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low and slow smoking - Page 2

post #31 of 48

By way of context for those who haven't entered the wonderful world of serious smoking:

 

"If you're not looking, you ain't cooking," is one way to say it.  More often one hears it as, "Close the f&*^%ing door, f&*^%ing @$$hole," which rhymes if your pronounce it right. 

 

It's been a long time since I've competed but just looking around the forums, reading the newsletters, etc., I'd say Backwoods smokers (which use a water pan for ballast, tuning and humidity) are as popular and successful as any reverse flow smoker, including Stubbs (which are great).   You can win with all sorts of rigs. 

 

Many if not most of the really successful competitors also barbecue professionally.  There seems to be a sort of consensus among those with well-tuned pits (of whatever type) which are equipped with convection fans not to run it during comp; but to use it for catering and restaurant cooking.  Why?  Beats me.   

 

Tweaking your methods and techniques to match your smoker, and just generally tweaking (less expensive smokers) to tighten and tune is part of the fun of barbecuing.  Techniques and methods are very equipment dependent, and inexpensive smokers need work to make them tighter and more even.  The bottom line is that you can get great results with inexpensive equipment as long as you're willing to put the time in before cooking, and the attention to fire management during the cook; also part of the fun.  Those of us with fairly expensive rigs (say $1000 and up) invested in them largely because we'd already had too much fun.  

 

Barbecuing produces a lot smokey grease.  Cleaning is part of the deal.  A pressure washer and steamer makes it suck less, but it's still going to suck plenty.

 

BDL

post #32 of 48

Just an fyi since we're on the subject of smoking/bbqing.  Has anyone ever noticed that Myron Mixon on the tv show BBQ Pittmasters selects his whole pig from a supplier.  I've heard that THAT'S what helps win the competitions.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #33 of 48

"There is a saying in the world of BBQ, "if you're lookin', you ain't cookin'" 

 

Well, let take a lookin' at it:

 

Specific heat for air is 0.17 BTU/lb/F. Assuming your smoker is 10 Cubic feet inside, that is 0.76 lbs of air. Let say your smoker temerprature is at 250F and drops to 150 F after you open the door to look, you will be losing 17 BTUs of heat.

 

Let's assume you have 30 lbs of steel inside your smoker (not even counting the 10 lbs of meat, 5 lbs of wood) also at 250 F. There is 366 BTUs of heat there for it to go from 250 F to 150 F.

 

366 BTU will very quickly replenish the 17 BTUs lost after you peaked.

 

dcarch

post #34 of 48

dcarch,

 

I'm not sure how to go about saying this without sounding disrespectful and dismissive, which is a shame because I respect you a great deal.  You're an interesting, adventurous and passionate cook with exquisite visual sensibilities. 

 

But...

 

However... 

 

Not to put too fine a point on it...

 

Your hypothesis here rests on extrapolation, itself based on set of false assumptions which include a failure to account for critical factors.   

 

You only analyzed sources of retained heat.  But the law of conservation of energy tells us that those, by themselves, can't bring the temperature back to what it was before the doors were opened.  Fortunately, smokers include a heat source (in the form of an electrical element, gas burner, or charcoal and/or wood burning fire box).  Given that there's always fresh heat entering the system, if your analysis was even close, heat lost by opening the doors should be replaced very quickly. 

 

However, it is not close.  For one thing, you ignored the fact that smokers lose quite a bit of energy to the environment (up the flue, through the cracks, and via radiation from the exterior), and require a continuing heat supply just to maintain a steady cooking temp -- let alone raise it. 

 

Even with a blazing fire, it takes a fair amount of time to raise the chamber temp by 100F in a typical 10 cu/ft smoker (which, by the way, is not particularly large). 

 

By way of empirical example, my Backwoods Fatboy, at 18000 cu in, is just a skosh bigger than the 10 cu ft (1728 cu in/cu ft) you postulate.  It's a double-walled smoker with insulation between the interior and exterior walls.  It's equipped with a "Guru" fan-controller which regulates air flow to the fire box; and  with two, accurate, digital thermometers for monitoring cook chamber temps (the Guru itself, and a Maverick).  I run a mix of mesquite lump charcoal and hardwood splits.  The mesquite burns very hot.  When the temperature of the cook chamber drops beyond its desired set point, the Guru's fan stokes the fire, and the system's temperature increases more rapidly than it would without it.

 

With all of that, you could say that it's more "best case" than "typical."

 

Even in warm weather, it still takes at least 15 minutes to bring the Fatboy's cook chamber temp back to 250F (a temp I actually use a lot) from 150F. 

