Author Topic: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner  (Read 1791 times)

CGreenTX

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Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« on: July 10, 2020, 10:50:49 AM »
I'm feeling like this is the right forum to post this to, but redirect me if not. Post is long.

I came from over a decade of stick burning. I love a good smoke and had really learned to control the temps/smoke levels/etc down to a science. I found myself not smoking much because it is a significant commitment to monitor a fire for long cooks of briskets, pork butts, etc. The promise of great results with the LazyQ methods drew me in and I ordered a 4D.

I've owned the 4D for 18 months now. I've done dozens of cooks ranging from whole chickens to briskets, ribs to pork butts, etc. For woods I've heavily used Post Oak and Pecan from Fruita Wood & BBQ Supply, but also a little Hickory and Cherry from SmokinLicious. (I'm a Texan.. I really love traditional Post Oak for beef/pork and Pecan for Poultry.) I've found that I can get some pretty decent results on short cooks like whole chickens, but one of the big drivers in getting the 4D was doing large quantities of pork butts or briskets. When doing those I've found that there just isn't a significant smoke flavor on the level that I expect from good BBQ.

I've poured over the advice on these forums for chunk sizes, quantities, etc. to try and find my issues. The shape of the box on the 4D really drives a small chunk size, or forces you to but anything remotely large in the dead center. I've tried various sizes, going well beyond recommendations at times, but never end up with the flavors I'm looking for. At the end of 2-3 hour cooks I usually have a charcoal block left, and on long cooks it is a mix of that plus ash. At this point I'm wondering if what I want is even achievable with this type of cooker and I made a mistake buying a larger one with hope of using it for 50-100 lbs of meat in the future. (Note - I haven't yet pushed the quantities because I've not been happy with 1-2 butts/briskets yet.)

Can anyone talk some sense into me and help me figure out how to improve my results?

Chris Green

TLDR; I have a 4D model and can't seem to get much smoke flavor. Wondering if I'm just trying to get stick burning results from a chunk warmer and need to adjust my expectations. ;)

barelfly

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2020, 11:09:03 AM »
Hey Chris,

Welcome to the board! How cool is that having the 4D! Gigantic cooker for these Smokin-its!

Sorry to hear you arenít getting what you were hoping for in the smoke flavor. I too, having a 3D have wanted a bit more smoke flavor on brisket and butts and use a bit more wood than what others discuss here. But, for some reason, it just doesnít provide the smoke profile of what a stick burner provides. Mainly because the source of heat isnít the wood and fire itself, is what I am thinking. You get great, tender results and a flavor that comes out with the rub you choose, all with the Lazy Q style of cooking.

Perhaps there is a way to get a better smoke profile, and if there is, I would love to know that as well. But, and I hate saying this, but since you brought it up, perhaps the stick burner smoke profile just isnít achievable with this style of cooker.

One thing I havenít tried and wonder if it would help for long cooks, is to replace wood chunks every few hours to see if that provides more smoke flavor? I donít know but not sure if you have tried that. You can save the chunks for later cooks, if you have a Kettle grill that you could use to burn off or some grill of sort.

But I hope you find a medium in what you are looking for. Let me know if you do!
Jeremy in NM
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LarryD

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2020, 08:02:36 PM »
I've never used a smoker other than the Smokin-It and I love the smoke flavors I get, but that leaves the possibility that I just don't have a reference for what you're seeking.  (Though I have eaten a ton of commercial BBQ in my life from KC, St. Louis, and Texas.)

I frequently use a combination of chips / slivers and chunks of wood.  I'll use all chips/slivers for smokes of 2 hours or less.  I add chunks for any longer smokes.  I also tend to use more wood than most indicate they use, but not crazy more.  (I keep a hatchet with my wood and use it to split the chunks where they fill fit in the fire box and/or to create the slivers.)

My thought is that the chips/slivers start smoking really fast providing a lot of early smoke.  The chunks provide smoke until the temperature barrier is breached beyond which most things quit taking on much if any more smoke.
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Glock_21

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2020, 09:00:23 PM »

Have you considered adding the Bella smoke generator? 
I also prefer a heavy smoke flavor.  I bought the Bella mainly to add the cold smoke option for cheese.  I now find myself using the Bella almost every time meat goes in the #3.  I let it run until the IT of the meat hits 140-150. 

