WSM & BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2 ATC Inaugural Zephyr Cove Lake Tahoe Break In

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by jaybone, Jun 18, 2013.

  1. Finally got to break in my new 18.5" WSM & BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2 ATC at a Zephyr Cove Lake Tahoe Cabin outing with the family 6/10-6/14.

    Special cudos to Craig (fpnmf) "How I Start & Use My WSM" and Eric (forluvofsmoke) "Wet To Dry Brisket & Pork Butt".

    Smoked a 12.71 pound packer brisket (after separating the point & flat), a 6.27 pound brisket flat, a 8.02 pound & 7.62 pound pork butt. Stuck pretty close to Eric's Wet To Dry method for maximum bark creation.

    Removed all exterior fat from briskets and butts. Used SPOG on briskets and Jeff's Rub on the butts. Smoker temp @ 225 for entire smokes. No foil on meats and lid kept closed for entire smoke session.

    WSM water bowl half filled with play sand, terra cotta saucer on top of sand, foil wrapped, then filled remaining bowl space with hot water.

    12.71 lb brisket packer untrimmed and just out of its packaging;

    Same brisket packer after removing all fat and separating the point & flat;

    Fat trimmed 6 lb flat;

    SPOG'd fat trimmed 6 lb flat;

    Placed single 6 lb flat on lower WSM grate and separated packer meats on upper grate.

    SPOG'd brisket going into smoker;

    Started brisket smoke at 9:00pm on 6/10 when smoker temp was ~155.
    Took 2 hours for the ATC to get smoker temp to 225. Had two of the lower vents completely closed, upper vent completely open, and controlling solely with the ATC.

    While briskets were on the smoke started prepping the pork butts.
    Trimmed butts (~8 lbs each);

    Rubbed both butts generously with Jeff's rub recipe then wrapped each in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight;

    Called it a night at this point.
    Had my ATC display just outside my cabin bedroom window and kept looking at it periodically throughout the night.

    Made a batch of Kat's biscuits for breakfast;

    Pulled upper grate briskets at 2:00pm on 6/11 for a total smoke time of 17 hours. Upper grate flat IT 195 (probably should have pulled at 185) when pulled.
    Lower grate brisket IT 175 so left it in the WSM a bit longer.
    Rested briskets on raised roasting racks inside of large aluminum pans and covered with kitchen towels for ~1 hour for max bark retention.

    Wet To Dry flat & point;

    Briskets had good bark but were disappointedly dry with poor smoke penetration;

    Sliced both flats and cubed the point to add to a batch of Dutch's Ranch Beans;

    Plated sliced brisket with Dutch's Ranch Beans and cloned KFC cole slaw;

    Quickly cleaned out the smoker and re-prepped it for the butts to keep smoker temps up as much as possible.
    Put both ~8 lb butts on the WSM ~7:20pm 6/11. WSM temp 115, butt temp 34;

    These butts took awhile.
    Resisted the temptation to remove lid to peak several times.
    Just trusted the ATC to get me where I wanted to be.
    Had to add several handfuls of brickets (Kingsford blue) and more wood chunks (pecan, cherry, hickory) a couple of times.
    Time to go to bed again.

    Another batch of Kat's biscuits for breakfast and today added her sausage balls to the mix.
    I added finely minced onion to her sausage ball recipe.
    Had to cook the sausage balls first then the biscuits because they require different temps and my cooking vessels were limited.
    Here's a pic of the finished sausage balls and yet to be baked biscuits;

    Another shot of the sausage balls;

    Butts finally removed from WSM at 10:30pm 6/12 after 27 hours (hope my math and notes are correct).
    Final butt IT 195.
    Same as the brisket these were moved to raised roasting racks inside large aluminum pans and covered with kitchen towels to rest.
    Finished butts;

    My intentions were to let these rest for a couple of hours, pull, then vacuum seal and into the freezer.
    Unfortunately too many beers and a comfortable bed resulted in me not seeing these again until morning.
    Here's what they looked like pulled and in the pan;

    I was very pleased with these butts!
    The bark was amazing and the meat was moist and tender.
    So, brisket I gotta work on.
    Very happy with the butts.
    Feel pretty good about my 1st's;
    1st time using a WSM
    1st time using an ATC
    1st time smoking brisket
    1st time smoking butts

    Thanks to all at SMF for making this possible!
    Could not have got here without ya.
    Now looking forward to tweeking things for better results.

