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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.

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Unread 01-14-2010, 06:57 PM   #1
Lake Dogs
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Default First Time Que Mistakes, Disasters, and Lessons Learned

In reading some of the other discussions, I thought this one might be fun
for those of us who've been there & burned that a time or two, hopefully
informative to folks on their first few BBQ's so that perhaps they wont
repeat our mistakes..

I'll start. It's been about 12 years ago. I bought a Brinkmann Stillwater
that's tough to find now adays. It's a smaller fairly heavy thick steel
offset stick burner. I'd seasoned it well and had a fairly good idea as to
temperature control. I'd been reading many books about cooking times
and temps and rubs and sauces to the point where my mind was spinning.
What I came away with was an idea to cool LOW and SLOW, and had
planned to cook at 220 - 225.


It took FOREVER, like 16 hours. I had to bring the meat inside and finish
it in the oven. The outside was hard, crunchy, and inedible. The inside
was dry; VERY dry. We ate a little of it, but not much. It didn't smell
very good either.


1. Know the temperatures ON THE COOKING SURFACE where you place
your meat. The temperature gauge on the outside is reliable, but doesn't
necessarily reflect the surface temperature, which is the cooking temp.
In my case, I wasn't cooking at 225, but more like 190. Not good.

2. Know your smoke. Sweet blue is what you're looking for. I didn't
learn this until after 5 or 6 smokes. I cannot describe the amount of
creosote I had on my first few smokes. Black, bitter, nasty. DO NOT
soak wood in anything wet. Dry wood. Do NOT smother the coals/fire
with wood. These will produce massive amounts of white smoke which
makes for BAD Q.

3. Rub. Too many ingredients likely ends up fairly skunky. Careful with
sugars, particularly if you're planning to cook above 250. In my case,
I had sugars, and mustard powder and all kinds of stuff in this rub. It
was WAY too complex. I learned later, by getting back to basics of just
black pepper and small amounts of salt, then adding one ingredient at
a time, what I liked. You're usually pretty good staying with peppers.
Anything else, be careful.

4. Injection. In my case, I didnt use one. With the LONG cook time
that I'd engaged in, the meat was very dry when I'd finished. Mind you,
it was overcooked also. However, if I'd used a good injection (I use
apple juice, worchestershire, and some rub) the fats would've reduced
properly and timely and left the meat moist.

I've since learned that for my personal taste it can be TOO smokey. Mind
you, that's my personal taste. I now end up using foil. I foil my ribs just
before 90 minutes. I foil the butts and shoulders and hams at 4.5 hours;
same for brisket.
Hance - Lake Dogs Cooking Team - MiM/MBN/GBA CBJ and comp cook
Lake Sinclair, GA (strategically about an hour from everywhere)
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Unread 01-14-2010, 07:27 PM   #2
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A few months after moving to Wilkes-Barre, Pa, a few hundred miles from the homestead and my fathers home built smokers (which i have since learned are very quircky but its what i grew up with so i though every one did it like that), i was tired of what ppl call "Bar-Be-Cue" around here. It was just boiled butt, sliced on a potato roll with sweet relish, ehhhhhh..... So i was living in an apartment, no porch, no yard, buti had about thirty square feet of side walk, couldn't afford much since i was still finding work, so i bought an ECB. I had seen ppl that had modded them but never cooked on one... didn't think anything of it, added some air vents and took the "Temp Indicator" seriously. Called up the few guys i had met since moving there and said got a brisket on, get over here, and bring beer!!! Whoa, i wish i could take that back. I mixed up a rub i knew how to make and threw the brisky on, set the fire at what the temp indicator said was "Ideal" which ended up being about 30* to low. After 12 hours and my friends starving and buzzed, a five pound briskey was stalled at 140 and harder than a rock! Well, i thought, i can save this, crank up the heat and get it done, wrong! Burnt the bark, dried it out, tasted like crap. Never lived it down. But shut every one up with a pulled pork pig out the next week, after finding out what it took my ECB to work right, just to show them i knew how to cook.
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Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire… Exodus 12:9

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Unread 01-14-2010, 08:29 PM   #3
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Lesson learned: if you have a bright idea to grill bbq sauce on some ribs that took you a good part of the day to cook, don't answer the phone if it rings. That's a nice way to end up with charred ribs when the "OH CHIT!!!" moment hits.
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Unread 01-15-2010, 08:59 AM   #4

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Keep 'em coming, folks - this is always a good thread.

