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Smoke Struggles

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28 minutes ago, Poochie said:

You missed the “electric wood splitter” part of my post. This thing is almost fun to use. Made by Wen and called the lumberjack. 

 

Still gotta lift the wood up there! Repetitive lifting ain't good for me. I have a kindling cracker to split my splits; I sit in a chair and pivot around to take a piece off the track and put it on the cracker.

Is that chain drive or hydraulic or ?

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I let my re-smoking session go for an hour or so, burned less than half the chips in the cold smoker. After I'd shut it down, I realized something that had been nagging at me: while I had good smoke output the whole run, it didn't smell like hickory smoke. That makes me question whether it really was hickory chips;  it was Cowboy brand. I have up on Cowboy lump years ago due to qualify and consistency issues and wouldn't have got this butt it was the only brand of "hickory" chips they had and I was too lazy to go anywhere else. The smoke smell didn't remind me of any particular wood smoke (I can usually recognize several types, hickory, mesquite, pecan, oak, etc.), not unpleasant but not really flavorful either.

Anyway, the meat did pick up a bit more smoke flavor but not the hickory I was looking for, but the sauce was noticably better than before - it really smoothed and mellowed out. Lexington style sauce (commonly referred to as "dip")  generally isn't cooked so I tend to wait until the last moment to make it, but this may lead my to make it earlier so I can smoke it!

I'm hoping to continue to experiment tomorrow assuming my back doesn't rebel on me when I do some required chores in the morning. I'm leaning towards using the hickory chunks I have in the cold smoker;  this will let me see how the chunks do in the cold smoker as well as verifying the hickory smoke smell/taste.  I'll re-smoke some more of the butt as well as smoking the rest of the sauce I have ready.

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When smoking meats, I’ve read the the billowing smoke talked about in earlier posts is not what you want to smoke with. You want light clean blue smoke.   In a stick burner, you are adding wood to hot embers which produces some billowy smoke initially but settles to a blue smoke quickly. Is anyone using smoke tubes, throwing wood chunks on the top of the charcoal instead of underneath, or using wood logs in their KK in a manner like a true stick burner or something close?  I put wood chunks under the coals and my Boston Butts had very little smoke flavor.  However, I did throw chunks on top of an established fire doing a reverse sear, got the nice blue smoke and had fantastic wood smoke taste on 3 in NY Strips.  Has others tried this on long cooks?

 

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1 hour ago, Poochie said:

I'm curious to see how those chunks will burn in the cold smoker.  Don't forget to keep the butt moist so the smoke sticks to it. 

I dropped in a paraffin cube and dropped in a few chunks that were relativity long and narrow; I thought those had less chance of twisting and getting hung up in the cold smoker. Lit the parrafin via the side hole, waited until I was sure it was burning good, then topped off with more chunks and capped the cold smoker. I put  the rest of the refrigerated pulled pork in the wire basket I used for the previous test with chips, spritzed with apple juice, stirred, re-spritzed, and put in the KK with another dish of sauce. The cold smoker was pumping out smoke but at least volume than what I was getting with chips, so I inserted it into the guru port.

I left it going for an hour, checking every 15  minutes and spritzing twice more. While I got less smoke from the chunks than I did chips, the KK was full of smoke each time I checked. There was only a small change in the level of chunks in the cold smoker.  The smoke was clean but it didn't really smell like hickory to me;  the chunks do look like hickory. I've had a cold with sinus congestion so maybe my smeller is off...

The butt did pick up some more smoke flavor but still not up to the level I'm looking for;  the smoked sauce was affected similarly to my previous test. Maybe my taster is off along with my smeller.

It looked like very little of the hickory chunks were consumed;  several pieces were charred and there was very little ash in the bottom of the cold smoker. I wish I had weighed the chunks before and after but I didn't think of it until after. Based on this, I'd say a full load of chunks would last for an overnight session as long as they don't get jammed up and the smoldering fire keeps catching subsequent chunks. As mentioned above, I didn't get the volume of smoke from the chunks as I did the chips but as long as the KK is full of smoke, I don't see that it matters.

