7.1 Most common mistakes made by beginners
[Can you tell me some of the most common mistakes beginners make?]
Editor--A summary of several posts--
1 Getting in too big of a hurry. Barbecue takes time and
patience. You can't rush it. Figure 1 to 1 1/2 hours per pound for most meats. If you're
tending a wood-burning smoker, figure on adding fuel every 30-45 minutes.
2 It helps to be a semi-good cook in the kitchen before you
get into barbecue. If you can't boil water, let someone else do the barbecuing. I'll bet
that almost all the old hats here on the BBQ List were pretty decent cooks in the kitchen
before they learned to grill and barbecue.
3 Opening the lid to peek too often. This lets out the heat
and the smoker will be below temperature. Open the lid only when necessary to mop or move
or turn the meat. The meat's not going anywhere, so you don't need to keep checking up on
4 Trying to do a brisket or spare ribs the first time you
use your smoker. Start off on the road to "Perfect Q" with the simplest meat to
smoke--a whole chicken or a pork picnic roast. They're cheap and hard to ruin. Don't fill
up the smoker with meat until you've had some successes. Start with just one item.
5 Using lighter fluid to start your charcoal briquettes.
This can give you some really awful odors and tastes in your smoked meat. Use a chimney
starter for charcoal. If you must use a charcoal lighter fluid, let the coals burn for at
least 30 minutes before you put on the meat.
6 In a wood burning smoker, making the fire too big and
closing the inlets and exhaust dampers to control the flame. This is a no no. Open that
exhaust damper all the way. Regulate the oxygen intake with the inlet damper. Be careful
how you close that inlet damper--your fire can smolder and give you some nasty-tasting
smoke. Best advice--keep your fire low and your dampers open. Remember, a bad-smelling
7 Using green wood. You must use seasoned wood to get good
results when you begin barbecuing. The old pros can use a mix of green and seasoned wood,
but beginners should not use the green stuff until they know about fire and temperature
control. Using green wood without knowing what you're doing is the surest way to ruin the
meat. You'll get creosote and that will make bitter meat that cannot be saved.
8 Trying to adjust too many things at once. Don't adjust
everything on the smoker at once. Change one thing, see what happens, then change another.
9 Changing things too much at once. Make small changes to
the smoker. Open or close the intake vent a little bit, not a lot. If you are continually
making big changes, you will continually overshoot the correct temperature point. Your
temperature curve will look like a giant sawtooth. Make the changes in small increments.
10 Putting cold meat into the smoker. This can lead to the
condensation of creosote on the surface of the meat if you don't have a clean-burning
fire. Beginners should allow the meat to warm up on the counter, but for no more than an
hour, before you put it in the smoker. Experienced smokers can put the cold meat directly
into the smoker. Some say this helps smoke penetration.
11 Don't invite the family, the in-laws, and the preacher
and his wife over the first day you get that new smoker. Practice some, get to know your
smoker on a personal basis. Do a pork picnic shoulder, some chickens, then some ribs and
finally when everything's coming together, do a brisket. Then invite the whole gang over
and wow 'em good.
12 Trying to learn to barbecue without reading this FAQ
front to back and subscribing to the Thead BBQ List. Ruin good meat every time.
When you start barbecuing for the first time, keep a log book of exactly
what you're doing and when you did it. This will help later on when you want to make a few
minor changes or repeat something.
I'd also suggest trying to stay with one food type (i.e., chicken, pork
butt, brisket, etc.) until you've got everything pretty much down pat. Also, try to buy
similar weights, so your timing will be the same.
Once you've got all your favorite food types somewhat mastered, go crazy
and experiment with different rubs, mops, sauces, and so on. It's important to have at
least one item that you can pretty much always count on, and that everyone likes. Besides,
you never know when I may be in the neighborhood!