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New guy, having trouble.


Joined Jun 18, 2009
I've been smoking meat for a few weeks, and to tell the truth I have yet to do anything that was much of a success.

The brisket was ok, but way too smokey.

The chicken was good. I got that recipe from "Low and slow" the book. That was a success.

The ribs are the worst failure though. Twice I've tried and my wife wouldn't even touch them both times. They were WAY too tough both times. I can't get my ribs tender at all.

My wife is about to kill me but I'm not stopping now because I really like doing this. Anyone care to help out a little?

I have an offset smoker, a cheap one.



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Welcome to SMF glad you joined us. The first thing that comes to mind when you say too much smoke is that you may be using too much wood. Are you using lump and then wood for flavor? You want thin blue smoke if any not heavy white billowing smoke. If you can smell the smoke so can the meat. As far as the ribs try the 3-2-1 method for spareribs and the 2-2-1 method for babybacks. Check this link for the ribs


A little reading and a few questions here and you be smoking like a pro in no time


Epic Pitmaster
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Joined Mar 12, 2009
How are you smoking the ribs? Are you using the 3-2-1 method or what?


Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Joined May 1, 2007
A couple of questions,
  • how long are you smoking the meats and at what temps?
  • What method are you using on the ribs?
  • Time in smoker and temp you are smoking at and to what internal temp?
  • Are you using a thermometer to check internal temps of meat or just depending on the thermometer in the smoker which is usually NOT Accurate?


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Sep 1, 2008
I would just about bet most of your problem is temp control. Second is your method of cooking.

Let us know what you have done and we can set you in the right direction.


Master of the Pit
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Joined Dec 15, 2007
Welcome to the forum. You'll find plenty of information here to get you smoking like a pro in no time. Glad to have you aboard.

bbq engineer

Master of the Pit
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Joined Feb 26, 2009
Hey MeekSRD,

Welcome to the SMF.

One thing I will start with is that you are going to need a bit of patience. This really is an art, and once you get the hang of it, there will be no end to the tweaks and changes that you can experiment with.

First, I must say that you have started with a couple of meats that are notoriously difficult to master. One of my first suggestions is for you to do a pork butt. They are much more forgiving, and will yield you good results. Go for a couple of wins, and get some confidence and build your technique. Another one of my favorite things to smoke is simply bratwurst or italian sausage. I think they are fantastic with some sweet apple smoke thrown at them. Again, good to experiment with, until you get the hang of your equipment and start developing an appreciation for how your smoker operates. Besides, they won't break the bank if your smoke goes south and the wife won't touch them.

Another thing you need to know is that the most common mistake for newbies is to oversmoke at first...I am guilty of it when I started too. Keep the smoke thin and blue. If you are using a charcoal fired smoker, remember this bit of advice...charcoal is for heat, and wood is for flavor. It doesn't take much wood either. If you can smell smoke, it is doing it's job. Don't load the thing up and think that it has to be rolling smoke to work. Another thing is the wood that you select. Some woods are more delicate than others. I prefer fruit woods, but will also throw in some pecan and occasionally some oak or maple. If you are using hickory or mesquite, they are strong, and if you are throwing a lot of smoke, it will become overpowering very quickly.

Next, give a shout out for your next smoke, and ask for some advice from the pro's that are here. They are a great group, and they turn out some darn fine 'Que.

Welcome again, glad you joined us.


Joined Jun 18, 2009
I got the method from the book "Low and Slow"

It's basically just lump charcoal and wood chunks,I add wood every hour or so. Temp is about 250. I leave the smoke box lid open for a few minutes after i add wood till the smoke thins out, just for 5-10 minutes though. The ribs were in for about 4-5 hours. I put one water pan on the cooking grate just outside the firebox. They were very dry and tough. I thought about just leaving them in for longer.

The brisket wasn't too bad really, I ate it with alot of BBQ sauce it just tasted too smoky for my wife. It was mesquite though. Since then i switched to hickory. The ribs are really bad though.



Smoking Guru
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Joined Apr 27, 2008
If you want good ribs foil them with some liquid and they wont be dry or tough.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jan 19, 2008
Watch yer smoker temps, don't go by the dial on the smoker, many times there wrong. Get ya a digital smoker fer grate temps an one fer meats. Know ribs be bout the only thing we smoke by time. Like Jerry said, read up on 3-2-1, then you'll start modifyin it. I'm bout at 3-1.5-.5 with mine right now, but each smoker will be different as will each rack a ribs. Yall give yerself some time an it'll come round fer ya.

