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Need Some Advice and Help (Prepping for Thanksgiving)

genghiskong

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Joined Nov 2, 2016
Good evening everyone,
I hope everyone that is reading this is doing fantastic. So I'm new here to this community and the reason why I joined is because of the research I did. Basically, everytime I did research after buying my smoker I saw some kinda post on here and you guys are fantastic. What made me create my account was a turkey story. I also want to gain knowledge from you guys and help other newbies in the near future!

So here I go... I recently purchased an Oster Smoker/Roaster which I believe some people call it little red (amazon" style="max-width:120px">)
I've had nothing but problems with it... I wish I could invest in a legit smoker but I live in an apartment currently. So the first day I got it, I used it. Before I received it, I did as much research as I possibly could. The night I used it, I was disappointed. Here is what I did:
Smoked Baby Back Ribs (9 lbs)
225°F, vent on lid opened about 50%, apple wood chips full on both wood chip compartments, 3/4 cup of liquid on bottom of pan, smoked about 5~6 hours. The ribs cme out not tender but not chewy or rubbery, definitely not fall off the bone. Not enough smoke flavor. Not charred in anyway. Wood chips were not fully burned.

So that made me extreme discouraged and I was about to give up but my co worker that uses a real smoker gave me some pointers so I tried round 2:
Smoked a whole chicken (5 lbs)
275°F, vent opened only 20%, cherry wood chips used on both trays and filled about a little before half way, bottom pan filled with max liquid which touched the chicken a little bit, smoked for 2 hours and heat was cranked up to 400°F to crisp. Chicken came out pretty moist. Smoke flavor was definitely more prominent. Top of the chicken has some char but bottom skin was completely mush (probably because of too much water). Wood chips were fully black and utilized.

So as you can see... The 2nd time was much better. As the subject of this post states, I'm trying to perfect this Smoker since it's all I can have at where I live and I want to use it for Thanksgiving. But, with the results I've been getting, I'm a little discouraged. I'm planning on doing another chicken tomorrow but wanted everyone's input and help on what I can do to be a better smoker.

I appreciate everyone's time and assistance. Sorry for the life story on the last 2 days but it's been hectic and discouraging for me. Thanks again everyone.
 

seenred

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Hello GK!

I've never cooked on anything similar to that Oster smoker/roaster, so bear in mind that most of this advice is guesswork.

From your description of the first rib cook, my guess is that the ribs were simply under cooked.  Some more time in the cooker would have made them more tender and more smoky.  Do a little research on the "bend test" and the "probe test"...2 fairly reliable ways of knowing when your ribs are done.

I'd say you are correct in your assumption that the water bath is the culprit for your mushy chicken skin.  My advice is to reduce the amount of water.  All that steam does not make the best environment for crispy skin.  And perhaps you could remove the bird from the roaster for the last 30-60 minutes of the cook and finish in a hot oven...this might help with crisping up the skin.  An even better option would be to throw the bird on a hot grill for 15-20 minutes, but I gather that your apartment situation excludes that.

Whole poultry can be tricky because it's hard to get them cooked evenly.  In general, by the time you get the meat down deep in the thighs done, the drumsticks and breast meat can be overcooked and dry.  It may not be possible in the limited space your Oster has, but one solution for even cooking is spatchcocking (AKA butterflying).  If you simply don't have the rack space in that cooker to do this, another option might be piecing your bird out before you cook.  This would not only allow for you to be sure every part of the turkey gets done to a consistent internal temp, but would also increase surface area, which has the added benefits of better smoke penetration and easier to get the skin crisp.

Don't know if that helps or not...Perhaps some of the more creative guys will stop by and offer better advice.

Good luck...and be sure to keep us updated!  


Red
 
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dirtsailor2003

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Red has good points. Can you leave the water out all together? A dry smoker will help you out. 

Also leaving the vent open all the way would help reduce the moisture.

For poultry higher temp smokes will get you better results on the skin. I smoke all my poultry with the pit temp at 325°-350°.

For wood selection apple is one of the more mild woods so you get a subtle smoke flavor. Cherry is a bit more robust, but still fairly mild.
 

genghiskong

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Joined Nov 2, 2016
Hello SR!

Thank you very much for providing some insight and advice, I greatly appreciate it.

