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Q&A -- Smoking Meat At home

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The manual for one of my smokers recommends a 60-120 minute "dry run" before first use.  I thought this was possibly because its interior is stainless steel, but I'm not really sure.  Either way, it's not a big deal to do so and it certainly can't hurt anything.

=R=

Strikes me that this might be a good way to not only season the grates, but also get a good idea of temp control. It's all about learning about temp control on your particular smoker. I know for a fact that the Weber one-touch at home (25 years old; used frequently) has some different nuances than the much newer Weber One Touch at the cabin (used infrequently).


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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The manual for one of my smokers recommends a 60-120 minute "dry run" before first use.  I thought this was possibly because its interior is stainless steel, but I'm not really sure.  Either way, it's not a big deal to do so and it certainly can't hurt anything.

=R=

Besides, if you've never smoked anything before, a couple of bucks worth of hardwood isn't a big deal, and it'll give you practice starting the fire and controlling the heat. At least, that's what I did while I was "seasoning" the smoker -- pretended I had some real meat in there.


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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You do need to run the smoker meatless for at least three hours. This is not to season the grates but to burn out the protective oil they apply to the steel so that it doesn't rust in the wharehouse or in transit.

You can season the grates but it's not necessary. Yes these are cast iron grates but it's not like cooking with a cast iron pan because the temperatures are so low. At the end of a smoking session your grates will be slathered in fat -- so to clean them I throw 'em in the fire the next time I smoke and that completely burns off the previous fat. Unless you're smoking some really delicate fish, you won't have a problem with meat sticking to the grates. Plus, with the hot grates you can put some serious grill marks on the meat (which you won't be able to see when you're done but it sure is fun. :biggrin:)

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Ok, I did a several hour dry burn last night, and phew, did it ever stink! I'm so glad no meat of mine was exposed to those revolting fumes. I rubbed the grates with lard at the end, just for good measure (and because I hadn't seen the Col's instructions not to bother).

Now I'm in Hour Three of having 14 lbs of pork butt on the smoker, using oak, with some hickory chips for flavor, and the occasional chunk of mesquite lump charcoal for temp control. There's sure a lot of thermal inertia in the smoker! I've been trying to keep it within 25 degrees plus or minus of 225, but sometimes it's been running with the vents all the way closed and taken 10 minutes to cool down to 225, and other times I've tossed in a bit of charcoal to bring the temp up in a hurry.

It's raining here, but I have the smoker under a big umbrella, so I'm not sure whether that's affecting the temp range or not. More likely, I just need to get a better feel for how much wood it needs at any given time. Right now I'm checking the thermometer about every 20 minutes. Sometimes it'll be holding steady at 225 the whole time, sometimes it rises or falls a bit.

Any hints on temp regulation when burning firewood-sized logs will be gratefully received! Byu the way, I'm having a blast, even though it is too early to drink, and I'm getting rained on as well as smoke-infused.

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My first attempt at smoking.

Thanks for all the help her on this forum.

I recently bought a masterbuilt electric water smoker for 4 dollars at a yard sale. the unit looked as if it had never been used and I took it home and cleaned it up.

Fri PM

I opened several packs of Danish Ribs and applied a dry rub that I saw on Alton Brown's show. The ribs look nice, but are not as meaty as I would have liked. Anyone know where I can get good ribs in northern virginia without spending a lot? These were 1.99 a pound, and I saw others as high as 4.50 per pound. I thought this was a cheap cut of meat?

I also brined a Pork Loin

I also mariated some whole chicken legs in garlic, vinegar, peppers, cilantro and S&P

Saturday AM

I looked at my ribs and saw they had a lot of liquid in the bag. I am sure this is a result of the salt. Any suggestions if this is good or bad?

I set up the water smoker and let it go for a couple of hours. With this I learned to regulate the heat. this step was very helpful. I also played with adding soaked wood chips and pieces of hard wood. I covered the water pan with tin foil to make clean up easier.

12 noon

I put the ribs and the pork loin in the smoker. There are two grates, one right above the water the other near the top of the smoker. I added the ribs and loins to the top. Started putting in wood and regulated the heat to 175-190 degrees.

1:30 pm

Everything looks good. I added the chicken to the lower grate and added Italion sassages (raw) to the top grate. I continued to add wood as the smoke goes down. Some pieces of the hard wood lay on top of the electric coil and often catch on fire. Added some orgages and water to the water pan.

