Getting Fire hot enough & maintaining temp

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by purplestarrider, May 30, 2011.

  1. So i have my NBBD that i bought used off of craigslist. I have cleaned it out and have now seasoned it now twice. Since my first smoker is an electric one i figured that i need to practice getting the fire going and regulating the temp. So the first time I tried it i used news paper on the bottome of a chimney starter with some lump coal and got it only up to 250. The husband stated that i needed to dump it as it would cause the heat to go up. So i did and put a few pieces of wood chunks on it. Of course the temp dropped due to opening it up to do this. could only get it up to 160 after that.

    The 2nd time I tried it again I put paper on the bottom with quick start fire starter in the chimney starter with some lump coal in the top with some more paper in the middle and more lump coal. I got it up to 300 and then i do in the fire box and flipped the chimney and got the coals spread with some new coal and some wood chunks. It seemed to stay at the 200 for about 3 hours.

    So my questions are the follow:

    1) is this the best way to get it going?

    2) once i get teh fire going and throw wood chunks on the coals how exactly do i get it to maintain a constant temp?

    3) the vent on the door for the fire box how does open more or less create more heat.

    Thanks for the help very excited about learning and want to smoke some chicken tomorrow
  2. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Since I haven't said it,

    Welcome to the site, theres a wealth of info here.

    Could you please post a picture of your smoker. I am having a tough time getting a visual of whats going on here. 

    As far as the newspaper, are you putting it inside the smoker or just using it under the chimney to start the coals? 
  3. the paper is just in the chimney starter with lump coal. light it then pour it out in the firebox once it seems all the coal is red hot coals.

  4. deafsmoker

    deafsmoker Newbie

    Im a newb to charcoal smoking as well. I have a good few chickens smoked under my belt. At first I had heck of a time achieving AND maintaining a temperature around 220-230. Took me a couple of hours to figure it out. What I have learned, is...VENTS!! VENTS! I used Royal Oak Lump. I do the minion method with charcoal chimney. KNOW YOUR VENTS! Once you have it down, you can maintain your temps like you know the back of your hand. If you havent already, I VERY STRONGLY recommend that you get a digital temperature probe. It doesnt have to be fancy fancy. Get 2 of them and calibrate to boiling and freezing temps. Then, stick one probe right next to the meat through a baked potato, or like me, a wood scrap with a hole drilled in to have the probe inserted. The other probe, in your meat.

    With the 2 probes, I know EXACTLY what my temperature is.

    As an added bonus, get the wireless one. Nothing beats sitting in your house watchin tv with a beer in your hand and you can just glance over at the wireless receiver as to what your temps are.  Lots o luck!!
  5. Thanks. What did you find worked bet to get it up to the starting temp?  Then did you add anything extra to the coals once they were going to help maintain the temp?
  6. deafsmoker

    deafsmoker Newbie

    Sorry for the long post...just thought I'd give you my way of doing will find your OWN way of doing things. This is just a guideline you can follow. I did the same thing you are doing now...I took some one else's guidline and made my own.
    THE NUMBER ONE THING TO ALWAYS DO...LEAVE YOUR CHIMNEY SMOKE STACK VENT WIDE OPEN! NEVER CLOSE. If you do, you will more than likely have creosote on your meats (trust me...I KNOW)

    What I normally do (some others do it differently) is I put a single layer of unlit lump in my charcoal basket...and fill a chimney up of lump and light it up with paper in the bottom. Set it down for 20 minutes or so until it gets ashed over 3/4th. Then I dump it on top of my unlit lump. I then close the fireside box lid (some people leave theirs open for maximum effect). I then open my vent that is directly in front of the fire (lump). Now...common sense comes into play here. If it's windy...I close my vent 1/4th (meaning 3/4th open) and watch how fast my temperature spikes. If it's no wind, no breeze, nothing..then I run my vent wide open and watch how fast my temps get up to. Once I hit 200 (either way) I start closing my vents 1/8th of what is already open meaning...if my vent is already open 1/4th...I go to close to half closed and watch the temps. Common sense again...if your temps are increasing too fast...close it again 1/8th to 1/4th of what you already have. Small baby steps comes into play here. Patience too! Just keep doing that until you hit your target temperature. When you hit your target temperature, throw your wood(s) on and wait til it starts smoking BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR MEAT ON. Some times I like to go above (target is 220-230) I go up to 240 to compensate for heat loss when I throw my meats on. You'll have to be quick about it. Make sure your meat probe is in (if you so choose at the begining) so that way you can open, put meat in, whatever else and close lid under a minute to keep whatever heat.

