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Old 05-24-2007, 12:47 PM   #1
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Newbie here. first experiences and some questions

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.

Thanks
DoomsDay

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Old 05-24-2007, 12:54 PM   #2
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Welcome Doomsday (12-21-12)! Your post was really entertaining and although I can't help you with that smoker, someone will show up who owns one, I hope.

I use the double decker Weber.
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Old 05-24-2007, 01:24 PM   #3
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Smile

By chance have you read the how to recipe booklet that came with your smoker?
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Old 05-24-2007, 01:30 PM   #4
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Yes I read the pamplet that came with it. It states that you only need to soak the wood for 30 minutes. I am assuming that I just got a bag of really dry hickory wood and it needs to be soaked a lot longer than normal. Since I am new, I am unsure if thats true but thats the theory I am sticking with till someone can come up with a better one =)

Oh, and what is (12-21-12)? I am assuming it is in reference to some doomsday date? My handle was originally taken from the show The Bionic Woman when she went up against the DoomsDay machine and I thought that handle would be good, but nowadays there are tons of DoomsDay's out there hehe.
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Old 05-24-2007, 01:43 PM   #5
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Welcome to DC, DoomsDay. We're glad you've found us and when one of our knowledgeable smoker gurus shows up, I'm sure they'll offer great advice. The first person who comes to mind is Uncle Bob. He's a proficient outdoor cook and will probably be able to shed some light on your situation.

While you're waiting, why don't you browse through our forums to see what other wonderful things DC has to offer.

Hellooooo, Uncle Bob!!!
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Old 05-24-2007, 01:44 PM   #6
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Welcome to DC Doomsday...

Your post, while entertaning, has me dizzy! What is the model number of this beast and does it have themostat??
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Old 05-24-2007, 01:52 PM   #7
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The full name of the smoker is Brinkmans Gourmet electric Smoker. Model number 810-7080-K and no, It does not have a thermostat.



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Old 05-24-2007, 02:35 PM   #8
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Doomsday...I have no experience with an electric smoker so my comments will have to be brief. With no thermostat, you are probably wasting your time and energy. Check with a local electrical supply house for an in-line one.

That being said. you said that it runs at 225* with no wood! (A perfect temperature for BBQing.) When you add flavoring wood the temp goes up!
What does this tell you? You are using way to much wood. Cut back on the amount of wood to control your temperature. In fact after the first hour of cooking do not add any addtional wood. The meat will have had plenty of smoke and your temperature will be under control.

The debate over "to soak" or "not to soak" flavoring woods will rage on forever. I am of the opioion that wood is not a sponge and will absorb only so much water no mater how long you soak it. So in 30 minutes or so it's over.
The benefits of soaking to me are at best marginal. The moisture is quickly dissipated and you are down to dry wood.

Key point: Your cooker was designed to heat to 225* This is good!
You are using way to much wood causing to much smoke (bitter) and to high of a temperature. Cut back on the wood and let the beast do it's thing.

Are you with me so far?
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Old 05-24-2007, 02:58 PM   #9
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That answers part of my questions. Yes it is desinged to run at exactly 225 degrees. My problem was that my wood was so dry that it would catch on fire shortly after putting it into the smoker and thus it was raising the temp inside. Even 1 piece of wood being on fire will cause the temp to go up. In my last try, I found 2 pieces of wood that had been soaked for 2 hours did not catch on fire but smoldered nicely. After only 1 hour of soaking and putting it in the smoker, it would catch on fire about 10 minutes after being put in there. So it seems that it is able to soak up more water the longer it stays in there.

So, when smoking things like chicken or ribs, you really only need to produce smoke for about 1 hour correct?

And were you able to understand my question about the ribs and the way they come from the store?
I found an image that looks closely to what I am talking about. See the big section at the top of the ribs? While in the picture it seems it is all meat, but the ones I got had a lot of gristle and bone in it.

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Old 05-24-2007, 03:14 PM   #10
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that pic looks like a rib roast
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Old 05-24-2007, 03:18 PM   #11
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Doomsday...

So that this will not become a personal conversation I will send you a private message and we can continue our discussion there. It may take a while as right now I am in the middle of building a camp fire to produce wood coals to grill some 2 in. rib-eyes. I will get back to you later.
The picture you posted is not one of ribs, but looks all the world to me to be a bone-in pork loin. You may want to spend some time reading about pork ribs..ie. spare ribs, St Louis cut spare ribs and loin back ribs. (baby back ribs)

Later...I must tend the fire.

Uncle Bob "Keeper of the Coals"
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Old 05-24-2007, 03:54 PM   #12
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Thanks, sounds good. As for the pic. It was the closest thing I could get to explain what I have been getting from the store. Ahh, found an image that is closer to what I am talking about. My ribs usually have alot more on the top than this picture is showing, but I think you get the idea now. It appears from reading the blog from that website that this is not needed as it just makes them more uniform by trimming off the top at the gristle area

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Old 05-24-2007, 04:00 PM   #13
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Now that's ribs as I know them. I still haven't been able to trim off the silverskin or whatever it's call on ribs.

