fun, in that order!
  12. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    I didn't get one I really liked until the third try.

    I have good success using lump and chunk. I suggest Royal Oak lump charcoal that you can find at Wal-Mart stores.

    Be sure to get the made in the USA stuff. Look on the back of the bag for the made in USA labeling.  It's a red bag but look for the USA label too.