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Offset Smoker - lost and confused

acidcat

Newbie
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Joined Dec 13, 2020
Hi all,

I'm new to this forum and keen to learn! I want to get into a bit of background before I launch into my questions/issues.

So, many years ago I started with a 14" Smokey Joe, then upgraded almost immediately to the full size Weber Kettle (I think 22"?) once I realised I could managed a charcoal cook. Before that, I used, terribly I might add, a simple propane BBQ, as I had never actually done outdoor cooking.

After a couple of years, we found an 18" WSM (or is it 18.5"? Can never remember) and have smoked many a things on that. I absolutely love it, but the main issue continues to be size and temp stability (temp stability is really not that much of an issue, but it is annoying to constantly be adjusting, watching, etc). Of course, now that I am reading up on these forums, I see that there are many things I could do to address the temp stability, but the size continues to be my issue; I can get two full racks of ribs if using both grates, but the more you block the flow of heat, the harder the temp is to maintain, and 4 racks gives my family enough for maybe 1.5 meals; in other words, I find the small WSM is not ideal for entertaining, or for more than a meal or two. As well, I find it difficult to maintain the thin blue while tending to the meat on the lower rack. Either way, I just wanted to try something different. As an aside, the only reason we picked up the WSM is because my wife found it online for $250cdn used; the previous owner used it 3 times and didn't like it! I see they are almost $500 new and this thing was practically new. Suffice to say, I'm keeping my WSM but I now have a new toy!

At Lowes, I found a Broil King XL offset smoker; the product number is 958050 and other than that, I don't know how to refer to it or what to call it. It does not have the internal damper, so I think it is a 2020 model, which I think is the better option, as I read that the internal damper did not do as intended and so was removed. I have also seen that earlier models have a few longevity issues. It normally sells for $1000 but the floor model was on sale for $499. How could I go wrong???

I would say that I am still a rookie to smoking, having dabbled with my WSM for many weekends for the past 3 years. My favourite is ribs, but I've done brisket, whole turkey (SMALL turkey), whole chicken, bacon from scratch which I am currently enjoying, pulled pork, prime rib, sirloin roast, etc. I think I have the WSM figured out, but I also think that's the tip of the iceberg and am not the most confident.

I have searched and so far have had difficulty finding solid answers to my questions, and so here goes:

1. Is the BK XL a good or even decent smoker? There's not a lot of chatter about it online. I'm not giving it up at this point, as the deal was awesome and I cut my hand up pretty good getting it all set up to my liking (more on that if you're interested how/why; it's funny!), but I'm just retroactively curious about the quality, experiences of others, etc. I hate relying on online reviews on the purchase websites as most people post reviews quickly after purchase, when they're at their most satisfied.

2. Naturally, the offset came without gasket for the firebox main and side doors, being the floor model and all. The gasket on the main door is steel braided style, which I like, but I have not been able to find anything close to it. The ONLY gasket I found was fibreglass rope, so I purchased some and realised that fibreglass rope may not be the best because tiny little fibreglass fibres were shedding. I'm not risking getting fibreglass fibres in my food, so I'm just curious if anyone else has used fibreglass rope and, if so, how do you address the shedding fibres? My initial thought is to soak the rope a few times, then take a look to see if fibres are still shedding.
On a side note, I was going to do my cold smoke of my bacon on the BK. I normally add 4 briquettes to the fire chamber on top and underneat of a soaked chunk of maple wood. After doing this in the BK, I see that there are many leaks that I will need to address. I have enough fibreglass rope to deal with all the leaks, but I am just concerned about the fibres.

3. I do realise that an offset is very different from a WSM, but so far I'm struggling to understand the basic mechanics of an offset smoker session. I suppose I should just jump in and figure it out, but I'm hesitant to ruin a good piece of meat in the process. We purchased a half-pig and I would love to turn out a pulled pork as my first smoke on this thing, but don't want to risk ruining such a high quality piece of meat. As well, our covid christmas dinner this year will be a prime rib, since we hate doing turkey and don't have a massive group to feed this year. I want to ensure I nail this.
I've watched a few videos, read a few guides, and still am lost on it all. So... is the process similar to the WSM, where you get your charcoal going, heat up the unit, then close all the vents to the point where temp is stable, then add your smoke wood chunks or chips, wait for the thin blue smoke, then add the meat? If so, I guess I'm confused because it seems that the offset smoker firebox runs significantly hotter than the WSM, and so I would think that one would get more white smoke than blue smoke when adding the wood. That was my experience yesterday, just trying to do an hour cold smoke for my bacon; the four charcoal briquettes were running hotter and producing white smoke, so I didn't end up actually double smoking my bacon, which I normally like to do. I threw a chunk of cheese on there for 20 minutes and sure enough it had that fire flavour as opposed to that delicious smoke flavour.
As well, it seems that a lot of people are throwing logs on their offset smoker and letting them just catch fire; that again seems to me that it would produce white smoke over thin blue smoke, so again I'm left wondering how the heck to get this thing optimal. This I guess is my main question; how the heck to run this thing.

