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Tips for Better BBQ

 
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Alien BBQ
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24 07 7:25 am    Post subject: Tips for Better BBQ Reply with quote

Reading some of the post here lately made me think back to the Boy Scout motto of Always Be Prepared. I and others, cook all year long and I thought I would put together some tips for the newbies (and some pros ) to better equip everyone for the upcoming winter weather. Feel free to add to the list of things you have actually tried and found to work. Needless to say that some sense should be used when trying out some of these tips.

Problems with your fire:

Too Cold:

1. Dont rely on cheap factory installed gauges, most are junk. Double check the temp with a digital probe or oven thermometer.
2. Your fire is smoldering so raise the fire grate up to around 2-3 inches off the bottom of the firebox. This should give you enough air under the grate to keep the fire going. Also, give the grate a shimmy to free up the coals to allow more air contact.
3. Open up the air inlet on the smoker to allow more air in and open the exhaust wide open to increase draw. Airflow = temperature
4. Reposition smoker so that the air inlet in facing the wind. This will fan the fire (and possible spike the temps) so discretion is advised.
5. If you are using an offset, then consider that most offsets like small logs over charcoal.
6. Make sure you have a drip can under your port to collect drippings. Grease drippings make great fuel if you need a boost on your temps when it gets cold.
7. Consider a fireproof blanket to cover your smoker during cold weather. They really hold in the temps.
8. Use mesquite (once the fire is going) to increase the temp of the fire burning. Caution too much mesquite will burn through the bottom of a cheap grill.
9. Keep your charcoal inside your house or shed and out of the weather. An open bag collects moisture from the humidity and makes for some hard starting charcoal.
10. Too much wood equals low temps at first and high temps in the end. Learn to make and maintain a small brisk fire instead of a big smoldering one.
11. Dont freak out when it is time to add fuel. On many smokers, it takes time (up to 30 minutes) for the fire to adjust and even out. Learn to add the right amount of wood and let it run for at least 15 minutes before even considering any type of adjustment.
12. Learn your smoker, every smoker acts differently. Dont even think about using an unfamiliar smoker for a event or competition.

Too Hot:

1. Dont rely on cheap factory installed gauges, most are junk. Double check the temp with a digital probe or oven thermometer.
2. Reposition your smoker so that the air inlet is not facing the wind.
3. Open the firebox door (not the cooker door) to allow some of the heat out.
4. Remove or rearrange any excess fuel in the firebox.
5. Spritiz the fire with water (this seldom works for long and is considered a short fix.)
6. Close the air inlet (NOT THE EXHUAST) to the fire. Less oxygen equals a smaller fire. DO NOT cut the complete air supply unless you are done cooking for the day and have no meat in the smoker.
7. Add a fire dampener to the pit to prevent line of sight radiant heat from the firebox. Do not impede the airflow but just block the radiant energy. This can be done with a sheet of aluminum foil used as a curtain or more elaborate means.

Problems with your food:

1. Dont be afraid to remove the meat and put it in the oven to finish it. Smoking for flavor is great but can be augmented after the meat reaches 140 degrees internal. It is better to have meat you can eat rather than meet that was authentically cooked.
2. Placing food in foil increases the effective heat and shortens the cooking time. USE FOIL SPARINGLY.
3. Placing food wrapped in foil in a cooler with a towel is used for hot holding and is not apart of the cooking process. Properly set up coolers can hold food (above 145 degrees) for up to 4 hours without problems. Coolers are used in competitions to help zone in to turn-in times. In catering, they make great holding vessels for transportation, for home use. learn how to properly estimate cooking times.
4. Foiling food acts like a steamer, if you are looking for crispy or crunchy brownies, then foiling is not for you.
5. Sugar burns in BBQ. If you dont like the burnt look the use it sparingly or wait till the last 30 minutes of cooking before applying it in a sauce.


Well this is a start, so lets hear some other tried and true tips!
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SmokinMN
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Joined: 19 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24 07 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for starting this- lots of good info. I posted up a thread a few days ago about throwing up some tips and had a bunch of views but no tips so I deleted it. Hopefully this one will do better.

