Water Smoker Problems

by Ian G.
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Water smoker problems with my newly acquired Perfect Flame vertical water smoker.

I have tried on 2 occasions to smoke some nice back ribs for the family and I am getting mediocre results at best.

My first attempt was not good at all, too many shortcuts, my own fault. The 2nd attempt was much more involved. I followed all instructions.

Temp was a consistent 230-240 F and I marinated the ribs overnight. Coated with a dry rub and let sit for 2 hours prior to smoking, membrane was removed and I wrapped the ribs in foil for the last hour of a total of 5 hours of smoking.

The ribs came out good. I say good, not spectacular, not fantastic, just good. non of us here can possibly settle for good so help me out....What the heck am I doing wrong?

The water bowl I have is at least half full after the smoking session and the smoker box does not seem to generate a large amount of smoke, even though I soaked the mesquite chips for 40 minutes before using. The ribs did get a nice smoky flavor though so that is the least of my concerns.

My biggest issue appears to be the drying of the ribs. If I had not wrapped the ribs for the last hour, they would have ended up drier than the Sahara! Any tips or tricks are well appreciated, especially if you're experienced with this model of Gas smoker.

Paul's Thoughts:-

Ian, I'm not familiar with your smoker so I'll bow to greater knowledge if anyone else is reading this and has had water smoker problems and wishes to comment.

The first point I would make is not to worry about how long the wood chips last. After the first few hours additional smoke will have little impact.

Secondly, don't give up. My first few attempts we pretty bad so to be already producing "good" ribs is excellent going by anyone's standards.

There are a number of techniques you can try to improve the moisture retention:-

  1. Check your rub, make sure it's not too salty otherwise the salt will leach water out of the meat. I'm just wondering whether leaving the rub on for a couple of hours was the right thing?
  2. Lower your cooking temperature a notch. Try and keep it at 230F.
  3. Let your ribs sit for 20 minutes at the end of the cooking. This will allow the runny juices to settle so when you cut in, more of the moisture will be retained.
  4. Try using a mop during the cooking process. A thick sauce like this will form around the meat and therefore keep the juices in. This recipe is a good example

Keep on playing with it, be patient and hopefully your results will continue to improve. Just remember that if you change more than one thing at a time you won't be able to determine cause and effect. "Trial and error", "practice makes perfect" are two phrases that are so true when it comes to smoking.

See Also:-

BBQ Pork Recipes
Homemade BBQ Sauce

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Jul 03, 2010
Water Smokers
by: Hotwheels

Actually the main reason for the pan of water is not for the moisterizing effect. What the pan of water does is to keep the temperature low. Water boils at 212 degrees therefore the temp in the cooker is kept low. Try cooking at 200 degrees instead. The cooked meat should form a brine or grey color in the first part of the meat with more of a pink color inside.This brine part of the outside should seal the meat and keep the moister inside. Not to worry as long as the proper temp is achieved in the meat it is cooked. Meat should never look grey or well done on a smoker. Ribs then should be rapped in foil for the last hour or so of cooking. Good luck

Aug 04, 2009
Keep Working at it!
by: Doug

I have the same smoker you have and have made some great ribs, butts etc. The most important thing to realize is that the temp guage on the front is 35 degrees or more off. Get a digital temp gauge and stick through the top and magnetically stick to the side or handles on side. Secondly, keep the temp 220-230 at most as slow and low are the key. Use the 3-2-1 method. This is cooking 3 hours uncovered, cover in foil for 2 hours, then mop for one hour. I foil for 2.5 hours as this is really where the ribs soften is in the foil. Add some apple juice when you wrap in foil and this really keeps them moist and adds flavor. Fill smoker tray full with soaked chips changing once every hour for first 3 hours. Keep water in bowl as high as possible as it fills with grease that looks like water but actually isnt so no moisture is transferred to ribs. Lastly pop a top and relax and enjoy!

Jun 09, 2009
Mediocre Ribs.
by: Chef Matt

Paul is right, its going to take a few stabs at this until its perfect for you. I also agree with Paul about the rub. What did you use for the brine or marinade? Salt content? any citrus? Were you using St Louis style or Baby back ribs. Country or St louis style will have a higher fat content and therefore keep your meat more moist. Also make sure that your Thermometer is calibrated correctly. Hang in there and keep at it. You'll get there and it will be totally worth it.

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