Author Topic: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?  (Read 405 times)

BeefStewpid

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« on: July 17, 2017, 10:36:33 PM »
Hey hey!

We primary have experience using a kettle but have grabbed one of these babies and we've done about 8 cooks so far in our new #1 with varying success.  The last two cooks however came out with a mighty nasty surface flavor.  Last thing we had in there was mac n' cheese and the top layer was borderline inedible.  We definitely need to diagnose.

I really can't explain the flavor but it isn't good, to say the least.  The closest I can think of is it tastes like bitter "housefire" perhaps a bit on the chemically-side.

Some thoughts:

1) First thing that comes to mind, based on the taste, is perhaps the wood has combusted?  It's unclear why the first 6 cooks didn't have this issue.  Maybe the wood has dried out more?  It has been out on the patio since we bought it.  A bag of Western apple and Western hickory, and a Kingsford thingy of mesquite chips.  I'm thinking this might be the cause of the insane amount of papery film in the smoker box? (See image)
2) Maybe we need to clean it?  It's been 8 cooks and we've only cleaned the racks.  It looks staggeringly dirty and has some black sticky stuff in it as you can see on the door in the image below.  Also, I notice some ash on the element.  This might be due to a woodchip that fell on the element?  (Normally in the kettle we'd just cremate this in the next fire but can't do that here it seems.)
3) It's under a tree dropping a lot of pollen.  We hoisted a small dish over the exit to keep pollen out (see image), but perhaps this is hampering the smoke flow?
4) Bad wood?  Hard to know why the first 6 cooks didn't seem to have a flavor issue, but could be bad wood?  We used hickory/mesquite in the second-to-last cook and left the mesquite out of the last cook thinking that might be the issue but definitely not.  Has me thinking it's not the wood.
5) Wondering if maybe the foil at the bottom might have shifted in the second-to-last cook impacting airflow, and then it made a residue impacting the last cook?
6) Says to not preheat but seems counter-intuitive to what we do on the kettle.  Perhaps we should wait for that initial blast of white smoke to thin out and then add the food, ignoring the directions?

Any advice welcome!


old sarge

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1751
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 11:22:26 PM »
I'm guessing just plain old bad smoke/too much smoke.  If your smoker residue is built up real thick and does not dry to the touch over time, you may want to clean it.  Also, I am assuming you change the foil with every smoke as well as removing any grease that may have accumulated under the foil.

You say the first 6 smokes did not have the issue of a bitter house fire taste.  So the smoker is working fine.  Get some quality wood chunks.  Smokinlicious and Fruit-a-wood are good companies. Weigh the wood, using just a couple of ounces to start.

Different meats take on smoke differently. So experiment.  And always err on the lite side with regard to wood quantity. 
David from Arizona
SI 3D
CS 066 (retired to my son's home)
Lodge Sportsman Grill
Weber kettle
Ducane Meridian 42 inch Grill
US Army 70 - 95

SconnieQ

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1526
  • Model #1 since Jan 2015
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2017, 12:01:59 AM »
+1. I feel it has something to do with the wood. You are probably getting combustion from dry wood. Mesquite chips are definitely going to give you a bitter taste if they combust. Western, Kingsford, and Weber woods are extremely dry. Soaking does not help. Also, many people claim mesquite can be an acquired taste. I also don't care much for apple anymore, although I used to use it all the time. I would definitely buy some new wood from smokinlicious. A great place to start would be the double filet box with 3 varieties. Hickory, cherry, maple and oak are my go-to woods. If you like apple or pecan, you will need to order from somewhere like fruitawood. Make sure you are weighing your wood, and not using too much. These smokers require very little wood. I don't think it is necessary to cover the hole on the top because of the pollen. And the inside of your smoker looks normal. If there are loose flaky bits, you can just lightly scrape them with a plastic putty knife or old credit card. I quickly wipe down any greasy or sticky parts with a paper towel after each use, but I do not clean it. Foil should be changed with each use. Don't forget to poke the air hole in the foil in the bottom. And don't preheat. Give good quality wood a try and let us know how it goes.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 12:05:47 AM by SconnieQ »
Kari from Madison WI "77 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality"
SI Model #1 with "Libby the dog" poultry skin eating accessory
Weber Smokey Mountain (are we still friends?), Weber Kettle Grill (stop complaining WSM, I still have a chance)
Anova WiFi Precision Cooker (sous vide)

LarryD

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 249
  • #2 - Garland, TX
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2017, 12:28:32 AM »
I haven't read the feedback from others yet, so I'm answering at the risk of being repetitive.  :)  Figure it's a good way to do a hypothesis though.