    Now patience comes into play here. Open your vents 1/4th more (not  closing..opening) and watch your temps. Wind comes into play here. Where is the wind hitting? Your vent? other side? Once I hit my target temp I usually kinda watch it for the 1st hour wirelessly. If it starts increasing/decreasing slowly but steady...go out and open/close 1/4th ( steps) and wait 15 minutes. No effect? Close/open 1/4th and keep doing it until you get your target.  Once you hit it...sit back have a beer and be jolly. Just glance over every once in a while. If you do long smokes (4+ hours) what I normally do is I just fill up half a charcoal chimney and dump it on top of already lit lump and let the fire work it's way to the "new" fuel. At this time, you'll hafta glance over and watch your temps again. It's not like you glance at your wireless temp receiver every 5 minutes but like 15-20 minutes or so. If you go over your target temp like 235 or so...just take a walk and close your vent down however much. If it's spiked bad...then close your vents all teh way closed until it gets like 10 or so degrees above target and open your vents 1/4th and start all over again watching your temps. Once it's leveled out....chill.

    It takes practice practice practice practice. Eventually you will know exactly where to place your vent opening/closing marks. I should know....I'm a guy who doesnt have patience, but I finally got it down. 
    biaviian likes this.
  7. deafsmoker

    deafsmoker Newbie

    Oh and uh....DONT follow the temp gauge thats on your grill/smoker. It is woefully inaccurrate. BUY the digital wireless probe(s). Trust takes the guesswork out of every thing. Also if you're interested...keep an eye out on my other post (RIBS)...I'll be posting my FIRST smoked ribs as I am going along will see my probes and whatnots.
    Last edited: May 30, 2011
  8. im very excited for you. Thanks so much. I was planning on smoking chicken today on both to d a commparison on the 2 smokers but the hubby just called and said that he is craving some steak. we will see what i do today.
  9. deafsmoker

    deafsmoker Newbie

    You're very welcome! Whichever you Qview (pictures of your meat) as we all like em!

    I personally believe chicken is one of the most basic meat you can ever smoke (at least for me). Once you have your chicken down, it's clear smoking from here on out!

    Have a GREAT day!! :)
  10. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I hate to ask again, but is there a chance we can see the inside of the firebox. 

    I think I am seeing a propane regulator.

    It makes me wonder if you have extra air entering the firebox from the propane entrance. Or maybe there is something with the grate height.

    One other thing to look at is the area where the firebox connects to the cook chamber. Make sure there isn't any large gaps here.

    Also check the cook chamber door and make sure its closing fully. You could be loosing heat via the door.
  11. Tom,

    sorry i thought that you wanted a pic of the smoker its self not the inside of the fire box. I will get that posted here as soon as the hubby gets back with the camera. There is a propane adapter how ever the place it goes to is closed off.
  12. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    LOL    Yes thats what I ask for. But now that I saw the regulator, it has me thinking.

    At first I was having a tough time figurein out the NBBD. But as soon as I saw it I said oh heck thats a new braunfels. LOL 
  13. LOL Tom has it been a long weekend for you as well? has been for me. does this mean you don't want pics now??
  14. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If its not to much trouble tomorrow a shot of the inside of the firebox would be great.

    We'll get ya cooking in style before long.
  15. Ok here are all the pics of everything i could think of that you might want.[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
  16. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Someone pls correct me if I am wrong here, but I see a bolt on the front and back that I believe holds the fire grate.

    I think its a little high. I think I would try and get it a little lower in the firebox. 

    Maybe a couple firebricks in the cook chamber. For starters.

    Once the fire is lit and going good, temps around 225 or so. 

    Close down the vent on the end as described in the post by deafsmoker.

    Its going to hard to get a real long steady burn time with just a fire on the grate.

    If you can or have someone that can make a coal basket, that will help improve the constant temp times.

    There are several mods that you can make on your smoker that will drastically improve its preformance. They don't have to all be made at once. Play around with it and see what it will do.

    I would say to try a search but I dont think the mods are under new braunfels. Maybe another poster can help out here. 

    By closing the vent on the fire door you will start to control the fire vs having so much draft that the heat is just flying out the stack and not hanging around long enough to keep the cook chamber up to temp.
  17. yeah there are screws up high for a grate but I also have another grate for the bottom as well. I guess i must have forgot to put that in when i took the pics. I will look up modes on the this. you mentioned bricks. where would i want to put those and why?
  18. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    First look at the mechanical issues.

    Try to get 3- 4" air under the firegrate and try using a basket, you can do a search on here for charcoal baskets.

    Also check for gaps, place a flashlight inside the smoke chamber and close the lid (of course you need to do this at night), look for light bleeding out then fix these spots.Look for gaps in the firebox as well.

    Look into some mods like extending the smoke stack lower. You can do a search on mods as well.

    After the unit is sound, try working on fire management as others have suggested as well as tuning plates and vent control.
  19. thanks. So if i find any leaks what is the best way to fix where i see the leaks?
  20. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    A lot of leaks can be fixed by simply putting some high temp silicon over the hole if it is small, if you have big holes you need a welder. Sealing around doors can be accomplished with stove gasket material.

    Like Sqwib said do some research under mods look for Char-griller, New Braunsfell, and Char-broil. They are all similar body styles and use the same basic mods, main mods to make are 1) a charcoal basket so you can use the minion method, 2) use heavy duty dryer vent tubing to extend the chimney down to grate level, 3) some sort of baffle/tuning plate set up to even out temps from side to side.

    Good luck, and holler with questions! [​IMG]
    purplestarrider likes this.

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