Hello folks. This is my first time so please be gentle. I am new to the forum and new to smoking. Well there was that time back in college with Bill but neither one of us inhaled, honest. Last Christmas a friend served a smoked salmon at his party. It was delicious. This past spring a buddy brought a smoked venison pastrami to our trout fishing camp. It was delicious also. Well one day thinking out loud, I mentioned I would like to look into smoking meats some day. Last week was my birthday and my wife presented me with a Bradley four rack electric smoker. I was a little less than thrilled not knowing anything about the process much less about the available equipment. But, I have been married long enough to smile, say thank you, and be appreciative. So now I have a smoker. I hope it is a good brand. Time will tell. One thing I am not excited about is having to buy the wood from one source. I had envisioned clearing some trees and using what was available. Anyway....I am now the proud owner of a smoker. A buddy and I are going to Wyoming next week and I thought having some venison jerky to munch on might give us something to do on the long way out there, so I got on the net and picked a couple of recipes and mixed up some marinade (you do call it marinade don't you?). I cut the meat into !/4 inch strips, with the grain, put half in a covered bowl with one recipe and the other half in plastic storage bags, 1 gal., squeezed the air out, and laid them flat in the frig. Now further reading reveals I may have already made some mistakes, so please if you will, answer the following questions; 1. Should I have pounded the meat first? 2. Should I have used a vacuum sealer to draw the marinade into the meat? I have one available. Also I have additional questions; 3. What is a "cure" and is it always necessary. I didn't use any. 4. Do I run the smoke the entire time I am cooking/drying the meat, or just for awhile? 5, I once made jerky in the oven and used toothpicks to suspend the meat from the oven racks. The racks in the smoker are of a crisscrossed construction and I don't think the toothpicks will work. I read of a guy using paperclips. I thought that was ingenious. Should I try that or just lay the meat flat on the racks? Do I need to rotate the racks? Do I need to rotate the racks if I hang the strips? 6. I tried to season the smoker this morning and it never came up to the desired temp. I left the vent partially open, when I closed it the temp rose a little, the vent closure still has small holes allowing the smoke to escape. It was 55 degrees outside and I read reviews that said ambient temperature was important. If true does that limit smoking to mild days only? Any other suggestion would very much be appreciated. Like I said in the beginning this is my first time so please be gentle. You could blow smoke up my skirt and I would believe everything you said. I promise future posts won't be so long, I'll do my home work.