Here's a golden oldie from 2007:
Arlin MacRae

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Unread 01-15-2010, 09:11 AM   #5
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This actually happened 4 weeks ago!

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was itching for some ribs. I fired up the cooker, got her to good heat and threw on 4 slabs that I had rubbed that morning. About an hour into the cook, my wife's water broke!! I went into action mode - grabbing suitcases, supplies etc and never thought about the cooker until 3 days later when we got home. Luckily the house didn't burn down, but those ribs sure did. They were so hard the police could have used them for nightsticks!

Lesson learned - Never start a cook 2 days away from the baby's due date. Or at least call the neighbor and have him pull the ribs off so he can have a nice dinner.
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Unread 01-15-2010, 09:19 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by JiveTurkey View Post
Lesson learned: if you have a bright idea to grill bbq sauce on some ribs that took you a good part of the day to cook, don't answer the phone if it rings. That's a nice way to end up with charred ribs when the "OH CHIT!!!" moment hits.
Similarly: When you've spent a bunch of time, money, and effort to make ribs that have turned out pretty awesome... do NOT use a guy that hasn't cooked anything more than burned ramen noodles in charge of 'watching the ribs' when you are slicing the brisken and the ribs are put them under the broiler to glaze a little sauce.

For the record: NO the ribs should not look like there is bubbling black tar on top of them!
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Unread 01-15-2010, 09:39 AM   #7
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The very first BBQ I did on my homemade smoker was in early May here in Ohio...a rainy day. I didn't want the firebox to get too wet, so I put some plywood on top of it...without thinking or considering the temperature there might be enough to ignite the plywood. Needless to say, within a relatively short timeframe, my smoker was on fire with the plywood engulfed in flames. Lessons learned: The top of the firebox is hot and will ingite things that burn.
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Unread 01-15-2010, 10:09 AM   #8
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On Wednesday I was taking Butts out of my cooker. I always put a sheet pan on top to put the butts on. I had two on the sheet when gravity reered its farkin ugly face. They were at 195 degrees so when they hit the driveway they expolded. That gave me kind of a sick feeling in the gut. Just scooped um up and threw them in a empty charcoal bag. Neighbors dog keeps licking in that area. Hope his tongue gets froze to the driveway.


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Unread 01-15-2010, 10:53 AM   #9
Lake Dogs
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Originally Posted by Arlin_MacRae View Post
Keep 'em coming, folks - this is always a good thread.

Here's a golden oldie from 2007:
Arlin, thanks for link above. That IS a good one, and probably does need
coming back to about once every year for the new guys.

To the guy above who farmed out the glazing of sauce to his friend; OH

To the new guys embarking on a long cook (big brisket and/or shoulder):
STAY AWAKE and STAY WITH YOUR COOKER. My funniest story was July
4th, 2008. Was getting married, 2nd time, the morning of the 4th on the
dock at my home (on the lake; ala. Lake Dogs). We had +-60 folks coming
in around noon for a 4th of July party and wedding reception (if bathing
suits and beer qualify for a wedding reception). I'd really gotten down
BBQing 2 large hams so I wanted some good Q for the folks coming in.
Remember, I'm getting married. Smoker fired up and going great in the
evening of the 3rd, meat injected and rubbed, on the cooker. Kids (in
their 20's) were over; we'd been partying a little. Well, it picked up a
little more, and around 10pm I thought I'd catch a little cat nap. BAD
IDEA. I must tell you, I haven't slept that good in YEARS. My new
wife woke me up about 30 minutes before the Reverend was to be there.
Quick shower, in the duds, look at cooker, and the temperature is (this
is not a mis-quote) 90 degrees. OH NO!!! Quick, I grabbed the meat off
of the cooker and threw it in the oven, at 300 (if I recall correctly). Then,
off to the dock, say our vows, Yes I do, Yes she does, kissy kissy, it's
all good. Back to the house, which now smelled like something had died
and been rotting in the house for months. It was GAWD AWEFUL. The
entire house smelled, and I mean PROFOUND bad. Meat -> straight into
the garbage can and the garbage can taken to the dump (it was that
bad). Meanwhile, wife, Reverend, best man are all opening up every door and window in the house and turning on the attic fan to try to rid the place of the DEAD smell. We've got 60+- people heading our way. Luckily I'm pretty close
to Wallyworld. Lots of hamburgers went on the grill as soon as I got