I think you're onto the right ideas with the combustion and the airflow restriction from the bowl.  Could you put an umbrella higher over it?  Are you remembering to poke a hole through any foil on the bottom for the grease to drain out and air to get in?

I don't think it's dirty at all... I clean the racks and change the foil regularly.  I only worry about the buildup when it gets flaky enough that I can easily dislodge it with gentle push of a putty knife.

I'm assuming you don't see any changes to the wood and/or signs of any kind of infestation.  Does the smoke smell good when it's coming out?
------------------------------
See where the Smokin-It Forum Members are located: https://goo.gl/iFgTi1

BeefStewpid

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2017, 01:23:45 AM »
Really appreciate the feedback!

Also, I am assuming you change the foil with every smoke as well as removing any grease that may have accumulated under the foil.

We definitely changed it between the 6th/7th/8th smokes (good/bad/bad.)  Very little grease gets under the foil, though.  I think I wiped it up once with a paper towel but that was it.  Maybe failing to mop up grease under the foil is the culprit?

Quote
Smokinlicious and Fruit-a-wood are good companies.


Done, thanks for the tip, will see how it goes.

Quote
Weigh the wood, using just a couple of ounces to start.

We have been weighing it.  7th smoke was short ribs with 2.2 oz. of hickory and 0.8 oz. of mesquite (our first smoke that had this bad flavor.)  One of the earlier smokes we had done was short ribs whole cook unwrapped with 5 oz. mixed apple and hickory.  It was super smokey but mighty tasty.  Not nasty at all.  That's one thing that made us think maybe it was the mesquite (even though our 6th smoke had mesquite in it with no issues at all.)  So we excluded it from the 8th smoke, which was 2.1 oz. of hickory and nothing else.  That was Mac n' cheese and it was in the smoke for 30 minutes though obviously in the smoker for longer.  It was our first time doing that in the #1 but the nasty flavor of the top layer of the mac n' cheese was exactly the same nasty flavor that the 7th cook of short ribs had.  Could the mesquite residue from the 7th smoke have impacted it?  Question would remain why mesquite didn't ruin the 6th smoke.

+1. I feel it has something to do with the wood. You are probably getting combustion from dry wood. Mesquite chips are definitely going to give you a bitter taste if they combust.


8th smoke, which had the bad taste, didn't have mesquite in it. 

I worry though that some got on the element.  Not sure if that matters or if it just cremates next cook (though maybe that is why the 8th was bad?)

Quote
I would definitely buy some new wood from smokinlicious. A great place to start would be the double filet box with 3 varieties.

done!  Thanks for the rec.

Could you put an umbrella higher over it?

Yeah I could actually.  Not a bad idea, will do that next cook.

Quote
  Are you remembering to poke a hole through any foil on the bottom for the grease to drain out and air to get in?

Yup though there's very little grease.  I assume a decent amount of the grease is winding up in the water pan or dried on the foil, not out the drain hole.  Might the water pan be part of the problem (changed each cook, no water pan used at all with the mac n' cheese cook)?

Quote
I'm assuming you don't see any changes to the wood and/or signs of any kind of infestation.  Does the smoke smell good when it's coming out?

Not really noticing signs of infestation.  Overall the wood seems fine though I haven't been hyperfocusing on it yet as I didn't really become concerned until the 8th was bad.  Smoke has definitely smelt amazing on past cooks.  I can't entirely remember what it smelled like on the past two cooks.  I know at one point it smelled a bit like wood being cut by a bandsaw and gave me a "shop class" experience instead of a yummy food experience, but I can't remember when that was and didn't make anything of it at the time, so I'm not sure if it would have been connected to these last two bad smokes.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 02:05:38 PM by BeefStewpid »

LarryD

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 249
  • #2 - Garland, TX
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2017, 04:47:48 PM »
I'm really looking forward to the a-ha moment when this is figured out.  At this point, if it were me, I'd be tempted to take out all foil, wipe things down with some paper towels, and perform the seasoning again.  During the seasoning I'd take special note of the smell of the smoke at different points.  My hope would be that this would help me figure out the bad smell and also possibly burn it out.

