smoke is underwhelming

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by scottlindner, May 26, 2009.

  1. The past couple of smokes I have done have been extremely underwhelming. I don't know what's wrong. Yesterday I smoked a chicken, corn on the cob and almonds. The only thing that really came out good was the corn. The almonds were in for 4 hours and almost seem raw and there's practically no smoke on them at all. You can smell it, but certainly cannot taste it. The chicken was so so, but the smoke did not come through like I had expected. The chicken was in for about 3.5 hours. My temps were between 250 and 300F. Hard to tell where it really was on average. I didn't get the chicken in time to brine it so I made an injection with butter, water, and some blackened seasoning. I injected about 30 times.. until the chicken wouldn't hold anymore and kept squirting it out back at me. I soaked the almonds in a salt water solution for about 6 hours. The corn on the cob I pulled back the husk, removed the hair, slathered on olive oil and salted, and pulled the husks back over the corn.

    The almonds went on first for a total of 4 hours. Then the chicken for 3.5 hours. Corn on the cob was on for about 1.5 to 2 hours. I targeted 275F. I have done almonds before using nearly the identical method and the last time they were awesome. This time you'd swear they were just picked from a tree and someone down the block had a camp fire the day you picked them. You can just barely smell smoke on them, can't test it at all. I left the skin on the chicken. The chicken was certainly moist and the injection tasted great, but other than the skin smelling great, zero smoke was imparted into the chicken. The corn was great, no complaints there.

    I added hickory four times throughout this smoke to keep the smoke rolling.

    This is the third time in a row I have had an underwhelming smoke. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, and it's starting to get me upset because I know I should be making outstanding food in the smoker and it just ain't happening.

    Anyone have any tips to reset me back on the path to truly awesome smoked foods?

  2. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Have you changed damper settings? Is it a new bag of hickory? Try another wood like Mesquite, that should give you about the strongest smoke flavor. Are you using chips or chunks? Chunks give better smoke. Possibly add some lump to it too.
  3. There is no damper in this unit, or if there is, I have no clue where it is located.

    As for the wood. It is not new and is the same bag of hickory I have used for very good smokes.

    Your comment about chunks is interesting. I have recently switched to using a mix of chips and chunks and may have erred on the side of too many chips. The problem I had that led me to switch is that my chunks would smoke for about 30 minutes and then stop smoking entirely. I will go back to large chunks and see what happens. Now that I think about it, the good smokes have been chunks and on very cold days where i had to really crank up the propane to keep the heat, which also helped burn the chunks. Now that it's warming up outside the propane is much lower and my chunks are having a hard time producing smoke. At least that's my theory.

    I'll try chunks again and see where that takes me.

  4. werdwolf

    werdwolf Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Are you sure the thermometer your using is still accurate for your smoke temps?
  5. No, not at all. I'm using the built in that came with the GOSM. I do use a probe in the meat so I do know when it's done. I know the GOSM thermometers are supposed to suck, but I don't have a good alternative at the moment. Does the temp matter? People cold smoke, so in my little understanding of the world of smoking the temp only affects the duration of the cook, or is that not accurate?

  6. mgnorcal

    mgnorcal Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    I don't have an answer, but some thoughts:

    If the flame is lower, less smoke will be generated from the same wood. Moving to a thinner pan or placing the pan closer to the flame might help give you more smoke with this lower flame. Adding a few lump charcoal to the pan will help keep a burn going better too, while arguably adding to the good flavor.

    I've never been much impressed with the smoke flavor on my gasser compared to my WSM. But then I've never loaded a ton of chips in the gasser at once due to neighbor issues with too much smoke.
    One idea I've had is to do a pre-smoke at a low temp and no water for a while and really sock it to the meat with smoke (like with the soldering iron + soup can smoke generator) before raising the cooker temp and adding water. Of course that's added time and trouble, so I haven't done it yet.
  7. travcoman45

    travcoman45 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Warmer weather an lower flame be part a yer situation. I'd use a 9x9 cake pan ( are ya usin the cast iron pan that came with it?), add a mix a chips an chunks. That should last ya 2 ta 2 1/2 hours. Now on occasion shake that pan so the wood makes better contact with it, try not foilin the pan an see ifin ya gets a heavier smoke.

    Yup, smokin be bout temp control, fer hot smokin the general temp range be 225° ta 250°. Somethins take hotter temp like turkey, I do them at bout 325° an some thins less, my hams I do as low as I can.

    Get yerself a digi thermo fer grate temps, drop the probe in boilin water an dependin on yer altitude should read 210° ta 212°.

    Just be carefull ya don't get white billowin smoke, cause they yer food gonna taste like a railroad tie!
  8. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    Temp affects many things including whether the chips or chunks will get hot enough to smoke. If you only have one thermometer put it in the smoker and get it up to 225-235 and see what the stock thermo is showing. This may not be the best method but it will get you close at least you'll know where the stock thermo should be for the temps your looking for.
  9. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    You can also dump some lit charcoals in your wood pan to help keep the wood smoking.
  10. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    What Jerry said. You might want to think about replacing that GOSM therm, save yourself some frustration. Good luck my friend. And you don't want rolling smoke coming out of your smoker, just a thin blue smoke will do. Too much smoke at a given time can be a health issue, bitter tasing food is an indication, along with numbness of the mouth/lips.If you can't see the smoke, but you can smell it, you're ok.
  11. Sounds like I'll try the following:
    1. bigger wood box, I'm using the tiny thing that came with the GOSM
    2. lower to the flame, should I cut the thing that holds the box, or is there another way?
    3. a second probe thermometer for measuring the box temp
    4. add some lump (can I add charred but not burned wood from a previous smoke?)

    and at my altitude, the boiling point ain't even close to 212ºF, it's 196ºF.