1. Dont plan an all night cook when you're getting married.
2. Never go to sleep when cooking a long cook unless you have one of
those set-it-and-forget-it smokers (are they *really* a smoker anyway?)
<-- rhetorical
3. If you're stupid enough to do 1 and 2, have a backup plan!!!

Biggest lesson of all:

Hance - Lake Dogs Cooking Team - MiM/MBN/GBA CBJ and comp cook
Lake Sinclair, GA (strategically about an hour from everywhere)
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Unread 01-15-2010, 11:11 AM   #10
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One of my first cooks on a stick burner, I was under the rookie impression that if a little smoke is good, a lot is better.
Loaded it up with hickory wood, and closed the lid on the exhaust to hold all that smoke in there, and help maintain the heat.

Put my pork butt in there and went to town

I kept loading wood in there every time the temp. gauge on the lid moved just a little - the whole time keeping the exhaust pipe closed.

Well as it turns out, this also happened to be Easter, and we had a bunch of friends over to try my masterpiece.

Yes you guessed it.

It was the color of tar on the outside, and the inside tasted like we were eating ash out of the fireplace.

Needless to say, the dog wouldn't even touch it, and thankfully my wife (bless her heart) didn't trust my first effort, so she had made a Turkey in the oven with all the fixings..
The Turkey sure was good
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Unread 01-15-2010, 11:30 AM   #11
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Default Bad Thermometer

About 4 years ago I picked up my first smoker that was a cheapo cabinet gasser from Walmart. The wife's side of the family was doing a picnic on Sunday so I figured I would be nice and supply all of the meat which I decided would be pulled pork. I put 40 lbs of meat on the smoker Friday evening figuring it would be done Saturday morning for pulling and then in to the fridge. Saturday morning came and it wasn't done. Saturday evening came it still wasn't done. It was finally done 30+ hours later Sunday morning an hour before we had to leave for the picnic.

I still can't believe I was that ignorant!

Lesson Learned - Do not trust the thermometers on the outside of the smoker.....EVER!

That thermometer was well over 50 degrees off.
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Unread 01-15-2010, 08:17 PM   #12
is Blowin Smoke!
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I don't think I'm done making them.
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Unread 01-15-2010, 09:01 PM   #13
Smokin' Gnome BBQ
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lesson learned...high heat is just that...if you cook bbq at high temps, be ready for the backlash..foil does not insulate your meat from "burning", but it does seem to conduct or focus the power on the area in which you most want to use and evaporate the juices you would most want to save...

not everything you see on T.V. is something you want to try!!!GO Myron!
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Unread 01-15-2010, 10:07 PM   #14
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Lol - those are some good ones.
A couple of years ago I scored some quail one day while hunting real quick after work. I de-breasted them for some quick eatin. I asked a buddy how he cooks his - and he replied that the best thing to do is wrap them in bacon with a sliver of jalapeno, and grill em. That sounded great! So i fired up the propane grill, set the bird/bacon combination on the grills and "Set it and --- FORGET IT!" Well a few m(ten) minutes had passed and my wife asked me if I could smell smoke. What?? hmmm, what would smell like smoke..... AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!! I ran outside to see my poor gas grill engulfed in a ball of flame. I was able to escape with minimum melting of the vinyl windows on my house - but the grill is no more. Melted that pot metal to the ground! To this day my wife doesn't trust me with a grill.

Maybe that's why I'm afraid of smokin MOINKS or ABT's.
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Unread 01-15-2010, 10:44 PM   #15
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an old but hilarious q mistake of mine

awful recipe
Popdaddy is Dead - 1933-2011 - Pitmaster T is a free agent
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