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Dec 29, 2005 02:56 PM

Should I use foil in a smoker?

  • t

I recently purchased a smoker (where the coals are in a spearate side section). I managed to get a consitent temp of 220 degrees for several hours.

My first meal was 2 racks of dry-rubbed baby back ribs.

I also smoked a small (5 lb) boneless turkey.

The ribs turned out o.k. - perhaps a bit dry. I usually cook them in the oven in foil pouches where I add/trap moisture, then finish them off on the BBQ.

The turkey turned out perfect. I can't really recall if it was particularly dry or not - but then again I like dry, cold turkey over freshly cooked juicy bird.

In any case, I just loaded up at the store and have:

- another small turkey
- some regular pork ribs
- some chunky beef ribs

For the latter two, I was wondering if starting them in a foil wrap in the smoker might help with moisture - or if becuase they are fattier - to just leave as is.

Likewsie, I caught a recent episode of License to Grill on Discovery Home and he smoked a small turkey, but injected it with marinades in advance, adding moisture.

Any tips from seasoned smokers on how to retain moisture while also achieving the goals of smoking?

Thanks, Jon

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  1. I would not wrap any meat in foil if I was smoking/bbq'ing it, doesn't that defeat the purpose of the smoker?

    Try placing pan of water in the smoker, placed under the meat to catch the drippings, and thus offset the fuel source, so that the meat gets indirect heat and the water adds moisture to the evironment. This is the classic Weber grill method of BBQ'ing.

    Link: http://www.indefatigable-indolence.org

    1. I usually smoke the dry rubbed baby back ribs for three hours at about 220 deg. Then put them in a heavy duty foil in the smoker with a 3 inch strip of BBQ sauce down the middle of the meat side for two more hours. I just did three racks on Christmas eve. they came out excellent. It's also good to finish them off on the grill, adding more sauce for about five minutes on the meat side to make them a little bit crispy. The meat falls off the bone.

      1. I don't like the texture you get when you use foil. I don't like mushy meat, and I don't like ribs falling-off-the bone tender. I just season mine with salt and pepper and cook them just until they're done. No baste, no sauce. Some folks spray with apple juice during cooking. I don't do that, but I would much prefer that over using foil. This is all just my opinion, of course.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Jim Washburn

          I know the meat gets a little mushy, that is why you finish it off on the grill. One reason I often use foil is to hold it while something else such as a ham is still cooking. This way the ribs are not overdone and you can remove everything from the smoker at the same time.

        2. I think it depends on what you're smoking and what texture you'd like for the meat. My husband frequently uses foil if he wants something to be lightly smoked, such as a turkey, which he will finish in the oven to give the crust a good texture. For other things, you want the full smoky flavor and/or you want the drying effect of the smoke, so just use your judgment about how the long slow cooking will alter the meat and go from there.

          1. foil is a definite point of contention in BBQ circles. All I'll say is that if you go to any big, true BBQ comp - including KCBS ones - you'll see so much foil you'd think it was a Reynolds convention.

            Here are my thoughts. Try foiling. If you get better results, then go for it. Don't let other people's stringent rules dictate what you do.

            That said, a couple of suggestions. First, never start a smoke with foil. That's the most important part of the smoke.

            If you are doing ribs, there is something called the 3-2-1 method, which means, 3 hours smoked with no foil, 2 hours in foil, 1 hour back on without foil. I think 2 hours is too long to be in foil. For me, I've modified that to 4.5-1-1 (I do spare ribs only, for baby backs, I'd probably only do half hour in foil and another half hour after). People complain about mushy ribs. However, if you don't let it sit in foil too long, and give it time after foil back on the smoker, then the meat won't be mushy even in the slightest.

            To your other questions, not sure what you mean by "regular ribs." Since you did baby backs before and these are different, I presume you mean spare ribs. I love spares. They do take longer on the smoker than baby backs. As I mention above, they take me around 5-6 hours at least at around 240 degrees.

            For poultry, sounds like you were happy. If you want to inject, you can, though I far prefer brining.

            I also recommend checking out some of the topics and posts at www.virtualweberbullet.com. The folks there are helpful and have tons of experience smoking. Plus, there are topics on pork and beef ribs, as well as poultry (including turkey and brining).

            Good luck.