 

Furthermore, heat loss is not the only problem engendered by opening the cook chamber doors.  Loss of humidity is as harmful, and in my view more so.

 

I doubt there's anyone with much barbecue experience who'll argue against the proposition that frequently opening the cook-chamber door is a sure recipe for disaster.  Heck!  The fire-box door isn't your friend either.       

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/6/13 at 12:22pm
post #35 of 48
Has anyone ever noticed that Myron Mixon on the tv show BBQ Pittmasters selects his whole pig from a supplier.  I've heard that THAT'S what helps win the competitions.

 

As true for 'q as any other way of cooking:  Great ingredients don't guarantee great results, but bad ingredients guarantee bad ones. 

 

Winning is a team effort.  You and the swine play equally important positions.     

 

BDL

post #36 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

As true for 'q as any other way of cooking:  Great ingredients don't guarantee great results, but bad ingredients guarantee bad ones. 

 

Winning is a team effort.  You and the swine play equally important positions.     

 

BDL


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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Reply
post #37 of 48

OK.   Wonderful freakin' thread. 

 

Let me just say that until much later this summer, when I've worked everything out, and am enjoying some smoked q made by myself, from my own working smoker, that I have also made myself ... I'm gonna hate each and every one of you, and everyone else involved in my research, which has already taken most of my free time today.  Thank you all, very freakin' much. 

 

I plan to go the "flower pot" method, as shown by Alton Brown, on his TV series.  I noticed that in his show he didn't get all so technical.  I have looked up and read a whole bunch of blogs that have somewhat extended the process.  It's all really kinda cool.  

post #38 of 48

You can make the flower pot/hot-plate setup work okay.  The best thing about it is the pride some folks take in being cheap.  It's not what you'd call convenient, comfortable or versatile, and after a couple of long smokes you'll start dreaming about more sophisticated rigs.  

 

It probably falls on deaf ears, but my advice to you is forsake the flower pot, skip the ECB (aka el cheapo Brinkmann), don't bother with a small offset, but just go straight to the big WSM -- which is probably perfect for you. 

 

BDL 

post #39 of 48

LOL.   Thank You for your thoughts.  I do appreciate what you have to say.  The first point of difference I have though is vocabulary.  I don't at all think of going cheap, but more inexpensive and/or economical.  Secondly, I'm not so sure I have all that much interest in long smokes.  I think I'll be going for +/- 3-hours of smoke then finishing in the oven.  I'm from the camp that believes that the meat will only take on, or absorb, just so much flavor, then it becomes like adding on too much dressing that would only be like what you would wipe off the rig after you are all done.  Sort of like just painting on more sauce that might not even have the flavor that you are looking for.  I'll even say that it could be maybe a bad flavor.  Concluding, I don't know what ECB is.  Please help me out with that. 

 

A while ago I did make an Alton Brown box cold smoker unit to do fish;  just like on the show.  It worked really well until it got borrowed/swiped, never to be seen again.  LOL @ Me I guess.  I think part of what I'm gonna enjoy is making this thing and tweaking the bageebies out of it. 

 

I make really damn good ribs in the oven.  2 1/2-hours sealed up tightly braising away @ 250*, then finished for +/- 1/2-hour wiped with sauce @ +400* until just edgy.  Competition style? ... Probably not.  But there are never any complaints or any left;  and I get lots of repeat future orders. 

 

 

There are never any "deaf ears" to anything you say.  I may not always follow, but I always listen, and think about what was said. 

post #40 of 48

Thank you BDL for your kind compliments.

 

I think if we are not discussing politics or religion, disagreements in scientific fact can never be disrespectful or dismissive.

 

It was my intention to be very simplistic in addressing the concerns of opening the doors when smoking or grilling. To me, it seems that there are many people who are so overly fearful of peaking into the cooking chamber. One simple fact you and I can both agree on is the plain fact that one cubic foot of air, if completely escaped, can only carry away 0.018 BTUs per degree F. In other words, it only takes 0.5 watts of power to heat up air from 0 F to 100F.

 

 

 “---You only analyzed sources of retained heat.  But the law of conservation of energy tells us that those, by themselves, can't bring the temperature back to what it was before the doors were opened.  Fortunately, smokers include a heat source (in the form of an electrical element, gas burner, or charcoal and/or wood burning fire box).  Given that there's always fresh heat entering the system, if your analysis was even close, heat lost by opening the doors should be replaced very quickly. –----“

 

I guess I should be more specific that with a smoker, there is to be assumed that there is a heat source also.

