Help out a wood-smoker newbie.

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by oshawapilot, Sep 12, 2008.

  1. Hey everyone.

    Well as I just posted in the introductions forum I'm not new to smoking, but I am new to wood smoking. Up until now I've been using a small vertical smoker. Typically I've always fired with lump charcoal and only used small amounts of wood for smoke.

    However, my wife picked up a Brinkman indirect smoker last weekend and I'm dying to get going with it, and this weekend is the weekend - we've got 6 full racks of pork back ribs ready to go all day tomorrow, and friends coming over to enjoy them.

    So, I've been reading plenty about wood smokers and how they can be sometimes quirky to keep temperatures steady, but I think I'll be OK with that since I tend to be the type of guy who hovers over the smoker all day long tending to the gauges, so I'm confident there.

    My question revolves around what to feed it.

    I've been blessed with a source of kiln dried oak and maple for free. Yes, untreated, etc etc. :) I plan on using just oak for my ribs tomorrow.

    As mentioned, I've typically fired my smoker with charcoal and only used wood very sparingly, but with the new smoker (and source of free wood to fire it) I'm now at a crossroads - should I continue to use mainly charcoal with only small amounts of (soaked) oak for smoke, or forget the charcoal and use only a mix of dry and wet oak?

    Being 100% new to the wood-burner I'm concerned about wood only making it tough to control temperatures reliably (charcoal stays hot longer and more consistently versus wood, after-all), and I'm also concerned about having *too much* smoke - I don't want to overkill the ribs? Is this possible with a wood-only fire, oak, and pork?

    So guys...what's my plan? Can I fire solely with the oak, or use a mix with mainly charcoal with only light use of the oak for smoke?
  2. wutang

    wutang Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I have an offset smoker and burn mostly charcoal/lump and add a few wood chunks at a time throughout the smoke. If you are just burning wood, you will want to do a search for "pre-burning" There is a lot of info on this forum. Just spend some time reading old posts.
  3. shooterrick

    shooterrick Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Start with wrapping your ribs after 2.5 hrs to finish. The foil will keep them from taking on more smoke. If you want less or more smoke flavor just adjust the time before wrap. I splash some apple juice on them when I wrap em to make em steam and fall off the bone tender. Hope this helps. You should also look for mods for your smoker on this forum. Rick
  4. ibsmoking

    ibsmoking Smoke Blower

    I'm with Tang[​IMG]
  5. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    If I had access to all the free wood I would probably preburn and shovel the coals in for heat and add a little wood for flavor
  6. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You don't have a stickburner mate. Oak COALS will work, but be prepared to burn ALOT. Lump is your best bet for heat, and sparing wood chunks for flavor.
  7. I am with Richtee on this one! I would go with lump and throw some wood chunks in every so often. I prefer not to soak my wood but that is a subject of controversy. ShooterRick's modified 3-2-1 method works real good for me! Rick has the trick! If you are using oak lump then you are pretty much smokin with all oak, the lump is just getting you your nice hot bed of coals faster than if you had to wait for the logs to burn down. Just throw an occasional 3 or 4 chunks of wood on every hour or so and you will be Rockin!
  8. Ok, advice heeded.

    I did a test burn this evening to get a feeling for things before putting any meat on it and finding out the hard way.

    First thing I discovered was that the thermometer on the lid was toast. I knew that offset smokers were harder to get hot versus my old vertical, but I didn't think it was *that* hard, and sure enough when I went and grabbed another thermometer I was running in excess of 250 when the lid thermometer was indicating just over 150. Once I had a nice bed of coals and things settled down I played around with the firebox damper and was able to get it to settle down into the 200 range with little effort which is about where I want to be for a nice long all-day smoke for ribs in this unit, right?

