My first smoke does not appear to be going well

Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by thenegativeone, Nov 23, 2014.

  1. So, I've got my first smoke on on this dreary lincolnshire day. It does not however appear to be going well.

    I'm having massive issues keeping a decent temperature in the smoker. As soon as the charcoal gets to the stage I can cook on it I get maybe 1/2 hour at a decent heat and then the temp drops. I think perhaps I needed more charcoal to begin with.
    How much would you usually use? I'm using lumpwood

    UPDATE: after a lot of faffing I managed to get the temperature stabilised-ish and got a chicken cooked.
    Just rubbed with salt/pepper/garlic/thyme/paprika

    Took a good 2 1/2 hours but it was juicy as hell and very tasty. Im happy with that for a first attempt.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
  2. jockaneezer

    jockaneezer Meat Mopper

    Doesn't look to be too much wrong with the final product. What sort of bbq is it and is that a water bowl or something I can see below the chook ?

    On my Weber, I just pile the coals up on either side and put the bird in the middle with a drip tray below it. Just found a pic on my phone of a spatchcocked chicken I did. I'll have a go sticking it on here and see how it comes out.
  3. It's a bullet smoker, very much like an ECB. Yes, that's a water pan below it :)
  4. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Most smokes that take around 2 to 3 hours you can get away with a 1/2 a pan plus. Longer smokes can use a full pan and you probably will need to add more at the 4 hour time frame.

    Not sure how you weather is in the UK, but if it is getting cold and windy, you might want to switch to playbox sand instead of water. It will give you higher smoker temps and more consistent temps also. I like the sand to be on the damp side. Cover it with a sheet of foil and you can use it several times. Just redampen a bit.  You may find you want to spritz a bit more with sand than with water.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
  5. Hello.  WOW! Braver man than me.  I had a pork belly out for smoking today after work but with this weather I gave it a miss.

    Well I have a couple things to throw out there.  All are just my opinions.

    1st:  That yard bird looks really good.  For a first try although you had to fight it all the way, I hope the final product gave you the "bug" to stick with it.  With a little tweaking time we will make the process easier.

    2nd:  In my opinion, unless you are cooking poultry for presentation ( like Christmas meal ) I spatchcock the bird as in jockaneezer's post.  Makes for more even cooking.  When learning about YOUR smoker ( each one can have different quirks ) thinner meats are easier to do as you struggle with temp control.  TEMP CONTROL IS THE KEY as you found out.

    3rd:  Water pan.  100 years ago I played with a bullet smoker for a time.  I had ZERO luck with it!  I was new to that type smoker and had no guidance at all.  Just let tha darn thing rust down.  Many folks here use a bullet type with great success.  I will say this, in every other smoker I have used I have never used a pan of water in it.  I do know many folks put sand in their water pan to act as a heat sink to help hold a more steady temp in the smoker.  I can't really speak to that as I have never tried it.

    4th:  We need picts of your smoker.  And picts of it used in anger is even better.  Have you sealed all leaks on the smoker?  Are you getting enough air UNDER your coals?  Is the ash choking the air flow under your coals?  If you are throwing your coals in the bottom of a pan in your smoker then there is your biggest problem, no air flow and ash choking your fire.  Air MUST flow from under your coals and be pulled out the top of your smoker.  How hot your smoker gets is then regulated by that air flow.

    Just hang with us and feed us some info and we will help sort this out.  Don't throw out the smoker!  All can be saved.  It will get easier and smoking meat will become an enjoyable pastime.  Keep Smokin!

  6. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    You may want to visit the ECB section of this site. It will give you some modifications you can easily do to make your smoker work a lot better. I started out with that smoker many years ago. Oh the memories. Standing over the smoker and fiddling with it constantly to get it to work right for the whole smoke. Hours and hours staring at it because I knew the minute I went in the house or looked away it would either go cold or flare up. lol. Those were the days. Do yourself a favor and get an oil drum and start building a UDS. When you get it done you can fill the Brinkman with dirt and plant flowers in it. hahaha....
  7. Cheers for the advice guys. I think the air flow to the coals is definitely an issue, this is the coal pan:
    I think I'm going to drill a few holes in the bottom of the pan and possibly get a larger grate so it sits higher up in the bowl.
    There are some small leaks around the doors but they don't seem too bad.
    Another issue I'm having is that when I put the wood chips on they produce white smoke instead of the thin blue smoke we're after. Do I need to put them in a tray?
  8. Yep.  I'd say there is your first problem, no air flow from beneath your coals.  Ash collecting under the coals and choking your fire may also be the problem.  timberjet had a good idea.  Have a look at the ECB Forum for modifications to your bullet smoker.  The key is not just drilling holes for air flow.  You need a way to control the amount of air flowing through the smoker in order to control the temp.  It is my understanding that many folks with a bullet type smoker drill holes in the ash pan and use Weber style dampers to control air flow.  IF you chose that option have a look at my "discount" thread in the U.K. Group Forum.  Not the only place to find the dampers and maybe not the cheapest but those folks have the dampers available.  I only mention those folks as a source to find what you are looking for.  Please research for the best price.  I can't speak to whether one central hole is better or 2-4 holes is the way to go as I don't have a bullet smoker.  Below is a link to mods to the base made by one of our U.K. members.  That base charcoal pan is the first thing to change.  Get some air flow and dampers and I'll bet most of your problem will be solved.  Keep Smokin!

