Thanks for the help upfront, finally constructed and tried out my Alton Brown flowerpot smoker

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by cyberik, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    So I got some help from you guys in building it and in how to cook the pork, so I finally took the plunge and fired up my smoker. 

    I had some issues which I will outline below, but it was mostly a success. I identified 2-3 discrete mistakes that I can correct for next time. Some questions I have are in bold/italics.



    Went to a local hardware store to have a family friend help me drill the lid. We drilled 4 circumferential holes in the middle and one radial hole off to one end to hold the thermometer and found airflow.


    My brother and I assembled the smoker and did a test burn of some soaked wood. We used a pyrex baking dish on the hot plate to hold the wood. 

    Here is where the first problem was identified: we could not measure internal temperature. The grill thermometer that we bought was seemingly not reading the temp- it was telling me the thing was around 100 when it felt like about 100 degrees ON THE OUTSIDE, let alone the inside. My theory is that the probe on the grill thermometer wasn't long enough so it was reading the cooler terra cotta that it passed through as much as the inside. So we were, for the weekend, shooting blind. Still, the wood burned great and we considered the test successful.

    Late Night:

    We had 2 7 lb butts.

    -We coated one in honey mustard (per a suggestion on here) and stuck the rub (great recipe from a local pittmaster's home bbq class). -We coated the other one in a mixture of beer and cider vinegar (friend's suggestion), and stuck the rub to that (same rub as above).




    Woke up at 8am, preheated the smoker.

    For the smoker, I read that it was better to add a restrictor plate surface for the pork, to insulate the pork from the heat of the fire. To do that, I rested a pizza stone on top of the grill grate holding the meat. So the meat sat on top of the pizza stone in the hot oven. 

    I am not sure if that is the right thing because wouldn't the stone cook it directly rather than by convection? But I guess regardless the metal grill grate would also cook it directly. Regardless, it didn't seem to be a huge issue- I had the low and slow cooking regardless.

    So I loaded the meat onto the pizza stone, and DISASTER STRUCK!

    As I grabbed the meat, I stepped on the lid a tiny bit, which was resting on the ground. The lid lifted a half inch off the ground and came back down onto the concrete. That small amount of force was enough to BREAK THE LID! It split right down the middle. I almost panicked. But I realized that I could fit the 2 hemispheres together like a puzzle piece and proceed with it as the lid. Not exactly as I planned, but it was functional.

    Meat went on at 9:30. 

    Internal temperature climbed steadily all day via my analog and digital thermometers. I couldn't read the inside temperature, but it felt hot so I think I was keeping it in the right range.

    I used a mix of hickory and apple woods. I originally used soaked wood chunks, and was getting a lot of white smoke. I read that that can be from the internal cooling of the water. So about halfway through I switched to mostly dry wood and the smoke was "bluer." I took a video of the smoker running with the blue smoke in the afternoon. You can see the broken lid.

    It seemed like we had a stall at around 145-150 IT, but then I started adding the dry wood only, got the blue smoke (higher temps) and then we were rolling. I think this wasn't a true stall, but a temperature issue on the fire that we fixed.

    I decided NOT to wrap at ~150, because we love hard bark and I was told on here that unwrapped smoking would give that hard bark.

    But then, we hit the REAL stall, around 175. I heard online that that stall is the water release from the collagen breaking down and the evaporative cooling. So we kept it at 175 for about a half hour or an hour before deciding to wrap it at that point (there already was a nice, hard bark). 

    At this point it was ~6pm and our guests were due to arrive in about an hour. We busted through the stall about a half hour after the wrap. Inched up to 180, and 185. Guests were arriving. 

    My brother (incorrectly) said it was drying out in there. I know that it gets more moist as the collagen dissolves around 195-205. 

    But, against my better judgment, I pulled the pork at around 185. I knew it wasn't done because the probe didn't feel like butter. Some thinner parts did, but not the thicker parts.

    So we pulled it, the guests arrived. 

    I kept them waiting- I re-wrapped it in foil put it in the (unheated) oven for an hour to rest. 

    Then we pulled it out of the oven and pulled the meat around 7pm.

    Unfortunately, probably because the low internal temp when we pulled it, the pork didn't pull very well. The outside did with the bark, but the core of the piece of meat was tough and did not shred. WOULD YOU GUYS AGREE THIS IS THE PROBLEM?

    Still, the bark came out AWESOME (I would not wrap lower next time as the bark aspect was perfect).

    And underneath the bark I got a beautiful smoke ring throughout the meat under the bark. 

    My brother, mom and I made it an all-day family project. We made the following (all homemade from scratch): pork and beans (with the smoked pork in it), carolina slaw, carolina style BBQ. Mac and cheese southern style, cornbread.

    As for taste: it tasted pretty awesome. I will say, I think hickory may just be a bit too strong for me. The taste in the bark was a bit too "campfire-ey" for my taste. I am not 100% sure if it was because I was puffing white smoke for a bit, or because I used 50-60% hickory over apple wood. My friend who also smokes said he uses an apple/cherry mix because hickory is too strong for him as well. DO YOU THINK IT IS THE WHITE SMOKE OR THE HICKORY THAT CAUSED THIS?

