Working on a few things! 09/13/2017
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We have not had an update on this in a few weeks, so here goes. I'm going to discuss several things in this edition that were suggested in Part 3. Feel free to throw out some more questions in this thread and I'll try to answer them. How to start the fire in the pit and keep it hot: This is a fairly easy thing to get going. I will typically get lump charcoal, (I use Royal Oak lump,) and load it into a charcoal chimney. The way the charcoal chimney works is by stuffing no more than two full sheets of newspaper in the bottom of this; flip it right side up, then load the top with lump charcoal. Light the newspaper. DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID OR ACCELLERANTS. When the coals are white-hot, it's time to carefully dump the coals into your firebox. The chimney and the firebox will be hot. Wear gloves and use tongs or a fireplace poker to handle the chimney. At this point I'll add a few logs to the pit on top of the spread out coals. Open the damper on the firebox and on the pit's smokestack. I'd recommend about 50% open on the firebox and 100% open on the smokestack. To maintain the heat, you will need to learn your smoker. All are a little different. Some require more fuel, other's more air. It's a mixture. The dampers will all look a bit different: Basically, the damper will help control air flow on your fire, and by extension, control the heat/temperature in your smoke chamber. Again, you will have to learn your pit to know how much is just right. For right now, we're just getting the fire started, and you're wanting it open a bit more than you'll have it during the smoke process. How to know when it's time to put the meat on? The simple answer is, when your smoke is BLUE and your temperature in your smoke chamber is at your desired smoking temp. "What is blue smoke?" you ask. Well, when you are burning wood, the impurities, (bark, etc.,) will burn off first. This creates a brownish-white puffy looking smoke. When the impurities have burned off, this is what the smoke looks like: The left stack has blue smoke, the right stack is not quite ready yet. You can see the difference between the two. Once you have blue smoke and your chamber temp is where you want it, time to put the meat on. What to do if you're having trouble maintaining temp Just relax and don't get all wound up. This is not an exact science. You've probably all noticed I've mentioned a time or two that you have to know your pit. It's a learning process. Again, learn your pit. Sometimes if your temp is spiking, it's because you may have added too much wood, don't have enough lump coals or have too much air flow. Sometimes it's a combination of several of these factors. Mess around with the dampers first. Shutting down the amount of air flow will lower the temp in your smoke chamber. Another thing to remember, spikes and drops in temp will NOT be immediate. It takes time. When you shut the dampers and/or smokestack, it will take a bit to choke down the fire. This is a process. Crack open another beer and enjoy the process. Don't be in a hurry. What side to put the meat on the grate (fat side up/down) This is personal preference, but I'm a fat-side up guy for my briksets. This is because I like to think that as the fat renders, it runs through the meat below it, thus flavoring and adding moisture to it. How best to season/brine the meat. We've discussed this a bit in Part3. I like salt and pepper for my briskets. For pork butt, Bad Byron's Butt Rub. Also, Sweetwater Spice brine concentrates are very good quality and add nice flavors. How often to put more wood/charcoal in the pit. Y'all are tired of hearing this, but know your pit. I'm at the point now where I can put in four split logs and leave for 3-4 hours and my pit maintains a 210-240 degree temp without adding wood. For overnight smokes, I'll sometimes add an extra chimney of lump heated up prior to heading in for the evening. How do I know if it's ready? It depends on what you're cooking. Time and temp that you find online, or you get from friends are merely guides. Every piece of meat is different and will be ready when it's ready. Don't rush it. Some briskets may be ready to pull from the pit at 180, others at 210 (internal.) If you can put a meat fork where the point meets the flat, and it goes in like butter, it's ready. Once you've done enough briskets, you can actually lift the brisket off the pit and feel that it's ready. Practice, practice, practice. How to clean/maintain the smoker. BBQ is a dirty business. You'll get congealed fat on the bottom of your smoke chamber, you'll have grease, soot, and general dirt all around. You don't want to take a power washer to your pit. Not a good idea. I'll take a putty knife and scrape the congealed fat/grease from the bottom of the pit when it gets too much. I smoke a LOT. I don't do this but about once a year. I've got a drip bucket under the drain on my pit, so that makes it easier, but I still get areas that build up. I do not scrape the inside of the pit lid, here's the inside of my pit: That's flavor boys & girls. As far as any rust you may get over time, wire brush will help clean it, then I use a high-heat black spray paint to repaint it. I go to the auto parts store and buy some high-heat engine paint. I know that several folks, including Chad from Old Country, recommend using the high-heat grill paint from Rustoleum, but I have had much better results and longevity from some other high heat engine paints. VHT is a good product. Also, do NOT leave ashes in your firebox when you're done smoking. Ash retains moisture, and that's the quickest way to cause the bottom of your firebox to begin rusting out. That's all I have for now. Post your questions in here and I'll answer them as best I can. Anyting goes. Happy Smoking.