Now, I don't want my ribs falling off the bone. I like to be able to cut through them but have the ability to chew them easily.
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Old 05-24-2007, 04:05 PM   #14
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Doomsday..

The picture is your basic pork spare rib. Check your private messages.

Miss Jan when I can find time I will PM ya and tell how to remove the membrane. It's easy!!
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Old 05-24-2007, 04:07 PM   #15
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*kiss kiss*
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Old 05-24-2007, 04:12 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Bob
Doomsday..

The picture is your basic pork spare rib. Check your private messages.

Miss Jan when I can find time I will PM ya and tell how to remove the membrane. It's easy!!
Tell me to UB - Pleaseeeeeeeee -thanks !
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Old 05-24-2007, 04:14 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Half Baked
Now that's ribs as I know them. I still haven't been able to trim off the silverskin or whatever it's call on ribs.
See the second post in this thread

http://www.discusscooking.com/forums...eeds-1779.html
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Old 05-24-2007, 06:57 PM   #18
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Doomsday, does your smoker have dampers, to control the airflow through the smoker? If so, you may need to adjust them during cooking.

Leave the exhaust (probably at the top) fully open. If you close the exhaust, you will have creosote (that black, flaky stuff that deposits on the inside of your fireplace chimney) condensing and depositing on the inside of your smoker, as well as your meat, which may explain the "charred" appearance on your first attempt.

The intake damper is the "throttle", so to speak, for the temperature. It allows oxygen into the smoker. The more oxygen, the more combustion, which results in more smoke and heat at the same time. When I'm smoking in my setup at home, I shut the damper down to barely open, so that my fire smolders, instead of burns actively. If your intake is open, then to much oxygen is getting into your smoker, so the wood actively burns instead of smolders.

Remember, every time you open your smoker, you increase your cooking time by 15 minutes, as a rule-of-thumb.

I usually baste my meat with apple juice every hour. Really, REALLY, lean cuts of meat need added fat. Covering the meat with bacon will do the trick, so I've heard, but I've never actually tried it.
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Old 05-24-2007, 10:35 PM   #19
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No, there are no dampers or exhausts. The smoke comes out around the the lid. I think my problem on my first attempt with the charred meat was due to the 5 pieces of wood that I had in the smoker that actually caught fire and raised the temp inside the smoker to a really high temp. I watched closely on my second attempt and when the wood caught fire it was indeed raising the temp inside the smoker. I think I have that fixed now with soaking the wood longer as when I put those pieces in, it did not catch fire and smoldered nicely and the temp stayed at 225. I also think I just didnt cook it long enough considering I kept opening the lid and checking the temps several times.

I do have one question that nobody had answered yet. With chicken, what internal temp does it need to be to be safe to eat? I have read anywhere from 155 to 165. My meat thermometer says poultry is 175 so I am a little bit confused on that one.

Thanks
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Old 05-24-2007, 11:55 PM   #20
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I will say up front I have not read every single post from start to finish so I apologize for any repeats here!

I used to have an electric smoker and I never placed the soaked wood chunks directly on the coils, only around the coils. I usually used about 6 or 7 large chunks and that was all for the entire time. If I smoked a whole "beer butt" chicken that totaled usually 6 hours. The wood chunks will not totally disappear if placed around the coils but it will eventually quit heavily smoking from around the top after awhile. DO NOT lift the lid until you are pretty sure everything is done. If I smoked a pork butt I used around 10 chunks as the pork butt could cook for up to 12 hours.

You do not want to keep adding wood chunks the entire time, which you found out produced a bitter over-smoked taste and nothing else.

I would say your chicken pieces would take around 3or 4 hours or so? I've only cooked a whole chicken, sorry. You want the chicken cooked above the recommended temperature. That recommended temperature is only to assure you that all the bad stuff is cooked away/out. For example, I always cook a pork butt to no less than 190 degrees F. (even though it's done in the high 160's) but I prefer 200 or slightly above. At this point the connective tissue breaks down and the meat just falls apart. Chicken is the same way. For a whole bird I do the "wiggle" method. If the leg wiggles like it will fall off it's done! For chicken pieces I would have to do a google search.

I have never taken a final temp on my poultry. An hour or so before I pulled it out it was close to 162 I think. Just remember that smoked poultry is going to have pink meat near the bone, which doesn't equal "not cooked". It's just a "smoke thing". If you cook to 165 I feel like it will be done. With chicken pieces it might be a bit trickier to check the temp because there won't be a lot of meat before you get to the bone. Take the largest piece out of your smoker and let it rest for about 10 minutes then check for doneness. Completely dry your chicken pieces, rub with softened butter, then rub a rub on.

Are you going to use any kind of rub on your chicken pieces? If you do a search for Beer Butt Chicken I have listed a rub recipe.

Another thing I do that helps the final flavor is I use apple juice in the water pan instead of water.

We'll save brining for another day "wink".

Soaked wood chunks (never use chips) will heat up and produce smoke - dry wood chunks just dry out even more and burn up.
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