For your advice and information on the ribs, I completely agree with you. I realized that after they were cooked in the smoker and I refrigerated them for the next day. When my wife microwaved them and I opted to oven mine, they came out much better as far as tenderness goes. So I completely agree with you that I probably could've smoked them longer. I'm even considering buying a wireless meat thermometer but don't know which one to get. The one I looked up so far is this one: amazon" style="max-width:120px">
As far as the water bath goes, I completely agree with you on that as well... I don't know how much water I should be putting. I feel like 3/4 cups of water (like the manual stated for the ribs), it wasn't enough. I feel like filling all that water was TOO much. So tonight when I smoke a chicken again, I'm thinking about 2 cups of water; what do you think? I'm definitely considering your options of removing it and putting it in the oven or even trying the spatchcooking method. The BBQ grill is definitely not an option unfortunately... I wish I had a grill, that'd be awesome. But spatchcooking looks interesting and I think it'll fit in this smoker because its actually quite big. Little Red can hold up to 22-23 lbs of turkey so I don't see an issue with spatchcooking a chicken.
 

All your information was definitely helpful. I'll be trying it again tonight. So what are your opinions/advice on the temperature, water, how much wood to add, time, etc.? I'm also getting a flavor injector which is this one: amazon" style="max-width:120px">
So tonight I'll be injecting it with butter and some sort of seasoning so that the meat is flavorful.

Thanks again SR!
 

genghiskong

Fire Starter
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12
Joined Nov 2, 2016
 
Red has good points. Can you leave the water out all together? A dry smoker will help you out. 

Also leaving the vent open all the way would help reduce the moisture.

For poultry higher temp smokes will get you better results on the skin. I smoke all my poultry with the pit temp at 325°-350°.

For wood selection apple is one of the more mild woods so you get a subtle smoke flavor. Cherry is a bit more robust, but still fairly mild.
Hello DS2003!

Thank you for your input! Red definitely has some great pointers.

I can for sure leave the water out all together, but will that dry out the food? The instruction booklet always states to put water in but to be completely honest... That instruction booklet is completely wrong and not helpful, there's also a lot of typos. The ribs that I first cooked were from that booklet and it didn't come out the way I wanted it to.

As mentioned to Red, what are your opinions/advice on the temperature, water, how much wood to add, time, vent open/vent closed, etc.?

The only reason why I ask is because again, the instruction booklet that is included is not accurate and doesn't really help me... I was thinking that I could cook everything and I mean EVERYTHING at 225F but that didn't work. I wanted to do the slow method so that everything has great smoke flavor and has the tenderness. But from my experience, 225F in this Little Red barely gets the wood smoking. At 275F, the smoke is definitely better and the wood is smoldering better.

Thank you for your input on wood. I have apple at home for sure. I actually bought hickory, mesquite, apple, and cherry. With research, people have said cherry was good with chicken so I did it with cherry. But tonight, I'm definitely willing to try apple again because I did apple on the ribs at first. I just want to make sure I get all my *apples* in a bunch before I smoke again tonight... 3 days in a roll of me not being satisfied is kind of discouraging...
 

gr0uch0

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Joined Apr 30, 2016
Howdy, GK, and welcome:

I reiterate what the two esteemed members above me had to say about eliminating (or significantly reducing) the liquid and opening the vent fully.  I also looked at the unit that you have, and I don't know if it's capable of producing the results you're looking for.  I'm familiar with the Nesco roasters (very similar to the Oster), have used them in the past for roasting and as a holding pan, but not in a smoking application.  I think you may be hard-pressed to get enough smoke rolling indoors with a unit like this, and if you can, do you have a commercial grade vent hood that can handle the smoke?  Outside might be a different story, but it sounded like that wasn't an option.  Do you have a balcony or a common area where you might be able to use a smaller Weber kettle or an Ol' Smokey?  You may want to check with your management company to see if you could use something outside--as long as you're not doing whole hogs every weekend, they're often OK with smallish grills.  I know you said that this was all you could have, where you live, but it doesn't hurt to ask.  
 

genghiskong

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Joined Nov 2, 2016
 
Howdy, GK, and welcome:

I reiterate what the two esteemed members above me had to say about eliminating (or significantly reducing) the liquid and opening the vent fully.  I also looked at the unit that you have, and I don't know if it's capable of producing the results you're looking for.  I'm familiar with the Nesco roasters (very similar to the Oster), have used them in the past for roasting and as a holding pan, but not in a smoking application.  I think you may be hard-pressed to get enough smoke rolling indoors with a unit like this, and if you can, do you have a commercial grade vent hood that can handle the smoke?  Outside might be a different story, but it sounded like that wasn't an option.  Do you have a balcony or a common area where you might be able to use a smaller Weber kettle or an Ol' Smokey?  You may want to check with your management company to see if you could use something outside--as long as you're not doing whole hogs every weekend, they're often OK with smallish grills.  I know you said that this was all you could have, where you live, but it doesn't hurt to ask.  
Hello there gr0uch0!

Very nice to meet you. I will definitely be reducing the liquid. I talked with my co-worker that has a legit smoker and he told me to try 2 cups of water instead of how much I put in yesterday. I basically put in almost 64oz of water yesterday haha... Was not smart on my part. But at this point after what DS2003 stated, I'm wondering if I should even put any water at all... From the research that I did, Little Red doesn't produce the same awesomeness of real smoking but does a pretty darn good job from what I researched. Of course, I could be wrong though. Unfortunately, the only option I have at the moment is this Little Red. I've tried stove-top smokers from Cameron and it made my whole apartment smell like burning wood which my wife did not like at all.  The reason why is because at my apartment, I don't have a balcony, patio, or common area to buy any sort of grill. I was considering buying this: amazon" style="max-width:120px">
But, I'm not sure if its going to be worth it; nor do I know if its good or not because there aren't many reviews. I don't have a commercial grade vent hood unfortunately. But I basically set the Little Red right outside my door which is barely enough room for me to squeeze in and out of my door. I'm also on the 3rd floor pretty much... In the back of the apartment complex. So at this point, I basically have to work with what I have to try and get the best result out of it. I know I can't get the same smoked awesomeness as what real smokers can produce, but I'm sure this thing can do something. Also, so your stating that I should have the vent open all the way? I was considering doing that but by doing that doesn't it have any effect on the cooking process itself? I know real smokers use the vent so it releases the smoke and steam as well as it cooks down the temperature internally and fans the wood; but with this Little Red is that the same concept?

Thanks again for all your help and input gr0uch0!
 

dirtsailor2003

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Joined Oct 4, 2012
I smoke everything in a dry pit. No water. I also go against the grain of most and smoke things using a higher pit temp.

All of the poultry I do now at pit temps of 325°-350°. This will not dry the meat out as long as you don't over cook it. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temp of 165° in the breast or thigh. If it will fit spatchcock the bird. This allows the bird to cook evenly.


Drying the skin on poultry helps a bunch when smoking to get better skin. Best method is overnight (at least 8 hours)  in the fridge uncovered. You can also accomplish this with a hair dryer on low right before placing in the smoker. A dry brine of salt (1-2 table spoons) and baking powder (1/4 teaspoon) can also help.

For pulled pork I smoke wit the pit temp @ 285°-300°. Cooking to an internal temp of 205°. This may be one of the easiest things you could cook in your smoker.

For wood it really comes down to personal preference. I typically use chunks 2"-3" for hot smoking. These would probably not work in your smoker. I like smoke so I plan on enough wood in the smoker to smoke for the entire cook. On shorter cooks I load more smoke wood in than on longer. I use a lot of cherry or a combination of cherry and pecan or cherry and Kiawe (key-ah-vee). I also use apple, peach, alder, and hickory. When I cold smoke I use pellets in my AMNTS tube smokers from Todd at Amaze N Smokers. Pretty much the same flavors as with the chunks plus cob and some of the specialty blends he offers.

Get yourself a good instant read therm. I own three of these and they work great for checking the doneness of meat and they don't break the bank. In my mega thread below you can read how to test your therms for accuracy.

amazon" style="max-width:120px">
Though not specific to your smoker, give this a peruse. Lots of tips recipes and techniques that can help you.