    So, all things considered, given the setbacks (the lack of reading the running temperature, the shattered lid, etc), the trial run was a success. I have some things to work on for next time (allowing enough time for it to get to 195-205, changing my wood composition, getting a better temperature gauge for the smoker, etc). I can't wait to try again over the 4th of july weekend!
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You did great on your first smoke with your new smoker....  Great notes for making changes next go-round...

    May I suggest a SS pan for the wood chips...  Keep them dry...  Burner covers in SS would work well for the chips.....  If they burst into flame, drill a few holes in the second cover and cover the chips...  

    I think putting the meat directly on the wire rack would work well... 

    After the smoke has been applied for the first several hours, you can stop the smoke, plug all but 1 of the holes in the smoker and bake with no air flow...  that will help with the stall...  No air flow severely reduces the evaporation and the stall...  plug the holes with foil...

    I would start the butt the night before...  smoke for a time that works for you...  If you can adjust the smoker to 200 ish, let it run overnight and through the next day....   When I smoke butts, I keep my smoker below the boiling point of water for the duration, (Thanks to Smokin Al for that tip)..  Butts will take ~18-20 hours of unattended cooking but come out great...

    Another option is...   cook in the oven at 200 ish after the smoke...  really saves on the prospect of having a fire.. 
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
  3. Hi, What a learning experience. I tried several times to plan cooks and guests arriving at a pre set time. It was not till I realized that only a overnight cook would allow me to have the time to cook and let the meat rest.properly the day of the cook. 

    I cook my butts a little hotter than Dave so they take a little less time. My cook temp is about 240 and cook the naked  butt  for about 16 hours.  A good rest time to me is 3 hours. Although I have used more. 

    The other thing that was important was that Left over pulled pork is as good if not better the second day. Also try using a finishing sauce like Chef JJ's or the SO Fla sauce . Both are listed on the forum.

    Another thing I learned when using a stick burner and looking for a smoke ring was that it developed till the IT of the meat was under 145. Some folks say you get good smoke flavor in r 4 or 5 hours. That may be but Since I use pellets I let it go for quite a bit more. Also since I use a electric with pellets I will never get a smoke ring.

    Just some personal opinions and experience. Good luck with your cooks and most of all have fun.  Jted  
  4. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    Hey guy, sorry I was busy at work for a few weeks. Thanks so much for the feedback. So if I am understanding you guys right you only smoke for 4-5 hours then just let it run at temp after that? You don't keep the smoke on it throughout the whole ~10 hour cook? 

    I am doing another butt and brisket this weekend- will post more pictures, but want to make sure I get it right this time. 
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yep.... I will smoke stuff from 2 hours to 4-5...  depending on the flavor wood, what piece of meat I'm smoking..  Then finish in the smoker or in the oven...
  6. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    Hey guys, I just did a dry run of my new equipment for the 4th of july smoke that I am going to start overnight.

    I wanted to test my new gear including a new grill thermometer with longer probe to penetrate through the terra cotta (last one was too short so read low on temperature).

    I cranked the hot plate to maximum, put a piece of applewood in there and let it sit for about 90 minutes. The chamber slowly climbed over the 90 minutes to 220 and stayed there. Before that around 200 degrees the wood started to run out and the smoke started to die down.

    I think if I had to run around 220 it would be fine, especially since I plan to do this overnight, but my question is, if I wanted to run hot, should I just add more wood and let it create a more roaring smoke/fire? Or am I limited to 220 based on the strength of my hotplate? 
  7. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    Also, do I have too much airflow cooling my smoker? I have the 4 drill holes and plus some escapes from the side (may eventually need to install a gasket)

  8. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    I put my wood chunks in an aluminum foil packet and into the pyrex baking dish that I was using to hold the wood- seems to be working like a charm. My gauge temperature immediately shot up to the 240-250 range and stayed there, and plus I burned through the fuel more slowly.

    Going to bed for a few hours now- put more wood on the fire, brisket is at 139 IT pork is at 129. Hope temps are still good when I wake up in 5 hours! 
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Around my place, 4-5 hours of smoke on any meat is more than enough...   Try it...  finish the brisket without any more smoke and see what you think....   You can foil wrap the meat if you are so inclined...  
  10. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    I (mostly) took your advice. I woke up to find the smoker had ran at 245 all night and the wood had died down so just a little bit of sweet residual smoke. I got up to temperature for the initial cook around 1:00 am and went to bed around 3:30 with fresh wood on there before sleep, so it probably got 4-5 hours of wood only by the time I found it at 8:30 am.

    I had an IT of 170 in the pork and the brisket when I opened it. I spritzed and wrapped them both and put them back in with a very small amount of wood in a foil pouch. I know the wood was probably superfluous at this point but figured once wrapped probably not a big deal. 

    The foil pouch worked magic the smoke went from white and camp-fire-ey to sweet and fruity. 

    Thanks for weighing in so much! 
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
  11. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    I know everyone likes pics, so here it is this morning at 170 before I wrapped it.

  12. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    198 IT on the pork butt and 190 on the brisket. Going to leave them about 20 more minutes then pull them and rest for 90 minutes! 
  13. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    198 IT on the pork butt and 190 on the brisket. Going to leave them about 20 more minutes then pull them and rest for 90 minutes! 
  14. cyberik

    cyberik Newbie

    Pulled the pork at 1:55 pm at 198-200 IT and the brisket at 2:05 pm at an IT of 192. Currently wrapped and resting.

    Smells AMAZING. Much better than last time's campfire mess.

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