 

 -------------------------------------------------------

“----However, it is not close.  For one thing, you ignored the fact that smokers lose quite a bit of energy to the environment (up the flue, through the cracks, and via radiation from the exterior), and require a continuing heat supply just to maintain a steady cooking temp -- let alone raise it. ----“

 

Again, I am going to assume that the heat source of a normal smoker will always be able to provide heat faster than heat lost, or else it would not be possible to be a useful appliance.

--------------------------------------------

 

“Even with a blazing fire, it takes a fair amount of time to raise the chamber temp by 100F in a typical 10 cu/ft smoker (which, by the way, is not particularly large). “

 

That would be a function of the thermal quality of the smoker. My 4.5 cubic feet smoker can go from 40F to 200F in 40 minutes using only a 400w halogen bulb.

 -----------------------------------------

 

By way of empirical example, my Backwoods Fatboy, at 18000 cu in, is just a skosh bigger than the 10 cu ft (1728 cu in/cu ft) you postulate.  It's a double-walled smoker with insulation between the interior and exterior walls.  It's equipped with a "Guru" fan-controller which regulates air flow to the fire box; and  with two, accurate, digital thermometers for monitoring cook chamber temps (the Guru itself, and a Maverick).  I run a mix of mesquite lump charcoal and hardwood splits.  The mesquite burns very hot.  When the temperature of the cook chamber drops beyond its desired set point, the Guru's fan stokes the fire, and the system's temperature increases more rapidly than it would without it.

 

As I understand, the Guru uses a very low power low volume blower to fan the fire.

 

------------------------------------------------------------- 

 

Furthermore, heat loss is not the only problem engendered by opening the cook chamber doors.  Loss of humidity is as harmful, and in my view more so.

 

Yes, humidity control is important also. However, if you let one cubic foot of 212F air out, you are only losing 0.6 oz of water

 

 

I doubt there's anyone with much barbecue experience who'll argue against the proposition that frequently opening the cook-chamber door is a sure recipe for disaster.  Heck!  The fire-box door isn't your friend either.       

 

I agree with that proposition that frequently opening the door is not the best way, however, consider the basic scientific constants; there is no need to be phobic about looking once in a while.

 

And BTW, I have learned and enjoyed a lot reading your posts.

 

dcarch

post #41 of 48

Ice,

 

Brinkmann makes a very inexpensive, "bullet" style smoker in three or four different models.  The least expensive runs around $50, if you shop. 

The more expensive "Gourmet" model goes for around $90.

 

 

Barbecue guys refer to them generically as ECBs -- which is short el cheapo Brinkmann.  

 

They're uncomfortable to use, somewhat frustrating because they're so drafty, poorly tuned (that means they have lots of hot and cold spots), do not lend themselves or effective management, and require constant tending to hold anything like a steady temp.  In short, they are a PITA.  It usually doesn't take more than a season before the pitmaster loses interest in regular smoking or buys something better.  

 

Clay pot rigs have similar issues and similar prognoses.  You'll have some insight into what I mean about inconvenience the first time you have to tear it apart in the middle of a cook to load in fresh chips.  You'll understand it even better after the fourth or fifth cook. 

 

I've either cooked with or cooked around just about every kind of pit you can imagine.  I never had my own uber-rig, but worked as a team member for teams which did.  For twenty years or so, I used another popular entry level type of rig; i.e., a "small offset."  My first one was very much like this CharBroil:

I bought it when I first moved back to SoCal from the Bay Area, partly for personal use and partly for catering.  It took a lot of tweaking to get it right.  The most important changes were adding a charcoal basket to the fire box which did not touch the walls; baffling the "door" between the fire box and cook chamber; and dropping the flue.  At the time, those kludges were state of the art.   Compared to the sort of real deal pits in restaurants, large catering operations, and those you see at comps, it was a colossal PITA.

 

I actually did compete with it a few times in KCBS and did surprisingly well... considering how much work it took fighting the rig's limitations.  When I moved from a home to an apartment it couldn't come along.   

 

When I finally made it back to a home with a yard, I was still sentimental and stupid enough to believe that if it wasn't an offset it wasn't a real 'q.  So I got one much like but better built (made by a company which no longer exists).  By the time I got rid it was tweaked to the max -- not only all of the old ones, but a gas-fired "After Burner" for heat; tuning plates; insulation around the door/body seam; and serious thermometry.  It still had all the weaknesses of a small offset.  Moderated, but still a colossal PITA.  Starting with a really cheap offset like the CharBroil here, it would cost you around $250 for the complete kludge-o-rama.  Not counting accessories. 

 

Decent offsets, with slightly bigger fireboxes and heavier gauge bodies start at around $450.  The prices travel far north, before you can step up from "decent" to good. 

