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Dono

Smoke Struggles

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I traded in my stick burner for a BB32 and I absolutely love it.  But I struggle to get a decent amount of smoke flavor.  My most recent cook was a brisket and I was experimenting with a higher temp cook; 320.  I used several pieces of pecan and 3 pieces of post oak.  About 7 or so pieces all about the size of a guys fist buried in a full basket of charcoal.  And I also put some post oak in my small smoking pot on top of the charcoal, holes down.  I got a decent bark and smoke ring and the brisket was super juicy, but the smoke flavor wasn’t quite there.  Apologies no pictures.  The same thing happened to my pork butt and the beef and pork ribs too.  Those cooks were lower temp about 275 or so.  I feel like my chicken is about right, cause it really doesn’t take to much smoke on the birds.  Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on how to amp up the smoke taste?  I mean, I don’t want it to overwhelm, just be a little more aggressive. 

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Hi Dono,

I've had HEAPS of smoke with the few low/slow cooking sessions I've had with my KK.

My first brisket was cooked with a handful or two of mesquite pellets in a simple foil pack with a few holes stabbed into it... so much smoke that I was worried the neighbours would call the fire-brigade, and got told off by the wife as even with all windows shut the house was smokey inside...(photo below).

More recently ribs done using the KK external smoker attachment again with pellets; also heaps of smoke.

After the epic smoke-fest that was the brisket, I toned things down when doing my pulled pork- and used a few wood chunks as you have done; with a more subtle smoke profile (and happier wife).

I'm sure others will chime in- but there are options if you want to up the smoke!

Cheers

Remi

9432aed6-b445-49d3-8dc1-7e2125622b31.jpg

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On your longer cooks, like ribs, butts and brisket, you can try spraying them periodically with apple juice/cider vinegar/water/bourbon/beer - whatever strikes your fancy. Smoke likes a damp surface to stick to, so by lightly spritzing the meat during the cook after the bark sets (several hours in), say every 30 mins to an hour, you will pick up some more smoke flavor. Just be careful and don't overdo the spraying each time, as you don't want to wash off that lovely bark that you've worked so hard to create. 

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I've had the same issue with the last few butts I smoked - very tender and moist with a great smoked ring but very little smoke flavor. I actually smoked one last week in the KK but didn't post pics because I was so aggravated with the lack of smoke flavor. I've cooked ribs and beef that had a nice smoke flavor, but they were relatively short cooks (4 to 6 hours vs. 12 to 16 hours for the butts)

I've tried both with and without using a smoke pot as well as using a heavy rub and a light dusting of SPG. I've had success in the past;  the only thing I can think of is where I bought the butts - I've been taking my mother to the grocery store and, since she doesn't like my preferred store and I don't like her preferred store, we've been going to a compromise store that has a different brand of pork products. The labels on at least some of the butts from this store have had a blurb indicating that they may have been injected with a brine solution - I'm wondering if that is at least part of the issue.

I've ordered the KK cold smoker;  its scheduled for delivery Monday and will use that for my next attempt. The compromise grocery store had butts on sale for $0.99/lb and I couldn't resist that price and bought the limit of 2. 

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11 minutes ago, jeffshoaf said:

The compromise grocery store had butts on sale for $0.99/lb and I couldn't resist that price and bought the limit of 2. 

That's an excellent price. Meat prices have gone crazy the last couple of months, so I'm always on the lookout for a good bargain, even if I have to drop down a bit in quality over my usual brands/grades. 

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On 10/1/2021 at 10:58 AM, jeffshoaf said:

I've ordered the KK cold smoker;  its scheduled for delivery Monday and will use that for my next attempt. The compromise grocery store had butts on sale for $0.99/lb and I couldn't resist that price and bought the limit of 2. 

I have been thinking about doing the same @jeffshoaf.  Thought before I do, I’ll play around with it a little more.  If my experience had not been so consistent over several different types of cooks, I might question the meat as well.  But my purchases have been from multiple places.  My next test is going to be the mesquite that @mguerra recommended and the spraying that @tony b recommended.  I rarely used mesquite in the off-set because it was such an assertive flavor.   I salt brine stuff now, where I did not in the past.  So I may ease up on that and go back to the old way of seasoning.  Right before the cook.  I’m also questioning if the kiln dried wood chunks are the culprit.  I never used those before my KK.  

The last thought….I have noticed that using to many wood chunks definitely causes flare ups and makes the temp harder to control.  It’s all good, just making my way through it.  Thanks for your thoughts!  

I would appreciate knowing how your cold smoker works out for you.  

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14 hours ago, Dono said:

I would appreciate knowing how your cold smoker works out for you.  

The cold smoker was delivered yesterday and I'm planning on using it Saturday with a spatchcocked chicken. Since the chicken is a relatively short, cook, I can monitor the cold smoker pretty closely for that -- I tend to put butts in the KK around 8 or 9 pm and let then go overnight and I wouldn't be able to sleep worrying about the cold smoker if that was my first use!

