Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with Pro

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Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with Pro

Postby Jgreenplastering » 02 Jun 2016, 07:23

Hi all.


Just purchased my first smoker, love the taste and wanted a new hobby!

I've bought and set up my ProQ Frontier Elite.

Having a BBQ PARTY when England play Russia and want to do some Brisket and Pulled Pork BUT plan to do a short smoke for my first time this Sunday.

I plan to put a whole chicken and boneless leg of lamb on together but wondered if people could answer a few questions and offer advice for first timers.

I've bought some of the starter kit like heat gloves, thermo stick, smoke box, marinade injector, chimney starter.


My questions are.

1. How much charcoal do you start with? Is there an average amount or does it depend on what and how long you plan to cook for?
Any advice on this would be appreciated.
I'm using Weber lump wood.
Do they last the duration of the cook or is it likely to need a top up?

2. How long roughly does the smoker take to get to cooking temp of around 225-250? I don't want to be sat there thinking its not working when I should just be leaving it.

3. I planned to cook for around 5-6 hours max, I would put the chicken on bottom and lamb up top, do I put the chicken in at same time or at what point after?

4. Smoking. I have some apple chips and planned to just do the one handle in the smoke box at the start, would this be enough? I do love the smokey flavours but don't want to overpower it on first go.

5. Water pan. Is this best filled all the way or so far? Will put hot in to start with.
Will it need a refill? I don't want to open the smoker unless it's needed.

6. Prob eyelets.
The thermo stick I bought with the ProQ is only about 6 inches and looks very cheap, I don't trust this to go through the prob and into the meat with me not seeing where or how far it's going in. Again I want to keep lifting the lid to a minimum so I don't disrupt the cooking.

Sorry if I've garbled but I want to get things as right as I can and its the basics that help.

Thanks in advance.


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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby BraaiMeesterWannabe » 02 Jun 2016, 12:57

I have a 47cm WSM so my answers are based on that. Very similar to a ProQ I believe
1. I use briquettes for really long cooks as I find they are more stable and last longer. With lump wood I would fill the basket to top, then remove an inverted cone shape from the middle. Light what you've removed in chimney starter and once going well put back in the middle of the basket. This is the minion method and I would have thought would last a six hour cook. Doing that with briquettes gives me 16hrs without topping up at 225 to 250 f.
2. Normally start with bottom vents no more than half open and use top vent to adjust the temp. Usually takes an hour from lighting to get to stable temp.
3. Depending on size of lamb that will take a lot longer. I would put lamb underneath and chicken on top just because chicken will probably need more fussing and it's easier to get at on top so means lid will be open for less time. Chicken should only take a couple of hours or so depending on size. Use a meat thermometer in breast to check for doneness.
4. Put wood on when putting meat in and for only first hour or two. After that the meat won't take on any more smoke.
5. I have a clay saucer in my pan and cover with foil. I don't use water as its a faff and a heat sucker imo. If using water add hot and as full as you can. 1 fill should be enough for a 6 hr cook but you'll probably need to refill on a 14 hr pulled pork cook.
6. I don't know about thermostick. I purchased a Maverick 732 which monitors cooking and meat temps remotely. Best investment I made for long cooks.
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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby Jgreenplastering » 02 Jun 2016, 16:21

BraaiMeesterWannabe wrote:I have a 47cm WSM so my answers are based on that. Very similar to a ProQ I believe
1. I use briquettes for really long cooks as I find they are more stable and last longer. With lump wood I would fill the basket to top, then remove an inverted cone shape from the middle. Light what you've removed in chimney starter and once going well put back in the middle of the basket. This is the minion method and I would have thought would last a six hour cook. Doing that with briquettes gives me 16hrs without topping up at 225 to 250 f.
2. Normally start with bottom vents no more than half open and use top vent to adjust the temp. Usually takes an hour from lighting to get to stable temp.
3. Depending on size of lamb that will take a lot longer. I would put lamb underneath and chicken on top just because chicken will probably need more fussing and it's easier to get at on top so means lid will be open for less time. Chicken should only take a couple of hours or so depending on size. Use a meat thermometer in breast to check for doneness.
4. Put wood on when putting meat in and for only first hour or two. After that the meat won't take on any more smoke.
5. I have a clay saucer in my pan and cover with foil. I don't use water as its a faff and a heat sucker imo. If using water add hot and as full as you can. 1 fill should be enough for a 6 hr cook but you'll probably need to refill on a 14 hr pulled pork cook.
6. I don't know about thermostick. I purchased a Maverick 732 which monitors cooking and meat temps remotely. Best investment I made for long cooks.


