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Help a New Smoker

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  • Newsmoker
    Former Member
    • Oct 2015
    • 7

    Help a New Smoker

    I am a pretty good cook, especially Italian food... but new to smoking… which I am starting enjoy. I am a DAV and finally had to retire, and not real mobile, so smoking on my patio is a great way to spend a day. Here is my issue. I have ALL the gear I need (trust me). But I have a recipe problem. When I cook Lasagna (which I can cook in my sleep, and is so good it would put you to sleep). The recipes is, if your raw food is at room temp… 2 hours at 350 degrees… no variation needed. And I set dinner accordingly... "andiamo a mangiare." But most smoking recipes give a VERY broad range. For example many recipes say, “smoke for 5 to 6 hours.” How do you know if it is 5 or 6 hours? And how do you set dinner. I usually cook for a lot of people, and they will eat the grill if I don’t give them a firm time when we are going to eat. And 5 to 6 hours is a 20% variation in cooking time which makes no sense to an Italian cook! And every recipe I read from all the pros says something different, sometimes WAY different. On the temperature... I see variations like “smoke at 225 degrees to 250 degrees for 5 to 6 hours. Wait... what? And every single recipe is different in all the best books... for the same product! I have seen variations on Baby Back Ribs cooking time at 225 degrees range from 3 to 6 hours? Wait... what? I watch the smoking pros on TV and they turn in three different meats of all different sizes… all at the same time. I don’t want to ruin good meat trying over and over again to get it right, which is what I am doing. Any tips from the smoking pros out there? Thank in advance for any help... you guys are awesome on helping newbies like me.
    Last edited by Newsmoker; January 26, 2016, 07:52 AM.
  • jholmgren
    Founding Member
    • Aug 2014
    • 287
    • York, PA
    • -Jim

      *Kamado Joe "Classic Joe"*
      *Weber Spirit (for quick weeknight cooks)*
      *Cyber Q Wi-Fi temp controller for overnight cooks*
      *ThermaPen Instant* *Thermapen Chef Alarm* ...and pretty much any wheat beer!

    #2
    Welcome aboard Newsmoker ! I also started out with a passion for cooking (LOVE good Italian) and discovered BBQ along the way.
    Your observation is correct - when you are cooking low-and-slow with a big hunk o' meat, the ranges on "done" are very broad, especially compared to "kitchen" cooking where things are a little more precise and the raw ingredients are generally more consistent. Sometimes you just get a stubborn piggie, sometimes it's colder/warmer/dryer/wetter outside.
    Fortunately with something like pork shoulder, for instance, you can hold it in a cambro (or faux cambro) double-wrapped in foil for many hours with no loss at all in quality (some say it's even better after a long rest) so when I'm cooking for a crowd, I make sure the long-side of the cooking range is still a few hours before dinner time.
    Cooking ribs is a bit more exact, since they are thinner but still has a broad range. I suggest a lot of practice to get a feel for your own setup and done times, but always leave plenty of margin for error.
    Don't let the smoking pros on TV fool you - there's a lot of "TV Magic" that happens in cooking shows!

    Jim

    Comment


    • Newsmoker
      Newsmoker commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you for the help! I am learning, and learning!
  • Jerod Broussard
    Moderator
    • Jun 2014
    • 10029
    • East Texas
    • Pit Barrel Cooker "Texas Brisket Edition"
      Weber One Touch Premium Copper 22" Kettle (gift)
      Slow 'n Sear for 22" Kettle
      Weber One Touch Premium Black 26" Kettle (gift)
      Slow 'n Sear XL for 26" Kettle (gift)
      Weber Smokey Joe Gold
      Weber Rapid Fire Chimney
      Vortex
      Maverick ET-732 White
      Maverick ET-732 Copper
      2- Auber SYL-1615 fan systems(Awesome!!!!!!!!)
      Thermoworks Thermapen w/ Back light (gift)
      Thermoworks Timestick
      Cambro Model 300MPC110 w/ Winco SS Pans
      B & B and Kingsford Charcoal
      B & B Pellets

    #3
    Few things:

    1. You don't know when a piece of meat is going to be done until it is done, due in part to the variables in the cook itself http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_tech...f_cooking.html

    http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_tech...king_time.html

    2. Always best to start early since large chunks benefit from a warm rest in a faux cambro http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_tech...ux_cambro.html

    3. Animals are not widgets, even chickens, although some think they are LOTTA variation in larger mammals, especially cattle. The pork industry is more and more vertically integrated like the poultry industry. Beef, not so much.

    4. Once you have done enough pork ribs, pork butts (to some degree), whole chickens, you can get a better grasp on the overall time.

