my smoking debut

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Feb 8, 2006
Well, it was a good experience. I started out using cowboy brand lump charcoal. Not knowing exactly what I was doing, I put about a pound in small grill and got it good and hot then added it to firebox. It seemed to be a bit much because my temp was above 300 with all vents closed. It took awhile to get it down around 225 (about half hour.) I then added my salmon and in the far right of my smoker. After 30 minutes I added my whole chicken next to the firebox (which is the only place left)

I spent a lot of time trying to regulate the heat between 220-250. I found myself adding lump charcoal (pre lit) then having to close the vent because heat started getting too hot, then opening cause heat getting too low and on and on that went. I did keep it between those two temps, but it was a lot of monitering. Now the weather here was 55 degrees and a constant wind (about 15 mph) pretty windy. I had a hard time maintaining a constant temp.
After 30 minutes I added about six chunks of wood. cherry and alder and got a good smoke coming out of the stack. After that pretty much burned off, I continued just adding lump charcoal and every now and again I'd add another peice of alder or cherry for more heat and smoke.
I have a digital meat thermometer which I had placed in the chicken breast, and a manual one for the salmon. I know you all say you can tell when the salmon is done when it flakes in the meaty part or the oil comes out from the top. Well the funny thing is, the oily junk started coming out of the salmon within the first hour, but didnt seem even close to being done, so I took the thermometer and checked the salmon and it was at 110 degrees. Clearly not done.
Anyway, I ended up smoking the chicken and salmon about 6 good hours. The salmon never got above 140 degrees until I moved it where the chicken was and put the chicken where the salmon were. The salmon raised in temp and the chickens heat stopped rising. It was at 155 and dropped to 153 in the next few minutes. So what I did was open the vents and put raised the smokers temp to 150 and tried to maintain that. I started cooking my salmon a little too much, but got the temp to 160, then I pulled them and wrapped them in foil and moved the chicken back over near the firebox and continued cooking it with the smoker still around 150 degrees.
It all worked out pretty good with a lot of adjusting heat ect. but it was well worth it. The chicken turned out pretty good, but the skin was very rubbery???? I couldnt eat it. Why is this? The salmon was very good, but to me it seemed just a tad dry. I had an aluminum tray with water and apple juice in it directly under the chicken. The salmon (2 pieces) each on aluminum foil with butter spread on the foil and crimped edges to keep in the juices.

I used jeffs brine mix for my chicken and soaked it for about 7 hours and I brined my salmon for 24 hours in a premade pack I bought from Cabellas.
What should I do different next time if anything?
Bottom line is that I had a great time doing this drinking a little beer and enjoying a stogy. Awesome!!! Sorry this is so long.
Let me see if I can add a couple of pics here.
I cant attach any pics because it says the file it too big. How can i make my pic smaller?
I use Microsoft's Photo Editor that come with MSOffice. There are several free utilities available for download on the Internet if you don't have the Office Suite.

Congrats on your first smoke. I look forward to seeing you pics. On a windy day smoking in an ECB SnP can be a little bit of a dance. The thin sheet metal they use for the body doesn't hold the heat when a cold wind whips over it. If you have an old blanket you can lay it over your smoker, BUT NOT OVER THE FIREBOX, or what I do is use some large cardboard boxes and make a wind break. After you get a few smokes under your belt you will get a better feel for the SnP and you will probably overload the firebox less which will cut down on the amount of vent manipulation you have to do.

Here are few additional thoughts..

Did you ever create a baffle to redirect the airflow coming out of the firebox? Also did you extend your exhaust tube into your smoker? Those two simple mods will really help with evening out the heat inside your SnP.

Are you sure your temp gages are working correctly? A chicken taking six hours is cool, although I would have expected the internal temp to be higher than 150. For example I smoked six chickens today in my SnP at 225 they were done in 4.5 hours with an internal temp of 175. A salmon taking six hours is a fairly long time and explains why it tasted a little dry.