Thanks very much for the detailed reply.

I'm a little confused.

1. I'll try the minion method with my first go thanks.
Am I right in thinking I should still use a full basket even for shorter smoking times as I can then adjust the heat by using the vents and putting the meat higher up also cooks it's slightly quicker?

3. I was thinking of doing the boneless lamb shoulder for around 6 hours from 8am but would you advise putting it in the night before? As its my first time I wanted to cook something while I can be around and awake incase I adjust things etc.

4. Should I wet my wood chunks and do they just go in the smoke box straight onto the charcoal?

Thanks again for the help, much appreciated.


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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby BraaiMeesterWannabe » 02 Jun 2016, 16:38

1. I always use a full basket no matter what I'm cooking. More coals doesn't mean more heat as you're using minion method which means the coals will light one by one as time goes. If heat raises too much or goes too low just tweak the vents a little. When you are finished cooking just close down all vents and the fire will die quite quickly, saving any unused coals for next time. I have found that things higher up cook slightly faster and have put that down to 'heat rises'.
3. What is the weight of the shoulder and what internal temp do you want to cook it to?
4. If using chunks of wood (say child fist size or bigger) I don't soak as it just lowers the temp of the bbq when you put them on, and you'll get plenty smoking time out of a decent chunk. If using chips you probably need to soak them as otherwise they'll burn out very quickly. It's for this reason I avoid wood chips and stick to chunks.
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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby Jgreenplastering » 02 Jun 2016, 17:21

Right. Starting to understand better now, I've never thought about these things when using a BBQ before, just threw it on when I thought it was ready and took it off when it looked cooked!

The lamb is 2kg. I've never cooked before where I've taken the internal temp of anything just gone with the guidelines, I like my meats medium to well, I can be a little weird and love crispy meat but I'm thinking def medium with the lamb.

I have some apple chips and Weber whiskey chips and hickory chunks, was thinking of the Apple as I read it's better with lamb?


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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby Jgreenplastering » 02 Jun 2016, 17:31

Sorry forgot to say thanks on the last reply!


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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby BraaiMeesterWannabe » 02 Jun 2016, 19:35

No probs.

I would say 6hrs would be enough on 2kg lamb.

If you're doing a big long cook for mates for the Russia game with brisket and pulled pork you're probably going to be dealing with 4 to 6 kg chunks of meat. Those can take anything from 8 to 14 hours and can be ages in the stall. You'll want to be judging the doneness by internal temp with those to make sure they're ready for pulling.
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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby Jgreenplastering » 02 Jun 2016, 19:43

BraaiMeesterWannabe wrote:No probs.

I would say 6hrs would be enough on 2kg lamb.

If you're doing a big long cook for mates for the Russia game with brisket and pulled pork you're probably going to be dealing with 4 to 6 kg chunks of meat. Those can take anything from 8 to 14 hours and can be ages in the stall. You'll want to be judging the doneness by internal temp with those to make sure they're ready for pulling.


Thanks so much for your help.
I set the smoker up for a dry run earlier and all was going well. Just wanted to get to grips with it.
About an hour in I shut 2 of the bottom vents and left the last half open just to see what would happen.
Think I shut them to early as went back out a hour later and it was dead and cool! I guess I shut it to much and starved it of oxygen!
I'll get there!


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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby BraaiMeesterWannabe » 02 Jun 2016, 19:48

Having a dry run with no food to learn is a good idea. Helps to season the q as well.
Try to set the bottom vents at 1/3rd to 1/2 open and then use the top vent to adjust the heat. Only close any of the bottom vents to cut the fire
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Re: Hi, virgin smoker in need of advice for first time with

Postby Jgreenplastering » 02 Jun 2016, 20:08

BraaiMeesterWannabe wrote:Having a dry run with no food to learn is a good idea. Helps to season the q as well.
Try to set the bottom vents at 1/3rd to 1/2 open and then use the top vent to adjust the heat. Only close any of the bottom vents to cut the fire


Ah right, thanks.


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