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/191066/dirtsailors-mega-mother-of-all-cooking-links-index

Don't give up. You have to work with what you have.
 

gr0uch0

Master of the Pit
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Joined Apr 30, 2016
GK, you want the top vent(s) open full throttle so the smoke can turn over, meaning you don't want the same smoke in the chamber too long.  It builds up creosote:  a byproduct of moist wood burning that renders the food inedible with a bitter, acrid taste.  Steer clear of the Masterbuilt portable you linked here:  it's for outside use only, and your wife sure won't like that if she didn't like the indoor Cameron.  I would echo what's been already said:  ditch the liquid, and try it dry on a couple of leg quarters to see how they turn out.  Then try a couple with the smallish amount of liquid your co-worker suggested to see what difference is had and which you like better.  I recommend the quarters because they're inexpensive (yet yummy), and if they don't turn out as you'd like, you only really have your time invested.  My $0.02.
 

seenred

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I can't add much that the other guys haven't already suggested. I'm with Case on the water...I suggest at least trying it one time with a dry cooker and see if you like what you get. Part of the fun of cooking is trying different methods and deciding what works best for you.

Good luck! Thumbs Up

Red
 

genghiskong

Fire Starter
72
12
Joined Nov 2, 2016
 
I smoke everything in a dry pit. No water. I also go against the grain of most and smoke things using a higher pit temp.

All of the poultry I do now at pit temps of 325°-350°. This will not dry the meat out as long as you don't over cook it. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temp of 165° in the breast or thigh. If it will fit spatchcock the bird. This allows the bird to cook evenly.


Drying the skin on poultry helps a bunch when smoking to get better skin. Best method is overnight (at least 8 hours)  in the fridge uncovered. You can also accomplish this with a hair dryer on low right before placing in the smoker. A dry brine of salt (1-2 table spoons) and baking powder (1/4 teaspoon) can also help.

For pulled pork I smoke wit the pit temp @ 285°-300°. Cooking to an internal temp of 205°. This may be one of the easiest things you could cook in your smoker.

For wood it really comes down to personal preference. I typically use chunks 2"-3" for hot smoking. These would probably not work in your smoker. I like smoke so I plan on enough wood in the smoker to smoke for the entire cook. On shorter cooks I load more smoke wood in than on longer. I use a lot of cherry or a combination of cherry and pecan or cherry and Kiawe (key-ah-vee). I also use apple, peach, alder, and hickory. When I cold smoke I use pellets in my AMNTS tube smokers from Todd at Amaze N Smokers. Pretty much the same flavors as with the chunks plus cob and some of the specialty blends he offers.

Get yourself a good instant read therm. I own three of these and they work great for checking the doneness of meat and they don't break the bank. In my mega thread below you can read how to test your therms for accuracy.

amazon" style="max-width:120px">
Though not specific to your smoker, give this a peruse. Lots of tips recipes and techniques that can help you.

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/191066/dirtsailors-mega-mother-of-all-cooking-links-index

Don't give up. You have to work with what you have.
By smoking in a dry pit, can I achieve the same by doing this in the Little Red though? Meaning, not adding any water. I'm sure once the meats cook in Little Red, liquid will produce and run down to the pan so eventually; there will be some sort of liquid or fat. Because now what I think about it, on both occasions of the rib and the chicken; I've added water in the pan prior to smoking. The only thing I'm afraid of is that if I don't add ANY water, the meat may come out dry. But you guys are the experts so I definitely want to try out what you guys suggest. I will definitely look into spatchcocking. I realized I spelled that wrong too haha! 


So for the temperature, do you feel like 275F is good? Should I back it down to 225F again? Should I go higher? What I am trying to achieve is a decent~somewhat heavy smoky flavor, tender meat, and some sort of char flavor. I know I can't char it, like on a grill; but I'm sure I can somehow get the flavor. Should the vent be opened all the way? Won't that let all the smoke flavor escape and not penetrate the meat?

I've always been interested in cold smoking but that'll be for a later day, when I have my own house lol.

As far as wood and preference goes, I think I'm going to try apple and mesquite or hickory tonight on my 3rd go of trying to smoke. I can only fit in wood chips with the size of 1 to 2½ inches long and ¼ to ½ inch thick. The ones I bought are from Weber which are: amazon" style="max-width:120px">
I basically bought 4 bags but different kinds (apple, hickory, mesquite, and cherry). Pecan was a little more expensive so I held off on that for now.