As far as the chicken skin goes, when brining a chicken or a turkey if you are wanting a crispy instead of rubbery skin after you wash the brine off pat it dry and put it back in to the fridge for at least a half hour. I normally donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t eat the skin but that is just a personal choice.
When you say ECB SnP, what are you saying. My smoker is a horizontal smoker. Its a Brinkmann pitmaster deluxe.
Oh yeah, NO I dont know for sure if the smoker heat thermometer is correct. I have a digital meat thermometer that I use and a manual one. The digital therm. read the chicken at 150 and when I put the manual meat therm. in chicken, it read the same as digital. I did this just to see if they read the same.
Sorry, I keep remembering something else after I post. Another answer to your question is No I haven't lowered my stack into the smoking chamber, but do plan on it. I bought a 52oz can of bush's beans and plan on using the can to do so. My next question then, is how far should I extend the can itno the chamber? 4 inches, 5 inches ect.

When I say SnP, I mean Smoke and Pit which is identical to the Pitmaster Deluxe. The only difference is the SnP doesn't come with the firebox; Brinkmann sells the SnP as basically an oversized grill. So I purchased the firebox separately and mounted so the hole between the firebox and the smoking chamber is smaller, which actually makes it easier to baffle but other than that they are identical.

One way to check you thermometer is correct is to attempt the boiling test. If it reads 212 in boiling water you are good to go, this is a good tip I picked up on this forum. But what I was thinking is that perhaps your chamber thermometer was reading to high not that the meat thermometer was reading to low.

When utilizing the bean can extender approach, four inches should be enough. You want to bring it down in the chamber to help hold the smoke and heat in but not so much that you impede on your internal smoking area. With about four inches you can still put a chicken on its back under it when the grate is in the low position. Also donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t under estimate the importance of some type of baffling solution, take a look at the Baffle for ECB Pitâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]nâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]Smoke thread it explains a simple solution that I used.

In the end it sounds like you had good time and ate well and that is the most important thing :). Hopefully these tips will simply make things a little easier and maybe a little tastier
rock, congrats on your first effort, you had a challenging set of cicumstances and ended up with something to eat, all in all a successful cook!

I wanted to touch on a couple of things I think will help you out.
First off, don't be discouraged, breezy conditions with a thin gage cooker will challenge the most experienced cook. This will get easier.

You mention that you were adding prelit lump during the cook, although this doesn't hurt anything, it isn't necessary to pre light lump. Lump charcoal already has all the impurities cooked out of the wood, and will light cleanly when added cold to the fire.
Try using some briq charcoal, it burns cooler and more consistently than lump. It will however need to be prelit as it still contains impurities that will give you heavy dark smoke if added cold to a hot fire. Kingsford used to be my go to brand, but they're changing their product to a more grillng friendly formula that burns hotter and shorter than the original, fortunately I have about #800 of the original stacked in the garage. Try to find Royal Oak (this is what Wal-Marts store brand is) or Dura-Flame, the DFlame is a new product that i haven't used but I have heard very postive things about.

On the net and definitely in Q specialty shops you'll encounter a school of thought that frowns on briq charcoal and professes "real Q can only be made with lump". Don't buy into this for a minute, this was originally perpetuated by specialty store owners who couldn't compete with big box stores selling briq charcoal and simply isn't true. Due to its varity of sizes, lump varies in temps as it burns, it burns too hot in a lot of situations for low and slow Q cooking and is more times than not, less ideal for Q than briq.

You also mention having the dampers shut to try to bring down temps. Try to avoid this as much as possible. The exhaust damper should always remain full open. The inlet damper should nearly always be full open as well. Closing off the inlet damper serves only to starve the fire of oxygen and generate a smoldering fire that will give bad smoke that you'll eventually taste on the meat if it goes on for any extended period. Instead of using the inlet damper to reduce pit temps, try raking the fire back toward the firebox door (away from the cook chamber) or scooping a few of the hot coals out into a coal bucket.