What kind of cleaner are you using on the racks and anything else you're taking out and washing?  Any chance there is cleaner residue getting left behind?
------------------------------
See where the Smokin-It Forum Members are located: https://goo.gl/iFgTi1

SconnieQ

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1526
  • Model #1 since Jan 2015
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2017, 05:33:13 PM »
If you look at the collection of chunks in the Western, Kingsford, Weber, or Big Box brands, they vary a lot from chunk to chunk even within the same bag. Probably not even from the same tree. Some are heartwood, some have a lot of bark, and some are just weird. And they are all too dry. So wood quality can vary from chunk to chunk, and smoke to smoke. Smokinlicious wood is very consistent. You should notice this when you receive your order.
Kari from Madison WI "77 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality"
SI Model #1 with "Libby the dog" poultry skin eating accessory
Weber Smokey Mountain (are we still friends?), Weber Kettle Grill (stop complaining WSM, I still have a chance)
Anova WiFi Precision Cooker (sous vide)

Grampy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 562
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2017, 06:16:58 PM »
As others have mentioned, I believe the answer is too much wood more so than the combustion problem. It has been my experience that anytime you have that awful bitter taste it is because it is over smoked from using too much wood.
Jimmy from Arkadelphia, AR
Smokin-It #2
Woo Pig Sooie!

Durangosmoker

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 358
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2017, 02:47:43 PM »
What did your wood look like after the smoke? Was it black like charcoal or white ash?
Eric in New York's Hudson Valley, unless I can get out to Durango.
SI #1 in Durango, #2 in NY, and thinking about a 3D.

Pork Belly

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1500
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2017, 08:57:55 PM »
Quote
A bag of Western apple and Western hickory, and a Kingsford thingy of mesquite chips

I think the above listed comment is your issue.
Always use wood from a reputable source there are recommendations on a few different companies. I cut my own, so I know where it comes from and what I have.

Review what you listed "Western Apple", I have no idea what that is possibly a crab apple tree, I don't know. "Western Hickory" & "Thingy of Mesquite" again with the Western term that must make it special. Hickory and Mesquite are in my opinion flavors that people love or hate. Personally I don't care for them or red oak.

I recommend you get some sugar maple, it is a clean slightly sweet very neutral smoke. burn chunks not chips in amounts that are 2 oz or less. Good luck.
Brian - Michigan-NRA Life Member
"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity."
- Sigmund Freud

SconnieQ

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1526
  • Model #1 since Jan 2015
    • View Profile
Re: Nasty taste from last two cooks, any hypothesis?
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2017, 01:48:00 AM »
Quote
A bag of Western apple and Western hickory, and a Kingsford thingy of mesquite chips

I think the above listed comment is your issue.
Always use wood from a reputable source there are recommendations on a few different companies. I cut my own, so I know where it comes from and what I have.

Review what you listed "Western Apple", I have no idea what that is possibly a crab apple tree, I don't know. "Western Hickory" & "Thingy of Mesquite" again with the Western term that must make it special. Hickory and Mesquite are in my opinion flavors that people love or hate. Personally I don't care for them or red oak.

I recommend you get some sugar maple, it is a clean slightly sweet very neutral smoke. burn chunks not chips in amounts that are 2 oz or less. Good luck.

"Western" is a brand name. http://www.westernbbqproducts.com/wood-chunks.html  Inexpensive and easily available, sold at big box stores, hardware stores, Amazon, etc. It is extremely dry, very inconsistent, and not good quality chunks, especially when compared to wood you order from reputable companies. Good advice on the Sugar Maple.
Kari from Madison WI "77 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality"
SI Model #1 with "Libby the dog" poultry skin eating accessory
Weber Smokey Mountain (are we still friends?), Weber Kettle Grill (stop complaining WSM, I still have a chance)
Anova WiFi Precision Cooker (sous vide)