We finally bought a smoker!!
pretty stoked on our new Trager wood pellet smoker. Have used a smoking box on our gas bbq with limited success in the past. Otherwise pretty darn new at this. I have a small tester brisket sitting in our fridge that I will try, but interested in other experiences, foods. Especially unique/unusual items you have smoked. Also any tips/tricks you have learned over the years.
First, the best thing I have ever bought concerning barbecue (other than the smoker itself) was a wireless probe thermometer that has two probes and a wireless receiver. One probe is for temping the internal temperature of the meat. The other probe is for temping the air temperature inside your smoker. The wireless receiver has the ability for you to set a high and low temperature range on both probes. So you could set your meat probe for whatever temperature you wanted and when it reaches that temperature, the alarm goes off. Also, you can set a high and low air temperature range on the other probe (for a whole brisket, let's say the low is 320 degrees F and the high is 360 degrees F) and whenever the air temperature inside the smoker gets outside of that range, the alarm goes off. But, here's the cool thing: you never have to go back outside to check on it. The wireless receiver is in your house, while the base is out by the smoker sending its signal inside to the receiver. You simply set the temperature ranges and fuggedaboudit. This allows you to relax in the house (as in sleep) and be able to rest easy knowing your smoker and meat are just where you want them. This tool is indispensable at competitions.
Here is the one I use. It was the best $37 I've ever spent on barbecue:
Second, concerning the brisket you have, it's probably what's called a "flat". A whole brisket is made up of two distinct muscles. They are commonly known as the "flat" and the "point". I'd smoke the flat you have using the high heat method. Simply season it with salt and a dry rub of your choice and smoke it fat cap up (if it has a fat cap) at 350 degrees F until it reaches 160 degrees F. Then wrap it in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil and continue to smoke it fat cap down until it's probe tender (when a thermometer probe slides in without any resistance). Then remove brisket still wrapped in foil from smoker and wrap in a big towel and place in a cooler for at least an hour to rest. Then, open the brisket, reserving the drippings as a finishing sauce, and slice it against the grain, on the bias into 1/4-inch thick slices. Dip the slices in the finishing sauce and serve. When it comes to brisket, a whole brisket is much more forgiving and easier to cook than a flat (which is what you probably have). If you can find a cryovaced whole brisket (sometimes called a packer brisket), get it instead of just a flat. You'll have a much better overall experience and product when you smoke a whole brisket. Also, check out this thread as it has some good information in it regarding briskets in general: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851353. Regarding smoking whole briskets using the high heat method, check out this guide: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/brisket4.html. Using the high heat method you can smoke a 15-pound brisket in 5 hours.
Third, smoking five things at once is not that much more than smoking one thing. So, if you're going to be firing up the smoker anyway, think of other foods you can smoke that all use the same method (mainly smoking temperature) and fill your smoker up. It's a very efficient use of your time, energy, and smoking resources (charcoal and smoking wood).
Fourth, don't waste a lot of money or time experimenting with exotic smoking woods. If you can get apple or cherry, get it and use it on everything you smoke. These two are regarded by many (including me) as the best wood you can smoke with. You won't be able to taste much of a difference between smoking woods on anything that is smoked less than four hours anyway. So, with shorter smoking sessions, it won't matter much which wood you use. Stay away from mesquite - it's too bitter.
Fifth, concerning what kind of and how much smoking wood to use, a good rule of thumb is: The shorter the smoking session, the smaller the pieces of wood should be. So, for a five minute smoke use sawdust, for a 30 minute smoke use wood chips, and for a one hour or more smoke use wood chunks the size of a tennis ball. The amount of wood is determined by the delicateness of the food being smoked, it's density, and it's surface-to-mass ratio (flat and thin like ribs or bulkier like pork butt or brisket). For chicken (1 - 1 1/2 hour smoke) use 1 wood chunk. For baby back ribs (4 - 5 hour smoke) use 3 wood chunks. For pork butt and briskets [7 - 9 hour smoke and 4 - 5 hour smoke (technically, brisket only gets a 2 - 2 1/2 hour smoke using the high heat method mentioned earlier), respectively] use 5 wood chunks.
Sixth, plug into a good forum such as http://virtualweberbullet.com/cook.html and ask a lot of questions and do a lot of reading. The link I posted has plenty of great information on how to smoke just about anything, but the link to the forums is at the top of the page. That is a great website with a ton of great information on it. There are other great forums out there too. Check them all out and learn from them all.
Finally, no matter how much you research and study, when it comes to barbecue, there is no substitute for old fashioned experience. After a while you'll almost develop a "feel" for it.
thank you all for the feedback! I look forward to more smoking. Finally got around to using the new smoker, so easy!!! flip a switch and away you go.
We started with a small brisket from Costco, far from the ideal cut I understand, but not much investment, and something the 2 of us can get into without appologizing to guests.
The flavour was fantastic, I used the following rub:
and followed the directions for 'beginner's brisket' in the recipe book that came with the smoker.
Unfortunately my thermometer konked out so I could not tell temp, only time. I think we under cooked it a bit. It was definitely a little chewy, however when we sliced and reheated the next day in a pan with bbq sauce, it got more tender.
Really looking forward to our large brisket and pork shoulders, as well as some fish!! yummy!!
