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Newbie needs guidance please

bdearen

Newbie
6
10
Joined Feb 4, 2014
Hi guys I purchased a char broil fire box smoker this last weekend.  After reading review here I wish I would have opted for a more expensive one as this one has terrible input from people on forums like this.  Any way I can't take it back now as it's put together ect.. I think it will be OK since I am so new to smoking meats.  Home Depot sells flavored charcoal and chunks of flavored wood.  Is this the best/easiest thing to use for this?  I have read many how-to guides on here and see most people use charcoal and throw the wood pieces on after the charcoal starts up.  Anyways is this flavored charcoal and flavored wood from home depot an OK thing to use for a beginner?  I am in southern California and can't find any BBQ stores around here that would specialize in things like this.  Secondly can you suggest a piece of meat that's easy for a beginner to learn?  I was thinking tri-tip roast or boneless chuck roast.  Lastly I see lots of seasonings and things available online but I will not be able to order and receive them today as I want to smoke today.  Can you recommend something I can buy in a major grocery store to use?  Thanks guys
 

hawkins8017

Newbie
3
10
Joined Feb 7, 2014
Hi I bought a side box smoker last December and have used it quite a bit. It just took some time to figure out the best combo of heat and damper control to figure out how to maintain temps. I use regular charcoal. Nothing special. It's best to have a charcoal starter to easily add coals as needed. Also, a wireless digital meat thermometer is best. I place thick roasts as far from the side box entrance as possible due to the direct heat coming from it. Placing your coals in the center of your box to the farthest corner of your box is a good idea. After that I adjust the smoker damper as needed. I also close the grill damper all the way. I found a can big enough to go over the heat vent which really helps the heat control. At the half way point of any meats, I rotate the meat 180° due to the side box. I usually smoke as much meat as I can so I'm not wasting smoke. I've found smoking a rack of pork ribs to throw in the freezer makes for a quick dinner during the week...or a whole chicken. I'm pretty new to all this so I'm still learning. I had a tiny smoker years ago but just never found the time.
 

so ms smoker

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Group Lead
1,875
41
Joined Dec 20, 2010
  Hi bdearen. Glad to have you with us! An SFB (side fire box) smoker can be awesome! The main upgrade I would do is to add a charcoal basket. That is all I have done to mine. I fill the basket 2/3 full of lump charcoal ,then sprinkle with wood chips(pecan, apple, hickory, cherry)  whatever you like. Try each to see what you like best. Then finish filling with more lump charcoal. Add a handful of well lite charcoal to the edge of the basket nearest the cook chamber.  Once up to temp, I close the air intake completely (because it leaks some anyway) and have the exhaust open all the way all the time. Looking for that Thin Blue Smoke! Add meat near the center of the cooking area. A calibrated thermometer can tell you the best spot to place the meat.

  As for meat.  For a first go you might start with chicken. Cheap and shorter smoke time. Leg quarters are awesome smoked! We usually give approximate smoking times to help in planning , but always use Internal Temp (IT) to determine doneness. (Get a good instant read thermometer).

 And the rub. Here again you must experiment and find what you like. Do consider buying Jeff's rub and sauce receipes. They are excellent and do support this site. But you can start with any off the shelf rub.

  I hope this has helped some. Feel free to ask any questions and you can PM me for more detailed answers if you like. Hope all turns out TASTY!

   Mike
 

bdearen

Newbie
6
10
Joined Feb 4, 2014
So I smoked my first meat today.  I picked up a 2.5 lb Tri Tip roast.  I trimmed most of the fat off the back as suggested when smoking.  I purchased a big bag of lump charcoal and filled up my box.  I soaked a few wood chips in water first and added them after the temps got up.  Took about 25 minutes to get up to 225F.  I found it a huge chore to keep this thing at or around 225.  I would walk away for 20 minutes and come back and my temps would be below 200F.  I had to continue adding lump charcoal to keep the heat up.  I purchased a leave in digital thermometer.  My meet was working it's way up nicely and was up to around 115F in about an hour.  Another hour passed and it was at 125F.  Here's where I ran into trouble.  The smoker kept falling below 225F and my meat temps would actually drop down a few degrees.  I finally got them up to 140F after 4 hours of smoking by moving the meet closer to the firebox.  The tri-tip was seasoned with a rub from my local super market nothing that special really.  I let it sit for another 20 minutes or so once off the grill.  As I was cutting into it to slice and serve I noticed it was very chewy and tough.  The meat tasted kinda plain but extremely heavy on the smoke taste.  It tasted too smokey.  I used a mesquite wood chunks for the smoke.  I also added a baffle to my char broiler side fire box and had a cooking tin container filled with water under the meat.  What did I do wrong??  Why did it take 4+ hours to cook something that should have taken 2?.  Any help would be GREATLY appreciated and thank you :)
 

eman

Smoking Guru
Staff member
Moderator
OTBS Member
5,304
124
Joined Feb 3, 2009
Mesquite is probably the strongest wood you can get, That means use very little of it.

 That smoker is not designed for a water pan . You are using the heat to heat the water therefore less is getting to the meat.

 Standard cooking time is 2 hrs / lb so 4 hrs is probably close to being right.

Your temps falling in the meat could be the stall.

When doing beef less is better IMHO. salt, black pepper ,onion powder and garlic powder is all i use.

  I usually take tri tip to around 145 internal and rest wrapped in foil for at least 1 hr.

