Home & Garden

New to smoking questions about charcoal?

  • Last Updated:
  • May 6th, 2021 2:44 pm
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 15, 2017
135 posts
12 upvotes

New to smoking questions about charcoal?

Hey guys,

I just got my new smoker and am now trying to learn how to use it. Yesterday did not go well when I tried ribs, so now my plan is to just light charcoal and wood in an attempt to maintain temperature and try to get consistent thin blue smoke. The problem is that I'm going through a lot of charcoal and at this rate it's going to be expensive.

So I'm just wondering where/what the best deal is on acceptable charcoal? Because from what I've read, some charcoal is not worth buying, between how fast they burn and how inconsistent.

Thanks for any tips
27 replies
Deal Addict
Apr 10, 2017
2010 posts
1107 upvotes
It takes a TON of practice and wasted meat to get "it". And no it doesnt take a lot of charcoal as there are tons of factors that go with it (wind, if you have the vents opened or close, how much charcoal you put, etc)

Theres a ton of grilling groups on FB . Those 'mericans dont play at all. You may come across a dbag once in a while but most are nice and helpful.
Member
May 1, 2007
349 posts
152 upvotes
Toronto
What type of smoker do you have? That will help us help you.
Sr. Member
Jun 1, 2010
790 posts
224 upvotes
Greg8642 wrote: Hey guys,

I just got my new smoker and am now trying to learn how to use it. Yesterday did not go well when I tried ribs, so now my plan is to just light charcoal and wood in an attempt to maintain temperature and try to get consistent thin blue smoke. The problem is that I'm going through a lot of charcoal and at this rate it's going to be expensive.

So I'm just wondering where/what the best deal is on acceptable charcoal? Because from what I've read, some charcoal is not worth buying, between how fast they burn and how inconsistent.

Thanks for any tips
I get what you are going through. Would you consider a pellet smoker like a Green Mountain Grill?
TY
Craig
See our 2021 RFD Trane AC Group Buy
group-buy-gta-ottawa-2021-central-ac-gr ... e-2449494/
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 15, 2017
135 posts
12 upvotes
Biscayne05 wrote: It takes a TON of practice and wasted meat to get "it". And no it doesnt take a lot of charcoal as there are tons of factors that go with it (wind, if you have the vents opened or close, how much charcoal you put, etc)

Theres a ton of grilling groups on FB . Those 'mericans dont play at all. You may come across a dbag once in a while but most are nice and helpful.
Thanks, maybe I'll take a look at those fb groups

rjp123 wrote: What type of smoker do you have? That will help us help you.
I built a drum dmoker using this kit.

https://www.bigpoppasmokers.com/big-pop ... smoker-kit

Thanks
fourseasoncomfort wrote: I get what you are going through. Would you consider a pellet smoker like a Green Mountain Grill?
TY
Craig
Well I just built this one. But maybe one day. Thanks
Deal Expert
Jan 27, 2006
17922 posts
10657 upvotes
Vancouver, BC
What you need is a smoker fan based controller like this - https://www.amazon.ca/Inkbird-ISC-007BW ... B08DNB1H8V. It works very well provided your smoker is sealed to prevent extra air from coming into the smoker.

If you are on a budget and handy, you may be able to make do with something like this - https://www.amazon.ca/Inkbird-Temperatu ... B01GZT2Y5I. Just add a fan and some way to connect it to the air intake of your smoker as well as a set of baffles that shut the air supply off when the fan isn't running.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 15, 2017
135 posts
12 upvotes
craftsman wrote: What you need is a smoker fan based controller like this - https://www.amazon.ca/Inkbird-ISC-007BW ... B08DNB1H8V. It works very well provided your smoker is sealed to prevent extra air from coming into the smoker.

If you are on a budget and handy, you may be able to make do with something like this - https://www.amazon.ca/Inkbird-Temperatu ... B01GZT2Y5I. Just add a fan and some way to connect it to the air intake of your smoker as well as a set of baffles that shut the air supply off when the fan isn't running.
Thanks but I'm not sure I'm up for that right yet. I haven't even had this thing a week yet. Maybe down the road, but for now I just want to figure out how to use it without any expensive gadgets. Thanks again
Deal Addict
Aug 5, 2008
1487 posts
757 upvotes
I have an 18" Weber smokey mountain and it's been a breeze to use. Last season was my first season and I've done a few briskets, pork butt, a bunch of chickens, lamb chops, a few beef tenderloins and a rib roast. Haven't done ribs yet...

