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overpowering charcoal taste

#1 User is offline   RonG 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:05 AM

I've got a BBQ-Pro vertical water smoker from Sears that leaves a strong charcoal taste on whatever I cook. I smoked a brisket yesterday, and it was almost inedible. I have had this smoker for about three years and it has always left a much heavier charcoal taste than the old ECB that it replaced. I use the "Minion method" to light the charcoal and have used different brands of charcoal, usually Royal Oak or Kingsford but have similar results. I have cut back on the amount of wood used, but the bad flavor is still there. Can anyone give me any advice on what may be happening?
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#2 User is offline   underthehood 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:15 AM

Your issue is the charcoal. Briquettes (especially Kingsford) just leave a horrid taste. I don't care how you light them or how long you burn them the food always ends up tasting like gasoline. Yuuuuk. Use only hardwood lump and bad flavor will go away
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#3 User is offline   Tubby's Smokehouse 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:53 AM

View PostRonG, on 15 April 2012 - 09:05 AM, said:

I've got a BBQ-Pro vertical water smoker from Sears that leaves a strong charcoal taste on whatever I cook. I smoked a brisket yesterday, and it was almost inedible. I have had this smoker for about three years and it has always left a much heavier charcoal taste than the old ECB that it replaced. I use the "Minion method" to light the charcoal and have used different brands of charcoal, usually Royal Oak or Kingsford but have similar results. I have cut back on the amount of wood used, but the bad flavor is still there. Can anyone give me any advice on what may be happening?

Thats creosote Ron, every smoker is different but I agree with Hood (although he despises charcoal ) ;) unless you have good air flow lump might be the better option since its pre burnt.

If you prefer charcoal, thats ok you just cant starve it for air in the preignition stage like the Minion method, which is fine but does require a good amount of air, I am not familiar with your smoker but by your description you clearly don't have the air flow present to burn the fuel clean. is the exhaust and intake wide open, if its a smoker with a fuel door leave it and the exhaust open so it can suck more air, if even clean smoke is trapped for to long it can taste nasty as the smoke concentrates.

There are a few ways around that though, if you have a firebox, BBQ, metal bucket what ever you can find pre light some fuel and let it burn off till its just glowing heat, be it lump or coal and shovel that into the smoker, then use less wood for smoke at longer intervals, you want a light airy smoke if you start seeing rich dark smoke from your wood/fuel chances are you are leaving beads of bitter moisture on the food and a build up of that will make everything you smoke take on a rancid flavor even if the fuel is burning clean now, so if you do have a build up of that over three years you might want to clean the smoker out and re season it, a simple way to tell is smell inside does it smell bitter or rancid or like BBQ.

When you first fire it up don't put the meat on until the fuel is ashed if its (charcoal there's no more black on the coals) then toss in prelite fuel for more heat when you need it and you should be good to go.

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#4 User is offline   RonG 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:11 PM

Hood and Jim,

Thanks for the help. The smoker is simlar to a WSM except much cheaper. It has two lower vents in the charcoal bowl and one lid vent. I always keep the lid vent wide open, but I close the bottom vents to about a quarter open after it reaches temp or just below it. The smoker is very leaky, and I could probably run it with both bottom vents closed. I was afraid that cresosote would be the problem and I may have to switch to lump if I continue to use the Minion method which is so convenient. Here is a picture of the smoker.

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#5 User is offline   cuskit 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:56 PM

I'm with jim on this one - creosote is your culprit! Go with the lump, and be sure to hold off placing your meat in until you are clean. Yea, and be sure to get rid of any old stuff laying in the bottom. Yecht! Nothing worse than ruining a good chunk of meat with that acrid black, bitter, rancid taste of creosote! Biggest thing is trying to cook the meat before your charcoal (or any fuel) is burning clean. And ESPECIALLY never use lighter fluid (yes, I noticed you mentioned the minion method - just making sure)..

I'd say your temp is maybe too low. Open the bottom vents a bit more - are you running 225-235 or so? Less than 200 in that type of enclosure would contribute to creosote, especially if you are choking down the air input.

