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End of summer thoughts on my M1

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    End of summer thoughts on my M1

    Haven't posted in awhile and the season is rapidly coming to a close. I thought I'd give a summary of some of my thoughts on the M1 after a couple months of use. I don't see a lot of posts on this grill and maybe I can help someone who is considering this grill for themselves. I've used both the lower firebox for low-and-slow stick burning and the upper charcoal grate for direct (and indirect) charcoal grilling. Overall, I'll say this is a solidly built piece of equipment and if stick-burning is your thing, you will find much to like about this grill. I really like how solid this grill is, how using it really makes me feel like I'm on my way to the competition circuit (not really!) and it impresses the hell out of my party guests. On the down-side, I am new to stick-burning and was not prepared for the learning curve and serious time commitment this grill requires.

    Speaking strictly of the stick burning aspect, I've really struggled at times with this grill. Initially, I had trouble getting it up to temp and then stabilizing. My last cook this weekend with a pork shoulder was much smoother than past attempts. I followed someone's advice from this forum and started a chimney of briquettes inside the cook chamber with the lid down. This helped get the temp up inside the main chamber so I didn't struggle to get to 250 or better once I was ready to start the logs in the lower firebox. Once the coals were fully lit, I dumped them into the lower firebox, tossed a split of post oak on top, fiddled a bit with the upper chimney damper and within minutes my probe was reading a solid 250+ in the cook chamber. After that, it was just a matter of adding a new split when I saw the temp dropping a bit and I'd get right back to cooking temp. I did notice that the temperature would top out anywhere from 255 to 280 depending on the size of the split. I didn't feel like fiddling with the dampers every time I added a log and I was ok with that temp range in this situation.

    After about 9 hours my 6.5 lb boneless shoulder was up to about 188 and the family was getting hangry. I threw 2 more splits on the fire, then a third and got the cook temp up around 400. The pork quickly cycled up to 205 and I pulled it off the grill and it shredded easily. It looked great and had a good pork taste. The bark was nicely carmelized, sweet and crunchy. But like with other meals I've made on this grill it had zero smoke flavor. I'm not sure why this is but it basically tasted like it came out of my oven, which was disappointing. One thing I did notice when starting the chimney of briquettes inside the cook chamber - I had all the dampers open and I would get some heavy smoke coming out the chimney then it would stop completely for 15-20 seconds. I thought more than once that the charcoal had failed to light but then there'd be another big puff of smoke coming out the chimney. This was odd and tells me there is something going on with the airflow inside the cook chamber although I am not expert enough to know what it is. In my trusty old Weber kettle with slow n' sear, I will see a solid, steady stream of smoke when using charcoal and wood chunks.

    Anyway, this brings me to my issues with the M1. I really want to love this grill but I feel like maybe it is just not the right machine for me. Now first off I want to stress that this is a fine, well-crafted machine and some of these issues may just be user error and my noob-ness to stick burning. I am not in any way saying this grill is a bad piece of equipment or not worth the expense if this is what you really want. But here's the issues I encountered that are causing me to think I will probably be listing this for sale:

    1 - The big one is the lack of smoke flavor. The food that comes off the grill is fine but just doesn't taste like BBQ to me. Maybe that's because the bulk of what I've been making and eating for many years has come off a charcoal grill and that is what I am used to. I did not expect the same kind of heavy smoke flavor I get from charcoal and that was actually a positive to me as I'm not a fan of super-heavy smoke but honestly, I get no smoke flavor at all from this grill and that is a disappointment. I would love to hear from any experienced stick burners on this issue. Is it me? Is it the design of the grill with its reverse flow setup? Will I get more smoke from an offset? How do these types of grills compare to a something like a Weber with a slow n' sear or a pellet grill in terms of smoke flavor? I've tried to research this issue without success. Most reviews just say "food tastes great" but no one really talks much about smokiness or compares smoke levels across different types of cookers. I know this is subjective but it's an overlooked topic IMHO.

