Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

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Susanhoo
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Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby Susanhoo » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:31 am

Howdy Friends!
I moved from MA to central Texas just over three years ago with hopes of honing my smoke skills, but I have instead experienced a Smoking Setback. :angryfire: Two years ago for my birthday my family pitched in to buy me a lovely Johnson offset smoker to replace my Weber Smoky Mountain smoker. They regret that decision every time I attemp to smoke, and now I'm on the verge of giving up. Pork butts have turned out fine (how can they not?), but I haven't made a brisket yet that I could serve to friends, and it's not kind to keep torturing my family. I've only bought Prime briskets (I get them at Costco), I trim them according to Aaron Franklin''s instructions in his video, and every time, they are bad. It's definitely a challenge to maintain a steady temp on my smoker (I'm sure it's due to something I'm doing wrong). I have seasoned post oak which sometimes starts to smolder, so my husband cut the pieces smaller and they burn better.. I get the unit good and hot and let the temp come down to between 225 and 250 and try to keep it around there. They NEVER seem to take the long time others report, often reading 200 or 205 degrees in just seven hours.
Yesterday was the final straw. I was out there every ten minutes adjusting the fire and the airflow to keep the needle RIGHT at 225. After seven hours (a15 pound brisket) the temp was 175, so I used the Texas crutch (I have no pride anymore) and wrapped it in foil. In an HOUR at 250 it was 205 inside so I moved it to rest in a cooler. Sliced it an hour later and it was again tough and hard to cut. Not Flaky and moist and falling apart, but embarrassing and dense and tough in the flat - just like it turns out Every. Single. Time. My husband's disappointed because I'm sure I've spent $700 on briskets, and they spent like $2500 on the smoker, and I can't make edible meals on it. My kids don't even like to eat ribs anymore. :shock:
Any clues to what I might be doing wrong?
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FAT
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby FAT » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:36 am

How are you measuring the temperature?

Will I find a picture of your specific Johnson smoker on the internet?

Are you building a large fire, creating, a coal bed, about two hours in advance?

What are your ventilation techniques?
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby Susanhoo » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:40 am

http://www.johnsonsmokers.com/ultimate-compact-patio/

I use the gauge on the smoker to gauge the smoker temp, and a probe thermometer to read the brisket internal temp. Yes I started the fire yesterday at 7:20 and put the brisket on at 9:05.
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bsooner75
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby bsooner75 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:57 am

Hey thanks for reaching out here hopefully as a group we can help you through it.

First - Johnson makes a quality smoker. Have you reached out to Chad for advice? I do not own one of his but he was very accommodating with my questions when I was looking.

2nd - get you something to measure the temps at grate level. Either an oven thermometer or a digital that will attach to the grate. I use a maverick ET-733 but there are many options. It could be that your pit thermometer needs to be calibrated.

I’m sure other members will chime in soon and if I think of anything else I’ll add it as well.

Good luck!


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Sailor Kenshin
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby Sailor Kenshin » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:04 am

Welcome aboard...and I hope you still have that WSM?
Moink!
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby JustinCouch » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:10 am

I feel your pain. I got an offset a couple of months ago and my q has sucked! I'm not going to give up though. I look forward to hearing more. Remember our marine friends and adapt and overcome.
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FAT
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby FAT » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:11 am

I would compare numerous gauge readings to a digital probe reading at various locations. Then you would know your real chamber temperature.


Cooking with wood requires some experimenting with variables; wood size, age, fire ventilation.

I have learned with my current smoker that adding split oak, in pieces about the size of my foot work great at maintaining even temperature. Note that the oak I am currently using is cut from 5 year old 24" large splits, cut and re-split

I am no expert, but have recently been learning to use a new smoker after using a completely different one for 13 years. The learning has been more intensive than expected.

Hang in there.
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby Susanhoo » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:17 am

So do y'all mean to just take the probe from my remote probe thermometer and just put it on the grate, not in the brisket, to measure the temp? I've never done that but the probe will give a temp even if it's not stabbed into anything? I sound dumb as a rock, I know.
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FAT
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby FAT » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:22 am

I would have had much confusion had I not known real grate level temperature.

Elevate your probe using a miniature stand made from wire or sheet metal.

