Hi all, I'm new here and looking for some advice.
I recently slow smoked some ribs - this is not the first time I've slow smoked food but I haven't done it in 3 years so thought I'd get back into it. I thought I'd start with some simple ribs to get my technique right before doing anything bigger, so I started researching into slow smoking again. When I first slow smoked 3 years ago, while I did succeed in making ribs and pulled pork, I felt that my technique wasn't strong yet and that I wasn't consistent at maintaining temperature, so this time round I want to try and get my technique perfect and finally decide on what I feel is best for slow smoking on a kettle.
I use a Weber one-touch original which I bought 3 years ago, so kettle style smoking. This time I wanted to try out the Minion Method to get long hours of smoking, so I decided to stack up charcoal (I used Weber lumpwood charchoal, as I heard briquettes might contain chemicals etc... so I wanted to use lumpwood for cleaner burn). I stacked up the charcoal on one side of the kettle and put some hickory wood chunks on top (this time, I didn't soak any of the wood chunks unlike I did 3 years ago, as now I've read that soaking them is not the correct way to get the blue-ish stream of smoke that is ideal for smoking, which I didn't know 3 years ago!). I used the chimney to start some charcoal and poured the lit charcoal on one side of the unlit charcoal in the kettle. I then placed a drip pan with some cider in the kettle and the ribs on top with an oven thermometer, closed the lid and adjusted the vents to get temperatures between 225F-275F.
Now, while I did succeed in making these ribs and they came out fine (apart from the fact that they were a bit dry because these were really cheap ribs with barely any meat/fat on them, next time I'll buy fattier cuts of ribs!) I felt that during the 4 hour cooking process, there were too many problems:
1) The Minion Method burned really quickly - I had to light up some coals and pour into the kettle again around the 3 hour mark. The burning had made it's way round really quickly. I think it's either due to my stacking of the charcoal (maybe it wasn't enough?) or/and the fact that lumpwood burns quicker than briquettes - perhaps briquettes would have given a longer and more consistent burning? I expected the minion method to last longer than this. Also felt that the wood chunks burned out really quick too but perhaps that's me being picky and they actually burned as they were supposed to...
2) The temperature was difficult to control, especially using an oven thermometer (I realised this 3 years ago too) - I was having trouble getting it above 225F (I wanted 250F) without having to pop open the lid all the time to check the temperature - also at one point, I walked away and when I came back, there was nothing coming out the kettle so I popped the lid to find that the temperature had dropped and the charcoal wasn't burning properly (maybe closed the vents too much) - I think this is the last time I'm using an oven thermometer.
For problem number 2 - I'm finally going to buy the Maverick ET-732 wireless BBQ thermometer. I think this will help solve my problems with temperature control (and I can adjust vents without having to pop open the lid to check the temperature).
For problem number 1 - can anyone give advice on the minion method/burning charcoal? Should I switch to briquettes?
Also, if you think I've done something wrong please let me know, any help and advice is welcome! I've got some pictures of my set up and smoking of the ribs.