Another Frustrating Smoke . . .

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by ddave, Apr 21, 2008.

  1. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    So . . . had a pleasant Sunday planned. Five pounds of CS ribs from Costco rubbed with Jeff's rub Saturday night to put on the smoker on Sunday. Figured I would start early and take my time. No pressure to finish by dinnertime. Trying out lump for the first time . . . Cowboy . . . as that's all I have been able to find so far in my area except for Best of the West (which Nakedwhiz says is even worse than Cowboy).

    Was somewhat cool here (60s) though not as cool as I have heard some people contending with. Started off okay, one chimney of lit dumped on top of about a chimney and a half of unlit. Came up to temp reasonably soon, put the meat on, turned on the stereo (newly installed patio speakers on Saturday sound great but that's another story) and started baby sitting the smoker. Breeze came up a little but still temps seemed to hold okay. Added another lit chimney occaisonally but never had the firebox damper less than 75% open.

    Couple hours in then the wind changed direction and seemed to get colder. Damn thermometer reading pit temp looked like a countdown timer. Lit another chimney and dumped it on, left firebox door open but still struggled with temps. Decided to say hell, with it and fired up the gas grill. With one burner on got the off burner side and started to put the meat on but there was not enough room, so into the oven it went.

    Ribs came out okay but the ordeal was frustrating. I figure in the future I will do one of the following:
    a) different lump
    b) MORE lump (had plenty of room in the charcoal basket)
    c) ask the wife and kids for an Afterburner for Father's Day.

    Oh well, chalk it up to experience I guess.

  2. ron50

    ron50 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Sorry to hear about your struggles. Wind can suck the heat out of a smoker a lot quicker then a big drop in outdoor temperature.

    Fortunately there is an inexpensive solution.

    A wind break!

    I built mine out of a couple piece of plywood and some piano type hiinges, some others use something more elaborate. I like mine in that when I am not using it I can fold it up and put it away in the shed.

    Try that next time and I think you'll be less frsutrated when the winds a blowing.
  3. jet_deck

    jet_deck Fire Starter

    What direction was the wind in relation to the firbox inlet? Was the wind blowing across it, into it or away from it?
  4. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Ron's nailed it.... stop the wind. Carry on, soldier.
  5. You will be fine Dave, everyone is correct about the wind break. As far as a lump source is concerned, check your local butcher shops, they often stock a few bags of lump for thier die hard smokers.
  6. pyre

    pyre Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Need more fire! I don't use a windbreak, but there have been times that I've had to build a pretty big fire of coal. It might also be that you had built up some ash by that time and it was choking your fire a bit?
  7. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Why use a sledge hammer when a small wrench will do?
  8. pyre

    pyre Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Because the small wrench only works behind a large wall.
  9. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for the tips and encouragement guys. I do have a sizable piece of plywood in the garage that may be tall enough for a wind break. When the wind was blowing towards the firebox end it wasn't too bad. When it shifted direction and was blowing from the stack end to the firebox end, that was when the thermometer looked like a countdown timer. [​IMG] Maybe I need to find a different spot for the smoker. The wind can whip around pretty good where it is located now.

    I found a place online that will sell six bags of 6.6 pounds each of WGC Weekend Warrior Blend lump for $49.95 with free shipping. Does that sound like a good deal? Although, ash did not seem like much of a problem even with the Cowboy. But, man, I think it was Rich that commented on how light Cowboy is. It is like a bag of balsa wood!!

  10. geob

    geob Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Bigger fire? Then the wind will change or quit then you got a hot enough smoker to melt tires. Wind break, the way to go.

  11. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member was me... and I don't think Cowboy has the BTU's other brands have for sure.
  12. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Eh... Druther fix/cure the problem. More accurate and repeatable IMHO.
  13. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I agree . . . but all things being equal wind wise . . . would you recommend I stay with Cowboy which is about all I can purchase locally or mail order the better lump charcoal with free shipping?


  14. chargrilled

    chargrilled Meat Mopper

    Been reading the post, wind is terrible. The reason for the offset to dive temp like that when the wind shifted is that is blew the heat off the main chamber toward the firebox. I just went through this in a 40MPH wind I swung my offset into different directions to find which way was the least damage. LOVE THE IDEA ABOUT THE WIND BREAK. I take my offset out to my shed and use the body of the shed and 2 doors to break the wind.

    As far as lump, butchers, I have found Royal Oak (I would buy 100 bags of this before that Cowboy stuff, I have used both) at Menards!!!! There has got to be a Menards somewhere in Northern CA. Also at Lowes I believe they carry R.O.

    Good luck and keep you smoker going, takes HOURS to learn and a lifetime to master but when you get those temps to 225 and can hold em that food is going to cook and it will be awesome!!!
  15. desertlites

    desertlites Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I agree with the wind break & finding better place for your smoker-also I agree coyboy lump is junk-you need a hotter brand! as far as a bigger fire naa-wait till winter and have a bigger one inside in the fireplace.
  16. another solution that I use, instead of a wind break, I use a fire blanket to drape over the smoker, it protects and shields from the wind, and also insulates the smoker to keep heat from escaping.. Welders use these to shield the area that theyare welding in. You can get one at your local welding supply store.
  17. scrapiron

    scrapiron Smoke Blower

    Love the idea of the fire blanket. Bet that would work great with my little smoker too. Hopefully make it easier to keep the heat consistent and more efficient.
  18. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well, the closest Menards to me according to their website is South Dakota. Lowes around here does not carry RO lump -- just briquettes. I have not checked all of the surrounding "non-corporate" hardware stores though. I might get lucky. But the mail order route is looking very tempting. My wife tells me we live in the wrong part of the country for the good smoking supplies!

    I like the idea of the fire blanket. Hopefully in a couple of months that problem will take care of itself. About the end of May through the middle of September, temps here will be in the 90s -- 100s but we can still have some pretty good winds even with high temps.

    As long as I have my Kenmore Ultra Bake Super Capacity oven, at least I can finish if things go downhill after I start.[​IMG]

  19. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yanno, Dave... it may be impractical for you, depending on wood supply.. but it's not that hard to MAKE lump charcoal. Basically a 55 gal. drum and a fire below it. If yer interested I can provide info.
  20. teeotee

    teeotee Smoking Fanatic

    Dave, i can get my royal oak lump from pretty much any wally world around here. $5.00 (plus change) for a 10lb bag. This is the "made in usa" stuff which i've read is the best of the R Oaks.

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