Hi all, I recently purchased a brinkman electric smoker. I know absolutely nothing about smoking meat and have been reading tons of information on the subject. I thought I would share my experience so far and ask some questions that seem to be hard to find straight answers for.
My first smoking experience:
Lets just say it was just a shade less than a total destruction of some perfectly good meat.
I put the smoker together the night before which was pretty easy. Just had to put the handles on it and was done. In much of my research I found many many statements of "you dont have to soak your wood" and " you should soak your wood for 1 hour". So far, both of these statements have not produced good results.
My first try was to smoke some beef ribs. I fired up the smoker which means I plugged it in as it has not controlls at all. I let it run for about half an hour. I let my ribs rest on the counter for about an hour. I used the BRITU rub on them and it had started forming a nice red liquid underneath. So time to put it on the smoker. I place them on the smoker and added 5 hickory wood chunks into the bottom (UNSOAKED). I went back in 1 hour to check on the ribs and they were already charred all the way around. Since this was my first attempt I had no clue what to expect thus I let them cook longer, Placing 3 pieces of wood on it every hour for 4 hours.
End result. My beef ribs were now beef jerky. Very stringy, very very tough. They did have a nice smokey flavor though
My second and only other attempt was last weekend. I decided again to try ribs but this time I tried pork ribs. In my discussions with a friend of mine, who has this same smoker, it sounded like my temp was just out of control. I swear that first time it must have been cooking at 500+ degrees. Anyways, this time I prepared the ribs the same way but this time I soaked my wood for 1 hour prior to putting them on the smoker.
Since I was worried about temps, I bought a temp gage and put it in there. Without any wood in the bottom it runs at a steady 225 degrees. This time, I took my soaked wood and put it in and started my ribs. At the half hour mark I went out and my temps were at 350 degrees. I noticed the wood had actually caught fire and that was what raised the temp. So during this same process, I put the rest of the wood I had soaked back in the water for another hour, while this was going on I was battleing the temp going into the 250 degree range anytime the wood would catch on fire.
Now enter the 2 hour soaked wood. This was now perfect, It never caught on fire and smoldered very nicely the rest of its short life in the smoker. at 3 hours and 15 minutes, I put my sauce on the ribs and let them cook for another 45 minutes. I pulled them off and put them in aluminum foil or another 10 minutes on the counter.
The meat thermometer that I bought cost 25 bucks and I have yet to get it to work correctly in that smoker. It seems as soon as I put it into the meat and close the lid, within 5 minutes or so it is beeping and telling me my meat is passed above 200 degrees. This part has been very frustrating as I can not get an accurate reading of what the temp is internally to the meat.
When I tested the meat after pulling it off the grill, it said it was around 158 degrees. I had 2 racks and 1 of them was a good size smaller than the other one. The small one said it was at 142 and the big one said it was at 158. They both were on the same rack so I just dont understand how that was possible. Thus why I felt there was something wrong with my new thermometer.
These ribs were very tough. They had a great smoke flavor and the sauce worked ok, but they were just very very tough. Not what i expected after 4 hours of cooking. Now, I had to do a lot of opening the lid and checking the temp and adjusting so it is possible that I just lost a good hour of cook time having the lid opened up every 15 minutes or so. The next day, I took some left overs and heated them in the microwave and they indeed got more tender than the day before, but were still tougher than I would have liked.
So here is some questions for you guru's out there.
Smoke. How much smoke is enough? Frankly the 4 solid hours of smoke to me made the meat way to smokey. You couldn't really taste the pork at this point, it was all smoke. So if your doing ribs, how long do you actually smoke the meat? I found in my smoker that 2 pieces of wood (chunks) soaked for at least 2 hours will produce smoke for about 1 hour.
On a 4 hour piece of meat, should you only smoke it for say the first 2 hours and then let it sit in the smoker at 225 just absorbing the heat afterwards?
Ribs. I see pics of ribs all over the place and the ribs I get from my store never look like what people use. Its kind of hard to explain, you have the ribs but on one end of them appears to be a bunch of meat and connective tissue along with more bones, but they are not rib bones. Are you supposed to cut that section off the ribs prior to cooking or do you leave it connected? Like I said, you never see pictures of anything other than a straight rib bone with meat on it and nothing on either end of it.
And lastly for this post, Chicken.
I am planning on attempting to smoke chicken this coming sunday. its not a whole chicken, just thighs and breast meat. Do you pull them off when they reach an internal temp of 165 just as you do for ribs? My thermometer says poultry is 175. And also for smoking, how long would you actually produce smoke for smoking them? I like a good smoke flavor but not completely dominating the meat.