 

A WSM is the least expensive way to get a charcoal fired smoker which will produce consistent high quality results without undue trouble, and will last a long time.  They are incredibly well supported.  The small ones run $300, and look like this: 

As a practical matter, the smaller one is big enough to cook for a large group.  Unfortunately, it's not large enough to take a rack of spares lying flat. The new, larger size costs $400. 

Is it worth an extra $100 to avoid work-arounds just for ribs?  Yes. 

 

The WSMs and Brinkmanns are "bullet" style smokers and look a lot alike.  Are the WSMs so much better than the Brinkmanns that they're worth eight times the price?  Hell yes. 

 

Good luck with your flower pot project. 

 

BDL

post #42 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Ice,

 


A WSM is the least expensive way to get a charcoal fired smoker which will produce consistent high quality results without undue trouble, and will last a long time.  They are incredibly well supported.  The small ones run $300, and look like this: 

As a practical matter, the smaller one is big enough to cook for a large group.  Unfortunately, it's not large enough to take a rack of spares lying flat. The new, larger size costs $400. 

Is it worth an extra $100 to avoid work-arounds just for ribs?  Yes. 

 

The WSMs and Brinkmanns are "bullet" style smokers and look a lot alike.  Are the WSMs so much better than the Brinkmanns that they're worth eight times the price?  Hell yes. 

 

Good luck with your flower pot project. 

 

BDL

 

You get what you pay for and WITH THE WSM YOU CRY ONLY ONCE!!!!!!!!!   ...much much better temperature control and "carburation".

 

I own the smaller, 18 inch WSM and for ribs I roll the rack and secure using a bamboo skewer and that allows for three racks to sit on the top grate.  The  18 incher, on one ring full of charcoal, will heat at 230F for around 18 hours without a refill whereas the larger size a lot less time.   Earlier I've posted a link to the Virtual Weber Bullet and there one can get an exact comparison between the two sizes.

 

The 18 inch allows me to smoke 4 1/2 pounds of jerky on both grates and also allows me to smoke 22 pounds of cured pork bellies using a rib rack on top and a section of belly on the bottom grate.


Edited by kokopuffs - 5/7/13 at 9:20am

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Reply
post #43 of 48

dcarch,

 

You're still relying too much on theory and not enough on observation.

 

It was my intention to be very simplistic in addressing the concerns of opening the doors when smoking or grilling. To me, it seems that there are many people who are so overly fearful of peaking into the cooking chamber.

 

The reality is that most newbies don't just peek.  They open the door and start messing around doing something which is almost always unnecessary.  For instance beginners tend to mop and/or spritz way too much.   Most experienced pitmasters don't peek at all.  When they open the cook chamber door it's with the specific intent to do something important; and more often than not combine several important things. 

 

Sure, you can open the door a crack for 10 seconds without doing much harm, but to what end?  Cooking well requires self-discipline and attention to detail.  Learning not to peek is one of the hardest and most important lessons in learning to smoke.

 

One simple fact you and I can both agree on is the plain fact that one cubic foot of air, if completely escaped, can only carry away 0.018 BTUs per degree F. In other words, it only takes 0.5 watts of power to heat up air from 0 F to 100F.

 

OK.  But we can also both agree that it takes significantly more than an 0.5W heating element to heat a pit to 100F on a 0F day.  So, although your figures are accurate they are misleading in that they lack context.  

 

Furthermore, something we have not addressed is the effect that fresh, dry, cool air will have on the fire itself. 

--------------------------------------------

That would be a function of the thermal quality of the smoker.

 

"Thermal quality" should be written as "thermal qualities."  There are a lot of things which go into the best methods to keep temperatures as steady as possible.  

 

My 4.5 cubic feet smoker can go from 40F to 200F in 40 minutes using only a 400w halogen bulb.

 

And that relates to a raising a charcoal fired, 8 cu ft, offset smoker with 1.2mm mild steel walls, from 150F to 250, with 66F ambient temp how?

 -----------------------------------------

As I understand, the Guru uses a very low power low volume blower to fan the fire.

 

It's a typical pancake fan as you'd see in a computer.  They come in several sizes, each appropriate for different size pits.  In any case, they're all relatively low power, low flow -- at least as compared to a show-biz Ritter. 

 

But, context, context, context.  There's a limit to how much you can stoke a fire in a 'q, imposed by the dangers of several different types "run away" fires.  The right size guru for a given pit, will not only meet but exceed that limit.  "Slight excess capacity" is another way of saying "barely big enough." 

