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joeywa

Requested BBQ Smoking Thread****Part 4****

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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. 

Royal-Oak-Hardwood.jpg

 

img_1914_chimney2.jpg

 

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:

Spring_Handle_on_Firebox_Door.jpg
 

side-door-damper.jpg

AdjustableDamper-Firebox.jpg

 

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:

blue_smoke_by_grant_erwin.jpg

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: 80ed97d496fc93f990ab802bdb0fa600_zpsec2a

 

That's flavor boys & girls.  :D

 

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. 

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the process of properly starting the fire can't be understated. i have my wife convinced it's an arduous process that requires constant attention by me, which of course is code for 'i'll be out here drinking beer while you entertain your family'.

FACT! And the time it takes to get the fire going is directly proportionate to the number of inlaws at your house. There is also a connection between the time to get it going, number of inlaws, and drinks consumed by the pitmaster, but that formula will be discussed in the more advanced BBQ classes.

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I replaced the grates in my firebox to allow me to get my ash cleanout tool underneath them. During long smokes my gauge to add fuel is basically when just a few ambers remain, but still maintaining my desired temp, I will always preborn whatever type of fuel that it is I'm using and clean out the ash underneath the grates into a galvanized bucket ( I get mine at Home Depot in the garden section, they have various sizes w/ lids). Using preburned fuel controls temp spikes and creates a better product in the end.

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I replaced the grates in my firebox to allow me to get my ash cleanout tool underneath them. During long smokes my gauge to add fuel is basically when just a few ambers remain, but still maintaining my desired temp, I will always preborn whatever type of fuel that it is I'm using and clean out the ash underneath the grates into a galvanized bucket ( I get mine at Home Depot in the garden section, they have various sizes w/ lids). Using preburned fuel controls temp spikes and creates a better product in the end.

 

Can you post a pic of preborn fuel so I know what to do?  Thanks!

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Can you post a pic of preborn fuel so I know what to do?  Thanks!

 

Well I am in El Paso working so it would be awhile before I could do that but basically you could just have some coals burning as embers in a chimney or I use a chiminea believe it or not and a fireplace shovel to pull from as needed. During cooler evenings while doing briskets it serves two-fold, I just keep adding oak wood to it and enjoy the warmth with a cold brew

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Great info, joeywa.

 

Question in regards to starting the fire in the box.  I have been placing a line of coals in an "S" shape in the firebox around a couple of fire bricks and then pouring coals at the top of the "S" so the fire will burn in a snake form.  I've read that this helps keep the fire burning longer.  Is this correct or is it best just to dump the hot coals from the chimney on to a pile of coals in the box?

 

600x450px-a3ab10cf_DSCI0022.JPG

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Lukus, that is one way to do it.  I wouldn't recommend using briquettes, rather lump charcoal.  I have inquired about an S insert for fireboxes, and have had several conversations with Chad from Old Country.  They have not made one yet, but it may be something they look at in the future. 

There is a good philosophy there, as it allows charcoal to light in more of a systematic way.  I have not personally used this method, as I don't really have problems with the charcoal chimney.

Whatever works for your pit is what I would use!  ;) 

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Joeywa,  I'm thinking of upgrading from bullet smoker to a offset smoker.  Is there an offset smoker around $500 you recommend?  Would love heavier steel as the bullet smoker has leaks and harder to maintain constant temp for an extended period of time.  

 

Y'all know my thoughts on this.  Old Country.  Academy carries them.  Go check them out. 

Here are the levels:

 

  • Pecos: $399
    • Entry Level
    • Thinnest gauge steel
    • 11 gauge lid;
    • 20 x 60
  • Wrangler: $499
    • Slightly thicker steel than the Pecos; 3/16"
    • 20 x 48
  • Brazos: $999
    • Thick steel; 1/4"
    • 20 x 60

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joeywa, you've mentioned several times that "knowing your pit" is important. you're not talking in the biblical sense, right?

