Learning to Cook with Wood

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Photo Courtesy of Wyler Studios

For Father’s Day I decided to make two beer can chickens and a brisket. I’m still getting used to cooking with wood in the smoker. I have read that each offset smoker is different and you have to get a few cooks in before discovering that sweet spot to maintain a consistent temperature. I finally found the sweet spot on my offset smoker and it came at the expense of a slightly dry brisket in the end. The chicken turned out tender and juicy, but the brisket could have been handled a little bit better in my opinion. Here are the things I discovered and hopefully it will help others that read this article.

The biggest thing I learned in this second cook on my offset smoker was that I didn’t give myself enough time for the smoker to come down to temperature before putting the brisket on. I put the brisket on when the smoker was still reading at 325 degrees, which I know better, but I was in a bit of a hurry to get the cook started so we could eat on time. I always cooked on my electric smoker between 225 and 250 and that is where the temperature should have been before I placed the brisket on.

Also, I placed the brisket a little too close to the location where the heat travels from the side fire box. I eventually moved it, but I think at that time it was a little too late. Especially since the brisket was only about 5 pounds. One of the things I did do right was get that nice smoke ring that everyone aims for. In the end the brisket tasted fine, but it needed a little sauce to moisten it a little and that should have never happened.

I think the most successful and positive thing that came out of the second cook was that I found that sweet spot on the smoke stack and the damper to keep that temp at 225 for long periods of time. I used less hickory wood and only had to add a log every hour or so. I also decided to add a digital thermometer at grate level so I could get an accurate temperature to gage how hot the internal temperature was where the meat was cooking. That is going to come in handy as I continue to cook over the summer.

This upcoming Friday I will be cooking two 8 pound pork butts and four beer can chickens in the smoker for my son’s second birthday party. I’m going to take the lessons I learned in this second cook to up my game in this third cook for the party, which will serve about 30 people.

Do you have a dish you would like to have featured? Contact me. I’d love to hear from you!

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