    5. Brisket, definitely the king of "I'm done when I am good and ready."

    6. Last but not least....how long will that stall be??? And how many??? http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_tech...the_stall.html
    Last edited by Jerod Broussard; January 26, 2016, 10:16 AM.

    Comment


    • PaulstheRibList
      PaulstheRibList commented
      Editing a comment
      Excellent work @Jerod_Broussard

    • Newsmoker
      Newsmoker commented
      Editing a comment
      That is a great idea. I can smoke it early, and put it in my cooler until the lasagna is done!
  • Dr ROK
    Charter Member
    • Dec 2014
    • 1351
    • Morrill, Nebraska
    • Retired high school teacher and principal
      Dr ROK - Rider of Kawasaki &/or rock and roll fan
      Yoder 640 on Husker themed comp cart
      Cookshack Smokette smoker
      Antique refrigerator smoker
      Weber 22 1/2" kettle w/ GrillGrates AND Slow and Sear
      Rec Tec Mini Portable Tailgater w/ GrillGrates
      Plenty of GrillGrates
      Uuni wood pellet oven, first generation
      Roccbox Pizza Oven
      Meater Block
      "Go Big Red" Thermopen instant read thermometer
      Ultrafast instant read thermometer
      CDN quick read thermometer
      Maverick ET-732 thermometer
      Maverick ET-735 thermometer
      Tru-Temp wireless thermometer
      Infrared thermometer (Mainly use for pizza on the Uuni and Roccbox)

      Beverages - Is there really anything other than Guinness? Oh yeah, I forgot about tequila!

    #4
    Welcome to the Pit and thank you for your service!

    Second what Jim and Jerod said. Always plan for longest amount of time for the cook and then use a cooler to hold the meat till ready to serve. Way more fun to have that hunk of meat ready and waiting than stressing over something that isn't finished when your guests are ready to eat it.

    As far as cooking temps, most will probably say they use 225 for low and slow, but actually the temp usually swings + or - 15 - 20 (F) degrees as the cook progresses. Even your oven will vary by this amount as it heats and cools during the cooking cycle. Once I was aware of this, I put much less focus on the actual temp, and more focus on the temp of my meat and finding that sweet spot at the end of the cook where the meat is probe tender and ready to serve/hold.

    Comment

    • SteveFromLafayette
      Former Member
      • Dec 2015
      • 118
      • Lafayette, LA

      #5
      The reasons that smoked meats are not always cooked for the same length or at the same temperature are as follows:

      1 - BBQ grills and smokers usually don't have thermostats where you can set a constant temperature. Your pit Temps are going to bounce up and down. As you become more skilled at fire management, you can maintain more constant temps, but even the best cooks have fluctuating temps.

      2 - No two cuts of meat are exactly the same. One brisket may weigh 6 pounds, another may weigh 16 pounds. Bigger cuts generally take longer to cook. Even if all briskets were a uniform size and weight, rule #1 will apply.

      3 - The target temp you want is up to personal preference. You may prefer to cook at 350 because you like a nice crusty exterior on your meat. Or, you may prefer 225 because you like the most tender meat with lots of moisture. This isn't always written in stone. There are tricks and techniques you may wish to use, such as the Texas Crutch, etc.

      Meathead has plenty of great guidelines if you take the time to read his material. You don't always have to follow his advice, but rest assured you definitely can't go wrong if you do.

      Hope this helps!

      Comment

      • Ernest
        Founding Member
        • Jul 2014
        • 3423
        • Dallas, Texas
        • Pit Barrel Cooker AKA The Chicken Whisperer, WSM 14.5 AKA Smokey, WSM 22.5 AKA Big Worm, Weber Performer Platinum. KARUBECUE

        #6
        Newsmoker never trust a recipe that judges doneness by time.
        Fact of the matter is you'll ruin plenty of meat, that's how we all learn to smoke. There's no escaping this.

        As far as temp range, even with gadgets, your smoker temp will fluctuate. I shoot for 225 but I don't stress when I get as high as 260 during the cook.

        BBQ is supposed to be fun, have fun experimenting.

        As far as BBQ recipes, take them as guidelines, cook according to your taste.