My conclusions from these tests:

  • Chips work in the cold smoker and put out lots of smoke
  • Small chunks work in the cold smoker and put out plenty of smoke
  • Combining chips and chunks didn't work well due to the chips binding up the chunks
  • Twice-smoked pork can be a thing
  • Cold smoking does good things to my Lexington-style sauce
  • I still haven't found the solution to my butts not picking up as much smoke flavor as I'd like

To twist the knife on that last point, the foil that I wrapped the butt in for resting ended up with more smoke smell than the butt did -- I emptied the trash can that held the used foil this morning and it still smelled very strongly of smoke. I've smelled it every time i passed by the trash can (so my smeller is working!). That being said, I'm happy with the cold smoker and, as shown in my other postings, I'm excited with finding additional uses for it.

Anyway, I have another butt in the freezer. I'll wait a few weeks (of more) and try again; unless something changes my mind, my plan for it is to do a relatively hot and fast smoke with it (350*-ish), use the cold smoker for smoke with just lump in the charcoal basket, and spritz the butt. I'll probably go with a heavier rub with more ingredients as well. I'll try to remember to weigh the chunks or chips or pellets before and after the cook as well.

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It's not the moisture but the temp of the meat that helps with condensation.. After about 145º it's not getting anymore smoke.  Another problem can be if you are seasoning heavily and very little of the surface is exposed.. For some reason the best smoke  rings happen if you don't open the grill during the first 4-5 hours.

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On 10/20/2021 at 12:42 PM, tony b said:

You really should give wood pellets a try in the cold smoker - over chips & chunks. 

I'm planning on picking some B&B pellets up today unless my back gets too complainy - weather changes are hard on my old joints and bones. Thinking I'll get a bag of hickory for pork and maybe a bag of mesquite for beef. Looks like B&B uses an oak base for all their pellets but so does the brand you recommended, and B&B is available locally at Academy Sports. 

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On 10/20/2021 at 12:42 PM, tony b said:

You really should give wood pellets a try in the cold smoker - over chips & chunks. 

As posted in the Misc. Cooks thread, I used the B&B hickory pellets in the cold smoker on a pork loin cook. This was a relatively fast cook (1 hour @ 325*); smoke pumped out the whole time and the loin has a nice smokey flavor. I had filled the cold smoker almost to its top;  I'm sure there is plenty left in the cold smoker but I was hungry and a storm was rolling in so I didn't verify.

After testing chips, chunks, and pellets, I agree that pellets seem to work best and they're definitely cheap - 20 lbs for $10 at academy sports.

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On 10/25/2021 at 5:10 PM, jeffshoaf said:

After testing chips, chunks, and pellets, I agree that pellets seem to work best and they're definitely cheap - 20 lbs for $10 at academy sports.

Sounds like you worked through it and there is some experience in your comment @jeffshoaf.  And I think it is no coincidence that @tony b recommended pellets over chunks or chips as well. So I’m not questioning either result or your experiences but instead contemplating why.  

I have no experience with pellet smokers, but have a couple of friends and a son in law that have them.  The number one comment I’ve heard is that the finished product on a pellet grill just doesn’t taste like they expected it to. Not quoting him, but I follow Smoking Dad BBQ and I seem to recall James saying something similar as well.  He was doing a side-by-side comparison to a Kamado style cooker.  So I’m curious why the pellets produce such superior results in the cold smoker but not so much in the pellet smokers?  Maybe it’s because they don’t generate the same amount of heat that a pellet grill does?   The added heat may burn to much of the good stuff off?  Just curious.  