You mention having a "good smoke coming out of the stack". A truly "good smoke" will be nearly if not completely invisible. The desired "thin blue" is a sign of clean, complete combustion that will make great tasting Q.

I'm not sure where your pit therm is located, on most pits, its considerably above grate level and will not tell you exactly what you want to know even if its dead on accurate. Get a coulpe of 99c oven therms and put them at each end of the pit. You'll have to peek to read these, but with a little experience, you'll learn (for example) that the pit therm reads 15* higher than a therm at grate level at the stack end.

Lastly, don't fixate on trying to achieve a dead needle pit temp. Even your kitchen oven operates in a range around the temp you set it at. It's simply not possible to allow fire to burn down and then add fresh fuel and get a steady temp. The more practice you get, the closer you'll get to a single temp, but you'll always have little spikes when you add fresh fuel. These little spikes are a great time to peek for a couple of seconds. As much as you can stand it, leave the pit closed. The old addage, "if you're lookin' you ain't cookin'" is good advice to follow.

Let me emphasize, don't be discouraged, a couple more fires and you'll think you've been doing this forever. It just takes a little practice.
Thank you both for your responses. I appreciate them!
I will try the boil water test to test my thermometer and go from there. Ive heard a lot about the thin blue smoke, but how can you keep that consistant when adding more wood? Your gonna create a lot of new smoke once you add a few new pieces of wood to the pile, aren't you? Is the concept that all the smoke you will need is in the first pile of wood you put in the firebox and after that the meat will not take anymore smoke. Therefore you just keep adding lump coal for the duration of the smoke to maintain heat and a clean burn.
My smoke was real thin there for awhile until I added another piece of cherry or alder to it and poof, theres the smoke.
Thanks again for your patience and good advice, Im learning a lot from this forum.
rockiestring you're correct, when you add new wood you'll see more smoke. But when the smoke dies down it doesn't always mean that it's time to add more. Once the wood chars over it will produce a thin blue smoke which is what you're aiming for. Just make sure the wood has completely burnt before adding more. A few moments of heavier smoke when you first add your wood won't adversely affect the taste of your meat.

Food will continue to take on smoke flavor as long as you keep adding wood. The smoke ring in meat stops forming when the meat's temperature rises to about 140* but the smoke flavor will continue to accumulate. This is why it is easy to over smoke foods with too much smoke flavor which can cause a bitter or acrid taste.
Rock, short bursts of white smoke from igniting wood won't hurt anything. To minimize the heavy smoke, put your next piece of wood to be burned on top of the firebox to preheat it, this will help with quick ignition and keep the burn as clean as possible, you will need to keep an eye on this as the wood can ignite this way, especially when its windy. You'll also want to make sure your pieces of wood aren't too big, no bigger around than a beercan and 6-10" long at most. Most cookers if you're feeding the fire properly with sticks and just adding charcoal keep a hot enough coalbed to cleanly burn the wood, you'll need to add wood every 45 mins or so. Conditions and cookers vary, but this holds true for my BSKD up to a Lang 84 I've cooked on several times that a friend owns, to my cousins 48" diameter x 72" long homebuilt pit.

It also begins to sound as if you have a fire that is a little too big overall. A small, compact fire that burns very hot will yield much better results than a bigger fire that smolders.

Also in windy conditions, I have the best luck with fire control having the stack facing the wind. This minimizes the surface area of the cooker exposed to the wind and doesn't let wind blow directly into the firebox, which can act as a bellows and over heat the fire.

Practice, practice, practice. There's just no substitue for having fires under your belt. You'll have this down in no time. Chicken parts, sausages (brats, Italian, hotlinks etc) all make for cheap fodder when getting in extra cooks. When starting out I even did dry cooks a few times just to be able to concentrate on the fire and not the cooking.

Don't worry, you'll find your groove and be able to do this in your sleep. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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