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Reply to "Lessons for new users"

The most valuable lessons that I've learned are:

1) Don't worry. Unless you REALLY screw up, you're probably gonna have edible product. Don't be afraid to experiment - but keep notes.

However, to be on the safe side, don't try something new when you're going to have guests over. Not so much from a "taste" issue, but more from a "when will it get done" issue.

2) There isn't necessarily just ONE correct way to cook something. It all comes down to your preferences. For example, I've experimented with rubbing pork butts with mustard before applying rubs, and not rubbing, trying different rubs, and trying different woods. My conclusions have been, well, inconclusive. Great results with different methods. And the differences, at least with pork butts, haven't been all that great.

3) Buy a decent thermometer, use it, and believe it. This will keep you from opening the door on the long cooks (pork butt, briskets) and keep the moisture in. It's rumored that each time you open the door, you add an hour to your cook time. I think that's pretty accurate.

4) Chicken skins will not crisp in a Cookshack Smokette. Period. Simple solution - finish on the grill, under the broiler, in a hot oven, even a deep fryer.

5) Don't tell your guests how easy it is to do. You'll find it easier to convince your friends to help you out on those nasty household projects by offering a meal of pulled pork in exchange.

5b) Don't tell the Mrs. how easy it is to use. She'll attempt to fill the free time you now have (no tending the fire, adjusting air, etc.) with an expanded "honey-do" list.

6) Learn about the cuts of meat, pork, etc. (many of the so-called "butchers" in todays supermarkets have little knowledge as meats arrive pre-cut) Find a good supplier of meat. It took me a bit of research here in Maine. Finally have a great butcher, plus use BJ's wholesale club. I still usually have to pre-order to get a Pork Butt or Shoulder, or packer cut brisket. Seems like the stores cut them up into various pieces pretty quickly.

7) Finally - we're a real friendly bunch on this site, but sometimes get tired of answering the same old question again and again. Learn to use the search function on the forum. It's quite powerful and you'll find that most questions have been answered many times already. Also - read Smokin Okie's guides. Well-done. There are lots of other bbq sites as well. I like the forum. Even though it uses another smoker type, theres a lot of valuable information on it.

I think someplace in the archives is a list of favorite bbq books. I don't have many, but use the "Smoke and Spice" book a lot.

A shameless plug. Take a look at my website. (listed below) I've gotten lazy the past few months, but have documented some of my experiences with the Smokette.

8) Repeating #1. Relax. Don't worry. Experiment. Load the smoker, have a few adult-beverages ready, and enjoy the result. You're gonna love it.