Making rookie mistakes

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by newbienick, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. newbienick

    newbienick Newbie

    I am relatively new to smoking and have just moved from a propane grill with chip box to a el cheapo offset smoker.  Yes...there is the first problem.  Had I done more research, I probably would have saved my pennies for something better!  Anyhow...

    I have smoked in my new setup twice now, and both times, my meat tastes like campfire.  The smokey taste is just overwhelming!

    Let me give you a few details.

    Smoke #1:
    Turkey breast and western style pork ribs

    Lump charcoal for heat source started in charcoal chimney 
    Hickory and plum sticks/chunks at about 50/50
    Temp at around 200-220 as measured mid-cook surface with ThermoWorks DOT

    Smoke #2:
    Whole chicken and london broil with a decent amount of fat on top

    Lump charcoal for heat source started in charcoal chimney 
    100% hickory
    Temp at around 200-220

    Both times, I tried to make sure that I was getting blue smoke, and I would add more wood to the fire box every time the smoke went away.

    Things that I've learned so far:

    1) My smoker needs some mods to retain heat and disperse more evenly.

    2) The cut of meat is critical.  The London broil wasn't very good.  :(

    Questions that I have:
    1) Do you continue to add wood every time you see the smoke go away or do you only smoke for a small period of the total cook time?
    2) The smoke taste was worse on #2 above.  Is 100% hickory too much?

    Feel free to comment on my rookie mistakes.  I could use the help!

    Thank you
  2. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Using charcoal/lump you are going to get a different flavor than you would using just wood chips or pellets. I'd try something different than hickory. It can be overpowering at times. Cherry apple pecan peach alder are all milder woods.

    How much smoke wood are you putting on? What size chunks? I use (3-4) 2"-3" chunks for a 8 hour smoke.

    Now for the London Broil, it's a great cut to smoke. The stuff we get here doesn't have any fat at all.

    To answer your questions:

    1. Even if you are not seeing smoke it is there as long as you are using larger chunks nd not chips or dust.

    2. hickory can be overpowering.

    Check this out for some ideas on what to smoke, as you can see there's a bunch of cheap cuts in the beef section that turn out tasting great.
  3. newbienick

    newbienick Newbie

    Thank you for your response!  I do have a few follow up questions, though.

    1) You said that lump charcoal would give a different flavor than wood chips/pellets.  I am using this for a heat source, not smoke.  Am I doing this wrong?

    2) Yes, I'm definitely using more wood than that.  I thought that I should continuously add wood, so I keep getting rich smoke.  That seems to be a mistake?

    3) I cut a plum tree down last summer, and it appears to be pretty dry.  Does that sound like a good wood to try next?

    Thank you, again!
  4. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    @Case, Hey Bro, don't want to step on your Toes, but I was up late. Saw Newbienick's follow up questions and figured, " What the Heck! " " I'll add my Pennies and Case can follow up when he has time." With all Due Respect...JJ

    The three major smoke makers are: 1) The Stick Burners. All the heat and smoke come from the wood being burned. 2) The Briquette and Lump Charcoal guys. The heat comes from the charcoal with some flavor but the bulk of the smoke comes from Chunks of Smoke wood added per the desired result. Light smoke flavor using Mild Fruit and Nut Woods, added only during the first 4-6 hours. Medium smoke flavor, Fruit and Nut woods added for the duration of the time the meat is in. Or Heavy smoke, Strong woods like Hickory or Mesquite, added a varing length of time depending on the taste desired. 3) The Electric and Gas smokers where the heat source contributes nothing and all the smoke flavor come from Chips, sometimes Chunks and Pellets. Depending on wood choice and the length of time added can be from Mild to Wild, but still somewhat less intense than the first two styles of heat and smoke.

    In your case, the Charcoal and Chunks are fine, you would gain nothing from the use of Chips or pellets.

    Next. 3-4 chunks in a 8 hour period, with the exception of Mesquite, would give a Smoke flavor that is noticable, with a nice smokey flavor but not overwelming.

    The goal is Thin Blue Smoke TBS or smelling sweet smoke even though it is hard to see. Any more than that amount of smoke can be too much. Many Newbies, including myself back in the day, watch the BBQ Shows on TV, with their dramatic, for Show productions of Smoke and are led to believe, " If it ain't White...It ain't Right! " Even erring on the side of caution with just some white smoke from the frequent addition of a strong wood like Hickory, will give a Camp Fire taste to the meat. Go to a Fruit wood and look for the TBS to flow only adding a chunk when the smoke just smells like Charcoal burning. You will soon learn the difference.

    Hard Fruit Woods, including Plum, make for a great tasting, sweet and mild smoke. You will be fine with Plum, just watch for TBS. As you and your family/guests tastes for smoke develop, you can start adding back the occasional chunk of Hickory for more depth of flavor. Maybe getting to the point that, for some meats like Pork or Beef, you truely enjoy the intensity and flavor change up of modest use of 100% Hickory. Check out the link below for more on Smoke Woods. Good Luck...JJ
    GaryHibbert and bigtrain74 like this.
  5. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    You have some pretty good advice on here so far. It sounds like you are using too much wood. I would start with a small quantity and work your way up until you get the flavor you like. At least that way you aren't ruining food with too much smoke. 
  6. newbienick

    newbienick Newbie

    Thank you for your responses. Coincidentally, I just got the 2nd installment of the 5 day Smoking Basics course, and it covers how often and how long to smoke as well. This is all very helpful!

    As a side note, I went out over lunch and bought a bag of apple chunks and a bag of maple chunks. Both appear to be more mild than hickory, and they are native trees to NW Ohio. If I like them I know that I can get a good supply of both!

    I'm also eyeing some mods to my smoker, too. I have a few pieces of sheet metal laying around the garage, and I've cut a piece that should work as a baffle. I need to do some engineering to extend my chimney, but that may be a later project.

    I'm thinking about buying a butt roast on the way home and trying it again tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes!
  7. sauced

    sauced Master of the Pit

    The plum wood should be fine....sounds like it smoked too long. Usually a couple hours of smoke for poultry (use apple, cherry etc.) to 3 - 4 hours of smoke for butts. Also, try mixing different woods for different flavors, your family will love you as you learn!!! lol
  8. delbbq

    delbbq Fire Starter

      I put on way too much smoke at the start,not that long ago, and have found the best results with my COS come from using a Smoker box stuffed with pellets and then placed away from the fire as best I can.The "some what" indirect heat will eventually get the pellets smoking and if the box is stuffed there isn't any room for ignition. Also just a few and I meen a few pellets thrown on the coals will help bring the temp up and give you a good shot of smoke. 

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