 

------------------------------------------------------------- 

 

Yes, humidity control is important also. However, if you let one cubic foot of 212F air out, you are only losing 0.6 oz of water

 

Why 1 cu ft?  Why 212F?  This hypothetical data seem to mean something important, but are in fact quite misleading because they are so incomplete.  There's also a fundamental inaccuracy.  One doesn't "let one cubic foot of 212F air out."  When the doors are open, hot moist air mixes with cool dry air. 

 

If the outside relative humidity was 10%; the outside temperature 70F the pit's relative humidity 85%; the pit temperature 225F (typical rib or shoulder cook temp); the pit facing N; the wind running SSW at a steady 7mph; and the door were opened by 2 sq ft for 2 minutes, what would the pit's relative humidity be when the doors were closed?  How low would the temperature drop?  How long would it take for the temp to return to 225F?  How long for the humidity to return to 85%?  What if the pit were tuned and humidified using two loaf pans filled with water as ballasts?  

 

I'm sure you see what I mean. 

 

0.6 oz might not seem like much, but just as the difference between a cool, dry, air-conditioned home and the humid outdoor environment of DC in August matters to your significant other, so pit conditions matter to a brisket.  Something else they share in common is that if conditions are not to their liking they'll get even. 

 

There are limits to what environmental conditions you can ignore and still come up with useful deductions.  "Science" requires that you deal with the all of the important parameters; also requires some investigation into what is and what is not important; but mostly requires you to accept reality before hypothesizing and to recognize that any hypothesis which doesn't accord with observation is not "scientific," but chopped liver. 

 

First comes the observation.  Then comes the explanation.  Not the other way around.

 

The reality is that opening the door a few times in the first part of a 3:2:1 rib cook long enough to spritz the racks of ribs will result in drier ribs than if they'd been left alone.  If your pit isn't tuned, sadly, you'll do less harm by opening the door to turn the ribs as needed (might as well spritz then), than to leave the ribs alone.  Compromise isn't necessarily disaster.  But a tight, tuned pit is better. 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/7/13 at 10:45am
post #44 of 48

All stated, said and done, opening the door or lid to the WSM lengthens cook time by fifteen minutes.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Reply
post #45 of 48

All stated, said and done, opening the door or lid to the WSM lengthens cook time by fifteen minutes.

 

Yep.  

 

BDL

post #46 of 48

You know, I'm getting on up there in years, and I don't know how much longer I'll be alive.  Regardless of how few or how many days I have left, I will die with one certainty.  That certainty is that this is the weirdest forum thread I will ever encounter.  This is it.  This is the king of threads.  Call Guinness.  Call the Library of Congress.  Thank you dcarch.  As with a good fire when the cookin's done, I can now die in relative peace.  I may even put ChefTalk in my will.

 

The following is my personal take on some of this, and I don't know much.  On my third day of college physics I gave my book to a very cute girl, never to return.

 

Hot is hot.  Cold is cold.  Wet is moisture.  Dry is lack of moisture.

 

225 degrees is 225 degrees except when it's not.  Same with 200 or 250.  This primarily depends upon what mood the wood-fairies are in at any particular time.  Myron Mixon knows a lot of wood-fairies...so he can get brisket to think that 375 degrees is 200 degrees.

 

Smoke is made up of solids.  An excess of smoke solids don't taste good.  Creosote is even less tasty.

 

The essence of the fire is what I'm after.  When I'm feeling spunky, I use a burn barrel to avoid an excess of smoke solids on my meat.  But not very often, because it's bad for the lawn and even smoky bbq is great.  I'll even eat it covered in ashes if need be. But, I'd rather not. 

 

 

 

Here is the one true formula:

 

 

E=MC2    (Smoke Essence equals the mass of the smoker times the square of the weight of the charcoal (or wood) in 

  (T-L)       grams, divided by the cooking time minus lookin' time).

 

This is probably why I gave away that book.

 

Anyway, I can die happy.  I love this forum.

post #47 of 48

I think that all of this math a physics sucks the fun out of all of it.  I'll go have another brewski and forget.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Reply
post #48 of 48

Thanks for the info, Allan.  Sorry I'm just now getting back to you...I lost the dad-gummed thread.  Again.

I suppose it's possible to have a grease fire, but I don't quite see how, unless you would cook on either of our pits for a very long time with no cleaning.  And even then, it would be hard for that fire to jump up, hang a right to make it through the opening, then head downwards to the grease.  It would take some pretty smart sparks.  I could see a fire more readily just outside the firebox if it hit the floor that hadn't been cleaned for ages.  A few years ago I dropped a flaming 4" log directly into the grease at the bottom...it put out the fire instantly.    The grease can't get hotter than the inside of the pit.  Never mind how or why I did that, suffice it to say I had my head out of the sunshine and the log was HOT. 

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