Ratio of charcoal to meat

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by smokininboysrm, Nov 8, 2014.

  1. I have had mixed results in my limited smoking experience (just bought a WSM last Spring). 

    When I tried to smoke some chicken thighs I ended up over cooking. I am thinking I need to learn the right ratios of meat to charcoal to amount of cooking time. I just bought external probe type thermometer but haven't used it yet. 

    I am going to smoke a whole chicken tomorrow so I am looking through the forums to find suggested ratios as I described above.

    Looking forward to learning more about the processes.


  2. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No real ratio. The doneness of all meats needs to be figured by internal temp. For chicken cook it until the IT is 165 in the breast or thigh. Before carving let the chicken rest 45min. wrapped in foil.

    Poultry benefits from a higher temp smoke. Helps crisp the skin. I'd run your smoker 325-350.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  3. So its hard to cool down a large hot fire? I would imagine a full load of charcoal would have a minimum temperature for quite a while, even if you snuff it back. Try a 1/2 load. You are using one of the most fuel efficient cookers on the market, so what burns your food fuel load wise might not be enough for my machine. At a 1/2 load of fuel, you can have a smaller thermal mass of fire, which should be somewhat easier to control, and if you need more fuel its easy to add later. Its all about temperature anyway, which is the integer part, over time. Temperature and time as related through fuel are affected by size of cooker, size of whats cooking etc so that can be pretty much unique to you. That is a very excellent smoker though. I bet you dont spend much on it.
  4. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have never considered how much fuel I put in my WSM.  It can be at the max load whether doing a 1 hour smoke or a 20 hour smoke.  My smokes average (let me check my log) 4.44 hours.  When I"m done I snuff the fire.  Next time I'm going to smoke I shake off the ash, clean out the bowl if necessary (learning to pick up the grate loaded with used cold charcoal and not spilling it is a nice skill to develop), load more charcoal and wood if necessary, then add my hot coals. 

    Depending how hot I want my chamber determines how much charcoal I put in my chimney to add to the cold pile in the WSM.  If I'm shooting for 225F or so chamber temp, I only fill the chimney up about 1/4 way before I light the chimney.  250-275F chamber temp 1/3 to 1/2 chimney. If I'm going for 325F or higher chamber temp, I load 3/4 chimney or more.  I just dump the new hot coals in the center of the pile of cold charcoal, let them burn like that for about 5 minutes with the WSM unassembled, then put it together, open all the vents, and let it come up to about 15-25 degrees lower than my target temp before I start closing down my lower vents.  Stabilize, let the smoke start to turn blue, load meat, then go watch football.

    Controlling the chamber temp in the WSM with the lower vents is pretty easy to learn.  Get it cruising at the temp you want, load the meat, and it is done when you have reached the meat's target internal temp.  Do not use time as a measure of doneness or you have underdone, overdone, and occasionally rightly done. 

    Whole chicken?  325F or higher chamber temp until 165F internal temp in the thigh.  Some go to 175F there but I find the breast can get overdone if the chicken is not brined.  Spatchcocking the bird will help it cook more evenly. 
  5. I keep a weber kettle and I bet you and I kinda just burn what we know we need. I THINK the fellow is lighting it all up to start, even the old coals that it wouldnt matter about.

    I want a 22.5 WSM so I can put the Weber Gourmet system to use or smoke when my current kettle dies.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  6. Thanks for that response Dirtsailor2003. I see what you are saying about the internal temp. Now that I have the technology I will be able to keep track of internal meat temp without opening the smoker. Looking forward to checking out the link you provided.

    Thanks again

  7. Noboundaries and Trickyputt - I was missing the element of time as opposed to amount of fuel. Looking to give it all a try tomorrow. Thanks all.

  8. I had better results today with a whole chicken. I used the new temperature probe that has two probe leads and transmits to a remote receiver. 

    It took me about 3 hours and 40 minutes to get up to internal temperature of 175. I checked it at 165 but it looked a little under cooked at that time and a fork puncture had a slightly bloody liquid. Anyway, I cooked it till it reached 175. I could only get the inside smoker temperature cup to around 250. It was heading upward after I opened two of the bottom vents of the WSM. I had filled the ring with charcoal and added 3/4 asked over charcoal in a chimney. I used two handfuls of apple wood chips that were soaked for about 15 minutes.

    All in all I am happier with the better results. Thanks all for getting me started on a good foot.

    Mike Love


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