Many thanks for reading my wall of text and any answers you have.
 
Last edited:

tag0401

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
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Joined Apr 5, 2018
Not familiar with the broil king so I can’t help there, But basic mechanics of any smoker are fuel and air. Here is my process. I run a small fire in my offset (Oklahoma Joe Highland) starting with about half to 3/4 of a chimney of lump charcoal. This will bring me up to my desired temp. I then add 1.5 inch splits of wood about 12inch long one at a time every 45 mins or so this is not a set time for adding fuel many factors play into this such as wind outside temp etc. That usually gives me around 250-275 degrees f. I run my firebox vents wide open 95% of the time and exhaust wide open 100% of the time. I also lay my next split that goes in on top of the firebox to warm up so it will combust faster minimizing the white smoke the wood produces before igniting. White smoke will happen but should be minimal and only right after you add wood. Make a few dry runs and see how your smoker runs. It’s a learning process and is far from set it and forget it but you will put out some good tasting Q when you get it dialed in. Good luck with your new smoker!
 

Chasdev

Meat Mopper
279
171
Joined Jan 18, 2020
Franklin's book is a must have, you will learn more than you thought possible, but his tutorial is on brisket is also great.
I want to stress that the quality of the wood you buy is key to how your food comes out.
You must have wood (oak for me, and sometimes pecan with oak) that has an internal moisture content of close to 14%
The difference between 14% and 35% is massive when it comes to fire management and smoke flavor.
IMHO, most wood sellers are either ignorant or lying when asked if their wood is properly seasoned.
Hit Amazon and buy a cheap moisture meter and never buy cooking wood without testing it first.
So start with some briquettes and after half an hour or so (more if it's cold out) add some small sticks, placing them so they are standing on end as much as possible so that the flame can move from the coal base up to the top.
Leave the exhaust wide open and likewise the inlet door.
You control the cook chamber heat by how much wood you add.
Never close or restrict the air inlet, that produces very nasty tasting dark smoke and is a flavor killer.
If you add too much wood or if the coal base gets too large and you end up with higher temp in the cook chamber than you want, prop open the lid with a piece of wood and dump the excess heat.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the coal base provides the heat but the flames off the burning wood provide the smoke and flavor.
There will be times in a long cook (12 hrs or more) when the fire gods conspire against you and the fire will get too large or try to go out.
You can always drag some of the fire or coals out of the firebox into a metal can or tray to cool off a runaway.
Lastly, you can cook hotter than you think will work and it will come out fine, in fact maybe better than the more popular cook temps you read about.
I'm a firm believer in the "hot and fast" school now and do all my briskets at 350 for under 6 hours and like the results better than what I get at 275.
 

acidcat

Newbie
8
0
Joined Dec 13, 2020
Franklin's book is a must have, you will learn more than you thought possible, but his tutorial is on brisket is also great.
I want to stress that the quality of the wood you buy is key to how your food comes out.
You must have wood (oak for me, and sometimes pecan with oak) that has an internal moisture content of close to 14%
The difference between 14% and 35% is massive when it comes to fire management and smoke flavor.
IMHO, most wood sellers are either ignorant or lying when asked if their wood is properly seasoned.
Hit Amazon and buy a cheap moisture meter and never buy cooking wood without testing it first.
So start with some briquettes and after half an hour or so (more if it's cold out) add some small sticks, placing them so they are standing on end as much as possible so that the flame can move from the coal base up to the top.
Leave the exhaust wide open and likewise the inlet door.
You control the cook chamber heat by how much wood you add.
Never close or restrict the air inlet, that produces very nasty tasting dark smoke and is a flavor killer.
If you add too much wood or if the coal base gets too large and you end up with higher temp in the cook chamber than you want, prop open the lid with a piece of wood and dump the excess heat.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the coal base provides the heat but the flames off the burning wood provide the smoke and flavor.
There will be times in a long cook (12 hrs or more) when the fire gods conspire against you and the fire will get too large or try to go out.
You can always drag some of the fire or coals out of the firebox into a metal can or tray to cool off a runaway.
Lastly, you can cook hotter than you think will work and it will come out fine, in fact maybe better than the more popular cook temps you read about.
I'm a firm believer in the "hot and fast" school now and do all my briskets at 350 for under 6 hours and like the results better than what I get at 275.
This is making sense then. When you mention to leave the inlet door open, is that just to get the fire going? Would I close the inlet door once the fire is going, keeping the dampeners wide open?