The a couple of one of tips that I posted in my deleted thread:

-If you need a quick and easy off set baffle use heavy duty foil folded many times over in a 6" X 8" square. You can shape it as needed and it will work in a pinch. You can still use the charcoal tray but this will close off the opening and deflect the heat.
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Sparkie49



Joined: 28 Sep 2008
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Location: Poughkeepsie, New York

PostPosted: Mon Sep 29 08 3:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting thread. Living in upstate NY, another thing I did was to make a shield from the wind for my WSM. Two pieces of plywood joined with a piano style hinge. open to a V to block the wind. Controlling temps when it's 10dF and windy is definitely a challenge...
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Alien BBQ
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29 08 5:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I copied this over to make it easier to find and not create another sticky ..............

Green wood / wet wood comes up many times during the year so I figured I would give my understanding of its use and misuse. First let me say that the soaking wood CHIPS idea was first developed by grillers in an attempt to produce smoke while they were grilling (>350 degrees) in their grills. (Alas they knew they wanted to know how to properly smoke food, they just didn�t have the equipment and skills to do the job.)

Wood Chips

By placing wet wood CHIPS on a hot grill, you will generate enough smoke to lightly smoke the food. The temps that you are cooking with are high enough to properly disperse any cyanide or arsenic (yes, that is what is in yellow smoke) that may leach out in the smoke. If you use anything but soaked wood CHIPS at grilling temps, the CHIPS quickly burn up unless you use this method (using a gas grill)���. Next time you want to create smoke in your grill, place the fully dry wood chip pouch or box next to the heat source and allow it to catch fire. Once it is going well, cut the heat source. This will allow it to smolder and create more smoke. Now smoldering wood in a smoker can create a lot of problems due to the amount of wood, its density, and the associated drop in temps. Because we are talking about thin wood shaving, a poorly sealed grill (as most are), and the proper heat source going on in the rest of the grill, you will not create enough bad byproduct to harm anything.

Wood Chunks

In the charcoal BBQ world, wood CHUNKS are the secret to producing a great smoke flavoring. Chunks produce smoke at a more uniform rate and if you are talking BBQ or smoking temps, one or (not more than) 2 chunks of wood can last about an hour. Any more than that you are asking for too much smoke in the pit at any one given time. Wood CHUNKS should never be wet and used sparingly. Too many chunks and you will not be able to control the temp spikes in the cooker.

Green Wood

If you watch the pit masters on the TV you will notice that some swear by green wood and some avoid it like the plague. The reason is this� green wood does burn hotter BUT, it does take a certain type of equipment and skill to use it. The regular backyard and MOST competition smokers simply cannot (and should not) use green wood. There is simply too much byproduct that is produced that cannot be effectively eliminated in the cooking process. The units that use green wood are massive in construction and in my opinion, poorly conceived in design. In order to keep the heat up on these units, you have to create a lot of heat at all times. If you do not have a constant flow of heat moving through these units at all times, you will develop areas that begin to cool down. I have worked with many of the large commercial units and some of them have air blowers fanning the flames to keep the temp up in the firebox in order to maintain the pit at 250 degrees. Another group that likes to use green wood is out European brothers. They use green wood many times because they cook differently than we do. If you visit a European competition you will notice an odd procedure. Many (not all) European chefs will cook with the firebox doors open all the time.

So what is the proper method for most of us? Use fully dried or seasoned wood. Learn to make a smaller fire that burns briskly. Use small logs about 8 � 12 inches long and about the diameter of your forearm. Whether it is split or not is a matter of choice however, if you are not using split wood, you may want to preheat your wood before adding it to the fire. I like to build my fire on one side of my fire box and place mu next piece of wood in the box (but away from the fire). When it comes time to add another log (about 1 an hour). I roll the preheated log into the fire and place another long in the preheating space. My final suggestion is to learn your pit. Different pits operate differently and some tricks or tips may not work in all pits. Use photo below to determine if you are getting a good burn. The smoker with the heavy smoke is NOT operating properly. The smoker with the thin blue smoke will produce a good meal.