While that's not exactly my thing, I'm a firm believer I. "Whatever it takes." Some may feel the need to become more intimate with their pits, and that's fair.

 

So Slim, don't go with what I say, go with what feels right to you.

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Joeywa,  I'm thinking of upgrading from bullet smoker to a offset smoker.  Is there an offset smoker around $500 you recommend?  Would love heavier steel as the bullet smoker has leaks and harder to maintain constant temp for an extended period of time.  

 

My personal preference is Lyfe Tyme. I've seen the Ol Country pits in Academy before and that's some mighty thin 1/4" steel and the doors seem warped and don't close tight. Just my observation though

 

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My personal preference is Lyfe Tyme. I've seen the Ol Country pits in Academy before and that's some mighty thin 1/4" steel and the doors seem warped and don't close tight. Just my observation though

 

The entry level doesn't have 1/4". You have to step up to the All American.

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The entry level doesn't have 1/4". You have to step up to the All American.

 

Not familiar with the different models but they carry 3-4 of his pits and no of them seem as heavy duty as

Lyfe Tyme's. Now on the other hand he does have some features that I like that Lyfe Tyme doesn't do like slide out racks and such

 

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Not familiar with the different models but they carry 3-4 of his pits and no of them seem as heavy duty as

Lyfe Tyme's. Now on the other hand he does have some features that I like that Lyfe Tyme doesn't do like slide out racks and such

 

 

No knock on Lyfe Tyme-solid pits; just was not able to get one shipped to me reasonably.  What I explained on the different thicknesses comes directly from the owner of Old Country. 

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Jeff that BB pit don't look used and the way you cook BBQ I know what your pit must really look like. Best dang BBQ er in the NW United States. My friend y'all have a great Weekend Go Horns beat the hell out of TCU also go LSU deal the aggy football another loss. It is fun to watch them go into melt down.

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Y'all remember when we started the BBQ Smoking series and I told you that you're going to screw something up?  Well, this morning it was my turn.  I had some turkey legs and a bourbon pecan pie on the pit.  Unexpected flare up sent major flames into the smoke chamber.  I had to shut down the damper and the smoke stacks.  Singed my eyebrows and the pie was scorched and ruined.  Back to the drawing board, (or kitchen as it was.)  The turkey legs will be fine.  The pie had to be remade. 

 

My point?  Fear not.  The smoking gods chose me today.  Hopefully all of your smoked turkeys, hams, pies, prime ribs, etc., turn out well today. 

 

And don't worry if you do screw it up, just gather yourself and try again!

 

Happy Thanksgiving all.  Hook Em!

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Y'all remember when we started the BBQ Smoking series and I told you that you're going to screw something up?  Well, this morning it was my turn.  I had some turkey legs and a bourbon pecan pie on the pit.  Unexpected flare up sent major flames into the smoke chamber.  I had to shut down the damper and the smoke stacks.  Singed my eyebrows and the pie was scorched and ruined.  Back to the drawing board, (or kitchen as it was.)  The turkey legs will be fine.  The pie had to be remade. 

 

My point?  Fear not.  The smoking gods chose me today.  Hopefully all of your smoked turkeys, hams, pies, prime ribs, etc., turn out well today. 

 

And don't worry if you do screw it up, just gather yourself and try again!

 

Happy Thanksgiving all.  Hook Em!

 

i like to BBQ as much as the next guy and find my self cooking out side as we travel across the country. But a pie on the BBQ pit is a first. My friends y'all have a great day

 

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i like to BBQ as much as the next guy and find my self cooking out side as we travel across the country. But a pie on the BBQ pit is a first. My friends y'all have a great day

 

 

Don't knock it, Jim.  You've had my BBQ before.  That smoked pie is off the charts! 

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i like to BBQ as much as the next guy and find my self cooking out side as we travel across the country. But a pie on the BBQ pit is a first. My friends y'all have a great day

i've never heard of it either jim. i think joey's making sh*t up. and i'm guessin' the fire started because not all the bourbon was in the pie.

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