As an aside, I was reading an online guide by a fellow that puts out a lot of reading material, Steven Raichlen. He says to put soaked wood onto the coals, but that seems to be counter to what you are saying. Why soaked wood if the goal is to create a fire?

I'm going to have to do some digging for wood, but in the mean time, should be ok to use the Weber wood chunks that I've been using for my WSM (sounds like I will need a lot though).



Forgot to add the story about how I cut up my hand. As you know, sheet metal is sharp! Well... the unit came with a massive sticker on the front (being the floor model and all), and they somehow got the entire sticker under the thermometer. The thermometer has a housing, so that needed to come off as well. I assumed it was screwed in from the inside, so I took off the sheet metal that lines the inside of the main door. The thermometer housing is of course just pressure-fitted in, so that sucks because this was all avoidable. Anyways, when putting the sheet metal lining back in, you really have to push down to get it to fit with the gasket; put the bottom in, put in the screws loosely, then push down as hard as you can to fit the top in. As I'm pushing with my left, gripping the edge which is the only place to grip, my hand slips and I cut the outside of my palm, then a bit more and cut my palm a little bit. I kept going because I didn't think I had actually cut myself. My hand slips again and I feel the sheet metal slide nicely into the lower part of my finger. I look and sure enough, 4 big cuts all over my left hand. Not to be deterred, I managed to get it all done. I then go to clean the unit and, as I am rubbing the cloth on the firebox door where the missing gasket is supposed to go, the cloth catches but my finger keeps going, right along the edge of the sheet metal liner for the firebox door, so I got a nice deep cut on my finger tip. It was then that I asked myself why I was cleaning out a channel meant for gasket, into which I will be placing gasket. Real low moment for my intelligence there, but funny nonetheless. Couple of good scars, and a fun experience as I always enjoy taking things apart and getting them back together again.
 

JckDanls 07

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
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Joined Sep 10, 2011
it seems that a lot of people are throwing logs on their offset smoker and letting them just catch fire; that again seems to me that it would produce white smoke over thin blue smoke,
This is totally opposite of the truth... A clean fire (one with flames) produces the thin blue smoke... It's the fire without a flame (just smoldering) that creates the non preferred smoke (thick white smoke) .. . I will look for a post from earlier about "Fire Management" ...
 

acidcat

Newbie
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0
Joined Dec 13, 2020
This is totally opposite of the truth... A clean fire (one with flames) produces the thin blue smoke... It's the fire without a flame (just smoldering) that creates the non preferred smoke (thick white smoke) .. . I will look for a post from earlier about "Fire Management" ...
So... this likely is why my smoked food lacks a thick smoke ring regardless of how much wood I use, and why my smoke flavour is typically mild at best?

I do get blue smoke but the wood doesn’t typically light fully for me. I guess I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time!
 

JckDanls 07

Smoking Guru
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Joined Sep 10, 2011
The search feature here is not all that good.. I can't find the specific thread I was looking for regarding Fire Management.. But if you do some searches and start reading about fire management and burning a clean fire you 'll better understand it ...

And by all means... no more soaking chips/chunks/splits ...
 

acidcat

Newbie
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0
Joined Dec 13, 2020
The search feature here is not all that good.. I can't find the specific thread I was looking for regarding Fire Management.. But if you do some searches and start reading about fire management and burning a clean fire you 'll better understand it ...

And by all means... no more soaking chips/chunks/splits ...
No this all definitely makes sense. Thank you muchly!

Any advice in the insulation? It’s looking like it’s going to have to be fibreglass regardless because I can’t seem to find anything else, but any advice is much appreciated
 

JckDanls 07

Smoking Guru
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no advice in insulation ... but I have heard of quite a few people using welding blankets ...
 

acidcat

Newbie
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0
Joined Dec 13, 2020
Took it for a test run to burn off any manufacturing stuff and to just get a feel for it. Dumped some charcoal in the main cooking chamber as well as the fire box. It was very interesting, and in the end I decided to throw some pork chops we had kicking around into the smoke, then do a reverse sear in the firebox. Turned out ok but I really wasn't prepared/set up to do this, so I didn't get the greatest sear or the greatest smoke. Either way, I decided to keep it running after the chops were done, and that's when things really started to click for me.

Basically, got the embers in the firebox roasting hot and, any wood I put in after warming it up turned almost immediately to beautiful thin blue smoke with that beautiful smell. The smoke intensity in the meat was superior to the WSM I have, even though I didn't hit it with a great deal of smoke or much of the good blue stuff. Either way, I think I have it figured out; a lot more work but will result in much better flavour
 

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