I have the Maverick Remote Smoker Dual Probe Wireless Thermometer ET-73 and don't think there was a better purchase that made smoking as easy as this one did. It has one probe that reads the internal temperature of the meat and another probe that reads the air temperature in the smoker. The cool thing is that it also comes with a wireless display that displays both temperatures from both probes. This allows you to take the wireless display inside with you and have it tell you what the temperature of the inside of the meat is as well as the air temperature of the smoker is . . . all without having to go outside to check it. The other really cool thing is you can not only set a high temperature alarm for the internal temperature of the meat like in a standard probe thermometer, but you can also set a low and high temperature alarm for the air temperature probe. So, if your smoker gets outside of the air temperature window you've set, the wireless display alarm will go off to tell you to go outside and adjust your air vents in your smoker. But, unless the alarm goes off, you can completely forget about your smoker. I cannot emphasize how much of a help this is. No longer will you have to babysit your smoker.
Concerning strictly a regular, single-probe probe thermometer, the best one out there is the ThermoWorks TW362B. It only comes with one probe.
Here is the link to it: http://www.thermoworks.com/products/a...
If you happen to have another working probe thermometer and, for whatever reason, don't want to get the Maverick dual probe thermometer I mentioned above and just want a second regular probe thermometer, you could use the second probe thermometer to read the air temperature of the smoker while the other probe thermometer reads the internal temperature of the meat. Just cut a potato in half and push the probe through it making sure the probe tip is and inch or two through the potato and set the potato half on the grate next to the meat. This probe will read the air temperature of the meat, but this set up does not offer the huge advantage of the wireless alarm display offered by the Maverick dual probe thermometer I mentioned above. I hope this is not too confusing.
With either of these probe thermometers (the Maverick or the ThermoWorks), while you're at it, it would be a good idea to go ahead and order at least one additional backup probe because all of them eventually go out. Better to have a backup on hand than to have to wait a few days or a week for another to come. This is super important if you ever compete.
We've had a smoker for several years now and fortunately, have had more hits than misses. Brisket is actually my husband's specialty. He smokes it for 12-14 hours, depending on size, at temps between 200 & 225 F. During that time, it sits in a foil pan and is mopped every hour or so.
I've found that I don't like things overly smoked. We've had a lot of trial and error with the rubs and the amount of time that the food is actually exposed to the smoke. With ribs, for instance, we've found that we only like 2-3 hours of direct smoke, with the remaining time wrapped in foil and spritzed with apple juice.
For the longest time, we found that everything that came out of the smoker tasted the same. That was when we realized that we needed to vary the smoke exposure, the type of wood, and not rub everything is a mix of paprika, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder (among other rub standards).
One more tip...the first few times you smoke, have a Plan B. ;o)
re: Christina D
You may want to give the high heat method a shot when smoking your brisket: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/bri.... You can smoke a 15-pound brisket in just 5 hours.
Concerning too much smoke, simply cut back on the amount of smoking wood you use instead of wrapping with foil to protect the food from the smoke. Unnecessarily wrapping with foil unnecessarily ruins the great bark that could have been.
Also, consider 86ing paprika from most or all of your dry rubs. Even fresher, higher quality paprikas are very volatile in flavor and will not only become flavorless over the course of a typical multi-hour smoking session, but will become bitter.
I have a Brinkmann elec smoker (called R2D2-LOL) and a charcoal Traeger pellet pooper.
And a kettle webber..
All different tools that are the same process with a few "isms" for each. Sometimes BIG "isms". :)
While I brine my ribs, I did end up moving over to the Willams Sonoma injector for butts, briskets, chickens, turkeys and the like.
For pork bbq I usually do a mix of apple juice , worstechestshire sauce, vinegar , sugar, dry mustard, garlic and a few other tings in a saucepan and heat on teh stove for an hour, then cool. It's a very wet sauce. I use it in the injector and also put on the cooked pulled meat to add moisture (a'la carolina BBQ) instead of using teh fat runoff.
I'm always expereimenting with rubs, sauces, glazes and injection flavors.
I wanna do salmon in teh upcoming weeks as well.
Patience and technique is what it's about as well as bold flavors most of the time.
If I want easy and quick I do a t-bone or rib-eye on the gril...LOLOLOLOL.
Next-door neighbor is in the process of BUILDING a HUGE smoker!?! Was working on container of wood a few weekends ago... probably 2/3 the size of a 55 gallon drum!?! The part that will hold the meat is a BIG oxygen tank he somehow got off the set of a MOVIE filmed in the Philly area. Guessing O was used for some kinda special effects on "Last Air Fighter". Only reason I even know name of movie is that a former ESL student was an extra during filming. She's Chinese... and that's what was needed. Said she had a great time and was fed VERY well over the 3-4 days she had to show up.
Congrats on the new smoker. We love ours! We've done pork shoulder, ribs, turkey breast, whole chicken, and chicken wings with excellent results. On the more unusual side, we've also smoked meatloaf, meatballs wrapped in bacon, stuffed peppers, potato chunks for potato salad, shrimp for shrimp cocktail, sweet peppers for homemade salsa, and bluefish fillets.
The one thing we haven't been able to successfully smoke is brisket. It was like jerky every time we tried it. Same thing happened the one time we tried smoking a chuck roast. Others can do it but we haven't had much luck with smoking hunks of beef.