I woke up at 6:00 AM this morning to prepare and smoke 2 Boston Pork Butts for a 4th of July BBQ my family and I are going to later at my brother-in-law’s house. I’m on my third cup of coffee and the meat is cooking low and slow between 225 and 230 degrees. In about 9 hours my pork butts should be ready and I will let them rest while I make the 30 minute drive over to the party.
This is my 7th cook on the offset smoker cooking with wood and I have to say that I am so glad I finally have my fire management down. Looking back on the first 3 to 4 cooks I am realized that I was too quick to put another log in the side fire box and I eyed the temperature gauge like a hawk. I did some research and found that I just need to relax a little more, and like cooking the meat, give the wood time to do what it does best. The 5th cook in I followed that advice and sure enough I was able to get the fire management down.
With that said, you definitely need to keep an eye on the fire. I usually check mine every 40 minutes and I find between that time up to an hour it is best to add another log if needed. I don’t let my temperature dip down past 223 degrees. I also will say that the size and density of the log is a factor too when adding more fuel to the fire. I’ve learned you want to start off with a bigger piece of wood to get the fire going and then add in the smaller pieces as the cook goes on to maintain your target temperature. I also use a charcoal base to get the fire going, and I have been adding a few briquets to the offset smoker while the charcoal fires up in the chimney. I find it gives me a little bit more heat to play with and allows time for the ash from my wood base to form.
I also have a really great day for smoking too. There is not much wind right now. That might change throughout the day, so I will account for that by closing down the damper on the fire box if I need to.
The biggest advice I can give as I continue my journey of cooking with wood is that you have to apply low and slow to your fire management like you do with the meat your cooking.