Adding charcoal?

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by nygiant, Feb 9, 2016.

  1. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    I just want to make sure of something.  When I am doing a short smoke, like an hour or so for wings and I'm using lump charcoal, I usually need to add more charcoal before the wings are done.  From starting the full chimney and dumping it until the temp. settles in then putting the wings on seemed to give me about 30-40 minutes before the temp started dropping.  2 times I have picked a few handfuls of coals out of the bag and put them directly on top of the already burning coals.  Is this ok to do?  I don't think I'd really want to start another chimney just to add enough to get through the cook or should I?

    I'm almost certain that adding unlit briquettes during a smoke is frowned upon.  Maybe due to the fillers and binders in them?  Not sure of the reason though.  I mean, when I do a boston butt or ribs I use the snake method so essentially those briquettes are cooking the meat without being ashed over.

    Can anyone help clear this up for me?

    **also, I'm using a webber charcoal grill not a true smoker when I'm smoking.  So the fuel source is right next to the meat.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    No reason not to add unlit briquettes to a fire. Just like the Minion Method it is very common to let lit coals light unlit briquettes. This is the primary way Gravity Feed Smokers work. I can't speak for all brands but Kingsford does not have fillers. The ingredients are there to give a consistant burn, high heat and just what is needed to bind the ingredients. There are some interesting videos on how it's made...JJ
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  3. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★


    I do it all the time. I even built myself a chute for my WSM, so I could get the charcoal into the middle.

    Al
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  4. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    Thanks for the replies.  I've just read on this site over the last 7-8 months or so throughout different threads that adding new briquettes can cause bad flavor in the meat.  That "acrid smell" that new briquettes give off will get into the meat, that's why I wasn't sure.  But like I said, having used the snake method on the grill is essentially the same thing although a lot slower since it's a "charcoal fuse" that's burning.

    So I take it that adding lump charcoal from the bag to the existing fire is fine too?
     
  5. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Yes lump is fine.

    Al
     
  6. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    Thanks Al.  Just got into smoking last May and have been using a webber grill.  Now that I've done a few things I feel I can actually invite people over to eat now.  I think I may need more room to cook and I'm thinking about a WSM like you have.
     
  7. phatbac

    phatbac Master of the Pit

    WSM is a great smoker. I own a 22.5 and it comes out of the box ready to make great food. Sure there are mods you can make if you want but it work fine as is. I typically put some charcoal in the bottom of my smoker with some wood. make a space in the middle and add a 3/4 chimney of hot coals in the space and its good for hours. sometimes i use lump (royal oak) sometimes i use Kingsford.

    Let me see if i have a pic i can share

     
  8. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    That's great, thanks for sharing!  Never have seen the inside of one until you posted that pic.

    Is that a whole bag of charcoal you used in there?  Did you dump the hot coals just up near the front edge? I guess it doesn't matter where you dump them.  So what happens if you need to add more coals during your cook?  How do you get to that area where the coals are?  Like that picture Al posted, you have to open the door and add unlit to lit I guess?
     
  9. phatbac

    phatbac Master of the Pit

    OK that was about 1/3 bag of charcoals with 3/4 to whole chimney of charcoals lit on top so maybe half a bag or so. I usually use less than that but in that case 1/2 a bag is about what i used for that smoke. (maybe added some more later)

    The pic shows the bottom of the smoker, the smoker comes in 3 pieces, the bottom as shown a middle section which has the heat shield (water pan although i don't use water) and two racks for your meat/food. the third section is the lid which you put on top.

    I typically build my fire in the bottom with soem wood and charcoal and get it going then put my smoker together, bring it up to a decent temp and put my meat on. 

    another pic before fire where i was putting some thin oak splits is..


    that is a little more wood than i usually start with but i had the thin oak splits my dad gave me for some prime rib so i threw them on. the idea is the charcoal is to the sides and the hot coals go in the middle. the fire and heat spread out from the middle to the side and give you a longer smoke. i add wood through the charcoal to give smoke throughout. that was about 1/3 of a bag with the chimney of hot coals and that and the wood gave me about 4 hours of smoke for those two prime rib roasts. i had heat for a couple more hours afterwards but i didn't need it since the prime rib was up to temp at about 4 hours.

    pic of the prime rib just for shiggles:


    happy smoking,

    phatbac(Aaron)
     
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  10. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    Looks great!  Also looks like a little less "hassle" than me using the actual grill to do the smoking.
     
