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Do I need to fire it up with nothing in it for the first time? (someone told me I should) Is there a cut of meat that is good for a first time beginner? Is Chestnut wood ok to use?

Hi Biscuitburner, I haven’t spoke at you since Silverton, me. If it was me, I would fire it up with just some charcoal in the bottom pan and hot tap water in the water pan to burn off any residual taste from the manufacturing process. If you don’t have one, buy a chimney (See; http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_6_7?url=search-alias%... ) to light your charcoal. I prefer the ones made by Weber, me, as they are made of a better thickness of metal than most of the others and won’t rust out as fast in our humid weather. Lowe’s and/or Home Depot usually carry them.

I assume that you have the el-cheapo Brinkman smoker so you will have a problem controlling the temperature and will have a burn time of around 4.5 or 3.5 hours. For a start, chicken leg quarters, whole chickens (brine them first) and baby back pork ribs are good . Chestnut wood, pecan wood, most fruit woods, along with most hardwoods are good. I, personally, like the heavy smoke taste of mesquite wood for chicken leg quarters & beast brisket but it is too strong a taste for many people. I use mostly pecan wood and/or apple wood for my baby back ribs.
;-)
For longer burns, like brisket and pig butt for pulled pork, you will need to add more coals to the pan. I use a long tongs, wearing grilling or welders gloves to do that. One of the problems with the Brinkman is that the ash from the charcoal tends to smother the burning charcoal, especially with the longer burns. This can be partly reduced by putting a charcoal grate , supported by something like 3 rocks or oyster shells (I use the shells, me) in the charcoal pan. Hope that helps some.
;-)

C.J.V. - gotta run now, me
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