Too much smoke (left) Thin blue smoke (right).
http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b313/AlienBBQ/p1010224.jpg

Small hot fire

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bbqpits



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Location: Texas

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01 08 12:07 pm    Post subject: BBQ Pits by Klose Starter Help Files Reply with quote

Knowing Temperatures:
Most offset firebox smokers have the thermometer at the center or top of the door. In my opinion these are not the correct location for the thermometer. Near the meat rack is.
Keep Environ. Moist: I assume that you know to make a fire on one end and cook on the other. You also need a moisture source, like a pan of water over the coals. The water not only adds moisture, but it also helps with temperature control. This is particularly true with the bullet type smokers and it helps with side firebox type cookers. I am not too sure how much help a water pan will be in controlling temp in your case, but you do need it to keep the moisture up in your cooking environment. You can place an aluminum pan on the meat rack closest to the firebox, placing water, cider vinegars, onions and bell peppers, etc in the water to steam into the meat as you cook. Also throw some whole onions in the fire from time to time, as they are a natural meat tenderizer.

Controlling the Fire:
Only use the INTAKE damper to control your fire. Never use the exhaust damper/control to control your fire. Keep the exhaust either wide open or at least 3/4 open. The only time you would ever shut it (the exhaust damper) down completely, would be to pull in an out of control fire. melt down situation like a grease fire that needs to be brought under control. Otherwise, leave exhaust open and dont touch.

The amount of fuel (charcoal, lump coal, whatever) you use is important, particularly in NON-airtight cookers. You may have to decrease the amount of fuel in order to control or get a steady temperature without spiking it high. This is a personality of the device situation. I am not sure if you are placing your coals on a grate or directly on the bottom of the cooker. Some cookers like that come with a belly plate that is used to prolong the life of the bottom of your cooker when you place coals right on the bottom of the cooker, as opposed to on a fire grate. Using the fire grate will make your fire burn hotter since air can get under the fuel.

It really is a vital part of the art, but it really has a lot to do with a lot of variables; like outside air temp, humidity, amount of wind, direction of wind, fuel being used, amount of fuel... each of these things can and do effect your ability to control a given fire.

Basically, dont point your intake damper into the wind. You dont want wind rushing in to fan your fuel, which would cause spikes. On humid days, fuel tends to burn more slowly and with a bit more difficulty. The amount of fuel for a particular device, like I mentioned above, is really a trial and error type thing. I would probably start with a full chimney full and see what happened. I am assuming you Pre-start your fuel in a chimney. If the fire stayed high and you cant bring it down to control, use less fuel.

Wood Chips/chunks:
Using chips or chunks really is a fairly simple thing with not too many gotchas. Do presoak them for at least 1/2hr, longer if you prefer. Use chips dry if you want a strong burst of smoke for a short period of time. Use chunks when you plan on long term smoking. Long term is like 4-5hrs for a butt or some relatively big piece of meat. I cook my pork (shoulder/butts) with 4-5hrs of strong smoking using chunks of mesquite and hickory. First one kind for a while then the other. Use larger 1/2 split and some whole logs on the offset smokers. Be sure to always keep plenty of different size kindling, chips, chunks, & split & whole logs around, as these will help you select the right woods for the right job. Larger logs burn colder and longer, so you wont have to watch the fire as close.
Amount of Time to Cook:

Youll get a lot of different advise on this one. And, I have found the cookbook Smoke and Spice by Cheryl & Bill Jamison, helps a lot for food preparation times and recipes. It is excellent.
I think youll find 1.5hrs/lb is not a bad starting point. Personally, I use 2hrs/lb. However, bone mass, amount of fat, etc. can make a difference. If you want to pull the butt or shoulder, dont go by time except to give you ballpark number anyway. Go by the twistability of the bone to determine doneness. If you can hold on to the bone and twist it easily, then your ready to pull. If the bone feels like it would not come out of the meat with a good tug, then leave it on for more time. Always put the bbq on early and you can always keep it warm if it gets ready sooner than you think. Foil works well for keeping Q nice and hot.

When cooking a butt or shoulder you need to remember that you are placing a somewhat large cold mass on your cooker. It will take a while for the meat to give up its coldness and begin the cooking process. Many people will bring a piece of meat to room temp. prior to putting it on their cooker. This is why. A lot of people worry about the health aspects of bringing a piece of meat to room temp first. Your decision, but just remember that this piece of meat is cold right to the bone and will take a while just to begin the cooking process. You have to account for that time.

