First smoke - a few issues but delicious!

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First smoke - a few issues but delicious!

Post  dangleberry on Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:43 pm

After some good advice from steveheyes I went for an Excel and used it for the first time on Saturday. I started it up a little before midday. I put in about 2.5kg of unlit big K lumpwood chacoal and used the chimney starter to get it going. I let it burn for an hour or so as it was the first time to get rid of any residue etc (I know that I should probably have done a longer burn but was too impatient). It was up to 270 before I added some hot water which immediately knocked the temperature down to below 200. In retrospect I put too much water in but it got back up to 225 fairly quickly. I put some ribs in the top and a chicken in the bottom stacker and tossed in a foil

The temperature slowly dropped to below 200 so I whacked in some more charcoal. For most of the cook I had the bottom vents wide open (yes, the top vent stayed open) and I had to add two hot loads from the chimney starter. The internal temp of the chicken got to 158 after 4 hours so I took the stackers off and just put it over the coals for 20 minutes to finish it and try to crisp the skin a little.

The ribs were good but the chicken was magnificent. The only negative was that the skin wasn't that crispy but the meat was tremendously tender.

I ended up using about 4kg of lumpwood for 5 hours of cooking - this seems a bit high and I presume that much less water in the pan would help? I'll aim to have the water run dry for the final hour to try and finish hotter to crisp up the skin. At this rate, if I wanted to do a longer cook I could end up using 10kg of charcoal.

I presume that I shouldn't add unlit charcoal while cooking (due to the acrid smoke)?
Would a clay saucer be a better option?
Would briquettes be better than lumpwood?
Any other tips?

In summary, the chicken was so good I'm already planning next weekend's smoke. Maybe beef or pork, depending upon what the butcher has.

dangleberry
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Re: First smoke - a few issues but delicious!

Post  Novice on Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:13 pm

First thing, the lid thermometers can be pretty far out when they are shipped, have you calibrated your thermometer, or have you got a separate grill thermometer to make sure your readings are correct?

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Re: First smoke - a few issues but delicious!

Post  Mike_P_in_Tucson on Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:37 pm

Good point about the thermo on the lid.

I always fill the charcoal basket completely full (not sure how much that is in weight), then add 1/2 chimney or less on lit coals (water pan about 1/2 full of hot water). Top vent always wide open, and I shut the bottom vents down to about 1/4 open after I get to temp (230F to 240F). It will burn that way for 5-6 hours, depending on outside temperature, wind, etc. If I am going for a longer smoke, I just add unlit charcoal right on top of what is remaining in the basket.

You will get a wide variety of opinions on whether or not to add unlit charcoal, but a lot of competition teams do and it doesn't seem to hurt them. I generally use Kingsford Blue and haven't had any issues about taste. And certinly with lump there wouldn't be any such issues.

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Re: First smoke - a few issues but delicious!

Post  dangleberry on Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:24 pm

I have the Maverick thermometer and relied on that rather than the one on the lid so I don't think that is a problem.

I will try less water next time which I think will help. I got the smoker up to temperature and then added the water - is this ok or would it be better to add the water straight away?

I'll also put more charcoal in at the beginning as I ended up adding charcoal on a couple of occasions so perhaps starting with more might be more efficient. Does using 4kg or so for a 5 hour smoke, with both stackers in place seem reasonable? If so, I need to get my charcoal from cheaper sources - I was keen to get started to rushed out to Waitrose as I knew they had Big K lumpwood and they are just down the road. Not the cheapest option though!

I was adding lit charcoal rather than unlit as I presumed that the latter might lead to an acrid taste to the meat.

Hopefully I'll be able to experiment some more this weekend. I'm thinking pork belly so if anyone has any tips - feel free to pass them on!

Thanks for all the help.

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