4pm

I took off the chicken, loin and sassages. The chicken read 168 degrees and the loin 175 degrees. I think I should have taken then off sooner. My taste tests like what I did. I continued to smoke the ribs.

5pm

Took the ribs off and let them sit awhile. We ate everything. I think my fav was the chicken followed by the ribs. The ribs were a little dry, but meatier ribs would have been perfect.

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We ate everything. I think my fav was the chicken followed by the ribs. The ribs were a little dry, but meatier ribs would have been perfect.

Good job!

I am not a big baby back rib fan. Some will call me a heretic, but I'm happier with a meaty slab of spare ribs with a nice fat cap. They've been running on sale here for $.98/lb about every three weeks.

For more on ribs, click here.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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I am not a big baby back rib fan.  Some will call me a heretic, but I'm happier with a meaty slab of spare ribs with a nice fat cap.  They've been running on sale here for $.98/lb about every three weeks.

I agree. I had a big BBQ this weekend (about 50 guests) and did spare ribs but labelled them "Baby Back Ribs" (we labelled the food so people wouldn't ask us what stuff was) because I assume that due to advertising, people for some reason think that "baby back" ribs are the best. They're not, especially if you're going to slow-cook them.


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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We ate everything. I think my fav was the chicken followed by the ribs. The ribs were a little dry, but meatier ribs would have been perfect.

Good job!

I am not a big baby back rib fan. Some will call me a heretic, but I'm happier with a meaty slab of spare ribs with a nice fat cap. They've been running on sale here for $.98/lb about every three weeks.

For more on ribs, click here.

We should have a conversation sometime about where you buy some of your stuff in the Twin Cities area, perhaps in the Heartland area of the site. I'd love to know where you are buying your spareribs.

I just got a Brinkmann Vertical Smoker for free from someone that upgrade to a Weber Smokey Mountain. So now I've got some smoking to do.

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I love to smoke on my BBQ. I have a coal/butane BBQ.

I use the Smoke and Spice cook books, they have alot of diff cuts of meats, fish and poultry(amoungst other foods and side dishes).

My fave chicken to smoke on the BBQ is smoked with brown sugar.

I simply salt the bird over night, rinse and boil it, then in a disposiable pan, which I have been know to make out of foil, I add alot of brown sugar and place that directly on the coals. Then place the bird on the grill, close cover and wait till it's a dark sunset orange.

remove and cool. You can eat it hot, but I find the flavor mellows and isn't as bitter the next day after it's cooled.

I have tried it with a turkey, and works just as good, however, leaving the skin ON is a nessesity, as it tends to be too dry and the flavor isn,t the same.

Good luck to any one who trys it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Now I'm craving it! LOL

think I would like to try it with a pork too.......ya never know!

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Any hints on temp regulation when burning firewood-sized logs will be gratefully received!  Byu the way, I'm having a blast, even though it is too early to drink, and I'm getting rained on as well as smoke-infused.

Any temp above 175 is fine. With ribs I usually go more towards 200 than 225 as I tend to overcook them less. And don't worry about strickly adhearing to a specific temperature -- a 50 degree swing around 225 is the ideal. The only time you really need to worry is when the temp spikes to up to 300+ because then you really start losing moisture.

Too early to drink? Remember, it's 5:00 somewhere in the world, don't leave 'em hanging.

As for tips:

--water tray - not only helps keep your smoker cleaner but it also provides a heat sink. (when the temp spikes to 300, you can add ice cold water)

--fireplace bricks - help the fire burn smoother and cleaner, i.e. less spikes and less ashes.

--place the next logs on the firebox - for cooler weather smoking, a warm log is quicker to light than a cold one, especially nice when you haven't checked the fire in a while and you find that it's dying. Just be careful, because if it's nice out the log on top of the firebox can light -- see my smoking course for a picture.

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My fave chicken to smoke on the BBQ is smoked with brown sugar.

I simply salt the bird over night, rinse and boil it, then in a disposiable pan, which I have been know to make out of foil, I add alot of brown sugar and place that directly on the coals. Then place the bird on the grill, close cover and wait till it's a  dark sunset orange.

remove and cool. You can eat it hot, but I find the flavor mellows and isn't as bitter the next day after it's cooled.