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#6 User is offline   RonG 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:00 PM

Mike,

I usually run at 250 or above and yesterday I was running at 275-300. I also use a chimney to light the charcoal.
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#7 User is offline   Tubby's Smokehouse 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:06 PM

View PostRonG, on 15 April 2012 - 02:00 PM, said:

Mike,

I usually run at 250 or above and yesterday I was running at 275-300. I also use a chimney to light the charcoal.

Hey ya Ron on the minion method what percentage are you using unlit against prelit? and the unlit is on the bottom correct?



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#8 User is offline   Tubby's Smokehouse 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:16 PM

Ron I reread your first post (sorry) you said "water smoker" when your mixing steam with fuel thats not burning clean even if with great air flow the smoke is sticking to the moisture and falling like rain onto the meat, unless the desired smoke from clean fuel and wood is thin and airy you can get a over smoked flavor that will taste bitter as well when mixed with steam or moisture, just a heads up if you are filling a bowl with water and putting it above the fuel.





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#9 User is offline   cuskit 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:59 PM

I've stopped using water bowls long ago. Seems it never made much difference, and I came to the conclusion that if anything it diminished the smoke taste. As to keeping the meat moist - I feel it doesn't penetrate anyway - so, sayonara water bowl!

Anyway - that's mho.. :)

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#10 User is offline   RonG 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:09 PM

Jim,

I fill the charcoal bowl with unlit briquettes and put 10-15 lit ones on top with a couple of wood chunks. I also foil the waterpan like a drum and use it without any water.
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#11 User is offline   Tubby's Smokehouse 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:29 PM

View PostRonG, on 15 April 2012 - 03:09 PM, said:

Jim,

I fill the charcoal bowl with unlit briquettes and put 10-15 lit ones on top with a couple of wood chunks. I also foil the waterpan like a drum and use it without any water.

So would that be two thirds unlit to a third lit?

Sounds like the whole time you're smoking there is smoldering fuel in the works? If so I would for sure switch to lump as it burns cleaner.

Have you had better luck not using the Minion approach?.

I get enjoyment out of nursing the fuel so it's a labor of love, specially on a nice day with a few cold beers :)

For a set it and forget it approach I use my CookShack electric.


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#12 User is offline   RonG 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:40 PM

View PostTubby, on 15 April 2012 - 03:29 PM, said:

So would that be two thirds unlit to a third lit?

Sounds like the whole time you're smoking there is smoldering fuel in the works? If so I would for sure switch to lump as it burns cleaner.

Have you had better luck not using the Minion approach?.

I get enjoyment out of nursing the fuel so it's a labor of love, specially on a nice day with a few cold beers :)

For a set it and forget it approach I use my CookShack electric.


jim


Jim,


The ratio is more like 6:1 unlit to lit, so the there is almost always charcoal being ignited most of the cook. The beauty of the Minion method is to not have to add any charcoal during the cook, but I may have to start with fully lit charcoal and add additional lit briqettes as the temporature drops.
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#13 User is offline   Tubby's Smokehouse 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 04:08 PM

View PostRonG, on 15 April 2012 - 03:40 PM, said:

Jim,


but I may have to start with fully lit charcoal and add additional lit briqettes as the temporature drops.

Yeah I agree give that a try and see if your more pleased with the result. last thing you want is inedible food, I found adding the lit fuel helps keep a steadier temp and will raise temp faster if need be.


Do let us know what works best for you


Thanks Ron,



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#14 User is offline   Eric V 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:23 PM

It appears that each smoker operates differently.
The MaserBuilt 7 in one I have, uses gas to light the charcoals, and I have always used Kingsford and never had the problem you describe.
I would try cutting down the use of the wood even more or, you may have some sort of air flow issue.
At the temperatures you are using, 275 degrees, that may also be an issue. I rarely let mine get above 225 degrees when smoking.
I use the water bowl as a damper to control the temperature.

Here is some smoked pork on the Weber Q 200 and the 7 in 1 smoker: http://ericvandeven....gory/food/pork/
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#15 User is offline   Tubby's Smokehouse 

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:43 PM

Very cool site E, with pics and all!

looks that little Q rocks :) and Marshalls a happy little camper ;)

you can smoke out to 450-500 if you want, its the air flow causing Rons problems and the unlit fuel


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