BBQ FAQ Section 7.1

 

7.1 Most common mistakes made by beginners

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[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 it.

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 smoke=bad-tasting meat.

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.

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Jeff Lipsitt--

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!

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BBQ FAQ Ver 1.0, 2.0 1997, 1998 William W. Wight. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 25, 1999
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