I'm trying really hard not to give up but tonight will be the 3rd time I'm trying!! haha.
 

genghiskong

Fire Starter
72
12
Joined Nov 2, 2016
 
GK, you want the top vent(s) open full throttle so the smoke can turn over, meaning you don't want the same smoke in the chamber too long.  It builds up creosote:  a byproduct of moist wood burning that renders the food inedible with a bitter, acrid taste.  Steer clear of the Masterbuilt portable you linked here:  it's for outside use only, and your wife sure won't like that if she didn't like the indoor Cameron.  I would echo what's been already said:  ditch the liquid, and try it dry on a couple of leg quarters to see how they turn out.  Then try a couple with the smallish amount of liquid your co-worker suggested to see what difference is had and which you like better.  I recommend the quarters because they're inexpensive (yet yummy), and if they don't turn out as you'd like, you only really have your time invested.  My $0.02.
Thank you for the information gr0uch0. I will definitely open up the vent all the way. I didn't know this would happen/occur on this Little Red. I thought it was for real smoking that creosote can occur.

As for the Masterbuilt portable, it'll basically be right outside my door if I end up getting one and using one; It definitely won't be used indoors. I have like a really small area where the Little Red is right now basically. I have to lug it in and out of the house of course because its not enough room to just leave things out there. Plus, it'll get stolen. But I'm sure the smoke will be much more than the Little Red so the wife may not like that. Also, she may not like that I spend the money on Little Red and then want to spend another $100 on the Masterbuilt. At that point... I could've bought a better smoke for that price.

As for the leg quarters and ditching the liquid, I will probably be doing that tonight as everyone here so far has told me to ditch the liquid. When you state smallish amount of liquid, should I be doing the 2 cups or less than that?

For the whole chicken I bought, it was a little over 5lbs and I got it for under $5. I'm sure I can get leg quarters cheap and the quantity will be a good amount as well so I might do that. Would you inject butter in the leg quarters? Or just season the outside?

Thank you for your $0.02 gr0uch0! I really appreciate it
 

genghiskong

Fire Starter
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Joined Nov 2, 2016
I can't add much that the other guys haven't already suggested. I'm with Case on the water...I suggest at least trying it one time with a dry cooker and see if you like what you get. Part of the fun of cooking is trying different methods and deciding what works best for you.

Good luck!


Red
Thank you for this Red. I will definitely try it without water tonight and see how it goes. It seems like without water, the meat definitely gets a better smoke and color from what I can find.

So just to reiterate what everyone including you is saying on here (because I'm taking notes and putting it into my smoking journal): 275F, Vent opened 100%, Apple+Hickory/Mesquite wood (full filled or half? What do you guys think?), No liquid at all, Cook about 2 hours?

This way, I have everything written down so I can attempt it tonight. Thank you again Red!
 

gr0uch0

Master of the Pit
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Joined Apr 30, 2016
Here's my thought on water:  I don't use it.  At all.  Others do, and swear by it, but IMHO, it's never improved what I've cooked.  As you mentioned earlier, there are juices that render which help keep the meat moist:  plus, water boils out at 212 degrees, so if you're cooking at higher temps like dirtsailor recommended, it's gone in short order anyway.  I would only season the skin and underneath the skin, and wouldn't inject anything until you get the process dialed in:  once you do, then tinker with it and see what you enjoy the most, but I'd recommend nailing the scenario first.
 

genghiskong

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Joined Nov 2, 2016
That you for the information and your thoughts on water gr0uch0. I agree with what you stated, others have sworn by it. My co-worker is one of them, he states always to use water when he smokes.

I will try seasoning the skin and underneath today. I may want to do a small batch of leg quarters and a small chicken if they have one. The reason why is because I need to test out the injector to see how to use it, never used one before.

But for the leg quarters, I'm going to follow your recommendation and just try to dial in that process.

I want to try and get everything right as much as possible prior to Thanksgiving. Its my first time cooking a turkey and I'm feeding my entire wife's family. So, I will be doing a 20 pound turkey and I'm afraid of screwing it up. I feel like like the turkey is always the "star attraction" of any Thanksgiving dinner.