I expect you to find a 20-40 degree difference to your gauges.
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Chasdev
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby Chasdev » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:03 am

My two cents is that tough brisket is, in almost all cases, under cooked but having said that, the flat is always tougher to chew than the point so if your point end/s are coming out great then don't be surprised if the flats are dryer.
The cook grate temps will vary along the length of the cooker with the hot end closest to the fire so do a test burn and take readings every foot or so along the cook grate to see where the "sweet spot" is in your smoker.
Lastly, I'm not a big fan of Costo prime packers, I prefer choice grade from HEB, the primes just have too much fat in the point, it can get hard to eat with all the fat in there.
I've also had good results with Walmart choice packers and they have been running under $2.00 a lb.
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txsmkmstr
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby txsmkmstr » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:26 am

As others have pointed out - actual grate temperature is critical but in my opinion - only for comparisons between cooks. If you don't have a stand for the temp probe you can cut a lemon, orange or potato in half and run the probe thru that - make sure the end of the probe is hitting air. The flat part of the veggie/fruit lays perfectly on the grate.

Now, there's nothing magical about 225*. I'd stop shooting for that temp and get the actual grate temp up toward 250*. Yes, your briskets are cooking faster than what I expect, however there's also nothing magical about 200*-205* as it relates to being "done". If you're not familiar with "probe tender" or not checking for that then the chances of success will go up once you do. Some briskets aren't "done" until 215* - or where the temp probe slides into the thickest part of the flat with relative ease. Some equate this with the resistance of a probe going into warm butter - I prefer the resistance of going into a ripe avocado. It's a feel sort of thing but again - I don't base things on time and temperature alone.

I don't have much experience with "prime" briskets but have read they often get upward of 210* before they become tender due to the marbling.

Fiddling with the fire every ten minutes is usually because the pit's not running in it's sweet spot. Every pit is different. Trying to run a pit that burns clean and easy at 260* will drive you nuts trying to run it at 225*. Again, bump up the temps and see if the pit is easier to cook on then learn to cook at that temperature.

Best of luck to you - please don't give up and remember that brisket is a challenging cut of meat for most.

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bsooner75
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby bsooner75 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:28 am

There is a clip that holds the probe just above the grate. I’ll see if I can find a pic or I’ll take one of mine for you later.

I cook Costco prime almost exclusively and the only problem I’ve had was the price when it hit $3.99 :)


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bsooner75
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby bsooner75 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:29 am

Found a pic Image


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bsooner75
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby bsooner75 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:31 am

One last addition. Are you slicing across the grain? A perfectly cooked brisket can be ruined when you cut the wrong direction? Sorry if this sounds like 101…just covering all the bases.


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woodenvisions
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Re: Moved from charcoal to wood, lost my mojo

Postby woodenvisions » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:31 am

Never think that you sound dumb as a rock, on here we all ask questions and there's never a dumb one ok ? :):)

I can't offer you advice regarding your particular smoker, but I can in fact tell you that purchasing a ( dual probe ) temp thermometer will be one of your best investments yet.

The one probe has a clip that clips on to your actual grate and that will give you proper cooking surface temps. The other will go directly into your Brisket. The ET 733 meantioned above is imho a GREAT product, and u can find one for about 60 $ I believe.
It's also remote, so u can set target temps for both probes and keep the receiver on u no matter where you go in ur house limited to distance but I've been over 100 ft away from the transmitter and it's been flawless.

As for long cooking times, every Brisket is different. IE, I did a baby Brisket yesterday morning. Went on at 4:30/45 am at 250 and didn't get ( probe tender ) till 6:30 last night ( grrr ). Internal temp was 205, let rest for 3 hrs wrapped tight in a towel and by 9:30 last night, everyone already ate and had left by then.
Briskets are funny, I had expected this baby 6 lb to be finished by 1 or 2 pm, but NOPE...

So don't give up yet. I'm thinking your actual cooking temps were way higher than what you think and resting only 1 hr might be a problem as well. Also, I have yet to see a ( stock ) gauge to be accurate so definitely consider a dual probe thermometer.
Look at it this way, you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a piece of meat and gamble on it with a stock gauge thats really not very accurate for ur grate temps. Don't feel bad, we've all, or most of us have chased temps as well.
Don't give up, keep ur chin up :)
Last edited by woodenvisions on Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:38 am, edited 2 times in total.

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