        Comment

        • Huskee
          Administrator
          • May 2014
          • 15578
          • central MI, USA
          • Follow me on Instagram, huskeesbarbecue

            Smokers / Grills
            • Yoder loaded Wichita offset smoker
            • PBC
            • Grilla Silverbac pellet grill
            • Slow 'N Sear Deluxe Kamado (SnSK)
            • Masterbuilt Gravity 560
            • Weber 22" Original Kettle Premium (copper)
            • Weber 26" Original Kettle Premium (black)
            • Weber 26" Original Kettle Premium (light blue)
            • Weber Jumbo Joe Gold (18.5")
            • Weber Smokey Joe Silver (14.5")
            • Brinkmann cabinet charcoal smoker (repurposed)

            Thermometers
            • (3) Maverick XR-50: 4-probe Wireless Thermometers
            • (7) Maverick ET-732s
            • (1) Maverick ET-735 Bluetooth (in box)
            • (1) Smoke X4 by ThermoWorks
            • Thermapen MkII, orange
            • ThermoPop, yellow
            • ThermoWorks ChefAlarm
            • Morpilot 6-probe wireless
            • ThermoWorks Infrared IRK2
            • ThermoWorks fridge & freezer therms as well

            Accessories
            • Instant Pot 6qt
            • Anova Bluetooth SV
            • Kitchen Aide mixer & meat grinder attachment
            • Kindling Cracker King (XL)
            • BBQ Dragon
            • Weber full & half chimneys, Char-Broil Half Time chimney
            • Weber grill topper
            • Slow 'N Sear Original, XL, and SnS Charcoal Basket (for Jumbo Joe)
            • Drip 'N Griddle Pan, 22' Easy Spin Grate, and Elevated Cooking grate, by ABCbarbecue
            • Pittsburgh Digital Moisture Meter

            Beverages
            • Favorite summer beer: Leinenkugels Summer & Grapefruit Shandy, Hamm's, Michelob Ultra Pure Gold
            • Fav other beer: DAB, Sam Adams regular, Third Shift amber or Coors Batch 19, Stella Artois
            • Fav cheap beers: Pabst, High Life, Hamm's & Stroh's
            • Most favorite beer: The one in your fridge
            • Wine: Red- big, bold, tannic & peppery- Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauv, Sangiovese, Syrah, etc
            • Whiskey: Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, Blanton's, Old Forester 1870, Elijah Craig, Basil Hayden's. Neat please.
            • Scotch: Current favorite- The Arran (anything by them), Glenmorangie 12yr Lasanta, sherry cask finished. The Balvenie Double Wood, also like Oban 18yr, and The Glenlivet Nadurra (Oloroso sherry cask finished) among others. Neat please.

            About me
            Real name: Aaron
            Location: Farwell, Michigan- near Clare. (dead center of lower peninsula)

            Occupation:
            • Healthcare- Licensed & Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) for MidMichigan Health, a University of Michigan Health System.

          #7
          The million dollar question. As everyone has pointed out, experience and trial & error will lead you to have your personal ballpark for "chow time". I always tell people "we'll eat between 5 and 8, hopefully 6:30."

          Comment


          • Jerod Broussard
            Jerod Broussard commented
            Editing a comment
            If I had a peso every time I used the word "Hopefully." I could pay off enough people to bring El Chapo to the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville in a Limo.
        • gwschenk
          Club Member
          • Aug 2015
          • 182
          • Sierra Madre, Calif.
          • Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5", Weber kettle 22", Thermoworks Thermopop and DOT

          #8
          Never rush your BBQ. Patience is its own reward in smoking. I keep relearning this lesson myself.

          Comment

          • Bob's BBQ
            Club Member
            • Jan 2016
            • 508
            • Wisconsin

            #9
            Welcome Newsmoker. This all seems complicated now but you'll be amazed how consistent you can become with some practice. Getting used to cooking outside, understanding the effect of weather, and really getting to know your equipment, will give you a good baseline for time estimates. After a few cooks you'll know how your pit will run, cook time based on meat type, shape, and weight, and be able to give a pretty good estimate on total cook time. I still like to say to my guests - "Hey, it's BBQ, it's done when it's done. Have another beer." This website has an amazing amount of the science behind the cook. Start with the links Jerod provided above. Have fun and good luck.

            Comment

            • BigBear
              Former Member
              • Sep 2015
              • 657
              • Dallas-Ft. Worth

              #10
              There is great knowledge contained in the posts above Newsmoker , figured out by countless practice, one cook at a time. The only thing I'll add is that using Meathead's Cooking Log has definitely helped me become a more consistent smoker by keeping a record of what works, what doesn't, and what I would do differently next time. Good luck and have fun learning!

              Comment

              • mayapoppa
                Charter Member
                • Dec 2014
                • 201
                • San Francisco Bay Area
                • PBC
                  Weber 22" Kettle
                  Slow N' Sear
                  Weber Spirit Gas Grill
                  ThermoPop Thermometer
                  Maverick Wireless Thermometer

                #11
                The other thing I would say is that the first time you really get your barbecue right, it is so good and satisfying, that you'll never worry about exact times again. My wife goes crazy every time we have people over for barbecue, and the food isn't ready by the time we claimed. But it never bothers me, because I just know that the patience to get it right is going to make people so much happier than just feeding them on time.

