View Full Version : Newbie to smoking meats, need advice

09-06-2010, 04:34 AM
I know my way around the kitchen; baking, stir-fry, grilling, and I finally decided to take the plunge and buy a smoker. I bought a SmokinTex 1100. Everything I make comes out poorly. I've made steaks, chicken breasts and pork tenderloin and always cook at 225 degrees for 2.5 hours. Tonight I did a pork tenderloin for 4 hours as an experiment; that did not go very well. (see attached photo) The tenderloin was just over a pound, the size I usually buy. Even when I cook one for 2.5 hours it comes out dry and leathery. I use a store-bought pork rub and that's about it. I always use about 2oz of wood pellets. I see other people's photos of juicy, succulent meat, some with a nice bark and wonder how I am going so horribly wrong. My meats do taste smokey I'll give them that, but they lack the signature smoke ring that most restaurant-smoked meats have.

I should mention that I have read the owners manual that came with my ST and follow the cooking instructions carefully. I also have followed the recipes that others have posted and it seems like my results are nowhere near theirs. I've read other web sites "basics of smoking meats" and various tips and still the quality of my product sucks. When I read smoker reviews on Amazon it seems like every other review says that smoking meats is so simple and even on their first try owners churned out delicious meats by just taking a shot in the dark. Reading this frustrates me even further and makes me wonder what I'm missing.

I'd like to perfect one type of meat, let's say a 1lb pork tenderloin, and move on to other cuts once I've got that one mastered. So if anyone has any tips on how to prepare an edible 1lb pork tenderloin I'm all ears.

Thanks in advance.

09-07-2010, 01:10 PM
Try lowering the temp and cook longer. Also try too avoid opening the door, it causes the smoker to loose alot of moisture. Try some ribs just dryrubed and temp @190 for 6hrs and see how that goes. Using the ST requires some experimenting, keep good notes and post so we call all help you. Dont increase your wood/chips. ST's use alot less wood than most. Once you get hooked on your ST you feeling will change for the better...Good Luck...Steve

09-07-2010, 04:55 PM
Thanks for responding Steve. I never open the door during cooking so at least I got that right. Your suggestion of lowering the temp and cooking longer is a good one I will try that. Thanks for the specifics on the ribs too that is very helpful.

I agree with your assessment, I feel like if I can just get over this initial frustration I'll love the ST. Posts like yours give me confidence to keep working at it.

09-14-2010, 11:44 AM
Marc -- Sorry you've been disappointed thus far with your smoker. There is a bit of a learning curve but eventually you'll get it.

I always advise new owners to start with the basics - something fatty, like a pork butt - and get used to how your smoker works.

Don't cook by time. Invest in a good digital therm and learn to cook by internal temp.

Pork loin is not really conducive to "low & slow" cooking. There's not enough fat in the meat. I've had my best results with pork loin by either injecting or wrapping the loin in bacon. Smoke at 225* to an internal temp of 150* and allow to rest for 15-25 minutes.

I still don't understand smoking steaks. :confused: Just my opinion, but steaks were made for the grill. :D

Chicken, again, does not have much fat & very easy to over-cook. Dark meat needs to go to 165*, white meat (which will cook faster) can be done at 160*. I usually have good success with chicken, but if your's consistently turns out dry you might try brining or injecting.

Keep posting your results and we'll try to get you headed in the right direction.

Good luck...

09-15-2010, 04:06 PM
Marc...Tampasteve and Wheelz gave you the best advice you can get IMHO.

As advised...try a porkbutt and practice.


09-17-2010, 04:29 PM
Thanks all for the feedback and insight. I will put into practice what you've mentioned and post my results. I have a much more positive outlook on smoking now based on what you've said, it all makes sense.

09-18-2010, 03:38 PM
This is what this forum should be about; ST owners helping others learn to turn out good Q. If we don't post our successes & failures the learning process will die. Some of us have been doing this for years and need to lend helping hands. And too, we can all learn something from each other, newbies included!

Don't be afraid to experiment...

Just some thoughts! ;)

09-26-2010, 07:47 PM
Steve has great advise on keeping the door closed. If you open the door (not recommended) make sure you baste with hot liquid. Brining can be used with pork as well as chicken with excellent results keeping the meat moist and adding flavors. Also check out the meat when you buy it. It should have a nice pink color to it. Lance

10-03-2010, 06:27 AM
Marc, one thing I quickly found as a newbie (which I still am), poultry stays juicier with the skin on. I buy chicken breasts and turkey with the skin on, and that makes the juiciest birds you will ever eat. Even wild turkey comes out juicy if you leave the skin on. Also, drop you temp down to 205-215 and run a longer time.