    2 - Cooking with logs is very time-intensive. Again, I knew this going in and I thought I was ok with that but the way it has played out is every cook means I am hovering near the grill, constantly checking temps, adjusting dampers, adding logs, etc. Cooking a pork shoulder is an all-day commitment, ribs is a solid chunk out of my day and I've been deterred from even trying a brisket. I do like aspects of playing with the fire and burning real wood is really satisfying but the downside of this is that I have used the grill much less often than I anticipated. I have 2-year-old, 3 dogs and a wife and it is hard to commit an entire day every weekend (or every other) to the grill. I knew going in that stick burning was a time suck and I thought I was prepared for that. I was not. Maybe in a few years if/when I retire I can devote more time to this hobby but right now it is just not something I can do every week.

    3 - Sourcing wood in my area has been a chore. I did find a local vendor who will separate out cooking wood but they only have oak and cherry. Fine options but if I want pecan, hickory, mesquite, apple or anything more exotic I have to order online and the price per pound is high. Sourcing locally is cheaper but I have to pick it up myself and they sell full 16" logs, which are not a good size for this grill. So I would need to cut the logs down and make my own splits, another expense and another time investment. If you are looking at a log burning smoker, think hard about this before you take the plunge.

    So that's it. I do like the grill but overall I just think it was not the right choice for me. I started off my search for a new grill looking at pellet grills and now I think that was probably the right option for me given my current lifestyle. Of course the Mak 2-star I had been leaning towards is now sold out and unavailable but I'm not in a rush. I have not completely given up on the M1 but I don't think I can add another grill to my patio (I have a gas burner as well as my old Weber) without getting rid of one of the existing ones. I am hosting a Labor Day BBQ this weekend. I plan on trying 6 racks of ribs using both the upper and lower grill grates. I will mostly be using cherry wood I think (if it gets here in time). If anyone has any tips for increasing the smoke flavor with this type of grill, I would love to hear them.
    Last edited by Tuckmonster; August 30, 2021, 11:01 AM.

    #2
    Thanks for the write-up. It's not only finding a quality unit, it's about finding a unit that fits your style. Good luck if you decide to try to go another route.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for taking the time to post all that. I, too, think I want a stick burner, never having owned one.

      Question: If you like what the Weber kettle turns out, why are you looking to move away from it. If it's capacity, maybe just add a Weber 26.

      Also, if you find the smoke profile lacking on your stick burner, I can't imagine you being satisfied with a pellet grill. Maybe an UDC with a fan-controller would be best?

      Comment


      • Tuckmonster
        Tuckmonster commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks for the feedback. The main reason for switching from the Weber was just grass is always greener, wanting to try something new. I did look at the bigger Weber charcoal grill, the name escapes me at the moment. But the reason I didn't go that route is that I wanted to try something different than charcoal. If I could find something that gets me halfway between no smoke and the heavy charcoal smoke from a Weber I think I'd be pretty happy.

      • IFindZeroBadCooks
        IFindZeroBadCooks commented
        Editing a comment
        Yup. Do not go to pellets if you are unhappy with the M1 for sure. But I think some adjustments will make you like the M1 again.

      #4
      Nice writeup. A question - do your family and guests also perceive a lack of smoke flavor? I can't count the times I've felt something didn't have much smoke on it but I'd been covered in smoke over time and was desensitized to it.

      On the commitment - this is why I'm not ever going to do a stick burner. Even the KBQ which everyone raves about needs feeding every 30 mins and that's just not what I want to do

      On wood - I don't think there's a ton of difference between most of the common woods. Mesquite and I guess hickory aside, I think Pecan, apple etc are pretty close. Oak and cherry would be fine for me (ymmv and all that)

      Comment


      • Murdy
        Murdy commented
        Editing a comment
        I use charcoal with pecan chunks on about 90% of everything.

      • Tuckmonster
        Tuckmonster commented
        Editing a comment
        I agree with you that I don't sense a ton of difference between different types of wood but some people seem to notice a difference that was why I made the comment about looking for wood sources before you purchase a stick burner. As for the taste, my wife and friends have also noted The lack of smoke flavor while at the same time saying they really enjoy the food and think it's delicious.