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The biggest difference between the KK with cold smoker and the pellet grill is that you're not relying upon the pellets in the cold smoker to be the heat source in the KK. It's just to add smoke flavor. If you're doing a "hot smoke" then you have a fire going in the charcoal basket in the KK. If you're "cold smoking" then you don't want the heat anyway. Apples & Oranges in my book. YMMV

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I did my hot and fast pork butt yesterday;  the uncooked butt was 9.5 lbs. I used B&B hickory pellets in both the cold smoker and the small MSR smoke pot. The smoke pot was buried in a mixture of B&B oak and hickory lump. After preheating for about an hour, I had lots of good smoke even before starting up the cold smoker. I took the butt out of the fridge, removed the cryovac, rinsed it off, and applied rub on the top and bottom;  left the sides bare so I could compare smoke penetration on the rubbed vs. Non-rubbed surfaces. I took the butt directly out and put it in the KK, then stuck the smoking cold smoker in the guru port.

The KK grate level temp was in the 350° range for the whole cook with some variation due to wind changes. Butt internal temp hit 205° in about 5.5  hours; I had lots of smoke for the entire cook. There was no stall (my previous butt was bought at the same time and it didn't stall either). I put the butt in a Pyrex dish, loosely foiled, and let it rest in the oven for an hour with the oven set on "warm" for about an hour, then pulled and dig in.

Results: The bone slid right out and the meat pulled easily. It was moist and tender but not as quite as tender as my usual low and slow cook - can't say if that was the result of the hot and fast or this particular butt or some combination. The was a decent smoke ring but not quite as deep and pronounced as I usually get with low and slow cooks. I didn't see any difference in the smoke ring between the rubbed and un-rubbed surfaces but the rubbed sections did have a better bark. Once again, very little smoke flavor.

I'll post picks in the misc. cooks thread.

I did not spritz butt the meat was very close to fridge temp.

As I've mentioned before, I'm only having this issue with pork butts;  I'm getting good smoke flavor on beef, pork ribs, and pork loins, just not butts. I appreciate everyone's input on this here and in other threads but it all seems to be around generating smoke and general suggestions and I don't remember seeing any of those posts specifically talking about pork butts...

So, is anyone getting a good, strong clean smoke flavor in pork butts out shoulders?

Thanks!

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7 hours ago, jeffshoaf said:

I did my hot and fast pork butt yesterday;  the uncooked butt was 9.5 lbs.

!

Update after having leftovers tonight:  After a quick reheat via microwave, the butt has a nice light smoke flavor but still not what I expect or want on my butts, so some improvement over previous attempts but still much lighter than i want.

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I don't get it, Jeff.  Like I said earlier, you may want to try cutting the money muscle out and having double the smoke surface. Other than that, the only thing I can think of it that the higher the temperature, the less smoke wood chunks will produce. A 9.5 pound butt in 5 and a half hours is pretty quick. I know you've tried low and slow before. Maybe the real geniuses on here can come up with a solution...I'm tapped out on suggestions. 

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I have to agree with Jeff here after doing the butts yesterday. I love the texture of my pork butts that I did yesterday on the kk. No need to wrap them and they end up with amazing bark and fall apart like crazy when done. But I have to say I can get better smoke flavor on my egg (so far). I am sure I will learn how to get more but right now I am with Jeff. Anyway I used the cold smoker with hickory wood pellets. Got a lot of smoke flavor in the Al pastor. Not as much in the butts. But I loved the cook. Overall super happy with the kk results.


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4 hours ago, tony b said:

Again, my suggestion is to spritz the butts hourly. The Al Pastor was wet, so it absorbed more smoke. My theory anyway. 

I'll try to try that some time but I was trying to limit the changes per cook in some semblance of a reasonable test. Since I've had good smoke flavor on other stuff and most of the other stuff gets done in 5 hours or less, I had high hopes that a hot and fast butt was the answer. Maybe it's due to fat content since butts are the fattiest thing I smoke;  I've been wanting to do a beef chuck roast so I could compare since chuck is usually pretty fatty.

If I spritz, it'll most certainly be a hot and fast cook since I'm not willing to stay up all night! This was one of the drivers for my thread on sous vide-like smoking - if I could put a butt on around 5 pm at 180°, I could spritz it hourly until 11 pm or so and then let it roll all night, then crank it up after breakfast to 225° to finish it up.

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