Temperature to Cook At:
210-230 is fine. I like to keep in the lower part of that range. Fires will go up and down in the course of cooking something. Dont worry your Q too much. As long as you keep the High Spikes (300 deg) to a minimum, things will come out okay given enough time. Be sure you are reading these temps for cooking at the meat rack level to estimate accurate cooking times properly.
Lastly: Try to keep the door shut. I know that with many types of cookers, you have to open it just to add fuel. Just try not to open it for anything but adding fuel. Get the probe thermometer and you wont have to open it for checking temps. at meat level.
Good luck, and stick to it and you WILL make some great Q and your family will beg you for more.
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watchado
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29 09 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When smoking with my BGE I put some small wood chunks in a green bean can then just set the can down on top of the charcoal. This lets just the right amount of smoke out for a very long period of time. I used to just put the chunks in the charcoal but they didn't last very long and I ran out of smoke before I wanted to.
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Wild West BBQ
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 30 09 3:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great tips Thanks I never thought about a fire resistant blanket that would solve a lot of my problems I'm going to look around but do you have any ideas on where I could get one.
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JeremySTL
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13 09 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always keep a bag of wood chips near by just incase my fire takes a nose dive on me from me not paying attention. You can throw them in and get the temp up in your smoker quick. This will buy you the time to get your fuel going
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JimmieOhio
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16 09 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wild West BBQ wrote:
Great tips Thanks I never thought about a fire resistant blanket that would solve a lot of my problems I'm going to look around but do you have any ideas on where I could get one.

Check out something like this:

http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_200332387_200332387

Or Google "welding blanket"
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Big Bears BBQ
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31 09 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey that's pretty cool.........thanks




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Savannahsmoker
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15 09 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post and I use the cut and paste to keep it. Thanks for the post.
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Kristen



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21 09 8:16 pm    Post subject: Barbecue Reply with quote

Laughing I do really love to eat any kinds of barbecue, in meat barbecue i preferred to marinate it for the whole night so that the sauce can really absorb into the meat Smile
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Old Timer



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23 10 2:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome. This is super helpful! Thanks Very Happy
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patruns
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23 10 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just my own personal opinion here. Do not soak your wood chips unless you are using a minimal amount. Soaked wood does not burn properly and can leave a really nasty acidic taste. Never soak actual chunks. As to dumping a bag of chips on the coals to buy some time while you build the fire back up..... don't do that! All you will do is create a ton of smoke. Put lump on or start some more coals in a chimney.

For what it is worth..... Wink
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Curtis
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 29 12 11:39 am    Post subject: Agreed! Reply with quote

patruns wrote:
Just my own personal opinion here. Do not soak your wood chips unless you are using a minimal amount.

Some great tips in here.
I could agree more with the above. If you find that chips are catching fire, then you are either opening your smoker too often, or you have way too much air passing through. There should be enough smoke to keep your chips from flaring up.
Hint: If you are working with a grill and want to add some good smoke flavor to your burgers, brats, or dogs; save your next soup can and use that as your smoker box. Sometimes a small puncture in the bottom helps get it smoking faster.

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SoEzzy
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 29 12 2:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Agreed! Reply with quote

Curtis wrote:
Curtis
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You have a Private Message!
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msiferllc



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09 12 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JeremySTL wrote:
I always keep a bag of wood chips near by just incase my fire takes a nose dive on me from me not paying attention. You can throw them in and get the temp up in your smoker quick. This will buy you the time to get your fuel going


This is a great idea. Going to implement this one immediately Very Happy
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zyrabontia



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01 12 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Appreciate the tips! thanks!
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Curtzo
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09 13 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a newbie to this site, and someone only grilling for a couple years, these are some great tip!

Thanks for sharing! Very Happy
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H@rry



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11 16 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a newbie with an offset smoker I began to have a lot of trouble getting the temp up after a year or so. I had put a dryer elbow on the smokestack outlet to keep the heat from going over the meat. I rarely use charcoal as I have access to a lot of chunk hickory and apple.

I resealed the door on the smoke chamber to stop a few leaks and got a lot harder to get the temp up. I propped the lid open about a quarter inch with a wood chip and it made a big difference. I then realized that it was not drawing very well at all.

The next day while I was doing a clean-up on the smoker I decided to take the elbow out. The bottom elbow of the smokestack was about half clogged with crud that had flaked off the chimney and fallen down but could not get out. I cleaned all that out and it make all the difference in the world in getting the temp up. The smokestack is blowing like it was new!
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