      #5
      Have you tried hickory or mesquite logs? Those have a strong smoke profile and most people do like the flavor it imparts. I’ve used oak before on a brisket cook (chunks over charcoal) and I was also not able to discern much, if any, smoke flavor.

      Comment


      • Tuckmonster
        Tuckmonster commented
        Editing a comment
        I haven't tried those but I have tried pecan which I understand is similar to hickory or related to hickory. The first cook I did on this grill I hard used pecan exclusively and that don't recall getting any real smoky flavor. If I get the chance I will try hickory or mesquite and report back. Thanks for the tip

      • Panhead John
        Panhead John commented
        Editing a comment
        I tried pecan chunks on a charcoal cook, and found the flavor to be totally different than hickory. It is also milder than hickory. The pecan was ok in flavor I guess, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea. But I also got to say, I’ve used hickory for probably 90% of all my cooks during my lifetime. Mesquite has the strongest flavor of most of the more common woods used in smoking.
        Last edited by Panhead John; August 30, 2021, 01:02 PM.

      #6
      On the wood you've been using - I'll second some other folks and say that pecan is a very mild smoke wood. Oak as well. The post oak they have in Texas may be different than the white or red oak we have in most of the country, but the oak I have here is mild. Most fruit woods are pretty mild. Hickory and mesquite are the main things I use to get more smoke flavor.

      As far as stick burners - all of them are a big time suck if you burn straight wood. They need tending every 30 minutes as you have found. The only way around that which I have found is to burn charcoal and wood chunks in the firebox, much like I would in my kettle with the Slow 'N Sear, or in my kamado. If I want to get a couple of hours (maybe 3-4 max) hands off with the offset, I set the firebox up in a minion style, using charcoal and wood chunks on top, or mini-splits to supplement a bed of charcoal. I've never wanted for smoke flavor, but do tend towards oak or charcoal for heat, and hickory for smoke flavor.

      The time requirement of an offset is why I've used my Weber Performer Deluxe and this year my SNS Kamado to smoke just about everything. The last time I used my offset that I can think of was to do 6 racks of ribs last December, for my son's birthday. I just don't have the time or energy to run a cook much longer than ribs for 5-6 hours on the offset, and would much rather throw it on the kettle or kamado where I can run 12 to 18 hours on a load of fuel, and monitor the cook from my iPhone... . I also still use it for Thanksgiving turkeys or other shorter cooks.

      I think you may want to try using your M1 in a different way, and use it with charcoal and wood chunks, like you would your kettle when smoking, and see if you have better results. You can always burn wood if you find yourself having time on your hands, but its easy to pick up a bag of charcoal and a bag of hickory chunks. And it ought to be a stellar grill, with a lot of flexibility in setup of distance from the fire to the cooking grate.

      If you do try the charcoal smoking method, try lump versus briquettes, and different woods to supplement it, to see how the results are. I am sure M Grills has some tips on the charcoal setup for smoking on the M1.
      Last edited by jfmorris; August 30, 2021, 01:30 PM.

      Comment


      • jfmorris
        jfmorris commented
        Editing a comment
        Just spent some time looking at the M1, and to me, the M1, while it can burn pure wood, is designed much more like a charcoal grill such as the Hasty Bake, than as a pure wood burner. It's like the Hasty Bake on steroids, with much heavier materials and better sealing and such.

        Maybe you need to just punt on burning straight wood, and enjoy the M1 as the Cadillac of grills and CHARCOAL smokers for a bit before you give up on it entirely.

      • IFindZeroBadCooks
        IFindZeroBadCooks commented
        Editing a comment
        I think Jim has nailed it. Go with some strong wood chunks like hickory that are easily obtainable and regular lump charcoal like you would on a kettle and have fun with it. Don’t waste your time sourcing, tending and not enjoying your output when you can go another way.

      • Panhead John
        Panhead John commented
        Editing a comment
        +2 And also try some mesquite chunks added to your charcoal throughout the cook.
        Last edited by Panhead John; August 30, 2021, 04:37 PM.

