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Meat always bitter out of my uds

greg84

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Joined May 25, 2021
Hi there,

This is my first summer smoking. I built a big poppa smokers uds back in April and recently bought the flame boss 400 to help control it.

Ive Mastered keeping the temp stable, but I still haven't produced any sweet fruity flavors on the meat. The flavor is always bitter. Not to the point where its inedible, but its definitely not good.

So I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong? Is it the wrong kind of smoke, or to much smoke?

One thing I read online was that if the smoke doesn't vent out it can leave creosote on the meat, but in order to maintain temps with the flame boss 400 you have to close the top vent so that its only open a crack. So I'm thinking that might have something to do with it, but I also know that with the fan blowing, it should push the smoke out, which it seems to be doing while watching it.


So I guess I'll explain my method and hopefully someone can point out my error.

First I put a coffee can in the center of the empty charcoal basket. Then I put a layer of charcoal in the basket around the can. Then I put some small wood chunks and chips on top of that layer. Then I cover up that layer with more charcoal and fill to the top.

In the meantime I'm letting half a chimney of charcoal get red hot. Once that happens I put a few in the bottom of the coffee can, put a large wood chunk on top of those few and then dump the rest of the hot coals all over that chunk. Remove the can, put the basket in the drum, set up the flame boss, let it come up to temp and wait for thin blue smoke.

Then add the meat. Half the cook, exposed to the smoke, the other half wrapped in foil. Thats about it. But always bitter. Can anyone think of something I'm not doing right, or that I haven't mentioned? Thanks
 

SmokinEdge

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You have a smoldering fire. That’s bad smoke. To much wood chunks at the start. Would be rolling white (bad) smoke.
You want thin blue smoke. A little white smoke for really short time is ok, but no rolling white for long time.
stop putting so much wood chunks in at start, thats counter productive. Try just cooking over lump. No wood. The flavor will improve exponentially. Then learn to add those wood chunks sparingly.
 

greg84

Newbie
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Joined May 25, 2021
You have a smoldering fire. That’s bad smoke. To much wood chunks at the start. Would be rolling white (bad) smoke.
You want thin blue smoke. A little white smoke for really short time is ok, but no rolling white for long time.
stop putting so much wood chunks in at start, thats counter productive. Try just cooking over lump. No wood. The flavor will improve exponentially. Then learn to add those wood chunks sparingly.
Ok when it comes to not having a smoldering fire I thought the trick was to keep a small fire, but I've never really understood how to control that on a uds. I mean new briquettes light faster than lit briquettes burn out, so your bound to have the fire get bigger over time. Then all the briquettes need to burn cooler and smolder in order to keep the grill area at the right temp right? But I'll try exactly what you said and just cook with charcoal next time and see. Thanks
 

SmokinEdge

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Next comes air control. Open the top vent all the way, then control the air from the inlet. The cooker must have always positive exhaust, just control the air coming in. This will allow you to burn a clean fire, but all those wood chunks in and on the coals is a problem.
Typically, you would get a clean bunch of coals burning, then add a chunk of wood, just one. That will smoke in the hot coals, not smolder. Clean burn with no smolder is the key. You achieve this through air control.
 

SmokinEdge

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Ok when it comes to not having a smoldering fire I thought the trick was to keep a small fire, but I've never really understood how to control that on a uds. I mean new briquettes light faster than lit briquettes burn out, so your bound to have the fire get bigger over time. Then all the briquettes need to burn cooler and smolder in order to keep the grill area at the right temp right? But I'll try exactly what you said and just cook with charcoal next time and see. Thanks
You really can’t maintain a small fire with a big fuel source, this smolders and is bad. The volume of fuel needs to be correct for the desired temp and burn time. It’s fire management. Build fire different ways and manage it with no food, just run the cooker. Learn that cooker in terms of a clean burning, long enough lasting fire, and this is done through air flow. Open exhaust and regulated intake.
 

