Weekend river raft run just completed. A buddy brings along his water smoker along with 14 pounds of pork loin that was cut into two slabs and marinaded in a teriyaki sauce for 72 hours. He sets his smoker up and I notice that the temperature gauge says "Low", "Ideal", "Hot". Now, imagining those choices on the face of a clock, low would be 9 - 10; ideal 10 - 2; hot 2 - 3. I ask if he knows what temperature each level represents, and his reply, "I keep it in the Ideal range." That is a pretty big swing for "Ideal."
Charcoal and wood go in the base, overly marinated meat on the grill and 2 cold beers in the liquid pan to "add steam". "How long do you plan to smoke that for?", I ask. "Probably 6 hours." is his reply. "Do you plan to pull it off at a certain temperature and wrap it in foil until it's done?" "Nope, I want it to be nice and smoked. I push on the meat to tell me when it's done" he says. "You do realize at a certain point, the meat will no longer absorb the smoke and instead it will build a bitter flavor, right?" "Hey, you don't even eat meat, so you know nothing about this." he says in a loud, direct tone. I take that as a "Hey, I'm the Smoke King here, so shut up." so I move away.
For the next six hours we run the river a few runs, and after each run, he adds more wood and charcoal (never once checking the liquid pan), relying on that "Ideal" and "finger test" heat setting. I get my chicken on the grill with my simple rub and start saucing the pieces once the meat is just about done.
10 people sit down to eat, I grab a few pieces of chicken, while the other 9 start on pork. We are all long time friends, so no one wants to hurt this guys feeling after he spent so much time working on his pork, but "Salty", "Overcooked", "Bitter", "Dry", "Why is this meat grey", were words quickly muttered.
I felt bad seeing all of that effort and food go to waste. Proper tools and a little education can pay dividends.