      #7
      While cooking on a stick burner is certainly intriguing, I know myself and I would never have the gumption to spend all day feeding and otherwise tending the fire even though I am retired and have plenty of time. So I have settled into pellet cooking as my main method. Through practice I have found the ways required to turn out food that me and family really enjoy. I dabble with charcoal, gas, and even a flattop griddle for variety.

      Comment


        #8
        I feel the same way about the time commitment for an all wood cook, and that's why I don't have a stick burner. Have you tried Lowes or Home Depot? They normally carry hickory wood chunks. They are smaller than splits, but using a few chunks might get a noticeable smoke flavor.

        Edit to add that you might find on craigslist...

        Comment


          #9
          Lowe’s and Ace also sell 40lb bags of splits. Ace is B&B, I don’t remember what Lowe’s is.

          Comment


            #10
            Originally posted by jfmorris View Post
            As far as stick burners - all of them are a big time suck if you burn straight wood. They need tending every 30 minutes as you have found. The only way around that which I have found is to burn charcoal and wood chunks in the firebox, much like I would in my kettle with the Slow 'N Sear, or in my kamado. If I want to get a couple of hours (maybe 3-4 max) hands off with the offset, I set the firebox up in a minion style, using charcoal and wood chunks on top, or mini-splits to supplement a bed of charcoal.
            Dead on. I have used exclusively charcoal on my offset for probably 50+% of the cooks. And that has been a lot of cooks. Another 30-40% of the time I start with charcoal and gradually transition to adding sticks, but I'd say it's maybe only 10% of the time that I used primarily logs. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I haven't had too many complaints. I would also recommend trying this with much more charcoal and seeing how it goes. And definitely throw some good chunks on there to see if it helps with the smoke flavor.

            Comment


              #11
              Great advice, thank you everyone for the guidance. I'm going to try lump charcoal and hickory chunks for my Labor Day BBQ. Of course, the disadvantage of using this as my primary cook method on this grill is that I justified the cost because I was into trying a stick burner. If it's just going to be a charcoal and wood chunk smoker there were other options that cost significantly less. But I'll give this method a try and report back on my results

              Comment


              • jfmorris
                jfmorris commented
                Editing a comment
                Don't look at it that way as much as you CAN burn wood if you have time, but there are better ways to manage things with the busyness in your current life.

              • IFindZeroBadCooks
                IFindZeroBadCooks commented
                Editing a comment
                You now have the option to smoke using wood whenever you want and it is convenient. That is worth something for sure and you cannot do that with all smokers. Plus, I think you are getting a ton of great advice on how to add more smoke flavor with wood so…all good!!

              #12
              So, I might have missed it but... have you talked to the M1 Grills folks and seen if they have any suggestions on the light smoke?

              Comment


              • IFindZeroBadCooks
                IFindZeroBadCooks commented
                Editing a comment
                I too would be curious as to what M1 says. We don’t have too many reports of MGrills customer service so that would be a good data point.

              #13
              I have recently purchased the M36. I’m at a different life stage than the OP; I have the time to enjoy the tending of the fire. It’s my favorite part of this grill and it excels as a stick burner.

              Regarding the temp, I noticed that the ambient temp at the grill level is any.where from 20 to 40* lower than the tru temp reading on the grill, even though it is just a few inches lower. Not sure if your readings used a separate temp gauge. that could make a difference in the timing on your cooks.

              Second, the wood makes a difference. Are you using seasoned vs. kiln dried wood? Kiln dried will burn easily bu/t won’t impart the smoke flavor we all seek. Get some seasoned wood.

              ‘Hickory and cherry provided more flavor than oak I sourced locally. So, experiment with the type of wood works for you.

              Finally, I echo the comments of others: the M1 will rock as a charcoal burner with chunks of wood. And we haven’t mentioned the ability to sear direct.

              That said, different strokes for different folks. If it doesn’t work for your needs, you should feel free to move on. After all, this is all about fun in the end.

              rob

              Comment


              • Tuckmonster
                Tuckmonster commented
                Editing a comment
                Thanks for these comments, they are really helping me view my experience in a different way. I hadn't considered the issue of seasoned vs. kiln dried wood but that's a great point. My plan is to try ribs this weekend using mostly charcoal and hickory chunks if I can grab some before the weekend. Looks like my local HD has them in stock so shouldn't be an issue. I'll post an update next week and let you all know how it goes!