Why would you boil the bird? They can cook just fine in the smoker. Less time in the smoker = less smokiness. Also, smoked food shouldn't taste bitter. Have you tried smoking with wood rather than sugar? A well smoked chicken or poutry will never see the light of the next day. One thanksgiving my buddies deep fried turkeys, ducks and chickens while I smoked a turkey. People tried to eat the fried birds because they were good but they simply *devoured* the smoked turkey. The only time you'll get bitterness with wood is when you use an overpowering wood with a light meat, i.e. mesquite or hickory with turkey or fish.

I have tried it with a turkey, and works just as good, however, leaving the skin ON is a nessesity, as it tends to be too dry and the flavor isn,t the same.

You know why? It's the fat that traps the smokey flavor. That's why if you smoke a prime rib it'll taste a helluvalot smokier than a filet mignon. Less fat = less smokiness. More fat = more goodness. Not that I'm advocating eating straight fat, but as the fat renders over the meat, that smokiness is imparted to the meat. That's why really fatty meats like pork shoulder, brisket and camal do so well when they're smoked.

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Here's a little photo shoot of my first workout on the Smokin' Pro. Gorgeous, fun, and delicious! Next time, lower and slower. I'll have to look for some fire bricks. You put them in the fire box, or in the grill/smoker box? It's the same principle that I use in my oven by keeping the heavy pizza stone in there all the time, to even out the heat - don't know why I didn't think of that for the smoker. Behold my butt!

Col Klink, thanks so much for your course - couldn't have done it without you. I'm going to feed the next iteration of this to a bunch of your old buds on the 4th. We'll lift a glass or two in your general direction before we get our faces all greasy.

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Col Klink, I'm going to do brisket for the 4th. I've absorbed all of your posted wisdom, but there's one thing I can't find, and that's the recipe for the mop you favor. Would you share?

Also, if you're serving a sauce on the side, would Mark's South Carolina Mustard sauce do the trick, or is there one that's better for brisket?

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You put them in the fire box, or in the grill/smoker box?

The fire bricks line the fire box. I have four of the thin 1/2" variety, with the thick ones you have hardly any room for fire.

Col Klink, I'm going to do brisket for the 4th.  I've absorbed all of your posted wisdom, but there's one thing I can't find, and that's the recipe for the mop you favor.  Would you share?

Also, if you're serving a sauce on the side, would Mark's South Carolina Mustard sauce do the trick, or is there one that's better for brisket?

Brisket smoked properly doesn't need any sauce of any kind. I'll mop pork but rarely do I mop brisket.

That said, if your brisket has been trimmed of its glorious fat (think Samson here), then you do need to mop. In which case I'd basically use a mustard based vinaigrette that's heavy on the oil -- I love the mustard flavor plus it acts as an emulsifier. Just don't add any sugar as it tends to burn next to a fire for 12 hours.

If some of your guests can't wrap their heads around not having sauce, which has been known to happen outside of Central Texas, I've heard good things about =Mark's South Caroina Mustard sauce. Like his comments I would lean more towards fresh citrus and a Louisiana hot sauce but would go with a ground mustard instead of prepared. I'd also go light on the sugar -- I can't stand sweet bbq sauces. Don't go without it because you need some to take the harshness off of the tanginess of the lime and the heat of the chilis/hot sauce.

Have fun!

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Thanks! I've got a whole brisket, full fat cap, on order form a great local meat producer, but I was thrown by the picture in the Course, where you seemed to be mopping, even with the cap on.

Mark's sauce is wonderful with butt - it's not really sweet, even though it contains a lot of sugar., and it's tangy and addictive. I did make it as written, though, not according to his comments. I might tweak it for brisket, along the lines you recommend, or search out a True Texas sauce. I'm pretty sure that some people will want sauce.

Hey, did you lose the paint on your firebox too? In reviewing your course, the paint looked pretty crapped out, which is already happening to mine, even though I've only used it once so far.

Edit: just one more question. I see a lot of references on the web to smoking for 2-4 hours at 200-225, then wrapping the meat in foil to continue cooking. Some recipes say this even for untrimmed brisket. Can you 'splain why you get juicy meat and they feel the need for foil?


Edited by Abra (log)

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Edit: just one more question.  I see a lot of references on the web to smoking for 2-4 hours at 200-225, then wrapping the meat in foil to continue cooking.  Some recipes say this even for untrimmed brisket.  Can you 'splain why you get juicy meat and they feel the need for foil?