I picked up some apple chips for the chicken but will used hickory for the butt. 

Edited by jeffshoaf
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12 hours ago, Dono said:

Appreciate the “cold” advice @DennisLinkletter and @jeffshoaf.  I do tend to take my meat out about an hour or more before going on the grill. Will try it out on the next cook.  

I think letting meat come to room temperature before cooking is one of those things that everyone "knows" that has been passed down for years without question that just isn't valid, like searing sealing in the meat juices. Every thing I've seen where someone actually tests it by comparing a room temperature cut to a refrigerator temperature cut cooked the same way at the same time has shown no advantage to tempering. Even some of the folks who are obsessive over food safety don't question the tempering thing.

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As documented in other threads, I did an overnight Boston butt smoke last night and made the adjustments listed below; I got a bit more smoke flavor this round but still not as much as I'm looking for. I really made too many changes at the same time but I couldn't stop myself.

  • I've been applying rub hours beforehand, similar to a dry brine. Thinking about Dennis's reminder about smoke liking surface moisture, I thought maybe all the salt in the rub was acting like a dry brine, initially drawing moisture out of the meat but then both the salt and moisture drawing back into the meat potentially leaving the meat surface dry, so I left the butt in the fridge until just before putting it on the KK and then sprinkling salt, pepper, and garlic powder liberally over the surface of the butt. I used significantly less than my norm.
  • I had several larger chunks of hickory left over from another cook so I buried them under the B&B lump;  these had been heated and charred during the previous use.
  • I had grilled a steak and some greens on my Weber kettle after lighting the KK, so I put hickory chunks and chips in the snuffed kettle to preheat and dry out a bit while heat soaking the KK;  the chips were in a metal basket. My plan was to use a mixture of chips and chunks with the hope that the chips would help getting things burning and provide good initial smoke with the chunks providing more long term smoke.
  • I intended to cook in the vicinity of 225*, but it snuck up to around 250* while I was messing with my steak, as measured with an old Maverick thermometer with the probe near the center of the grate. 
  • I mentioned in an earlier post that I thought my last few un-smoky butts had been brine injected; I bought this one at the same grocery store but it's a different brand and I couldn't find any mention of injecting on the labeling. And it was on sale for 99¢/lb!

I loaded the bottom of the cold smoker with the heated chips and used a paraffin cube to get it lit, filled the cold smoker with chunks, and then filled the various with more chips. I then prepared the butt as mentioned above, inserted a couple of Meater probes, and put it in the KK about 8:15 pm;  there was plenty of clean smoke inside. The cold smoker was pumping out smoke so I stuck it in the Guru port. There was a steady stream of smoke exiting the top of the KK.

I checked things around 9 pm. I still had a good amount of smoke exiting the KK, but I couldn't see any glow inside the cold smoker thru the side holes. I pulled the cold smoker out and it had gone out. It looked like one of the chunks had gotten wedged in and hadn't fallen so I unlodged it and re-lit. After confirming that it was burning and pumping smoke, I inserted it back in the Guru port. Meater and Maverick both confirmed the inside temp was still at 250.

Around 9:30, I checked again and found the cold smoker had pivoted around it's output tube and was almost upside down and it had gone out. I tightened everything up, re-lit, and reinserted after verifying that it was pumping smoke. Meater and Maverick both confirmed the inside temp was still at 250.

Checked things a bit after 10 pm;  smoke still rolling but the cold smoker was out again, so I dumped everything out it and refilled about 2/3  full of chips then topped with a couple of small chunks. Re-lit and waited a bit to verify burn, reinserted in the KK. After a few minutes, I pulled it back out to verify it was still burning; it was, so I put it back in. Meater and Maverick both confirmed the inside temp was still at 250, so I prepared for bed.

A Meater alert woke me around 4:30 am to let me know the butt was almost done. I pulled, foiled, and cooler-ized the butt at 201-202*. Maverick confirmed the inside temp was still at 250 when I pulled the butt. I unplugged the cold smoker pump, fed the cat, and went back to bed. Looking at the Meater graph, it looks like the butt never stalled so I ended up with an 8.25  hour cook instead of the expected 12 hour cook.

When I checked the cold smoker after breakfast, the chips had mostly burnt but a couple of the chunks were lodged near the top.

I shredded the butt at lunch (about a 7 hour rest) and ate a bit. There wasn't much of a smoke ring even though I'd had plenty of smoke each time I checked. It was very tender and moist but only had a little smoke flavor. It does need salting so I'll do that at dinner; I think the salt will bring out a bit more of the smoke flavor but I'm not expecting it to be where I want.

