Newbie smoking adventures

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by brianv, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    After wanting to pick up a smoker for a few years, last week I bought and ECB and did the recommended mods to it. Now it's time for my initial smoke.

    The Meat

    Now, I didn't prepare for this as well as I should have. Rather than drive to a local butcher's or something to select a perfect cut, I went to my chest freezer where I knew I have a few larger hunks of meat stored up The best candidate for a first smoke I came up with was a 9lb 'Smoked Picnic Shoulder'.

    After reading the package, I'm not quite sure what to make of it. It's not a raw picnic shoulder, but it doesn't seem like a 'normal' ham either. IE, it was definitely smoked but not to nearly the extent of a 'normal' ham, and the instructions indicated to cook it to an IT of 170 degrees or above. It's very similar to this here: - in fact, this is likely the same product with a different label. I wonder if it's just been minimally smoked to add some 'smoke' flavour without actually cooking it to

    Well, it may not be ideal, but I figured if I approach it 'low and slow', it would all work out in the end. I let it that for some hours in a cold water bath.

    To prepare the meat, I did the following steps:

    1. I trimmed the skin off of the fat cap.

    2. Rinsed the meat.

    3. Slathered it in mustard.

    4. I did a dry rub of chili powder, paprika, brown & white sugar, some garlic, cumin, and a few other spices, and rubbed it on yesterday morning.

    5. Wrapped it in plastic for 18 hours / over night, and stuck it in the refrigerator.

    The Fire

    This morning, I woke up at 6:30AM to get the process started. Charcoal was started at 6:50AM.

    I put about 3lb of Royal Oak bricquettes around the outside of my firepan, which is a cheap Smokey Joe knockoff by 'Master Chef Elite'. The center of the pan is empty under the foil package. Inside the foil package is some soaked applewood bits. The two chunks are maple. I'm hoping this arrangement of coals will buy me ~2-3 hours before I need to re-do the fire.

    In my test runs with the smoker, I found out that ash buildup was going to be an issue - I swear these bricquettes produce about 30%+ ash by volume compared to the originals. Ths firepan has an ash cleanout at the bottom, but the ashes don't really want to aslways slide down to the bottom and I had some choke out.

    At 7:20AM, the temps were reading at 250 with my Weber digital stick thermometer, so I put the meat on:

    And now we play the waiting game:

  2. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    Temperature at 8:33AM (1 hour 10 minutes in) - 240 degrees.

    There wasn't a lot of smoke as the burn had moved around the ring away from the wood. I added two more similar-sized maple pieces between the two existing map pieces to resolve that.
  3. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    At the two hour mark, she's holding at 238:

  4. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looking good so far!

    With that half-smoky ham, since it has probably been injected with water (the label will say so if it is) then maybe the water had some smoke flavoring in it, and the ham itself was never in a smoker. Until you came along...
  5. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    10:40AM - 3 hours 20 minutes in, still sitting at 240.

    Roughly when should I start checking the meat temps? I don't want to lift the lid earlier than I need to, but I want to make sure I don't overdo it. I know I am a few hours from that point though...

    Also, anyone know how long it usually takes the water pan to empty out? I had it 2/3rds of the way full... I tried to check, but there was too much smoke / not enough light through the little door.
  6. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    4 hours, 236.

    Took a quick look at the firepan. I think I'll need to refill the firepan and clean some ash after the 5 hour mark
  7. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    5 hour update:

    At about 4:45 into the smoke, I checked the temps, and it was down to 212, somewhat as I expected after the 4-hour temp check.

    I lifted off the ECB and checked the pan. Sure enough, everything was choked by ash, and most of the charcoal was consumed. I started picking out the remaining larger chunks of charcoal (not many), and dumped the remaining ash into a steel bucket. I reset my firepan as before with new charcoal and chunks around the edges, and dumped the leftover hot coals same as I did the original chimney. Hopefully I should be set another 5 hours. The smoker was at 246 and holding when I left it.

    I feel like I am getting a crazy amount of ash off of these briquettes. Next time I buy, I'll be getting lump. It's too bad it's almost 50% more expensive per pound.