Maybe because they are getting trimmed briskets? I've never done the foil thing, either, until it's done and comes off. I think they slice much nicer after a nice rest in a warm place (electric oven with the light on) in foil. And, perhaps it's because they don't know what they are doing. I'm amazed at some of the TV shows on BBQ that don't insist on the low and slow, the ones that insist that you bring the meat to room temp, etc.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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By now almost all of the paint has fallen off of my firebox. And at times it has listed and looked quite pathetic. As soon as I'm into the new place I can give it some real TLC.

Pretty soon you might need to get a new fire grate if you haven't already. I had a buddy weld up some rebar and that has worked fantastically well for the last 5 years but is now starting to show its age. However, the original grate didn't last a month (albeit under heavy use).

The mop in the course photo was specifically for the butt and I probably mopped the brisket too at some point. The finished brisket below that did not take any mopping over the 14 hours it was in the smoker.

FYI, a True Texas sauce is no sauce! You will find plenty of Texas 'que joints that serve sauce but they're mostly the chain restaurants and it's a sweet, sweet tomato sauce, or in the case of The County Line - the worst sauce ever.

I should make a shout out to The Salt Lick which has a sauce, but it's an Asian inspired mustard based sauce that's quite tasty. Their "Lauren's Habenero BBQ Sauce" is my favorite of theirs and don't be freightened by the habeneros, it's quite a tame sauce -- remember, this is Texas where the heat isn't in the food, it's in the air.

Oh, I should mention that I really only throw the sauce on their potato salad unless the meat is dry which is very rare.

I agree with snowangel, they're probably referring to grocery store brisket that's been trimmed. If you're going to wrap your brisket in foil, you might as well finish it in the oven (I won't make the sarcastic remark of also adding liquid smoke).

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Col Klink I've enjoyed and been enlightened reading of all of your great advice and very detailed instructions on smoking meats. I need your advice/guidance on using an electric indoor smoker. I've had this appliance hanging out and collecting dust at my house for some time now. It's a Bravetti 18 quart oven/smoker. I've never used it but one is supposed to be able to smoke meats--I plan to sacrifice a couple of slabs of spareribs this weekend to the Smoke Goddess--using soaked wood chips and setting the temperature to 225 degrees. Do you or anyone else out there have any experience with an indoor smoker? BTW, as to why I'm not doing it outside, 1) as I have said elsewhere I have some temporary mobility issues and it really isn't feasible for me to tackle the old Weber grill, 2) I've never smoked anything, only grilled, on the Weber, and 3) I don't particularly like the thought of working over a hot grill in 90+ degree heat--I'm a big sissy! :rolleyes:

Thanks for any help you can provide.


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Diva, I can honestly say that I've never tried using an indoor smoker and this is the first time I've even heard of an indoor oven/smoker.

Is this the one?

If so, I'm dubious of it's smoking quality. For smoking to work well, you generate smoke, pass it over food and then expel the smoke. If it stays in one place, it will generate creosote and the six hours spare ribs need is quite a long time for that smoke sit on the food. For shorter periods like a half hour and shorter it's fine, but longer periods you're more likely to develop a really bitter taste. You can try it (and I would be very interested to read about the outcome) but I'd be reluctant to. I'd much rather risk having someone help you spend 3 minutes out of every 20 checking the Weber outside then risk filling the house with smoke (eventually you have to open up that smoker and when you do, where's the smoke going to go?).

BTW, smoking on the Weber is just as easy as grilling. You just have a smaller fire and you keep the lid cracked an inch. Webers are great for smoking.

Good luck!

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Diva, I can honestly say that I've never tried using an indoor smoker and this is the first time I've even heard of an indoor oven/smoker.

Is this the one?

If so, I'm dubious of it's smoking quality. For smoking to work well, you generate smoke, pass it over food and then expel the smoke. If it stays in one place, it will generate creosote and the six hours spare ribs need is quite a long time for that smoke sit on the food. For shorter periods like a half hour and shorter it's fine, but longer periods you're more likely to develop a really bitter taste. You can try it (and I would be very interested to read about the outcome) but I'd be reluctant to. I'd much rather risk having someone help you spend 3 minutes out of every 20 checking the Weber outside then risk filling the house with smoke (eventually you have to open up that smoker and when you do, where's the smoke going to go?).

BTW, smoking on the Weber is just as easy as grilling. You just have a smaller fire and you keep the lid cracked an inch. Webers are great for smoking.

Good luck!

