Some Information for Beginners

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Some Information for Beginners

Postby Steve » 04 Feb 2010, 09:26

I originally posted this in reply to one of our new member's questions about starting up with a Pro Q Excel, but I've replicated it here. This information is relevant to people starting out with bullet smokers (Pro Q WSM etc) but some of the information applies to smoking on a Kettle BBQ or with other kinds of charcoal smokers.

Please feel free to reply with further questions or add bits of info yourself.


Charcoal
Buy good quality lumpwood or briquettes, my favorite is restaurant grade lumpwood which is available from Makro, Booker or directly from the manufacturer in Burnley which is not too far from you. It's cheap if you get it direct too.

If going with briquettes then use a good brand like Big K, Heat Beads or Supagrill Cocoshell. Avoid the Weber stuff, it produces loads of horrible yellow ash.

Wood
You've got two choices here, chips or chunks. I use chunks but I have a wood supplier near by so it's easy. Check out http://www.smokingwoodsupplies.co.uk/ if you want chunks, I think Paul will be able to arrange shipping.

The easier soultion is using chips, which you can buy from garden centres and even supermarkets in the Summer. If you use chips, don't soak them, make a foil pouch for your chips and pierce it several times with a skewer. Lay this on your hot coals and the chips will burn nice and slowly. Chunks are better IMHO but chiops are convenient when you're starting out.

Oak is good for general smoking, apple and cherry give a fruity smoke, alder and beech are mild and good on fish. The whiskey barrel chips you can buy are quite nice.

Whatever you use, start out with a little wood and work up to a flavour you like, it's easy to oversmoke food (but difficult to make it inedible).

Chimney Starter
This is the best way to start your charcoal. The Weber one is the best I've used, costs £15 and is available from most Garden Centres that sell Weber stuff.

Rubs
In the first instance it's probably easier to make your own. Google "Basic BBQ rubs" and you'll get some good ones. If you want to buy rubs, check out http://www.socal.co.uk as a starting point, I think Stubbs is a half decent generic rub, but it really is a doddle to make some nice all purpose rubs.

Other Things
Remember to calibrate your lid thermometer on your Excel when you get it. Do this by removing the thermometer and placing the stem in boiling water, adjust the nut on the back until the thermometer reads 100C.

A food probe thermometer is also highly recommended, this way you can ensure you get your food to the right internal temperature. If you are happy to spend a little cash on this, I'd recommend the Maverick ET-73 A lot of us use these, they're great pieces of kit. They're only available in the US but there's a few EBay sellers who will ship them over here.

You'll need some heat resistant gloves for opening doors and things. Don't buy expensive BBQ gloves, just buy some cheap welding gloves from EBay at £3 per pair.

Good luck with the smoking, please post pics of your exploits and never hesitate to ask questions.

HTH

Steve
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby allstars666 » 15 May 2010, 16:50

Hi all,

I'm currently poppin the cherry off my excel.

I'm struggling to keep the temp above 200 and i'm going through kilos of lumpwood charcoal.

I started my cook at just under 300. But the temp was dropping real quick.

The charcoal I bought was from a local supplier and seems to be burning to dust real quick. I think this may be the issue. I have probably gone through 5kg already.

I've just returned from sainsburys with some of their own brand briquettes and have just set them off (i've filled the charcoal holder right up. So here's hoping.

I think I should have been patient and got 1 layer ready before starting on the other.

It's plain to see I need real help with lighting a bbq.

How much coal should I be using to cook a couple of chickens?

Cheers

A frantic man. :cry:
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby allstars666 » 15 May 2010, 18:13

It's the fuel. Since I put Sainsburys fuel in the temp is staying above 200 and slowly increasing.

and also the amount of water/beer I put in the bowl was probably too great.

I think next time i'll order some of that K briquettes or get down to booker.

I bought a Landmann chimney, I think its a bit smaller that the weber. I think If I lay one layer down unlit and then put 3 chimneys in it should suffice?