So... I have another butt in the freezer.  Before smoking it, I need to experiment more with the cold smoker. I've read a lot of the cold smoker threads and see that most folks are having the best luck with using good quality pellets and Dennis primarily using small chunks. My earlier use with chips had made me hopeful that the chips and chunks plan would work well but it didn't. I'm thinking I'll try cold smoking some of my Lexington-style sauce (mostly vinegar and ketchup) to give me more smoke flavor on this butt since I'll be eating it for 3 or 4 more days. Might even try cold smoking a serving or two of this butt to see how that goes. I'll have to get some pellets to play with as well. The next round may involve some spritzing as well...

If you've made it this far through this post, thanks for your patience and perseverance; I appreciate any input you have on this. I find it very frustrating since I've been successful with everything else I've smoked, even pork ribs, and good smoked pork Boston butt is one of my favorite things!

Edited by jeffshoaf
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Since I've had success getting ribs good and smokey-tasting, I wonder if the length of the cook is playing some part? Might need to try a hot and fast butt to see if that makes a difference. Start the fire around 8 am, 2 hour preheat/soak, 4-5  hours at 350*,  and an hour or so to rest should work and doing it during the day would allow monitoring/refilling the cold smoker and do some spritzing.

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The only 2 cents I can add is that you may be right about the kiln dried chunks. I know that was the case with some cooking I did. I solved the problem by locating firewood guys in my area who sold hickory and/or cherry. Cherry was 90 miles away but I got a rick of it for $100. Hickory was in the opposite direction and was $120 for a rick.

For those that don't know,  a rick is 4 feet high, 2 feet wide and 8 feet long. Also called a half cord. The difference is amazing. Stick burners need some fairly "cured" wood at around 12% moisture or less. But the KK is perfectly happy with juicier wood. I've use some with 20% moisture with zero problems. If you're wondering what you'd do with that much wood, friends, family and neighbors will happily take some.  I use an electric splitter and then either a chop saw/miter saw or a bandsaw to get them into chunks. Oak is a common firewood and makes a great smelling smoke too. I don't know where you live but I'd be more than happy to share some of my stash to let you try it out. I'm in Louisiana.

On a side note, since I didn't order one, are you convinced  the cold smoker would hum along with wood chips and not chunks? How long do you think is would last full of chips?

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I've only used my cold smoker with pellets- 7hr 300F for some beef ribs, checked occasionally and never went out; burnt all the pellets all the way through. Have heard others report that it works best with pellets compared with chips or chunks.

Also- as mentioned, simple foil packet with pellets almost evacuated my neighbourhood- so there is always that.

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10 hours ago, Poochie said:

The only 2 cents I can add is that you may be right about the kiln dried chunks. I know that was the case with some cooking I did. I solved the problem by locating firewood guys in my area who sold hickory and/or cherry. Cherry was 90 miles away but I got a rick of it for $100. Hickory was in the opposite direction and was $120 for a rick.

For those that don't know,  a rick is 4 feet high, 2 feet wide and 8 feet long. Also called a half cord. The difference is amazing. Stick burners need some fairly "cured" wood at around 12% moisture or less. But the KK is perfectly happy with juicier wood. I've use some with 20% moisture with zero problems. If you're wondering what you'd do with that much wood, friends, family and neighbors will happily take some.  I use an electric splitter and then either a chop saw/miter saw or a bandsaw to get them into chunks. Oak is a common firewood and makes a great smelling smoke too. I don't know where you live but I'd be more than happy to share some of my stash to let you try it out. I'm in Louisiana.

On a side note, since I didn't order one, are you convinced  the cold smoker would hum along with wood chips and not chunks? How long do you think is would last full of chips?

Thanks, but I'm I'm NC. I've used hickory chunks from the same bag on ribs, pecan chunks for turkey, and mesquite chunks for beef, all with good results with and without using a smoke pot. I've used mesquite chips in a smoke pot with beef with good results. My first run with the cold smoker was with apple wood chips and got over an hour's worth of smoke with the cold smoker about 2/3 full. The only thing I'm having trouble with is Boston butts.

I got a big Santa Maria-style grill earlier this year and bought a 1/2 cord of kiln dried oak since I couldn't find any seasoned wood;  I've gotten a nice touch of mild smoke flavor on everything I've grilled with it but it's hard to say how much of the mildness is from the wood bring kiln dried and how much is from the open nature of the grill.

I got enough of splitting wood when I was growing up and we had a wood furnace, plus my back is shot. I'll split wood splits into smaller splits for kindling now but I'm certainly not going to split a 1/2  cord! ;-)

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Per my earlier post, I'm experimenting with the cold smoker a bit. Loaded him up with more of the hickory chips from my earlier butt smoke, removed the charcoal basket from the KK, and I'm resmoking some of the pulled pork as well as some of my Lexington style sauce. Smoke is a-rolling!

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