As everyone has already stated, get a quality probe thermometer.

And keep cooking.

10-04-2010, 12:51 AM
Tried a small slab of pork babyback ribs today and followed everyone's advice, particularly Tampa Steve's. Here's what I did:

Let ribs sit at room temp for 30 mins
Rubbed with Famous Dave's rib rub
Put in the smoker with 1oz oak wood
Cooked for 6 hours at 190 degrees, kept door closed the entire time
At the 6 hour mark, removed ribs, wrapped them in foil and let them sit for 45 minutes

I really thought I nailed it because the ribs looked and smelled great. But when I bit into them I ran into the same issue I always do; they were tough as hell, and very chewy. I will say that they weren't dry though, quite moist in fact. The exterior had a nice crust and the smoke flavor was just right. Meat had a nice pinkish hue to it as well. I attached a few photos to show the results.

So what now, reduce the cooking time? I still need to get a thermometer as well. FYI I use an ST 1100.

Thanks for any feedback.

10-07-2010, 07:46 PM
marc2010...set your smoker to 225 and put a thermometer inside...make sure your element is a the right temp. After checking try this:

1) Get about a 6 lb rib...set temp at 225.

2) Cook for 2 hrs.

3) Remove and foil...spray with apple juice.

4) Cook for 1 hr foiled.

5) Remove foil spray with apple juice and cook for 45min to 1hr.

Good luck!!


10-13-2010, 03:55 PM
On ribs I cook them until the meat has pulled back from the ends of the bone. When I can see 1/4" or so of the bone Mine are tender juicy and just good. But for starts I smoke mine for around 4 to 5 hours..
Also remove the membrane skin off the back of the ribs helps..

10-13-2010, 08:13 PM
First, get a digital thermometer. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat and run the cable out the vent hole. This will help you determine when the meat is done. Use time as a loose guideline only; use the thermometer to get a more accurate feel for the meat.

Choice of meat is important. Most of the items you mentioned are really better candidates for the grill, cooked hotter and for a short period of time.

The cuts of meat you want to slow cook are the cuts that are usually tough and have a lot of connective tissue. The 'working muscles' are high on that list. Legs and shoulders, brisket. Ribs are also in this category, even though to the best of my knowledge the rib muscles don't do a lot of work. So, cuts that are typically called 'pot roast' work well. Chuck roast, pork butt (that's a shoulder), picnic shoulder, ribs, brisket are all really good candidates. You cook these for a long time at low temperatures. Cook them until that digital thermometer reaches around 195. That's a general guideline. Brisket maybe more like 185-190, pork butt 195-205. You can't get a good measurement from ribs, though.

You pork loin is different. It isn't a working muscle, doesn't have all that connective tissue, and is better cooked a bit hotter. But it's not going to break down like those other cuts I mentioned. You can cook it slow in the smoker if you want, but cook that to about 160 internal temp. In theory, if people weren't afraid of trichinosis, you could cook it rare to medium, but people cook pork more. For food safety, cook pork to 160. But the higher you cook it, the tougher it gets, so stop at 160. (Food is safe at 140 so I don't really know why 160 is recommended, other than to allow a huge margin of safety. Some people cook pork to 145-150, slightly pink in the middle, and it's safe, tender, and moist. But the gov't says 160.)

Unlike the loin, ribs need time to break down, and it's not really possible to get an accurate temperature of the meat between the bones. Cook them until you can twist a bone loose. You'll feel it. The meat should tear fairly easily. The tough ribs you described are undercooked.

Kind of ironic, isn't it? Tough ribs are undercooked, tough loin is overcooked.

Good luck.

11-11-2010, 12:55 PM
Marc--it is true that low fat meats like pork tenderloin don't slow smoke very well--try this with beef or pork tenderloin--season your meat--then take a frying pan with olive oil and slowly sear the meat for about five to ten minutes on each side---then smoke it at a high temp (250) until it reaches the desired temp with your meat therm.---it will not take long--1-2 hours--the meat will have a nice crust on it and will be juicy---don't place to much wood ---try small amount of cherry for pork---I love your home town of Maryville--when we to travel to Blackberry Farm I always tell my wife we should move to Maryville

11-13-2010, 10:27 PM
Hey Marc2010....I was having the same results as yours. At the end of 6 hours of smoking, I started putting the ribs or loins in tin foil with some KC BBQ sauce and puttig them back in the ST with the temp about 200 for another two hours. They came out great. If you do not want the BBQ flavor, just your original smoke and rub, put in a little water and do the same thing. That works as well...

11-18-2010, 07:22 PM
Thanks all for the continued advice, I'm still experimenting, will let you know if I have a breakthrough.