              • Rob whatever
                Rob whatever commented
                Editing a comment
                Let me know how the cook goes.

              #14
              99% of my cooks on my M1 have been with charcoal and wood chunks. I've used lump, briquettes, and the B&B char logs. I always have plenty of smoke flavor. You need to switch your thinking in that using all wood is the only option for using this grill.

              Like others have stated, the type of wood and how dry it is will impact how much smoke flavor you get when burning all wood. Kiln dried or really old and dried wood will not impart as much flavor as wood that hasn't been dried as long. There are moisture meters you can buy to see how much moisture your wood has. I don't remember off hand what the optimal moisture level is.

              Comment


              • Tuckmonster
                Tuckmonster commented
                Editing a comment
                Thanks for the tips. I am going to try a charcoal and wood chunks cook this weekend and see how that comes out. In the end I may have just been better off getting a larger Weber. Oh, well, live and learn. It has been fun learning how to build a proper fire with logs and I may continue to do that occasionally but I don't think that will be my primary method on this grill going forward.

              • 70monte
                70monte commented
                Editing a comment
                You are welcome. Experimenting with whatever cooker you have is the key and sometimes it takes awhile to get to where you want to be. I have many different ones and like them all for different reasons. I still have a Weber Performer and only use it for cooking wings using the Vortex. I also have the SnS for it but it's not my favorite cooker for smoking on. The only new Weber I would consider is the Kamado series which I believe have a 24" cooking surface.

              • Tuckmonster
                Tuckmonster commented
                Editing a comment
                I have been looking at the Weber Kamado (formerly the Weber Summit Charcoal). I am intrigued. I fear that if I get that though my M1 will become a very expensive ornament on the edge of my patio.

              #15
              As someone suggested, I reached out to M Grills for guidance. Travis responded in about 30 minutes with some very interesting advice. If you have read much about stick burning then you probably have seen the advice that fire size controls temp, you want open dampers to promote airflow and you want thin blue, even clear, smoke. White smoke, in the conventional wisdom, is bad and leads to a bitter taste. Travis said to forget that. He said you can control the level of smokiness by controlling the airflow. He told me if I wanted a smokier taste, I should dial down the airflow. This would cause the wood to smolder rather than burn clean and produce more smoke flavor.

              I have guests coming Sunday and I didn't want to try this for the first time while hosting so I tried an experiment today. I started the usual way, with a chimney of briquettes. Once fully lit and ashed over I dumped them into the firebox and added 2 large splits of oak. Once those caught I started closing the dampers. Ultimately the temp hit 400 degrees. As I closed the dampers it dropped but not as far as I would want for low and slow. I was aiming for 275, my target for ribs. Lesson learned: a larger fire will still burn too hot for low and slow, even with the dampers almost closed.

              Once the initial splits had burned down, I added one split of oak and kept the dampers where they were. The log caught quickly and the temp came up to about 275-280. This was very interesting because that's the same temp I've seen with dampers fully open and a similar size fire. The big difference was rather than no smoke coming from the chimney, I saw a steady stream of thin white smoke. An added bonus was that since the wood was smoldering and not burning clean, I had more time per log and had to tend the fire much less often.

              I also put air probes on both grates in the cook chamber. With the lower grate up about 2 inches below the upper grate, the temps were about 5 to 10 degrees apart at 275 on the upper. The higher the temp went, the bigger the difference. At 400 degrees the difference was almost 100.

              My plan tomorrow is to start my ribs at 275 with a smokier fire like I did today. After about 2.5-3 hours when it's time to wrap, I'll open the dampers and finish the cook with a cleaner fire. I'll report back in a few days and let you all know the results.

              Comment


              • Rob whatever
                Rob whatever commented
                Editing a comment
                Very interested to hear your results. Thanks for following up. I smoked a brisket just using oak at 275* for 9 hours. It could have used a smokier flavor in my mind. I got better smoke flavor on chicken when I used hickory. I will try the “damper” method Travis recommended next time.

                Rob

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