Adding charcoal for longer smokes

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by outd00rs, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. outd00rs

    outd00rs Newbie

    Had a couple of questions for you guys about the best method for adding charcoal and when to add it.

    I use a WSM and have done a couple of butts which have turned out the best. I've done lots of research and see lots of different suggestions on "building a fire". I've used briquettes for the most part. Building the fire isn't the main problem it's maintaining temps for long smokes.

    When doing butts which are usually in the 6 lb range I usually do the following:

    Get a chimney filled up almost to the top going until all of the coals are starting to turn white. Dump them into and move most of them over to one side of the smoker. I'll then usually add twice that amount of coal to the other side of the smoker with minimal overlap between the lit and unlit coal. This usually will hold consistent temps for a couple of hours.

    So my questions are....

    1. What is the trigger for adding more charcoal? Temps start to dip?
    2. Should I be adding unlit coals or should I get them started in a chimney and then add them? If this is the suggested method how do you guys go about doing this? With the WSM I'm pretty constrained on how to get them into the smoker through the access door.

    I've done both so far but it's less of a hassle to toss in unlit coals and let them catch.

    What do you guys suggest?
  2. smoked

    smoked Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    don't have the wsm, but you would never ever ever add unlit coals to a smoker in use........light them in the chiminey first....
  3. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I add unlit lump all the time, its no different than adding a chinmey full to a pile of unlit already in the smoker. As long as its lump, I would not have any problems with it. I would not do that with briqs though.
    If you have a small door to add the lump through, I would give the charcoal bin a little shake to clear the ash and then toss a few chunks of lump in around the hot coals,or you can push the coals to the side and stack some lump in next to it, it will catch and work its way through the unlit pile. If you are gonna need lit lump because you let the temps get to low, then ya have to fire up the chimney, get it going good, dump it out in a pan, and using a small shovel or scoop, scoop it up and pour it back through the little door into you coal pan.
  4. gooose53

    gooose53 Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I've heard of people using the expandable flues to add coals. Shove one end about where you want the coals to land then add from the other end. If using lit coals, wear gloves and fold a pie pan to hold and direct the lit coals. Hope this helps or at least gives you some ideas.
  5. geek with fire

    geek with fire Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I don't have your particular smoker, but I think the question about what triggers you to add more charcoal is generic to most rigs. In my temperature control program, I have been experimenting with that very concept. Obviously as the charcoal burns down, the temperature reduces. My control system offsets this by constantly adjusting damper. I have a monitor that looks for the progressive increase in, what I call, "damper percentage". If the damper percentage reaches a certain point, for a designated period of time, an alarm should sound letting me know that fuel is running low. The "certain point" and "designated period of time" is probably different for all rigs, but mine is about 65% for 7 minutes; Meaning, if the control system is running at or above 65% for more than 7 minutes, it is most likely low on fuel. This isn't always the case, as there are many things other than low fuel to cause the damper to stay on the high side (I'm a really slow spritzer!). But being aware of the damper settings and the length of time from the last charcoal load, it should be pretty easy to decide when to load up.

    Hope this helps,
  6. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    What did he just say???[​IMG][​IMG] .
  7. gooose53

    gooose53 Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    My impression of what Geek said "Every pit is different and it takes many hours of practice (meaning a intimate relationship with your pit) to find when it is hot or not"

    Does that about sum it up?
  8. master_dman

    master_dman Meat Mopper

    So I'm just envisioning this "thing" with wires and probes all around it.. hooked up to monitors and such.. and a computerized voice saying "warning warning warning.... fuel low"
    "warning warning warning.... fuel low"
  9. outd00rs

    outd00rs Newbie

    Thanks for all the info thus far it's very helpful and I really enjoy hearing from the pros. Not agruing just trying to fully understand everyone's reasoning and seeing if I can't get straightened out.

    Are non-lit briqs not suggested for addition to the smoker becuase they contain fillers and other materials not suited for smoking with?

