Everyone here has been very helpful in making me an expert with my pool. (OK, maybe I'm not an expert yet, but everyone's still been very helpful. ) First, I moved from charcoal to gas almost 10 years ago, so am a bit out of practice with charcoal. Over the past few years, most of my grilling has been ribs (beef or pork,) hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks, or chicken breasts (boneless and skinless have worked best for me.) I'll typically throw a foil pouch of hickory chips on the grill, but it isn't doing as well as I'd like.
I got my Father's Day present a week early, and need a bit of guidance with it. After several years of looking at smokers and drooling, I finally have one. The one I have was fairly inexpensive, and purists would probably consider it a "starter" smoker, but hey, it works for me at this point. For those interested, it's the Char-Griller that Lowe's has on sale this week. (At least here in Central MO.) I have the Grill and the Side Fire Box. The whole thing was under $200 on sale. Since this was my first smoker, and I'm not sure how much I'll really wind up using it, I wasn't willing to spend several hundred on one at this time.
Since this has cast iron grates, I spent most of the afternoon today seasoning them. Once I was done with that, I threw a bunch of hickory chips onto the charcoal I'd been using along with on a few beef ribs I had in the fridge, and wound up with the best ribs I've ever had. Even DW and my son were impressed, so it wasn't entirely the newness or the beer. (In this case, the fire was actually in the grill, as opposed to in the firebox.)
Anyway, the first question I have is this: When building the fire in the firebox, do I use charcoal along with wood chunks or just chunks of hickory, apple, mesquite, or whatever smoking wood I'm using? Which do I use to supply the actual heat?
How do you typically light it? I don't have one of those charcoal-lighting chimneys, but can easily get one if I need it. I'm assuming that you don't want to use lighter fluid to get it started. The little manual that came with the grill doesn't address this. It does have a few recipes/guidelines for smoking various things, that made me very hungry while waiting for the seasoning to complete.
My second question is what tips would you have for a complete novice? I know that it takes a long time to smoke something as opposed to standard grilling. I also know that the temp is much lower for smoking than for grilling, but that's about the extent of my knowledge (Yeah, complete novice. )
I'm hoping to smoke a pork shoulder next weekend. (Probably way too advanced for me, but hey...) Unfortunately, I won't have the time to invest in it tomorrow (Sunday) or I'd already be planning for that. I'm assuming that it will take most of the day, and I'm planning to start it pretty early.
Finally, what recipes do you recommend for a newbie? Anything you really enjoy that's fairly straightforward?