    I think that I will definitely go with the pre-burn method tomorrow as adding fresh wood (especially the kiln-dried oak I've got) simply caused too much difficult to control heat buildup way too quickly. I'll use the base of my vertical to pre-burn in and then transfer the coals as suggested into the offset as the day goes on. Either that, or if I get lazy, I'll just add lump as the day goes on and toss on a wet piece of the oak for smoke.
  9. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Why wet? Use a SMALL chunk dry. All wet does is delay what you want to happen. The #1 mistake is TOO MUCH RAW WOOD in smaller pits.
  10. From previous experience with the wood I'm using unless it's wet it's tough to keep it from flaring up. Remember that I'm using kiln dried oak - it's so dry that I can light the chunks with a single match.

    Tonight's test run resulted in flame within a minute when a chunk was tossed on the bed of coals, even with the dampers closed. Perhaps I need to work on getting the firebox a little more airtight then as opposed to my thoughts on wet wood...

    Like I said, I just got this new critter recently and tonight was the first test-run, so I'm still leaning the curves of this (versus my old vertical) smoker.
  11. Well, it's the ribs on an hour later then I had hoped since it took longer then I had anticipated for the smoker to stabilize, but it's now got 6 racks of dry rubbed ribs on it.

    I've been pleasantly surprised how easy it's been to maintain the temperature - I've got a digital readout and I'm not having much problem keeping it about 10 degrees either side of 205 or so.

    Ritchee, I've been doing as you suggested (small doses of dry, no wet) and it's working out great so far.

    Thanks for the advice, everyone.
  12. smoke freak

    smoke freak StickBurners

    Pilot, Whats the problem with flare up,eh? I personally dont want smolderin wood. Instead I work to maintain a smaller clean burning fire. To each their own but Ill put my Q beside anyones. Its never oversmoked.
  13. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    SaaaaaWEEET! Glad to hear it's working out! Now DO NOT FORGET the QVIEW! [​IMG]
  14. Ask and ye shall receive. First pic just as they were going on, and second at the first flip a few hours ago. Haven't opened the lid since and camera will not fit down the chimney, so no more pics. :)
  15. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    What no mop sauce? OK well SOME do it that way- [​IMG]
  16. Dry rub only for me - I basted half the racks in the last 30 minutes (just enough to caramelize it a bit) and served the rest with just the dry rub which is the way lots of people like em around here. The bit on ribs says that the sauce should only be a complement, not a crutch, and I subscribe to that theory myself.

    I must admit though, as much as I enjoy dry ribs, the glazed ones I made this evening (I use BullsEye) were mighty tasty.

    Anyhow, after it was all done they came out falling off the bone, smoked absolutely perfectly (Wow, the oak was excelllent!), and I unfortunately didn't get a single picture of the finished product since we had a house full of people over and it was like a pack of wolves around the smoker when I yelled that the ribs were ready.

    I think I ate about a rack and a half myself alone. I'm now on the couch and I can barely move right now, but wow, was it worth it.

    I'm sold on this new smoker - it's really worth dedicating a full day to babysitting it for the final product - such a leap over my old vertical charcoal unit.
  17. After years of using my old vertical smoker (where flare-ups could quickly result in ruining the meat if they weren't kept in check) it was a habit to ensure little to no flame.

    Once I got a better feel for the new smoker today I was quite happy to let things flame up in the firebox. Actually, with a light breeze today it was the only way I could keep the temps over 200 consistently, so I had flames licking all day.

    Old habits die hard, I guess...but I'm learning the ins and outs of this new critter.
  18. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I meant a MOP sauce,,I don't use a BBQ sauce typically. Mopping is during the smoke after the rub has set. A thin mix and gently applied as to not disturb the rub. I use bourbon. cider vinegar, water in about equal proportions and add powdered onion and CBP. Minor variations on that for beef and butts...but that's the base.

    Still a dry rubbed rib man!
  19. Sounds interesting, might have to try that out sometime with a smaller batch. With this being the first batch on the new smoker I wanted to keep it simple, especially considering I was having a house-full over to eat the end product.

    Doing 6 racks is nothing. Doing 6 racks on a brand new unfamiliar smoker was a bit concerning when a screw-up would have left 11 hungry people with nothing to eat. Further experimenting with bastes and such seemed like it would be tempting fate bit too much.
  20. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Wise choice Sir.... <bow> But... experiment! Some times...

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