    Wouldn't the Minion method for starting a fire with briqs be a big no no?

    If introducing non-lit briqs into a smoker is a bad thing I definately need to change my process. I have produced some things out of the smoker that I wouldn't feed to my worst enemies. Maybe this is one step in correcting that issue. [​IMG]

    I appreciate the continued info!
  10. low&slow

    low&slow Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    You're gonna get different opinions on this all the way around. Its perfectly safe to add unlit charcoal to the fire after its going. I do it all the time. Regular old charcoal bricketts are not toxic or they wouldn't sell it. I grew up on Kingsford charcoal. I still use it all the time and Im still alive. I add unlit charcoal to my smoker before the fire is added (the Minion method) and I add it every hour (unlit) to the smoker to keep up my temps. Its perfectly safe I dont care what anybody says. Most people here prefer pre-burnt lump. I use lump too sometimes. But adding unlit regular charcoal bricketts to your fire is not going to harm you. If it was, Kingsford would be getting sued all the time.
  11. geob

    geob Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    What was that I read about using a burn barrel. When you lite your grill you also lite coals in another barrel at the same time. That way you have coals ready when you need to add. Keeps the temperature the same all the time.

  12. geek with fire

    geek with fire Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep. Only, I like beeps instead of voice alarms. I get enough voice alarms on a daily basis.

  13. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  14. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    It won't hurt you, but it won't make your food taste any better. That is strictly my opinion.[​IMG]

    I just deleted 2 paragraphs of why, but didn't want to rustle any feathers. Too much of that going on the past few weeks.[​IMG]

    I will say, without worry, why would anyone who knows what is in briqs use them instead of lump for long cooks/smoking. The ash production of all that crap is enough to make me stay away from it. How much should sawdust . clay, starch, and glue cost anyways?[​IMG] When you read the instructions of the briquette producers, it does mention not to add food untill the coals are ashed over with a greyish/white color around the briquettes![​IMG]
  15. low&slow

    low&slow Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    We all know what opinions are like, everybodys got one and everyone thinks everyone elses stinks.

    It only says that because you cant cook with unlit coals. Not because it will cause harm to you.
  16. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  17. low&slow

    low&slow Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Some people like the taste of briqs. I know I do, and I havent had any complaints on my Q. Im not lump bashing. I use lump too. But I still like to use some good old fashioned Kingsford briqs too.
    My grandpa used it, my dad used it his entire life, and now I use it. Plus it brings back some good memories when I smell it.

    Any solid object you light on fire is going to produce ash. Ash doesnt bother me, its the least of my worries while Im cooking.

    I have no idea what it costs. But I do know it is perfectly safe to use. Cant be any worse than making an omelet in a zip lock bag.
  18. capt dan

    capt dan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    heh,he you win. I just can't argue with them reasons. What the heck was I thinkin anyways!
  19. outd00rs

    outd00rs Newbie

    Geek, I am very impressed. I thought about this topic on the drive into work today. I envisioned your smoker looking like R2D2 from Starwars. Might be an idea for someone looking to custom build a smoker.

    With all of the thought you have put into your smoking controls do you think that you have more consistent results? I assume that you developed your control console yourself? What did you build it with?
  20. gooose53

    gooose53 Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I know I'm not going to change anyone's mind however, when I talk to guys who compete on a regular basis and have won many Grand Champ titles, they tell me they can taste the difference when someone uses regular briquets and lump. One told me because his 15 yr old daughter has tasted so much q that she can tell the difference! If people who compete and win on a regular basis can tell the difference, I would assume the judges can too and those who are real q fanantics can tell. So why would you use it if you didn't have too? Some people don't care because they eat bbq and can't tell the difference and that's ok. Since I've taken the bbq class and talked to people who compete regularly, I've changed to lump all the time (I admit, I can't tell the difference, yet). I guess bottom line what works for you.

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