                Comment


                • gwschenk
                  gwschenk commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Roger that. Last weekend the vegetables were stone cold by the time the chicken came out of the smoker, but after they got into that delicious chicken, nobody was concerned with the veggies!

                  Of course, the bottle of pinot noir that we took care of before the chicken was ready might have had some effect.
              • _John_
                Former Member
                • Jul 2014
                • 2447

                #12
                I laughed the whole time reading this as it was a big problem for me in the beginning. Others have covered a lot of it, but a couple things to go over again is a lot of long cooking meats are ok, and even better, if they sit wrapped up in a cooler for a few hours, so start early. There are way more variables outside and within the meat that affects cooking time, not least of all the meat itself.
                I cook for 20-200 on a fairly regular basis and when that happens "it's not done yet" or the old "it's done when it's done" isn't an option. The only answer in my mind is to know your cooker and your cook. I aim for a specific temp and hold it as close as possible, and after charting many smokes I know what the internal needs to be at dinner -t hours. If it isn't I have a few triggers to pull. I know taking the temp up will do x, wrapping y, and both z.
                Smoking is both easier and harder than indoor cooking in my opinion, if you want to hit a flavor and time deadline in adverse weather conditions it is much much harder, if you are ok to eat when it's done it's not hard at all.

                Comment

                • Yno
                  Yno
                  Former Member
                  • May 2015
                  • 406
                  • Do you know the way to San Jose?

                  #13
                  To paraphrase Meathead, "Its not what's on the plates, its who is in the chairs." Plan for a long party, have lots of beverages, some snacks, maybe a game on TV, and enjoy the time with friends. If anyone I know got upset with a late dinner, they wouldn't be friends for long. Other members have way more experience at this game than I do and have given you some good advice, and I am sure you will get your timing down soon. But in the meantime, treasure the time you spend with others, and have a good laugh if you have to go to 'Plan B'.

                  Comment


                  • jholmgren
                    jholmgren commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yes - always have a Plan B! It had been a while since I've needed Plan B, but a couple of weeks ago I tried making Kalbi (Korean short ribs) and I totally butchered them. Burnt to a crisp on the outside and "rare" (being generous) on the inside. Totally mismanaged my flame and temp.
                    Meh... I was really in the mood for pizza anyway, plus it gives Tina and the kids something to pick on me about. :-)
                • Breadhead
                  Banned Former Member
                  • Jul 2014
                  • 0

                  #14
                  Newsmoker ...

                  If anyone could come up with an equation that would tell you when whatever clod of meat you're smoking will be done... They would go directly to the BBQ Hall of Fame.

                  That said... We have all fought the same battle you are currently experiencing. We all have done it on different cookers. Those that have been doing it long enough have probably devised their own formula that DOES put food on the table at the right time.

                  We all cook at different temperatures and some of us wrap to speed through the stall and some of us don't wrap.

                  So... Asking this crowd that question will produce many, many different methods, times and techniques and they will all be correct, if you have the same type of cooker, the same weather conditions and the same thickness of meat.

                  Here's my method of cooking Pork Butts and Briskets which cook very similarly. Having done many of both I've found they normally take about 16 hours if you cook at 225° and don't wrap them. I always cook at 225° and I never wrap. I'm old school that way.

                  Remember the faux cambro is your buddy.😉 If you wrap your meat properly and use towels to fill the cavity properly you can keep butts and Briskets in there for 4 hours safely. Leave your meat thermometer in the meat so you can track the IT of your meat.

                  My average Pork Butt or Brisket takes 14 to 16 hours if I control my cooking temp at 225°. My method of serving them on time is, I first determine what time I want to serve dinner and back that time off by 18 hours. If the meat is freaky and cooks in 14 hours it will get 4 hours in the cambro. If the meat is like my normal cooks it will take 15/16 hours and get 2 to 3 hours in the cambro. I've never had one take over 16 hours... So my real goal is to give it at least 2 hours of cambro time to allow the juices to redistribute.

                  That system gets food on the table at exactly the right time consistently for me and its stress free.👌
                  Last edited by Breadhead; January 27, 2016, 03:30 PM.

                  Comment

                  • LA Pork Butt
                    Charter Member
                    • Dec 2014
                    • 5650
                    • Grew up in New Orleans, lived in Texas for 20 years, lived in Mandeville, LA for 22 years. I now liv

                    #15
                    Newsmoker When it comes to smoking meat experience helps. She is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, but there is always a lesson that leads to greater success the next time.

                    Comment

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                    2021 Meat-Up In Memphis Canceled

                    We've unfortunately had to cancel the 2021 Meat-Up in Memphis. We are rescheduling for tentatively March 18-21, 2022. Click here for more info: https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/forum/announcements/misc/1014106-meat-up-in-memphis-2021-canceled
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