    Thanks for lookin'
  2. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looks Great Jay!!!

  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The Meat all looks good. Is 2 hours normal for a Guru to raise the temp from 155* to 225*F?...It don't sound right...JJ [​IMG]
  4. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    No JJ it isn' go from 155 to 225 would normally take 5-10 minutes.  I'll get my pit up to temp and then put the meat on but even with the meat on it wouldn't take long at all. 
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2013
  5. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    JAY!!!!  OMgoodness!  You totally rocked those biscuits!  I am tickled that you liked them!  Easy huh?

    Haven't thought about adding the onion to the sausage balls....gonna have to try that too!

    Coolness...the food looks really great!

  6. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Ahhhh..... Zephy Cove at Lake Tahoe..... I have a very fond (if somewhat blurry) memory of my 21st birthday in Taho. Spent the afternoons at Zypher Cove and gambling at night. [​IMG]

    Great looking Que! A trick a lot of us use that we picked up from SmokinAl in Florida is to put the brisket on the lower rack then place the trimmed fat on the top rack, after about 6-8 hrs. you can discard the fat, but it helps baste the meat and keeps it very moist. I also just use water in my pan, and have not had any issues with dry brisket - still get plenty of bark.
  7. Wow.  What an awesome spread.   Lots of variety.   Now I have to try Kat's biscuits.
  8. Thanks Craig, and thanks for all your help and good advice.
  9. Yes, the family and I really love the biscuits and the sausage balls. Really like the extra zing the onions add to the sausage balls.

    Thanks for sharing the recipes!
  10. This was our first time staying at Zephyr Cove. We had visited it before but never stayed in the cabins. Can see the lake from the cabin and it's a very short walk to the water.

    Was kind of disappointed in the dryness of the brisket. I need to rethink that smoke session and come up with something a little different to get the desired moisture.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2013
  11. Kat's biscuits are the bomb and so simple with very few ingredients. Ya gotta try em.

  12. I was expecting a much shorter time to get to 225. Maybe the combination of the sand mass in the water bowl and all of the cold brisket is what took it so long? Gonna try without the sand next time and see if that makes a difference.
  13. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Basically you just had so much thermal mass to heat up that it took a while to heat that up first before you could start cooking.  When there is a lot to heat up then try pre heating with the vents open and get up to temp prior to turning on the ATC.

    If you don't have that mass then it's not a big deal to let the ATC bring the temps up although i wouldn't put big cuts of meat on until it's up to temp. 
  14. Thanks, sounds like good advice.

  15. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The large mass of meat in there would be a contributing factor to the slower than normal temp increase. Another reason would be the higher elevation, Tahoe is about 6,200ft. So if your used to smoking at Rancho Cordova, 89-100ft, that's a big difference in oxygen levels!
  16. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Yea absolutely, i forgot the altitude is up there and that makes a HUGE difference.  The moral of the story get the temp up before adding meat, especially from a food safety perspective.  4 hours to get to 135 when the meat's above 40.  
  17. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    With any smoker you want to get the chamber temps up and running where you want them before adding the meat - just like you would pre-heat a grill before tossing the steak on. Once you are up to temp and have your thermal mass heated (sand, water, ect.) then toss on your meat. You will see a slight dip in temp. after the meat is on, but it should come back up within 10-20 min. depending on how much meat there is.
  18. I agree.
  19. Thanks, I will definitely head this advice from here on out. I was already aware of the 4-40-140 rule and should have known to have the smoker at desired temp prior to meat placement. Just didn't expect it to take so long to get to 225.
  20. Thanks, great advice!

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