    Meanwhile, I used this opportunity for a quick progress pic. First time opening the lid since I put it on:

    For some reason, it looks like a tumor or something....

    I'm wondering if I should start spritzing it periodically. It looks dry....
  8. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    Some drama at hour 6 - I went outside to check, and the temp was cruising near 300 degrees.

    My first order of business was to close the vents on the firepan. After about 10 minutes, it was clear this wasn't making a difference. However, I noticed the water pan was getting quite low, so I refilled it with another 1.5L of cool water to hopefully absorbe some of the extra heat.. After about another 10 minutes, the smoker temp was at 271, and falling slowly. I think I've gotten past the hump.

    While I was doing all this, I quickly checked the IT, and it was at 138. I have it a quick baste with some orange juice. I think I will give it a quick brush every hour or so from here on in.
  9. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    Hour 7 - was cruising at 270, more or less where I left it. The IT was up to 150 degrees. Give it another baste with OJ.

    I'm hoping to pull it off in another 2-3 hours, but we'll see. I suspect I'm about to go int othe stall...
  10. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    Hour 8 - Smoker is cruising at 265. IT has broken 160:

    Should I foil, or not?
  11. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Congrats.  Looks like it's going well so far.  My first time smoking I used  an ECB and it did not turn out well.  my trouble was keeping the heat up.  I believe thats one of the hardest issues if not the hardest.  Looks like you have a good hand on the temp.  Good luck.
  12. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    That was one of the issues that I had with ECB's  I couldn't see a darn thing when I opened that door.  lol

    I wouldn't open the top for as long as you can keep yourself from opening it.  lol 
  13. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    9 hours in now, and it was at 165. Hello stall!

    Since I am hoping to have it wrapped up within about two hours or so, I foiled it. Let's see what happens...
  14. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    10 hours, smoker is at 245.

    Internal temperature is up to 171. Starting to get nervous as this is when I wanted to pull it off...
  15. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    So, to close this all off...

    I pulled the pork off at 10.5 hours, and stuck it in the over at 310 degrees. While I would have preferred to ride it out on the barbeque, my family was going to mutiny. When I pulled it out of the oven at the 11 hour mark, the IT was at 178, and after a 30-minute rest had risen to 182.

    I ripped it up that that temp, and added SoFlaQuer's finishing sauce (yum!).  I would call it a success - the flavour was 100% there and 100% awesome. It wasn't as 'melt in your mouth' as it would have been had the IT gotten higher, but it more than served the purpose.

    So, overall a success. I have some hands-on experience controlling this BBQ. If I ever do a piece this big again, I may buy a dual-probe thermometer, and just do it overnight while I sleep. As long as I wake up once or twice to check the temps, it basically cruised where I wanted it to...
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  16. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    Sounds like is was a great smoke.  Congrats.
  17. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    It definitely was. It was a learning experience for next time, and I've gotten to know my smoker. The amazing meat was a bonus on top of that!
  18. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I feel the same way.  I tried smoking is a ECB about 6 years ago.  I didn't know anything and it was a epic disaster.  I put it aside then for fathers day my daughters bought my an offset smoker.  Through luck I found this site and started asking questions.  I ran my first smoke.  I smoked a pork butt and was amazed with how well it ran.  Between all of the great people that I've met her and the success of my first smoke I very confidently decided to try smoking some Beef jerky that I was making.  normally I just dehydrate.  this time I smoked as much as I could fit in the smoker.  I normally do anywhere from 10 - 50 pounds when I do it.  The smoke on the jerky went awesome.

    This is a very addicting hobby.  I don't know about you but I get a very peaceful feeling while I am tending to the fire.

    Glad your smoke went well.  Can't wait to hear what you try next.


  19. wngsprnt50

    wngsprnt50 Smoke Blower

    Sounds like a good smoke. For future, be careful with meat that hasn't gotten to an IT of 140 within the safe 4 hour window. :grilling_smilie:
  20. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    That thought had actually crossed my mind, but I'm not sure how to avoid it with a big piece of meat. The smoker temp was at 250 - how much more can I do?

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