Wow, impressive Col Klink that's exactly the appliance I have. I already had vague reservations about doing this. Thank you for pointing out the whole bitterness factor. I would be extremely disappointed and ticked off if after hours and hours of smoking I ended up with a couple of slabs of bitter meat and a house full of smoke. There's absolutely nothing in the device as far as I can tell that would circulate or vent the smoke being generated. Actually I had hypothesized that the amount of smoke generated by an electric indoor device using some soaked wood chips would probably be a fraction of the smoke generated by an outdoor smoker using a lot of charcoal, but if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

Thanks for all your help and have a happy Fourth of July.


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Diva, I can honestly say that I've never tried using an indoor smoker and this is the first time I've even heard of an indoor oven/smoker.

Is this the one?

If so, I'm dubious of it's smoking quality. For smoking to work well, you generate smoke, pass it over food and then expel the smoke. If it stays in one place, it will generate creosote and the six hours spare ribs need is quite a long time for that smoke sit on the food. For shorter periods like a half hour and shorter it's fine, but longer periods you're more likely to develop a really bitter taste. You can try it (and I would be very interested to read about the outcome) but I'd be reluctant to. I'd much rather risk having someone help you spend 3 minutes out of every 20 checking the Weber outside then risk filling the house with smoke (eventually you have to open up that smoker and when you do, where's the smoke going to go?).

BTW, smoking on the Weber is just as easy as grilling. You just have a smaller fire and you keep the lid cracked an inch. Webers are great for smoking.

Good luck!

Wow, impressive Col Klink that's exactly the appliance I have. I already had vague reservations about doing this. Thank you for pointing out the whole bitterness factor. I would be extremely disappointed and ticked off if after hours and hours of smoking I ended up with a couple of slabs of bitter meat and a house full of smoke. There's absolutely nothing in the device as far as I can tell that would circulate or vent the smoke being generated. Actually I had hypothesized that the amount of smoke generated by an electric indoor device using some soaked wood chips would probably be a fraction of the smoke generated by an outdoor smoker using a lot of charcoal, but if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

Thanks for all your help and have a happy Fourth of July.

I have made "bbq" ribs in the oven. Low and slow on racks, kept at 225. They tasted good but without the smokey flavor. Maybe you could cook for an hour with the wood and the rest without.

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Diva, I can honestly say that I've never tried using an indoor smoker and this is the first time I've even heard of an indoor oven/smoker.

Is this the one?

If so, I'm dubious of it's smoking quality. For smoking to work well, you generate smoke, pass it over food and then expel the smoke. If it stays in one place, it will generate creosote and the six hours spare ribs need is quite a long time for that smoke sit on the food. For shorter periods like a half hour and shorter it's fine, but longer periods you're more likely to develop a really bitter taste. You can try it (and I would be very interested to read about the outcome) but I'd be reluctant to. I'd much rather risk having someone help you spend 3 minutes out of every 20 checking the Weber outside then risk filling the house with smoke (eventually you have to open up that smoker and when you do, where's the smoke going to go?).

BTW, smoking on the Weber is just as easy as grilling. You just have a smaller fire and you keep the lid cracked an inch. Webers are great for smoking.

Good luck!

Wow, impressive Col Klink that's exactly the appliance I have. I already had vague reservations about doing this. Thank you for pointing out the whole bitterness factor. I would be extremely disappointed and ticked off if after hours and hours of smoking I ended up with a couple of slabs of bitter meat and a house full of smoke. There's absolutely nothing in the device as far as I can tell that would circulate or vent the smoke being generated. Actually I had hypothesized that the amount of smoke generated by an electric indoor device using some soaked wood chips would probably be a fraction of the smoke generated by an outdoor smoker using a lot of charcoal, but if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

Thanks for all your help and have a happy Fourth of July.

I have made "bbq" ribs in the oven. Low and slow on racks, kept at 225. They tasted good but without the smokey flavor. Maybe you could cook for an hour with the wood and the rest without.

Bless you lcdm!!! Great idea. Thank you so much. Now, you suggest smoking them first, then the oven. However, would cooking them in the oven first kind of have an effect of "opening up the meat" so to speak to absorb more smoke flavor (smoking them for no more than an hour?) Certainly wouldn't taste as wonderful as the cue done on a grill or smoker in the great outdoors, but better than no smoke at all. Again, thanks for the help; it's much appreciated. :wub:

Col Klink I may be reporting the results back to you after all.


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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However, would cooking them in the oven first kind of have an effect of "opening up the meat" so to speak to absorb more smoke flavor (smoking them for no more than an hour?) . . .

No, the meat will not take on as much smoke if you cook it first. However long you smoke it, that stage should come first.

=R=

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