greg84

Newbie
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Joined May 25, 2021
You really can’t maintain a small fire with a big fuel source, this smolders and is bad. The volume of fuel needs to be correct for the desired temp and burn time. It’s fire management. Build fire different ways and manage it with no food, just run the cooker. Learn that cooker in terms of a clean burning, long enough lasting fire, and this is done through air flow. Open exhaust and regulated intake.
Ok so of I cant open the exhaust while using the temp controller, what does that mean? No temp controller? Because I've already tried the controller with the exhaust opened all the way and what happens is the exhaust pulls air in through the intake where the controller is, as it doesnt have a damper. Then the temp keeps going up even when the fan isnt running and effectively makes the controller not do its job.
 

thirdeye

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First I put a coffee can in the center of the empty charcoal basket. Then I put a layer of charcoal in the basket around the can. Then I put some small wood chunks and chips on top of that layer. Then I cover up that layer with more charcoal and fill to the top.

In the meantime I'm letting half a chimney of charcoal get red hot. Once that happens I put a few in the bottom of the coffee can, put a large wood chunk on top of those few and then dump the rest of the hot coals all over that chunk. Remove the can, put the basket in the drum, set up the flame boss, let it come up to temp and wait for thin blue smoke.
Rather than critique your technique, I'll explain how I build a fire in a drum and you may be able to use one or two things. I put a couple of chunks low in the charcoal basket, then add a layer of lump. Then a hand full of pellets scattered out. Then another layer of charcoal, and a half-handful of pellets scattered out. The second layer can have some briquettes in it, this will give you a more even burn on longer cooks. I have a super sized basket, so I can add another two layers, you can probably get a third layer, but if you are cooking something like ribs you won't even need that.

I use a weed burner or a MAPP Pro torch to light a softball sized spot dead center in the basket. Maybe 3 minutes of torch work. I open the intakes and leave the top off for a few minutes, then replace the top and close down the intakes, but leave my vents fully open. As I pass 100° I adjust the intakes again, and might close the vents a hair. As I pass 200° I'll make more adjustments.... my goal is to catch my target temp on the way up, and not overshoot it.

At this point I wait for the fire to settle in, and then put on the meat. I'm getting smoke from the lump and the few pellets that have fallen victim to the small center fire. As the fire grows deeper it will find some of the chunks. As the fire grows outward it finds a few pellets now and then. For the entire time I have a fire I get very gentle smoke, but once the meat starts dropping flavor bombs of fat, I can't see the sweet blue smoke anymore. The smoke is a light gray/white. But from experience I know I'm getting a light smoke from the woods and from the lump.

As far as you timing your smoking and wrap time at 50%, I suppose that will work. I wrap when the color looks good. I pull off when the meat tenders up to the degree I want. Learn how to do this and you can use about any pit temp the drum settles in at. About the only thing I really rely on a thermometer is when cooking a prime rib, a beef tenderloin, or a pork loin. I check the internal on thighs and drumsticks, but still 'feel' them tender.
 

SmokinEdge

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Ok so of I cant open the exhaust while using the temp controller, what does that mean? No temp controller? Because I've already tried the controller with the exhaust opened all the way and what happens is the exhaust pulls air in through the intake where the controller is, as it doesnt have a damper. Then the temp keeps going up even when the fan isnt running and effectively makes the controller not do its job.
I would just run it once with only briquettes or lump, no wood. See how that works. I’m thinking that will be much better flavor wise. No wood chunks, just once. Try that.
 

JWFokker

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Also keep in mind vaporized drippings will impart a particular flavor that some like but can be overdone. Maybe consider a water pan or a Hunsaker vortex deflector plate
 

30" Jim

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You didn't mention what type of wood that you are using. Oak and Hickory can be bitter when used in excess. Apple, Cherry and Pecan produce much milder and sweeter flavors.
 

Jabiru

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Always keep exhaust vent open or it creates stale smoke = bad taste, need to keep the smoke moving
 

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