Food, Tips and Tricks

What To Know Before Smoking Your First Meats

We did it! We got a smoker and found a new hobby. We got lucky however, as we had been researching and shopping for a smoker when my neighbor asked if we wanted theirs. They moved across country and could not fit it in the U-Haul so were willing to gift it. It is still very new and our neighbor did all of the sealing on it so it is ready to go. We are using the Oklahoma Joe Highland charcoal smoker/grill.

The night we smoked our first meats we started with a 3.6 pound chuck roast and 3 pound pork butt roast. I had read a few guides that said to cook around 225, but we were closer to 240 it seems as we worked to control temp for the first time. We did some things wrong and many things right, so I put all we learned after our first time smoking into this post for you.

This is not a ‘How to Smoke’ post, but in addition to those How To posts you will want to read this is a list of no-to’s when smoking your first meats!

The Wood Chips

When our neighbors gifted us their smoker they could not take in their move they gave us their charcoal, wood chips and pellets they had left. We eyeballed about 1/2 bag of wood chips and guessed that looks like plenty. I was at the store about 4 hours in! I never thought to look into exactly how many chips to smoke with. I literally had a vision of throwing chips on (I am a smoking newbie, remember) and that it will add some flavor and smoke away for hours. Wrong! I had needed a bit more. You will need about 4-5 cups of chips for 5 hours of smoking. The bag we had was about 3-4 cups left. Looks like a lot, but we smoked for 7 hours total and we needed a few more cups.

smoked meat prep

The Rub

I had tried some smoked meat from our neighbor a while back and remember them saying they used a coffee rub and it was delicious. I looked through coffee rub recipes until I found one in which I already have the ingredients. As I made it I thought “this is too much rub”. I only used half the rub to coat, then I was looking at some temp recommendations and came across a headline in one of those temping articles that caught my eye. It said to ‘smother’ in rub.

Maybe I didn’t have too much rub. I thought about it a moment, pulled the rubbed meat out of the refrigerator and decided to add all the rub and smother my meat. I am glad I did. I can’t imagine our meat if I had used half as much. Go a head and rub away!

smoked pork butt

Time

So, I did read a lot that you’d think this can be controlled. I knew I wanted a quicker smoke for our first time so we found smaller 3 pound meats. In some articles it said check after 3 hours if running heat 225-250 degrees. However, in some it said 2 hours per pound. Some articles said done at 145 and some said done at 190. So, what is the logical thing to do? Figure down the middle? Wrong! We figured we could be done smoking in 4-5 hours. It took 7 and we ran heat closer to 240 or so.

As I was frantically looking at when to stop and “it should be done by now” it is only then I read something crucial I had missed. 145 degrees is the safe to eat temp, but you want the Chef recommended temp of 190 degrees for the best tenderness and taste. I felt OK taking ours off at 164 degrees and wish I had kept the beef on longer. The inside was tender, but not the entire roast.

smoked beef

Do Your DUE Research

I’ll admit it, I was one who thought “How hard can it be? I’ll be fine after the 2 or 3 videos I watched that basically said the same thing…” Do your research and really allow this to become a piece of education knowing you will always have something to learn as you go. It was halfway through smoking I ran out of enough wood chips and had to go get more. I decided part way through I did need water and had to ruing a nice baking dish witch was all I had as a water dish because I did not buy one first. I now LOVE this book and I highly recommend it asa reading tool before you smoke (or even if you already have)- Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto

Keep a Smoking Journal

A journal? This isn’t English class?! We smoked 2 meats our first time-a small pork roast and a small chuck. I rubbed both, but used different timings and as I discussed my meat smoking experience I began to already get mixed up what I did with which meat. If you plan to really try different smoking methods, make your notes. You may have marinated a meat and used pecan chips and then realize next time you would like to use a rub only and cook even slower. You will have a hard time keeping track of what you’ve already done, the notes of that days results and tips you found along the way if you do not keep your results and thoughts on paper. It will really help you remember what worked and what’s for next time. A simple recipe or cooking journal works great.

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