Travis from North Central Oklahoma
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barelfly

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 09:44:05 AM »
Travis,

Curious - and I know this has no bearing on flavor, only looks of finished BBQ - but with the Bella and using pellets for additional smoke, are you getting a smoke ring on the meat? Just curious, as Iíve seen other pellet cookers produce that look. Not that Iím chasing that look, just curious.

But the Bella has peaked my interest now if you say this is helping with the smoke profile. Did you order the bella as well as a new door with the already cut hole or did you do the cutting yourself? Are you also using wood chunks in the cooks with the pellets? Would be great to hear how your cooks are done with this add on. Thanks!
Jeremy in NM
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Glock_21

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2020, 11:52:57 AM »

I haven't done a brisket since adding the Bella, mainly ribs and chicken since then.  Brisket is where I find myself chasing a smoke ring.  I've gotten pretty good at adding a fake smoke ring with curing salt.  I know it doesn't taste any better, but it's just supposed to look that way, LOL.

I have a #3.  I installed the Bella on the door.  I removed the door and drilled the holes myself on a drill press.  I believe the documentation recommends 5 inches from the bottom and 5 inches from the left side.  I went with 5 inches from the bottom and 4 inches from the left side.  I felt like it cleared the firebox a little better.  At least on the #3.

I still use wood chunks in the firebox.  I just fire up the Bella to add a little more smoke.  I actually turn down the pump a little once the flame is established.  I shut the pump off once the meat hits 150ish.

Travis from North Central Oklahoma
SI #3, Traeger Texas Grill, gas grill, Classic Weber kettle, Anova WiFi 900 watt

Smokin Jon

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2020, 02:47:11 PM »
I converted to a smokin-it 3D from a UDS, an 18" Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, and a Camp Chef 24 Smoke vault.  All of these produced unique smoke profiles.  I was looking for a set it and forget it smoker that would not rust and was super easy to clean afterwards.  Therefore, I chose the smokin-it 3D. 

My first few smokes left a lot to be desired for briskets and pork butts.  The wood chunks (typically size =  2 ounce/each) burned up way too fast when the smoker was allowed to run right up to my cook temperatures (~225).  This resulted in thick white/yellow acrid smoke. 

Since then i've experimented with two different homemade chip screens and/or foil boats, powering down the element to 80% to reduce the "blast of heat" to the chip box, and finally using a temperature step method in effort to get the longest thin blue smoke possible.  In addition, I settled on 10 ounces of wood chunks (2-3 ounce each) for briskets and pork butts. This finally produced a product with a noticeable clean smoke flavor (not acrid). 

That being said, the cleanest and best tasting smoke flavor I have ever achieved with the cookers i've owned was with my Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24.  However, similar to a stick burner, I had to baby sit it by monitoring temps and adding wood chunks every 45 minutes. I finally grew tired of babysitting my other smokers and dealing with all the ash and maintenance. So.....I sold them.

I'm still experimenting with my 3D with one cut of meat at a time until I achieve what I feel to be the best possible tasting meat I can produce on an electric smoker.  I don't think i'll be able to match the smoke vault or a stick burner.  However, i'm achieving better results with every cook.

Overall, i've become a lot happier with this smoker than I was after the first couple of cooks.  I hope it lasts for many years to come. 
Smokin Jon

smokeasaurus

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2020, 12:44:36 PM »
A stick burner usually has a small hot clean burning fire where an electric smoker has wood smoldering in an oxygen starved environment.

I lived in Texas and I do have a good supply of post oak up here in Wisconsin.

For what its worth, I enjoy the flavor profile I used to get off of my offset, however the ease of use and moist results from my Smokin-It are worth the "difference" in flavor.

These smokers will produce extremely bitter results if the wood is ramped up.

I have had to make myself understand that I am not going to get the stick burner flavor (there is nothing better imho) but like I previously mentioned, the trade offs of the Smokin-It are far worth it for me. Especially with Old Man Winter knocking at our door here in Wisconsin.