meat hunter

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
Joined Feb 3, 2009
Hi there and welcome to the site. Everyone here, at one point in their smoking, was at the place you are in right now so don't sweat it. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Fortunately you have a host of folks here to help you out. Lets brake down a few things that you have mentioned so far. Your temps. You say you smoked at around 250? First off, is that the thermometer that came with the smoker? If so, chances are it is off. Most manufacturers use a simple therm that is suppose to just get you in the ballpark and thats more true if its a cheaper unit. If it says 250, it could be 150 or 350 so a good quality therm is in order. They are not much and worth it. I also suggest either a good probe type or a good dual probe digital therm, like the one Maveric makes. One probe for the food, the other for the smoker temps. Insert that probe into the thickes part of the meat and watch for it to hit the desired internal temps.
Your brisket being too smoky can be caused by a few things. Too much smoke obviously. The smoke coming out of the stack should look like you just blew out a couple matches. You should barely see it. Almost all are guilty of oversmoking when they start out, me included. Do you have the chimney restricted at all? Its a common mistake to try and regulate the temps my closing the chimney vent, but all your doing is keeping stale smoke in the main chamber, thus giving yourself oversmoked food. If this is the case, run the chimney wide open and regulate the temps with the vent on the firebox. You want that smoke to just cruise by the meat, give it a little kiss, then exit out the top. That takes a bit of practice to know how far the vent on the firebox should be open. Also, too smoky of food could be caused by soaking the wood. When you use soaked wood, it more or less smolders, and gives off nasty things including thick smoke. Nice dry wood is what we want and you want it to burn, not smolder away. Woods like Mesquite and Hickory are strong so it does not take much to have the disired effect. On your next brisket, after you get a good therm, get your smoker temp to around 230 degress. Put in your brisket and every 30-60 minutes after the first hour, give it a liberal spray of apple juice. This will help keep it from drying out. A few hours in, your meat may hit a platue, where the temps just sit and down seem to go up at all. This is a good thing, as it is starting to break down the connective tissue. It can last from 30 or so minutes to a few hours. This is a good time to have a beer.
Eventually your temps will start to rise and when the internal temp of your brisket hits 190, take it out, wrap it up real good in a few layers of foil, then a towel and if you have one, place it in a cooler so it can rest and the juices can redistribute. About an hour in there and its ready to eat.

Ribs. Like most on here have said, the 3-2-1 method. Ribs go by feel more or less as the meat is really too thin for a meat probe. Again, smoker temps around 230 degrees. 3 hours on the grates, and again, spraying with apple juice every 30-60 minutes. Then take the ribs and wrap in foil, give them a good spray of juice first and back in for 2 hours. This is where they get really tender. Next, unfoil them and look at em. You should see that the meat has pulled away from the bones. It may be that they are so tender at this point that you can not remove them from the foil without them falling apart. No problem, just uncover them from the foil so they are exposed and smoke for one more hour. Walla, tasty tasty ribs. When you said that your ribs were tough, I would guess that it was due to higher temps. Cooking too fast. Again, a good thermometer is in order. Now if it looks like your ribs are getting done faster than you want, you can reduce this method to say 2-1-1 or even 2-1-1/2. As time goes on, and you get a better handle on how your smoker works, the easier it gets. Believe me I know as I thought it was way too complex when I built mine. And then one day, everything clicked and its been smooth sailing ever since.
Last, post some pics of your smoker, inside and outside shots and the things you have to work with. Im sure someone on here has the same smoker and can offer some tips and tricks or some modifications to maximize it. But again, most important, don't get discouraged.
Hope this helps you a bit. If not, don't be afraid to ask questions. And if you still don't understand, ASK AGAIN. You can even PM if you like with any questions and I will do my best to answer them. Good luck, and glad to have you on board.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jun 3, 2008
Welcome to SMF, you have come to the right place, man look at all the great advice, and really each have offered some tips that will save you.

My advice is obvious, know your cooking device, where is it hot, what happens when you add wood, what about the vent. If necessary take notes. Like everyone said get a couple of digital thermometers with remote probes.

It is unfortunate that you started with brisket, since most will tell you it probably is the hardest piece of meat to smoke and get to come out tasty and tender. As one has already pointed out, do the simple stuff first, pork shoulder and baby back ribs are super easy.

Others may disagree but I got this from competition cooks comparing methods on ribs. Most foil after they see pull back. Pull back is what tells you they are getting cooked, so these guys suggested 1/4" to 1/2" pull back then foil. Like Ronp said, add juice when you foil the ribs for steam they will get even more tender. Some here don't foil at all, which is a hard method to learn to do correctly but it can be done and tastes awesome. Again at first do it the easy way and then make changes as you know what is happening.

You are on the right track SMF and smoking your meat is a great combination!


Legendary Pitmaster
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SMF Premier Member
Joined Jun 21, 2007
Good advise from a great guy who knows his stuff.
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