    Thanks for the help everyone. I'll let you know how the next smoke goes.

  12. I wanted to chime in on this particular thread with a few dumb, newb questions pertaining to the smoke box. I own the vertical BBQ Grillware unit. Seems like every time i soak the chips/chunks and add them they never get fully used up. I want to be able to at least utilize and not waste wood if i can. Now dont get me wrong it does smoke and gets a good ring on the meat, but it seems like the smoke process only goes on for a about 15-30 minutes then i have to regulate back down to cooking temps. Of course the higher the temp, the more smoke. But thats not the key to a good meal.

    Do i need to soak?

    Should i fill the box full?

    At 230-240 it should produce and work right?

    Will small chips be the best for my application?

    Thanks to all!!!
  13. I have smoked a couple of times since my last post. When I use chips I get a fast burst of smoke and then nothing. When I use very large chunks and no chips, I get great smoke but massive fires that raise the temp too high. If I use chips and soak, same as if I use chips and don't soak, but if I use large chunks and soak, perfection every time.

  14. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    i've got a suggestion, but i will qualify it by advising you to try a few different things and do what works best for you in the end.

    if using chips, wrap them in a foil log or pouch - as an alternative, you can also put them in a clean tuna can or soup can, put foil over the top of that and punch a small hole in it. a lot of smoke is going to come out and last a long time, because the chips can't burn away (the pouch or can is full of smoke and there's no oxygen to let it burn fast). i've found this to be much more effective than just soaking chips, although i do sometimes soak them in foil logs.

    as for chunks, i soak them sometimes and don't soak them sometimes and haven't noticed much difference either way. ships are built out of wood and they soak for years, yet the only way water gets in is through a crack or a hole, know what i mean? i've soaked large chunks for several hours and have sawn them in half to reveal no appreciable penetration of water. what this tells me is that soaking doesn't do much except right at first when the chunk is put on. to keep them from flaring up, i usually simply keep the lid closed on the firebox and/or turn the inlet damper down a bit. sooner or later, the flame will use up its oxygen and die off into smoke.

    another thing to keep in mind that the smoke itself isn't necessarily the goal; rather, it is the essence that provides the smell and the taste that we crave. i was camping over the last weekend and brought a big pile of firewood down to burning coals (this was mostly aspen and maybe some willow). anyway, there were no flames at all, just glowing coals, but the smell coming up was smoky and sweet - and the foods we were cooking took a lot of this on. now, if it did this with relatively unknown smoking woods such as aspen and willow, think of what it can do with hickory, apple, cherry etc.

    my point here is that even when your chunks (or your chips, for that matter), have turned to carbonized charcoal, they are putting out a lot of good, sweet essecnce that soaks into your meat. this is another reason why lump charcoal is preferred by many rather than charcoal briquettes. a lot of times, my hickory chunks will be blackened and glowing with no visible smoke, but boy, i can sure smell it, and in the end the tastes are great every time - never over-smoked and certainly never bitter with creosote.
  15. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Taz~ is correct. Soaking, although much talked about does much of nothing other than prolong getting to the the sweet scent you're looking for.

    Let your chunks burn if you have to, and then control the heat they produce, to get the smoke flavor you want. If you want a rich, heavy smoke taste, then go for it. If you want a milder touch of smoke, then reduce the chunks.

    It's all in what you want, and I'm under the impression you want a stronger smoke flavor. Am I correct?

    If so, put a couple chunks (or a handful of chips) directly over the coals and let it rip. Make sure your exhaust vent is fully open.

    Let them burn down. Even after you can't see anything coming out of the chimney, you are still smoking and the flavor is still permeating the meat.

    When you check your coals, if there is nothing (no black pieces, no lumps) if you want more flavor do this again. You may have to do this many times for long smokes like a brisket or a pork butt.

    You will get plenty of smoke flavor. After a few smokes you should know how much smoke you like and how much wood to add.
  16. dmack

    dmack Smoke Blower

    Having used a gas smoker for the last year I have always been concerned over the amount of smoke was getting. I only soaked once, my first smoke. It did nothing for my smoke and that's one less variable to deal with. I watch my ash production vigilantly. If my smoke slows, the first thing I check is my pan. I shake it. Usually that will get things smoking again. I also have emptied my pan on many smokes just to get rid of ash. I think using good lump charcoal with a couple chunks has produced nice results for me.

  17. I guess i just got the impression of if i dont see ANY smoke then she aint producing. I am prolly wrong though.

    So i will not soak next time, put them in the "hot spot" of the vault, and just empty and add as needed to reach a desired result.

    I was always reluctant to open the door thinking I was doing harm, but i see now its all part of the maintenence required in the process.

    Thanks for the help guys! [​IMG]
  18. Wow.. I just tried the suggestion to not soak and to use large chunks and wrap with foil with a few holes. What a bad idea that was. I had a fracken bonfire for 30 minutes, scortched my chickens, wrecked my temp probe, and for the last two hours ZERO smoke. Not even a hint of smoke aroma.

    I don't know how you guys get it to work, but I am going back to soaking large chunks. That seems to be the only way my smoker will not turn into an inferno with no smoke production.

    Anyone else have similar flames belching out the seems experience I do with unsoaked large chunks in a propane smoker?

  19. mikey

    mikey Smoking Fanatic

    I have seen some other gasser users put a cast iron fry pan over the burner with their unsoaked chunks in the pan. Didn't hear any complaints about that set up. Give it a shot, there's nothing to lose.
  20. If I understand right, you're saying to put the wood chunks out in the open with just a skillet underneath them?

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