Help with fuel management

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by bluemoment, Apr 3, 2010.

  1. I've been having a lot of temperature issues when smoking pork butt. About 3 hours into smoking, the temp takes a dive to around 200 and I am unable to recover from it. After 6 attempts, I have yet to get the internal temp of the meat over the 160f barrier. Tomorrow I'll be trying again with a 2.8 lb butt, which is similar in size to my previous attempts (gotta start somewhere).

    I bought 2 10lb RO Lump, to start with. At the moment my newly revised plan is basically sticking with the minion method, as I have had "more success" with that route. I also use a water pan. My ET-73 just arrived last night and I am hoping this will give me better guidance, as all I had to go on before that was the lid thermometer. I am still undecided between Kingsford Briquettes or using Lump (haven't tried a combo yet); I have raised my charcoal grate in the firebox, and made a make-shift charcoal basket. For wood I have oak log splits. I am cutting them to chunk size, as well as scraping of as much bark, then burn the outside with MAPP gas before adding to the firebox.

    So here's my questions for tomorrow's attempt:
    -How often should I be expecting to add more charcoal?
    -When I am adding more, should I put in a hand full unlit, or half chimney fully lit? On top, or off to the side?
    -I leak alot of smoke/heat in the cooking chamber, with the intake and exhaust fully open it sits at 250 (lid temp). Good temp, but it doesn't seem to get hotter. Does this sound normal? I am assuming that puts temp around 220 at grill level, but I'll know more once I use the ET-73.
    -With above said, when I add chunks I get heavy smoke for around 15-20mins. Is this okay, or too much?
    -How often should I add more wood?
    -I've seen postings about wrapping the butts in foil when cooking, to help get over the 160f hump. Is this really helpful? If so - when to wrap, and how much foil?

    Thank you in advance for any help! I'm frustrated, but still having fun...I'm hoping for an edible piece of meat one of these days.
  2. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Let me ask you this, you say the temp drops about 3 hours in.
    Is the smoker in your avatar the one you use?
    If so then the problem could be the charcoal grate in the sNp, when I first got mine I would have real problems a few hours into the smoke which came from ashes falling through the grate and basically choking out the fire.
    That would be my first guess as to your sudden drop in temps.
  3. Correct, I am using an SnP. I found the same with all the ash filling up and cutting off the airflow when I use the Briquettes. I raised the grate in the firebox up about 2-3" and this has helped, it seemed to also create the high temp cap I'm seeing too.

    I have a pic of the charcoal box I made here -

    I'll get a pic tomorrow from inside the firebox showing the raised grate.

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