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tips on smoking meat

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Just bought a brinkman vertical water smoker, have used similar smokers in the past as well. I need some tips one how to achieve good temps for smoking. My current MO is to use "real charcoal", not kingsford, et al.; use a fan to keep air circulating, but I can't get the temp above 200. I switch out the charcoal after about 4-6 hours, have drilled holes in the pans, not the water one, to encourage more circulation, but to no avail. Any tips, muchas gracias!!



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I almost wish I could swap with you cause my Brinkman has a heck of a time staying under 200 but I always assumed it was because it did not seem to seal real tight on the bottom or the top part so there was a lot of air coming thru. If you want it hotter maybe try to put some shims in the top lid to increase circulation or maybe put a screen on the bottom so more air gets under the charcoal.Personal I would not do a thing cause it sound like it works perfect and if you are worried about getting the internal temps up you can finish it in the oven. You also might want to check you thermostat to make sure it is accurate.

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If you need higher temps for smoking, don't use water in the water pan. Keep the pan in place, but just line it with foil and don't fill it with water. The main purpose for the water pan is to keep the temps cooler. The brining process is what gives your meat moisture. I've cooked brined turkey, and chicken at 350 in my smoker with no water in the pan and they always turn out very moist. When slow cooking meats, I use water in the pan to help keep temps lower. Using lump charcoal as you mentioned will also help as the lump burns hotter and produces less ash than Kingsford. When excessive ash build up in the charcoal pan, it can keep temps down.

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I have the same smoker. IMO the charcoal pan is a poor design. Putting holes in the pan, as you mentioned, helps. They sell a grate for that pan that holds the charcoal off the bottom. That was the ticket for me.

I would not use the smoker without the water pan filled with some kind of liquid. I've used apple cider with great results.

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You can use the water pan and it is a great way to maintain good smoking temps, but it is not needed for smoking like WCS said.

If you can maintain proper temperatures by doing some minor tweaks with the intake and damper, you can loose the water pan if you want to. It has nothing to do with the moisture content in the meat; just keeping uniform temp threw out the smoker. If you can do this with out the use of the water pan, I recommend it. I use gas, but for charcoal it just sucks to have to open the door and add water to the pan and then bring the heat back up.

Now, the meat market I used to work at would use a clean wet/cold rag and wipe down the big sticks of sausage while they where hanging in the smoker after they where done, I figure to help start the cool down process and possibley help the skin peel off easier. I have followed suit and do it now. Does it do mke a diff.? I do not know, but still do it. Also soaking you wood chips in water also helps release moisture in the smoker to a point, plus makes the chip burning slower.

As far as your unit and getting the temp correct, it sound like a trail and error situation. Just keep working with it and you will figure out what works to keep those temps. Like Jim said, I would not cook any meat until you know you can maintain your temps for the proper cooking lengths.

Good luck!

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I know this is old hat for some, but I just posted it in a Deer Cutting thread in the Hunting forum and figured it would go good here!

Good luck!


Smoking Meat and Poultry

Where there's smoke, there's well-flavored meat and poultry. Using a smoker is one method of imparting natural smoke flavor to large cuts of meat, whole poultry, and turkey breasts. This slow cooking technique keeps them tender, too.

Smoking is slowly cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. This can be done by using a "smoker," which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for this purpose. A covered grill can also be used for smoking food by placing a drip pan of water beneath the meat on the grill.

Preventing Foodborne Illness

The national Fight BAC!® food safety education campaign advises adhering to the four steps in preventing foodborne illness throughout the smoking procedure.

Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.

Separate — Don't cross-contaminate.

Cook — Cook to proper temperatures.

Chill — Refrigerate promptly.

Defrost Meat Before Smoking

Completely thaw meat or poultry before smoking. Because smoking uses low temperatures to cook food, the meat will take too long to thaw in the smoker, allowing it to linger in the "Danger Zone" (the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F) where harmful bacteria can multiply. Defrosted meat also cooks more evenly.

Never defrost food at room temperature. Keeping meat and poultry cold while it is defrosting is essential to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. The best way to safely thaw meat and poultry is in the refrigerator. Cook or refreeze it within 1 or 2 days.