So I will try everything tonight and even take some pictures and post my results here. I really want to share with you guys on how things turn out for me because I love being a part of a community and contributing. Who knows? Now that I've posted on here, maybe someone else in my similar situation buys Little Red as well and needs help. This forum will definitely be of help to them.

I had one more question, or I should say I need some final advice on "water". When smoking a Turkey (20lbs) as I've mentioned above, would you say to dry smoke that as well?

Thanks again gr0uch0 and everyone else!!
 
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gr0uch0

Master of the Pit
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Joined Apr 30, 2016
I would certainly do a trial run with a 20 lb. bird prior to Thanksgiving:  not the time to experiment with a bunch of hungry mouths waiting around and saying, "
".  Someone suggested parting out the bird earlier to help with more even cook times/doneness, and I agree doing that with your equipment.  The dimensions of your Oster are 17.7 x 24 x 9.8 inches, and a whole 20 pound turkey is going to be much larger than that.  Good luck, and let us know as things progress.
 

genghiskong

Fire Starter
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Joined Nov 2, 2016
Thank you for the information gr0ucho! I don't know about a 20lb bird trial run haha, that's a lot of meat to have to eat if it comes out bad... I may buy a smaller one to do a trial one but typically (especially this time of the year) they're expensive!

But I totally understand what you're saying. The Oster itself can fit the turkey but if I end up doing spatchcocking then yeah its definitely not going to fit.

So tonight, I will be doing the following:

Chicken Leg Quarters (with some kind of seasoning)

Cooked at 275F

NO LIQUID (WOOHOO, haha)

Apple Wood mixed with either Hickory or Mesquite

VENT OPENED ALL THE WAY!!!

Cooking time, unknown. I will probably do some research on how long to cook chicken leg quarters and average it out and use a meat thermometer that I have. I'll probably have to invest in a better one. I'll be taking pictures and keeping you guys posted! Thanks again for everything everybody.
 

seenred

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Thank you for this Red. I will definitely try it without water tonight and see how it goes. It seems like without water, the meat definitely gets a better smoke and color from what I can find.

So just to reiterate what everyone including you is saying on here (because I'm taking notes and putting it into my smoking journal): 275F, Vent opened 100%, Apple+Hickory/Mesquite wood (full filled or half? What do you guys think?), No liquid at all, Cook about 2 hours?

This way, I have everything written down so I can attempt it tonight. Thank you again Red!
I think you're on the right track GK...your question about how full to fill your chip trays:  I believe this is a personal preference thing...everyone has their own tastes about smoke flavor.  I like a nice, full smoke flavor, so I'd probably load them full the first time.  Then if the smoke flavor came out too strong, I'd know on the next cook to dial it back a little on the smoke.  Again, its kinda trial and error to determine what methods work best for your tastes.

My only other suggestion (and I think this may have already been covered) is to worry less about cooking time and more about the internal temperature (IT) of the meat.  As Case said earlier, you want to cook poultry until the IT reaches 165* in the centers of both the breast and the thigh (make sure you don't measure too close to a bone...that'll give you false readings on your IT).  2 hours is a reasonable guess for how long that might take, but remember the old BBQ adage, "It's done when it's done".  Because of this, one of the most valuable tools any BBQ cook can use is a reliable meat thermometer.

Hope that helps...happy cooking!

Red
 
Last edited:

genghiskong

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Thank you SR! I appreciate you providing feedback and letting me know I'm on the right track. I apologize to you and everyone else on here for so many questions and problems. Getting into smoking is a scientific process! I love to cook and its typically not this difficult!

I'll take your suggestion. I may do just half again because I felt like it wasn't really enough smoke but my wife thought it may have been too much. So I'll try half again.

I need to purchase a better meat thermometer for sure. I'm looking into the one that was posted above by DS2003 (https://www.amazon.com/Lavatools-PT12-Javelin-Thermometer-Chipotle/dp/B00GRFHXVQ).

Are there better ones though? Like the wireless one that I posted? Or is the Javelin more reliable. (https://www.amazon.com/ThermoPro-Wireless-Digital-Kitchen-Thermometer/dp/B014DAVCP4/ref=sr_1_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1478103373&sr=1-2&keywords=ThermoPro+TP07)
 

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