There are different methods but it boils down to this:

- light a chimney full of charcoal until most of the coals are lit
- dump the lit charcoal on top of other charcoal at the base of the smoker and your choice of few chunks of smoking wood
- use vents to control temperature for the food you are making. Depending on the vent settings I can get anywhere from 200-350F.
- follow the recipe

Some people retrofit WSM with fans and automatic temperature control, but I find that it's very stable and requires minimal supervision. That being said... I am a bit OCD and don't mind checking every hour once or twice. But at the core... It's simple.

If you are struggling with the basics, the kit/config may be flawed...
There are 10 kinds of people in the world... Those who understand binary and those who don't 💡
Deal Addict
Nov 16, 2008
2354 posts
527 upvotes
Lots of help you can get here but first let us know what your setup is...brand, etc.
Member
Aug 22, 2012
207 posts
130 upvotes
Mark Town
For beginners you'd better to start with one having a water pan such as Webber Smoker Mountain. With water pan the temperature is very stable. Or get an offset smoker.
Jr. Member
Jan 12, 2009
104 posts
48 upvotes
Vaughan, ON
I would suggest you check out amazingribs.com

That website is great....it teaches you everything you need to know about how to bbq. Lots of detail there, but really all you need is lots of practice.

As for your question about charcoal....the best deal around used to be costco. They used to sell a 20lbs bag for $13.99. Now they sell a different brand named Cowboy (I think) for $16.99, but I don't like it. I've been happiest with Royal Oak (blue bag), which I buy from Canadian Tire for around $18.99. Smoking meat won't save you money, that's for sure :)
Newbie
Jan 30, 2020
14 posts
7 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
What exactly didn't go well. Was it undercooked? Did the meat dry out? Was the temperature too hot? not hot enough? You can smoke pretty much any meat in the 200F-250F range with good results.

For ribs typically I smoke them for 3 hours uncovered. Then wrap in foil with juice or beer for another 2 hours. Remove the foil, coat with BBQ sauce and cook another hour. These always turn out with a nice flavour and the meat will fall right off the bone.
Member
May 1, 2007
349 posts
152 upvotes
Toronto
Greg8642 wrote: I built a drum dmoker using this kit.
Cool! I hear these produce excellent cooks and great results! Once you get the hang of it you'll love it.

Re: charcoal - Royal Oak lump is good and you can sometimes find it on sale for $15/bag. Once you get the hang of the smoker it shouldn't use that much charcoal and you should be able to get fairly long cooks out of it. Fogo lump charcoal is premium and you might switch to that once you figure out optimal charcoal usage. Buy a bag of wood chunks (oak, sugar maple, etc) and toss it on your charcoal to add some flavor.

Personally - I use a Weber kettle for smokes and my preference is actually briquettes given the type of cooks I do. It's really up to your preference how to approach it.

Good luck and enjoy the barrel setup! Try the amazingribs forum as well - they are good people and you can learn a lot just be reading old posts - I can guarantee your are not the first person to have this challenge. :)
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 1, 2005
14293 posts
9059 upvotes
Markham
Smoking = low and slow.

>The drum is a good smoker.
> Do NOT keep opening the smoker lid. It takes a good 20-30 mins for temps to stabilize to what it is based on your venting. Opening the lid does two things 1) you let the heat that's in there escape which causes a instant drop in the temp 2) you those coals a big whiff of air which makes em hotter which means you think it's too hot so maybe you cut venting down. You'll be futzing around constantly if you open the lid because you're getting false readings...remember 30 min to know what temp you got.
> if you're going for a low and slow, you don't need to light too much charcoal at the beginning because you're adding a lot of heat and now you have to choke it down a bit by venting [remember it takes 20-30 min for venting to starting showing what it is]. Consider doing a Minion method [around 6 min mark on vid below] which is mound of coal and put on top a qty of lit coals on top.
> Are you using a water pan with it? A water pan will give you an easier smoke as it helps regulate temps...you don't have to really tend to it and you're going to get a 225F smoke.
> don't fret too much ....a little high a little low just changes how long things cook, it'll still work.

Watch Harry Soo's setup.
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 15, 2017
135 posts
12 upvotes
settons wrote: I would suggest you check out amazingribs.com

That website is great....it teaches you everything you need to know about how to bbq. Lots of detail there, but really all you need is lots of practice.