  9. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

     I removed the feet on my old ECB and placed it on cinder blocks. Since they have holes in them you can adjust the air flow by turning the holes out (to allow more air) or up (to cut off air). My smoker here is the original ECB. It was capable of 450º with a full pan, not that I rarely used it that high. Put several 1/2 holes in you charcoal pan. It will help alot. But without a pan, in a vertical, you are basically grilling.

    And CHUNKS, not chips.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
    thenegativeone likes this.
  10. Ok cool, so I need to add some ventilation to the coal pan. Danny, the weber site doesn't appear to sell the dampers however I've had a quick look on Amazon and found some on there.

    With regards to the chunks vs chips I understand chunks are better but as I have been given some chips any advice on how best to use them would be good.
  11. THANKS for the advice Flash!  WOW!!!  You just got extremely lucky here.  I have read enough to know Flash has smoked all sorts on a bullet smoker!  I have read many of his posts, he has been around as long as dirt and he knows his stuff!  I am POSITIVE he will help you with any specific questions you may have about your bullet smoker.  If I may be so bold I would say just send him a PM with the specific question and I am sure he will sort you out.  As for general questions, I think we can stumble along.  Keep Flash in your hip pocket as your "go to guy" when the rest of us are stumped for an answer.  Since I don't own a bullet, that time may come sooner rather than later.  [​IMG]

    I forgot to address your concern about the white smoke.

    This is a "touchy" subject.  Not everyone agrees on the white smoke versus the blue smoke.  What we DO all agree on is that if you are producing white smoke for 4-12 hours while smoking meat, you aren't gonna like the final product!  Now here is where controversy starts:  IF you have a smoke generator of whatever brand then you should see a constant thin blue smoke coming from the exhaust of your smoker.  Sometimes you can't even see it.  IF you have a certain smoker, like an offset and you have your stuff together and control temps with no problem; you can achieve thin blue smoke with chunks and or splits.  Now you are talking smoking on a serious level.  Many years of experience and practice.  Two fantastic members here; gary s. and oldschoolbbq, make that look SOOOOO easy.  Two ole Texas boys who make it look like a walk in the park.  I gotta say, I have been doing this smokin, Quein thing for about 40 years and I wouldn't want to do it "old school" that way.  I know the theory and could probably get e'er done but I'd be quivering mass slumped on the floor when it was all over!  My hat is off to them.  I usually don't use a therm and I thought I did things old school ( insert caveman ) but these guys are the Mutt's Nut's when it comes to "old school".

    Enough rambling!

    When using chips without a smoke generator you have two choices.  You throw the chips on the hot coals or you put your chips in an aluminium "pouch".  Either way, every time I do it I get white smoke.  Here is this "touchy" bit:  so long as you are getting white smoke for a short period of time your food will not suffer ill affects.  When I hot grill a ribeye I throw wood chips on the coals.  BIG white smoke!  Cook a couple minutes and turn.  More wood chips if needed.  Cook couple more minutes and then rest.  The point is: so long as you only apply white smoke for a short period your food will not suffer.  Now if you are smoking something like bacon you want a smoke generator that applies thin blue smoke over the entire smoking time.  Other than that you can throw a few wood chips on the hot coals every 30-60 minutes and not worry about the white smoke hurting your meat.  You can use white smoke on any food that you can cook in one hour without bad tastes.  NOW!  As with any short cuts THERE IS A POSSIBLE DOWN SIDE!  I have not found it a "problem" BUT when using white smoke in this way you risk a creosote build up in your smoker.  Sometimes even nasty black stuff dripping down from the lid onto your meat.  As I said I haven't found it a problem but I keep an eye out and slightly "clean" if something looks "dodgy".  Bottom line is be vigilant ( I had to look that word up ) and don't worry about the white smoke.  Hit your coals with a handful of chips every 30-45 minutes.  Don't apply white smoke the whole time,  just add some now and then.  Keep Smokin!

  12. Ahhh nice one. I was worried that the white smoke was going to taste acrid. Although the chicken tasted great!!

    Well, it looks like I'll have to get my tools out, get modding and then fire her up again tomorrow ;) might even whack a slab of ribs on there too so as not to waste the smoke haha!
  13. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    It looked as if it turned out well in the end. Well done.

    From the photo it looks as if your chicken was still trussed when you put it in the smoker this means that to cook right the way through the heat has to all penetrate from the outside. I suggest that you should open the bird up before you put it in so that the heat can penetrate from both sides simultaneously. This is what happens when you cook beer can chicken or you spatchcock it. Whenever I cook a chicken or turkey whole I always insert a chicken roaster frame inside to open it up and let the heat and smoke penetrate from both sides. I use a roasting frame (picture on the left below) but if you have a beer can chicken roaster then just use that but without the beer can. It reduces the cooking time but more importantly the bird cooks more evenly and remains more moist.

  14. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The chicken that is cooking tonight... showing the roaster in place

    The roaster is well used as you can see, however it is not rusty as the flash photo makes it appear. The shiny enamel lacquer coating is a bit chipped and the mat undercoat is showing through.
  15. Ahhh cool, I've always roasted trussed up haha. I guess that's because I'm used to cooking for presentation. Looks a nifty bit of kit though that.
  16. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Open up that neck end as well as the body to let the heat and smoke go through. That little flap of skin they leave over the neck is of little practical use. Once the bird has reached temperature if you simply pull out the roaster and tie the legs back together before you wrap the whole bird in foil to rest it will still look very presentable.
  17. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    A hint from across the Pond...

    Be patient and you'll be rewarded.

    Have a great Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas , and as always . . .

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