The microwave oven can be used to defrost more rapidly. Smoke the meat immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the defrosting.

Food may also be thawed in cold water. Be sure that the sink or container that holds food is clean before submerging food. Two methods may be used when thawing:

Completely submerge airtight wrapped package. Change water every 30 minutes.

Completely submerge airtight wrapped food in constantly running cold water. If thawed completely, it must be cooked immediately.

Marinate in the Refrigerator

Some recipes state to marinate meat and poultry for several hours or days, either to tenderize or add flavor. Acid in the marinade breaks down connective tissue in meats.

Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If some of the marinade is to be used for basting during smoking or as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion of the marinade. Don't put raw meat and poultry in it. Don't reuse the marinade from raw meat or poultry on cooked food unless it's boiled first to destroy any harmful bacteria.

Partial Cooking

Some people like to cook food partially in the microwave oven or on the stove to reduce smoking time. Partially cook meat or poultry ahead of time only if the food goes immediately from the microwave or stove to the hot smoker. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows harmful bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them. And once food is in the smoker, cook until it reaches a safe temperature as determined with a food thermometer.

Using a Smoker

Cook food in smokers made of materials approved for contact with meat and poultry. Don't smoke foods in makeshift containers such as galvanized steel cans or other materials not intended for cooking. Chemical residue contamination can result.

When using a charcoal-fired smoker, buy commercial charcoal briquettes or aromatic wood chips. Set the smoker in a well-lit, well-ventilated area away from trees, shrubbery, and buildings. Only use approved fire starters — never gasoline or paint thinner, for example.

Follow the manufacturer's directions for igniting charcoal or preheating a gas or electric outdoor cooker. Let the charcoal get red hot with gray ash — about 10 to 20 minutes depending upon the quantity. Pile the charcoal around the drip pan for smoking. Add about 15 briquettes about every hour. The most satisfactory smoke flavor is obtained by using hickory, apple, or maple wood chips or flakes. Soak the chips in water to prevent flare-ups and add about 1/2 cup of chips to the charcoal as desired.

Using a Covered Grill

To smoke meat and poultry in a covered grill, pile about 50 briquettes in the center of the heat grate. When they are covered with gray ash, push them into two piles. Center a pan of water between the two piles and place the food on the grill over the water pan. The water prevents flare-ups that occur when fat and meat liquids drip on coals, and steam from the water helps destroy harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Close the lid and keep the grill vents open. Add about 10 briquettes every hour to maintain the temperature in the grill.

Use Two Thermometers to Smoke Food Safely

To ensure meat and poultry are smoked safely, you'll need two types of thermometers: one for the food and one for the smoker. A thermometer is needed to monitor the air temperature in the smoker or grill to be sure the heat stays between 225 and 300 °F throughout the cooking process. Many smokers have built-in thermometers.

Use a food thermometer to determine the temperature of the meat or poultry. Oven-safe thermometers can be inserted in the meat and remain there during smoking. Use an instant-read thermometer after the meat is taken out of the smoker.

Cooking time depends on many factors: the type of meat, its size and shape, the distance of food from the heat, the temperature of the coals, and the weather. It can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to smoke meat or poultry, so it's imperative to use thermometers to monitor temperatures.

Smoke food to a safe minimum internal temperature.

Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145 °F.

All cuts of pork to 160 °F.

Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F.

All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

If using a sauce, apply it during the last 15 to 30 minutes of smoking to prevent excess browning or burning.

Chill Promptly

Refrigerate meat and poultry within 2 hours of removing it from a smoker. Cut the meat or poultry into smaller portions or slices, place it in shallow containers, cover, and refrigerate. Use it within 4 days or freeze for later use.

Last Modified: April 13, 2006

Safe Food Handling

At-Risk Populations

Meat Preparation

Poultry Preparation

Egg Products Preparation

Seasonal Food Safety

Appliances & Thermometers

Foodborne Illness & Disease

Emergency Preparedness

FSIS Programs & Workforce

Production & Inspection

Food Labeling

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Good stuff fellas, i am going try a grate on the bottom to try to raise the temps and go from there. I have ribs and chicken o nthe menu this weekend and will report back!!

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