Don't know if this helped, but I share your love of Offset cooking, just tired of the "work" involved, especially having to monitor one when it is 20 degrees out and windy...................brrrrr............no thanks....... :)
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Smokin Jon

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2020, 09:48:10 PM »
smokeasaurus,

You said, "These smokers will produce extremely bitter results if the wood is ramped up."

I have found the temperature ramp-up prevents a fire and the resultant thick white/yellow smoke and acrid flavor.

Did you mean to say, "These smokers will produce extremely bitter results if the wood is not ramped up"?

Smokin Jon

smokeasaurus

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2020, 04:49:52 PM »
smokeasaurus,

You said, "These smokers will produce extremely bitter results if the wood is ramped up."

I have found the temperature ramp-up prevents a fire and the resultant thick white/yellow smoke and acrid flavor.

Did you mean to say, "These smokers will produce extremely bitter results if the wood is not ramped up"?

Smokin Jon

What I meant was, if you put too much wood in your smoke box you are going to get acrid oversmoked meat.

Which I did early on years ago when I had my #3, a little wood goes a long way

I am usually running my #2 at 200-225 and having great results with small amounts of wood

The other forum where I moderate has a bunch of ex electric smoker owners that overloaded their smoke boxes with too much wood and will not touch a electric smoker if it was handed to them for free.

Like I have always said concerning any type of outdoor cooker:  "Learn your Pit"  8)
« Last Edit: October 23, 2020, 05:14:41 PM by smokeasaurus »
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Smokin Jon

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2020, 09:39:54 PM »
Aha!  Thanks for the clarification. 

So very true! You have to learn every pit.   It takes several cooks to do so.

smokeasaurus

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2020, 06:10:42 PM »
Aha!  Thanks for the clarification. 

So very true! You have to learn every pit.   It takes several cooks to do so.

Sometimes when we are picking up fast food instead of Que, I wonder if I ever will  ;D :o ;D :o
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user24

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2020, 12:19:54 PM »
Similar taste in smoke, and the "little goes a long ways" does not cut it for me, especially not on the 4D. I came from a WSM using the Minion method, which layers wood chunks in the largely unlit charcoal pile to allow continuous unattended smoking as the bed burns down. However, I moved into a new place without a backyard, so I went with the 4D for its 300 series grade of steel. Considering the additional volume of the 4D and larger heating element, more wood is needed, which is also consumed at a faster rate than the smaller models. Factoring in personal preferences, this means a considerable amount of wood at the beginning, and the requirement to add the same amount in fresh wood at 1.5 or 2 hour intervals. That is how long it takes the 4D to incinerate the each batch and require another load. As wood is used for flavor in the 4D rather than required energy source, replenishment is the most neglected factor if one is used to continuous smoking results. Also, there are a few things that can help to round out and deepen the electric smoker taste.

For more smoke flavor that is reminiscent of charcoal:
-Multiple types of wood in each smoke. For instance, oak, hickory, and apple.
-Discard ash but retain the wood that has turned charcoal from the previous day's/week's smoke.

Example amount for a 4 hour smoke at 225 degrees constant:
-7 to 7.5 ounces of wood to start, plus whatever wood remains from the previous smoke. Disregard the initial 30 minutes it takes to get up to temp and start smoking. Add another load of 7 to 7.5 ounces of wood at the 2 hour mark. This is around 7-8 blocks of bark-free wood per load, from various smoking wood brands. Using tongs, pull the wood box forward enough to lift its lid. Then, drop the the fresh wood toward the center and shift the blackened wood to the sides, but do not remove anything.

I shift wood that I want burned to the center of the tray, because if your 4D is like mine the tray has become heat curved and sits higher off the heat at the outward edges.

For smoking wood brands that do not provide neatly pre-cubed wood, I recommend a bandsaw to cut them to size most efficiently.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2020, 01:16:14 PM by user24 »

OldeSmoker

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Re: Really struggling with smoke flavor - 4D Owner
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2020, 08:25:39 PM »
I do the same thing as Travis in regards to using the Bella for hot smoking. I donít find it necessary on smaller or thinner cuts of meat like ribs, chicken pieces, steaks etc. When smoking large and thick cuts such as briskets, pork butts or loins etc. I employ the Bella to deliver a deeper smoke penetration into the meat. It works very well.


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