As for your question about charcoal....the best deal around used to be costco. They used to sell a 20lbs bag for $13.99. Now they sell a different brand named Cowboy (I think) for $16.99, but I don't like it. I've been happiest with Royal Oak (blue bag), which I buy from Canadian Tire for around $18.99. Smoking meat won't save you money, that's for sure :)
From what I've read briquettes are better for smoking and lump is better for grilling and I've seen royal oak briquettes for only 8.99 at Canadian tire. I'm thinking I'll start with that. Thanks
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 15, 2017
135 posts
12 upvotes
Guinness15 wrote: What exactly didn't go well. Was it undercooked? Did the meat dry out? Was the temperature too hot? not hot enough? You can smoke pretty much any meat in the 200F-250F range with good results.

For ribs typically I smoke them for 3 hours uncovered. Then wrap in foil with juice or beer for another 2 hours. Remove the foil, coat with BBQ sauce and cook another hour. These always turn out with a nice flavour and the meat will fall right off the bone.
I was able to cook them properly, but had to battle the temp for the whole cook. It was up and down the whole time. The problem was that they didn't taste very good due to having thick white smoke the whole time. From what I've read your trying to get thin blue smoke which leaves that good smoke flavor.
Jr. Member
Jan 12, 2009
104 posts
48 upvotes
Vaughan, ON
Greg8642 wrote: From what I've read briquettes are better for smoking and lump is better for grilling and I've seen royal oak briquettes for only 8.99 at Canadian tire. I'm thinking I'll start with that. Thanks
I have a kamado grill where I do my smoking and you're not supposed to use briquettes in it, only lump. From what I can remember there are lots of chemicals used to form the briquettes, so when it burns it goes onto your food.

The $8.99 is for smaller bag...the prices I quoted you were for the larger 20lbs bag.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 15, 2017
135 posts
12 upvotes
gr8dlr wrote: Smoking = low and slow.

>The drum is a good smoker.
> Do NOT keep opening the smoker lid. It takes a good 20-30 mins for temps to stabilize to what it is based on your venting. Opening the lid does two things 1) you let the heat that's in there escape which causes a instant drop in the temp 2) you those coals a big whiff of air which makes em hotter which means you think it's too hot so maybe you cut venting down. You'll be futzing around constantly if you open the lid because you're getting false readings...remember 30 min to know what temp you got.
> if you're going for a low and slow, you don't need to light too much charcoal at the beginning because you're adding a lot of heat and now you have to choke it down a bit by venting [remember it takes 20-30 min for venting to starting showing what it is]. Consider doing a Minion method [around 6 min mark on vid below] which is mound of coal and put on top a qty of lit coals on top.
> Are you using a water pan with it? A water pan will give you an easier smoke as it helps regulate temps...you don't have to really tend to it and you're going to get a 225F smoke.
> don't fret too much ....a little high a little low just changes how long things cook, it'll still work.

Watch Harry Soo's setup.
Thanks for the video. I watched it along with many others over the last while and although they help, I end up a little confused. For example lots of what I read and watch online makes clear that you dont want the wood to smolder as that creates thick white smoke which has a bad flavor. Instead you want it to burn between 650 to 750 degrees farenheit in order to get the thin blue smoke which gives great flavor.

So the way I see it, i want a fire localized around the wood that is really hot, but small enough that a few feet above its only around 250 degrees farenheit in order for low and slow. Kind of like holding your hand 6 inches above a lit lighter. It's only warm, but if you bring your hand down in the the flame it'll burn you.

Is that correct? Thanks
Deal Guru
User avatar
Oct 6, 2010
14999 posts
9400 upvotes
Toronto
export A was always the best smoke. best charcoal filter.






I just use a fire size box and smoke whatever between 2-350 for 4-8hrs and boom, you can't go wrong. I use lump coal. I used briquets once and they are shit. It's all indirect heat and smoke.
DYI difficulty scale:
0-joke
10-no joke

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 1, 2005
14293 posts
9059 upvotes
Markham
settons wrote: I have a kamado grill where I do my smoking and you're not supposed to use briquettes in it, only lump. From what I can remember there are lots of chemicals used to form the briquettes, so when it burns it goes onto your food.

The $8.99 is for smaller bag...the prices I quoted you were for the larger 20lbs bag.
Absolutely not true. Briqs are frequently used for smoking because they burn longer and more consistent. Don't buy the "match light" or quick light type of briqs. A ton of the best BBQ smokers in the USA use Kingsford.
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!

Top