Advice for (another) newbie

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Advice for (another) newbie

Postby lee989 » 19 Aug 2017, 19:04

Hi all

I'm by no means a BBQ expert and can just about cook the usual sausage & burger fair on my BBQ without giving anyone food poisoning, but my better half bought me a smoking box and some wood chips for my birthday as i'd hinted at maybe trying a smoked joint (of the meat variety), and after 12 months I should probably give it go!

To start, let me just say none of my equipment is all that great. I have a cheap oil drum BBQ from Argos (, a bag of charcoal briquettes from ASDA, and a smoking box bought off ebay. I also have two cheap food thermometers to avoid food poisoning, which I believe are accurate to a couple of degrees.

I'm hoping what I have is enough to give this smoking thing a go. If i get the bug i'm sure i'll be investing in some better equipment, but I don't want to go out and buy all new stuff too find I can't be bothered after the first go.

Anyway, on to my questions!

1. I have a coal starter for getting things going, however I'm obviously going to have to top up the BBQ every hour or so. Do you just add unlit charcoal on top of the existing hot ones? If so, do you take the meat off until that new charcoal is white hot? Or should I use the starter to get the next batch ready and just take the meat off whilst I tip it in the tray (to avoid covering the meat in the ash)

2. Wood chips and soaking... Some googling seems to say that soaking them first is best, but then others (like a post I read on here) says to use them dry. I'm using a smoking box (if that makes any difference), should I soak them first or not? Does it make any difference? Is there a time when you would and wouldn't soak?

3. My BBQ doesn't have a thermometer, I was hoping to just use my food thermometer to check the meat temperature every once in a while. I realise this might mean I cook it too quickly if its too hot (or it doesn't cook at all if i get the temp too low), but am I safe to proceed as long as I check the food temperature?

4. Expanding on Q3 above, could any recommend a decent, but not too expensive bbq thermometer that I could use to keep an eye on the temperature for future cooks? Preferably one that doesn't involve drilling holes in my BBQ like many i've found online?

5. Are there any guidelines on cooking temperatures based on meat cut and weight? I know it's never going to be perfectly accurate, and I always should prove the meat to be sure, but i'm completely new too this so knowing if something should take 3 hours vs 6 hours is a big help (unlike you guys, i don't have the experience to just know that reference point, i'm sure it feels like common sense too you by now).

6. When using a food thermometer, I know you should insert it in the thickest part of the meat, but is there a guideline on how far in the probe(s) need to be for an accurate reading. Should I push the probes in so the entire probe is in the meat, or will just a inch of the tip be sufficient? (I have one similar in style to this one: ... -james.jpg )

7. I'm planning on doing a Pork Joint ( since that's what I have in my freezer going spare for the experiment. My plan was to keep it simple, cut the skin off for crackling in the oven (presume that wont happen in the bbq?), salt & pepper it and smoke for the first 2 hours. Any further advice you could give to a newbie on this?

I'll leave it there for now as it's getting very lengthy (sorry!)

As i said, my equipment is basic and you're probably shouting "go buy decent stuff" at your computer screen, but unless it's absolutely impossible to use what I currently have, i'd like to give it a go a couple of times before buying anything else.

Any advice is greatly appreciated, hoping to give it a bash tomorrow if the weather is suitable!
Still Raw Inside
Still Raw Inside
Joined: 19 Aug 2017, 18:34

Re: Advice for (another) newbie

Postby Tiny » 22 Aug 2017, 17:16

Welcome chum,
Let me try and help.

Does your BBQ have a hood? If no then sadly its game over for now, you have to create an oven like environment. As for charcoal, have a look on youtube for minion or snake method, these will show you how to set your BBQ up for a long slow smoke, if you have easy light charcoal then again you cant do it as during the lighting process they will let off all sorts of evil, but normal lumpwood or briquettes will be fine.

You can get a dual probe thermometer that will monitor grill and meatemps, not cheap but Maverick ET73 will do the job nicely. Probe so the point is in the centre of the meat, doesn't really matter how much is in.
your prok joint, if its a leg it will make tasty roast pork but it wont pull as there is not enough connective tissue and fat. If its a shoulder then you should be in. Plan on an hour and a half per pound as a rule of thumb. Salt and pepper is ok but add a little garlic grind, paprika and it will be better. I also only ever do my pork for half the time in the smoker, then I wrap it in foil with apple juice and finish it in the fan oven as after 5 or so hours it wont take on any more smoke flavour anyway

Wood chips, personally I used to soak first, but doesn't make too much difference, you may need more than 1 unit for a pork shoulder, but if you wrap the chips tightly in foil and then poke a couple of holes in it this will work as well as your smoke box. For pork would suggest Apple Cherry or hickory. Oak and mesquite can be a touch strong.

Keep an eye on eBay a 2nd hand weber kettle will see you well on the road to smoking greatness,and can be picked up for a few quid,

Hope this helps go well
Rubbed and Ready
Rubbed and Ready
Joined: 05 Jun 2012, 14:39
Location: Portsmouth

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