Long time lurker, looking for some good advice

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by mrbucket101, May 30, 2015.

  1. mrbucket101

    mrbucket101 Newbie

    I first got into smoking meat a year ago. I saw a youtube video of it and converted my propane gril into a smoker, using some woodchips and aluminum foil pouches. It got the job done, but very poorly.

    So for xmas this past december, the parents got me this exact smoker. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/products/cb-cb600x-lp-vertical-smoker

    It's great, but I'm having some difficulty with it. I went ahead and purchased the ChefAlarm from thermoworks as the temp gauge on the door is worthless. I also purchased an air temp probe to help me monitor the internal temperature of the smoker. I didn't want to buy a more expensive alarm, so I just hot-swap the cables into the alarm to get a good reading. It works, saved a couple bucks.

    The waterpan on this sucker is terrible. I have to open the bottom drawer and add more water every 30-40mins. This is with the burner set to high. Even on it's best day when it is 80 out, the internal temp hovers around 250. This is with me refilling the waterpan when it gets empty. I have tried pre-heating the smoker to 250, and then turning the burner back down to medium or low, and this just fails miserably. The temp won't hold, and it drops down to 180-200. I have found that without water in the pan, I can get the temp up 325ish. But that blackens the skin after a while and I just don't find it desirable.

    Having only smoked poultry, the temp limit isn't that big of a problem for me. Most of the recipes I've been following only call for 250. So it kind of works out. I'd like to branch off and smoke some other kinds of meat. Do you guys have any recommendations of meat/cuts for a beginner? Something I could marinate/brine, rub and just throw in the grill. I love the simplicity that comes with smoking chicken. Anyways, some of the pork recipes I've seen call for 300,325 and even 350. This just doesn't seem possible in my case.  

    I primarily use wood chunks when smoking. They're easier to use than chips, and I find I don't need to soak them at all. My favorite is one large chunk of apple wood, surrounded with tiny chunks of hickory. It gives a nice flavor, with a little pepper to it. 

    Couple things I'd like some expert advice on.

    Can I place an additional aluminum pan in the bottom of my smoker, on a rack? Would this keep the air nice and moist, and prevent me from needing to refill every 30-40 minutes?

    When cooking other kinds of meat, is the water pan not necessary? Is this how I will achieve the desired temps?
  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I don't have your smoker but know a few things about cooking/smoking meat and what goes on in your chamber. 

    First, your "black skin" at 325F on your chicken.  If you cook at 325F in the smokeless kitchen oven you won't get black skin.  It won't happen at 350F or 425F.  The way you are adding smoke to your chamber is the issue, not the temp, unless you are using a LOT of sugar in your rub and it is burning on the skin.  You are most likely adding too much "dirty smoke" to your chamber.  Wood, whether in chip or chunk form, burns dirty until it starts to carbonize.  If the smoke is white or grey, it is dirty and can lay down a layer of particulates that blacken the skin and can create an off taste.  It can be worse if you coat the skin with fat like butter or oil, something the tiny particles can stick to.  So make sure you let the smoke start to get hints of blue or at least start to diminish before you add your meat to the chamber.

    Water pan: water in a smoker is a heat sink.  It adds moisture to the chamber but the impact of that moisture on keeping meat moist is debatable.  Two points that aren't debatable is 1) moist air will cause a little more smoke to adhere to your meat, and we know now dirty smoke is bad, and 2) steam lowers chamber temperature.

    Moist air does limit the max temperature of your chamber due to the physical properties of water.  It's a physics thing.  The water available to flash to steam, the total volume of your chamber, and the heat energy available all help determine that max temperature.  Looks like 250F is about the maximum chamber temp you can achieve with your water pan full and your high heat setting.  When you drop the heat setting you are adding less heat energy and the physical properties of water boiling at 212F take over, dropping your chamber temp.  Water expands 1600-1700 times when it flashes from water to steam.  That steam maintains 212F no matter how much heat you add to water.  If the air volume of your chamber was larger, you would get a higher chamber temp with water in your water pan; smaller, a lower temp.  That's the impact of water in your water pan.  In most cases water pans are added to smokers for temperature control.   

    Can you add an aluminum pan filled with water to your chamber?  If you have the room, absolutely. 

    Can you smoke/cook without the water pan?  Once again, absolutely.  It is called dry smoking.  For example, the water pan in my WSM is merely a heat deflector.  It never has water in it these days, but I will use it with water on a rare occasion.  By dry smoking I have much greater control over my temperature ranges from low to 450F or more, but learning that control takes time and practice, and can be time consuming; that's why I have a blower these days.  Once you understand temperature control though it becomes second nature. 

    Have fun learning all the ins and outs of your smoker.  I hope this helped.                
    robcava likes this.
  3. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I use an electric smoker, but it sounds like you're asking for ideas for smoking things using less than 275° Smoker Temp.

    All of the smokes in my Index below are done with temps below 275°, and most of them below 250° smoker temp.

    Just click on "Bear's Step by Steps".

    Last edited: May 31, 2015
  4. mrbucket101

    mrbucket101 Newbie

    Here's the recipe for the rub I use. It's Myron Mixon's "Basic" chicken rub

    2/3 cup chilli powder

    1/2 cup sugar

    4 tbsp kosher salt

    4 tbsp onion powder

    4 tbsp garlic powder

    1 tsp cayenne pepper

    In regards to the dirty smoke. I guess all these times I've been doing it wrong. I preheat the smoker, but I always put my chunks in with the meat. My assumption was I wanted the smoke to last the duration of the session. I guess I got this habit from using chips on my propane grill, they would burn out real fast.

    I noticed A LOT of users on the forum are using the Amaze-n-pellet smoker box. I ended up buying that and a lb bag of hickory pellets off amazon for 35$. For the price, I'm willing to gamble and see what happens.
    I've never dry-smoked before, but I'm definitely excited to give it a try. Another user on a dupe post of mine (oops) recommended that I put some sand in the bottom of my smoker as this will help regulate the heat better than water. I'm going to have to play around with it and see what kind of results I get.

    I ended up going to lowes today and picking up some bricks, an insulating blanket, and some play sand. I've already built a little wall around the bottom of my burner, so that will eliminate the wind. And I plan on cutting down the blanket tomorrow and attaching that with some aluminum tape. I saw another user do it, and it seemed like a good idea, and it definitely couldn't hurt. 

    Very helpful, thanks so much!
    Just checked them out! I will go hit up some of your recipes for my next smoke, they look very doable. Thanks!

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