The BIG thing to remember is ,When slicing tri tip or brisket, you must slice across the grain of the meat using thin slices.

  Next time try hickory or pecan or apple. use just enough chunks to get thin blue smoke.
 

bdearen

Newbie
6
10
Joined Feb 4, 2014
Should it be smoking constantly?  When I would add the wood chunks they would burn up in about 25 minutes or so and I had to keep adding more to keep the smoke going.
 

sqwib

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
5,967
1,021
Joined Sep 25, 2007
 
Should it be smoking constantly?  If you were curing the meat using smoke I would say yes.

When I would add the wood chunks they would burn up in about 25 minutes or so and I had to keep adding more to keep the smoke going.The amount of smoke you want in your food is your preference, start out light and increase the amount of smoke as you do more cooks, if you go hog wild on the smoke flavor and it's a turnoff for you and your family, it will be ingrained in their heads that even the slightest bit of smoke is unacceptable.

This I learned early on with my GOSM, now when I cook on my pit, I try for the least amount of smoke as possible, IMHO subtle is better, than heavy, other folks prefer heavy.... its very subjective.
 

sqwib

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
5,967
1,021
Joined Sep 25, 2007
 
So I smoked my first meat today.  I picked up a 2.5 lb Tri Tip roast.  I trimmed most of the fat off the back as suggested when smoking.  I purchased a big bag of lump charcoal and filled up my box.  I soaked a few wood chips in water first and added them after the temps got up.  Took about 25 minutes to get up to 225F.  I found it a huge chore to keep this thing at or around 225.  I would walk away for 20 minutes and come back and my temps would be below 200F.  I had to continue adding lump charcoal to keep the heat up.  I purchased a leave in digital thermometer.  My meet was working it's way up nicely and was up to around 115F in about an hour.  Another hour passed and it was at 125F.  Here's where I ran into trouble.  The smoker kept falling below 225F and my meat temps would actually drop down a few degrees.  I finally got them up to 140F after 4 hours of smoking by moving the meet closer to the firebox.  The tri-tip was seasoned with a rub from my local super market nothing that special really.  I let it sit for another 20 minutes or so once off the grill.  As I was cutting into it to slice and serve I noticed it was very chewy and tough.  The meat tasted kinda plain but extremely heavy on the smoke taste.  It tasted too smokey.  I used a mesquite wood chunks for the smoke.  I also added a baffle to my char broiler side fire box and had a cooking tin container filled with water under the meat.  What did I do wrong??  Why did it take 4+ hours to cook something that should have taken 2?.  Any help would be GREATLY appreciated and thank you :)
What weather conditions are you cooking in?

Back off on the wood for smoking.

Check your smoker for hot spots, buy a few packs of those cheap biscuits, fire up the pit and lay those biscuits out all over, then check the biscuits to see how they cooked, this will help you find your cold and hot spots.

Use a charcoal basket and make sure air can flow in underneath the basket.

Burn wood in place of charcoal

alternate lump and wood

check the thermos.

seal any leaks by the smoke chamber

baffle the heat if its not a reverse flow (I see you done this)

run all vents wide open.
 

bdearen

Newbie
6
10
Joined Feb 4, 2014
When I started it was around 75F and when I finished it was around 60F.  I am going to try another smoke without the water container and maybe even remove the baffle that I installed.  The hotspots are right next to the firebox on the grill and get cooler as you go down.  I have a charcoal basket but I think the issue was that my ashes were clogging the airway into the basket so the coals were not breathing as they should.  I didn't want to take out the basket and risk spreading ash all over my meat.  I am looking into getting a Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5.  I think this will fix a lot of my issues with heat, fuel consumption ect..  Are those about the best charcoal/wood smokers in the $200 - $300 range?
 

buffalo bob

Newbie
16
10
Joined Feb 11, 2014
You ask about the Weber Smokey Montain (WSM) . I used the WSM 22.5 for over 20 years and was very pleased with it. It is very simple... charcoal and wood CHUNKS on the bottom then the water tray and then 2 racks. My earlier model didn't have a built in thermometer so it was a learning experience, but it didn't take long to figure things out. They are built tough. I switched to electric ( Masterbuilt 30 ) ONLY because I got tired of messing with charcoal. I hope this helped in whatever decision you make. You can't go wrong with the Weber.
 

bdearen

Newbie
6
10
Joined Feb 4, 2014
I was looking at the masterbuilt but heard all sorts of negatives regarding electric.  I am more interested in something that's easier like an electric setup.  Do you prefer that to the smokey mountain?  Does it have the same taste?  What do you use to get the smoke flavor?
 

buffalo bob

Newbie
16
10
Joined Feb 11, 2014
I prefer the ease of elecric over using charcoal...just personal preference after 20+ years using charcoal. I don't notice any diference in taste elecric vs. charcoal, but I suppose some people might. One reason I chose elecric is the ability to maintain a steady temerature ( as long as you keep the door shut ). As I said previously, if you choose charcoal, you can't go wrong with the Weber. I live in northern Michigan and the full insulation in the Masterbuilt was another factor in my decision..... longer smoking season.
 

hambone1950

Master of the Pit
Group Lead
1,400
46
Joined Jul 23, 2012
I have a weber smoky mountain 18" and I love it. An electric smoker is probably ok or even propane , but this is the one I wound up with. You can add chunk wood if you want , but even with just plain charcoal you get such a nice smoky flavor on amy meat you cook. I have definitely been pleased with mine.
 

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