  11. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If you have to add charcoal mid smoke there are a couple of different methods/scenarios:
    • If you are using lump then you can add it straight on without to much worry.
    • If you are using briquets and want to avoid the white billowy "start up" smoke you can put it in a chimney and get it about half lit before dumping it in the smoker/grill.
    • Or just put cold briquets on the side of your lit ones. This will cause some billowy start up smoke, but most of the cold ones will heat slowly before igniting which reduces that white billowy smoke.
    I also have the 22.5" WSM and I basically have settled on two basic loads - half bag and full bag. For all smokes less than 8-9 hrs. I use half a bag of charcoal (10 lbs) (usually Kingsford Blue Bag), for all my longer smokes I use the full bag (20 lbs). Each of those methods gets approx. 1/2-3/4 of a lit chimney dumped on top of the pile of unlit charcoal (minion method), using those two methods I have only ever had to add charcoal mid smoke two or three times in the past 5-6 years! Yes I probably waste a bit of fuel, but I buy in bulk when it goes on sale. Also I usually plan on filling my WSM with meat if I'm going to fire it up - then I just vacuum seal what I'm not having for dinner that night and toss it in the freezer.

    If you are using a Weber Kettle you will LOVE the WSM! It is the set-it-and-forget-it of charcoal smokers, has a small foot print on the deck, but can still hold an impressive amount of meat. I have had 4 pork butts and three full packer briskets on mine all at the same time - approx. 90 lbs. of meat!

    Shots from various smokes:





     
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  12. hawtsauc3

    hawtsauc3 Fire Starter

    Briquettes don't add a flavor unless you're using match light which you shouldn't use for smoking
     
  13. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    Awesome!  Thanks for posting, that really helps.  That's a ton of meat you have got smoking there.  Yeah, I would imagine after smoking on a webber grill that I'd be in heaven after possibly switching to a WSM.  Much less "finicky" I would imagine.
     
  14. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    VA
    No way, I do know better than to use matchlight.  The first thing I bought last summer when I got my first charcoal grill was a webber chimney starter.

    I was more so referring to the white startup smoke from placing some handfuls of unlit briquettes to a smoke.
     
  15. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'd beg to differ. Briquettes (no not the match light ones) do add flavor to the food. Cook a steak over charcoal and one over propane. The flavor is quite different.

    I have the 18.5" WSM and 4 homemade mini-wsm's. You can't go wrong with any of them. Super efficient and rock solid in the temp department.  I primarily use the mini-wsm's as I normally am only cooking for four and I can do what I need in the mini. I do break out the 18.5 about once a month though. My standard fuel for long cooks if KBB. I use lump for shorter hotter smokes. I use a different approach to lighting my charcoal smokers and BBQ's.  Iload the charcoal basket full with fuel, and add my smoke wood to that. Open all vents wide open. Then through one of the lower vents I insert a lit propane torch. I will run the torch until the pit temp is 25°-30° above my targeted temp. Turn off the torch. The pit temp will drop. If it is 15°-20° below my target temp I let the pit come up on its own. If it is less than that then I torch again (same vent hole). For higher temp smokes I will torch through multiple vents to light more than one area. When the cook is done. I close all vents and snuff the fire. If there is leftover unspent fuel I leave it in. Next cook shake off ash, empty ash, add new fuel to leftover. This method works great. No white smoke, and depending on pit temps I can have the smoker ready in 5-10 minutes.
     
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  17. hawtsauc3

    hawtsauc3 Fire Starter

    Okay yes there is charcoal grilling flavor but my point is that flavor is there whether the coals were pre lit when you added them to other lit knew or not. However his response about white smoke did make sense for why he was asking
     
  18. Gotcha.
     
  19. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Hey Johnny, I see your still cranking out some awesome Q with your WSM!!

    Al
     
  20. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks Al, glad to see you still kicking around and firing up your smokers. [​IMG]
     

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