Any ideas?
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby Mike_P_in_Tucson » 15 May 2010, 18:29

I always use a full basket of unlit, then 1/2 chimney of lit coals spread across the top of the unlit. I leave all the bottom vents open until it comes up to temp, then shut them down to about 1/4 open. that usually gets the temperature settled in. Of course, the top vent always remains open.

I don't worry about using less charcoal for shorter cooks. When I'm done, I just close down all the vents and it smothers the charcoal. I just use what is remaining for my next smoke.
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby allstars666 » 15 May 2010, 20:42

Thanks Mike.

What's the typical amount of time to get ready for temp?
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby All Weather Griller » 16 May 2010, 10:35

Hi Allstars,

I think the timings from first fire to putting on your meat will depend on a couple of variables, these are typically, ambient weather, fuel being used, water or not in the water pan and ultimately the location of the smoker itself i.e wind taking off your heat.

My WSM will usually reach cooking temps of 230+ with in 40 mins to 1 hour from me pouring the hot coals on. I tend to use restaurant grade lump wood but where possible light with a chimney starter of either heat beads or CPL's coconut briquettes.

I also use the Clay Saucer method which means I am not heating a water pan of water. I know hotwater can reduce the time to settle but there is still an adjustment period.

One other point which a friend of mine always tends to over look is the impact the cold meat has on the cooking chamber readings. If your temp probe is on the same level as your meat and you place the meat in directly from cold storage you will also note a drop in temps immediately from putting on your cuts.

If you are doing a long overnight cook, here is a couple of my words of wisdom (Other words of wisdom are available LOL):

1. Don't adjust your vents to raise the temps following a drop after popping your meats on, this will effectively be an over compensation when the chamber evens out. (If you do use a remote probe with an alarm... SET IT!"

2. Where possible don't put your meats on from cold storage, allow meat to reach room temperature before cooking (approximately 45 minutes depending on cuts)

3. Always try and catch your smoker temps with the vents ON THE WAY UP, avoiding letting it get too hot and then trying to cool it down.

4. You will usually get a temp spike after having the lid off for any period, Don't compensate the vents for this, it will settle (Trust me it will).

5. Don't assume your digital probe is spot on, they aren't infallible (I have learned this) if you think its wrong test it.

6. The configuration of your vents, observations of temps and the making of mental notes is very taxing. You should always do this with a beer.

It's a bit like driving a vintage car, you will learn your smokers quirks and the little tweaks it needs, over a couple of cooks it will become second nature and the only time you will consciously think about what it is your actually doing will be when someone asks you, any other time you will instinctively adjust and tweak to get the responses you need.

I have to say, after using the Clay saucer method adjusting the vents has the same affect as turning the knob on the oven, it is so responsive to air flow.

However in answer to your original question... for me from lighting unlit coals to putting on the meat for me it's typically 1 hour 40 mins.
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby Mike_P_in_Tucson » 16 May 2010, 19:18

That is some super advice (#6, in particular).

I use hot water in the pan (almost at boiling) and let the meat sit out for 30 minutes (ribs) to 1 hour (pork butt, brisket).

I usually get to temp in 30 to 45 minutes. But I may be using slightly more lit coals than some others who use the Minion method. Also, living here in Arizona, I probably have a higher ambient temperature thatn you. In fact, my smoker can get up to 150 in the sun WITHOUT any charcoal in it during the "warmer" months -- like April through October. :o
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby nickdel » 31 Jul 2010, 13:53

All very useful stuff for a novice like me.

I have just one more question. In you original list of advice you say not soak wood chips but what about larger chunks? I've just aquired some large oak chunks from my local saw mill and I'm going to use them tomorrow. If they should be soaked, how long should I soak them for?
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby All Weather Griller » 31 Jul 2010, 14:11

Hi Nick,

I once saw a youtube vid which basically filled in those gaps for me.



I don't soak wood, but wood chips would, I think, be more permeable.

Hope this helps

Adie
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Re: Some Information for Beginners

Postby nickdel » 31 Jul 2010, 14:31

Hi Adie

Thanks for that. 'Just about says it all really, doesn't it.

Nick
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