Complete beginner

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Complete beginner

Post  delooney on Thu May 20, 2010 8:51 am

Hello all,

I have just purchased a Pro Q Excel 20, very pleased, just one thing, I'm an absolute novice at this and would really appreciate some help from the pro's out there!!!

So here's what I need to know really:

Should I burn some coals and have the unit empty of food before I cook any food? To get rid of any 'crap' inside from manufacturing?

What coals to buy, anything special or in particular? and where online please?

Pellets or wood chips? Difference please?

Same with wood chips, what and where?

I've been told about smoking you need to top up the coals but must top up using already cooked (white) coals as to not 'poison' the food, what can I buy and where to pre cook these coals before adding to my E 20 please?

How often should coals be added? Or is it when the temp starts to drop?

If I want to smoke do I always have to use the water bowl?

Dry rub/wet rub what's this? What works best?

What's the best techniques to getting the fire going? Bit of newspaper under coals etc?

I know this is a lot to ask, but if people could maybe just answer one or two it would really help me out.

Many thanks!!!

delooney
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Re: Complete beginner

Post  Jonesey73 on Thu May 20, 2010 9:09 am

Hi, and welcome to the forum.
You'll find the people on here friendly and full of advice ... they've certainly helped me in the past.

I'll try to answer some of your questions, but there are people here who have far more experience than me!!!!!.

1) It's not a bad idea to burn coals on the empty unit ... number 1 it will season it and as you said get rid of any crap, but more importantly it'll give you an idea of how long it will hold temperature for, and how much fuel you need. I think you might be pleasantly suprised.

2) ... this really is just my own opinion, I'm sure others will help here as well.
I use Cocoshell briquettes ... I've found them to be really good.
http://www.usefulstuff.co.uk/product.php?catid=37&groupid=1287

3) I've only ever used these for adding smoke
http://www.bbqrsdelight.com/
You can buy them here, and Ian should be able to point you in the direction of a seller

4) ?

5) OK, apart from your Excel, this will be your best buy ... a charcoal chimney starter.
http://www.macsbbq.co.uk/OrderUK.html
(about half way down)

6) not sure when to add more coals, I'm still figuring that bit out myself, but I tend to do it too often!!!!.

7) You don't have to always use the water bowl, but it really helps to regulate the temperature.
Some people go with the water bowl, some without, some put sand in it, some put a clay saucer in it.
Best advice I can give you, try a few and see what works best for you.

Cool Don't know, I'll hand over to someone else on this one.

9) Use the charcoal starter to get things going with some paper and a few coals, then put them into your smoker.
Google search the 'minion method' and that'll help greatly.

I hope this helps ... please anyone if I've said anything incorrectly, then correct me - I'm still learning myself, but the above it what I've muddled through and figured out!!!!

Jonesey.

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Re: Complete beginner

Post  delooney on Thu May 20, 2010 12:27 pm

Jonesey,

Nice one indeed for all your help - very helpful thanks for all your effort, it will save me lots of time!!

delooney
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Re: Complete beginner

Post  Lozart on Thu May 20, 2010 2:32 pm

4) Most people will add unburnt coals I guess on account of it being easier to get them in through the door than trying to shovel hot coals! There is a thing called the Minion method that is basically loading the coal basket up with a hole in the middle for a few lit coals. The coals then burn outwards through the unlit stuff resulting in a much longer burn. Some people feel that the lighting and burning period of charcoal can impart an odd flavour to the meat as this is when the majority of impurites burn off from the coals. That said, if you use a good quality charcoal briquette with no nasty binder materials in then I see no reason why you should have any issues. I use coconut briquettes and have never had a problem with funny tastes or being poisoned! Smile
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Re: Complete beginner

Post  delooney on Thu May 20, 2010 4:17 pm

Thanks very much!

delooney
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Re: Complete beginner

Post  Novice on Sat May 22, 2010 12:08 pm

Hi Delooney,
It's a trial & error thing with no fixed rules, so you'll soon find your own way, Jonesey has covered a lot of the points very well, but I'll let you know some of the things I've learnt,

Get a good probe thermometer, a Redi Check Maverick ET-73 is just about perfect (also available from mac's bbq)
1. First smoke, do it for a couple of hrs hot & empty as suggested.
2. I only use coconut charcoal, (cleaner less ash, no chemicals, hotter etc)
3, I've only used wood chips not pellets, & they work very well, don't over do it though or everything tastes like smoked fish. A couple of handfuls, soaked & wrapped in foil with holes poked in, there are plenty of guides to different woods & their flavours, it makes a big difference, I like fruit wood (like apple), it's sweeter & not so overpowering, but this is where you get a large lump of your flavour.
5, Using the minion method you'll be surprised at how long you can go with a full basket of coals without topping up, It's only on the really long burns (7hrs plus) you should need to top up, I've had 9hrs plus before. This may not be 'correct', but I lift the whole upper section off to add coals & I add them out of the box, not lit, (if your using GOOD coconut charcoal there're no additives to poison your food). I find it easier this way. If you do want to light them- as Jonesey said, you'll want a chimney starter, I'd get one anyway, they're priceless.
6. I only add coals if they are running out, generally i control the temp with the lower vents, not by adding more fuel, I always have the top vent fully open, unless I'm shutting the unit down.
7. The water bowl is used as a heat sink to stabilise the temp, you don't need it to smoke, but it keeps the cooker in the normal working temp. If you want to run at a higher temp put in an empty (foiled- makes cleaning up easier) water bowl instead. If you leave it out all together you run the risk of fat dropping on the coals & getting flair ups, that you really don't want
8, Rubs - either or. Often with dry rubs, if there is a bit of apple juice or something on the meat, when you rub it in it soon becomes a wet rub anyway
9. To get it going, the minion method works very well, let the temp stabilise & get it where you want it before putting the meat on before
Good Luck

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Re: Complete beginner

Post  RichardD on Sat May 22, 2010 10:43 pm

I'm another coconut charcoal user. I've no idea if it's considered "good", but I bought 8 bags of CPL Supagrill last year, and thanks to the chuffing awful weather last year I still have half of it left for this year!

As for adding coals, given that I start with a lit chimney dumped onto a basket of unlit coals (I find it works just as well as the "minion method", and doesn't require me to get my hands dirty making a pretty little space in the middle of the basket), I'd say that there's nothing wrong with adding "virgin" coals during the cook. Mucking about trying to arrange already ashed charcoal sounds like a big headache.

I'd also second the Maverick ET-73 recommendation. I love mine, for those afternoons when I want to watch what the Frontier is up to from the comfort of the sofa.

Finally chips or pellets, I scorn them both. I use real chunks of wood. I've recently taken up woodworking, and particularly like to make stuff out of cherry. It's nice to work with, finishes well and looks good. It has another big advantage. I've been collecting the dust (via my dust extractor - no sweepings from the workshop floor, thanks) for the cold smoke generator, and the offcuts go in the frontier's basket. About a tennis ball's worth of wood per cook seems to be about right, 3/4s of it at the start of the cook, 1/4 at the end. The only minor annoyance is that I have to remember to change the waste bag on the dust extractor before using any other wood (I suspect that chucking a handful of MDF on the BBQ would be a Very Bad Idea - especially as I've developed an allergy to the stuff).

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Re: Complete beginner

Post  delooney on Mon May 24, 2010 5:36 am

This is all really good feedback, I do feel like I am learning a lot here. I have on order a chimney starter and some coconut charoal and have seen some clips in YouTube too. I think after the weekend we've just had this is going to be a great summer!!

Thanks all for you're help!!

delooney
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