Initial Charcoal Load???????

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by alwayshopeful, May 20, 2015.

  1. alwayshopeful

    alwayshopeful Newbie

    I am a brand new newbie smoker.  When I researched this I was all over this site looking for information.

    I bought a Brinkmann Smoke n Grill, a Masterbuilt 14 Inch Tabletop BBQ (has a slide out ash pan), a chimney and a bag of Kingsford briquettes from Home Depot.  Straight away I seasoned the unit using the Masterbuilt 14 Inch Tabletop instead of the charcoal pan.  No modifications done at this point other than putting the legs on the outside of the ECB.  The Masterbuilt was filled with the briquettes and lit.  The temperature spiked to 300°F then over time dropped like a rock.  The ash was killing the fire.  I still ended up with a seasoned unit and a lesson had been learned.  Time to modify the smoker.

    I smoked ribs last weekend using the 3-2-1.  I bought lump charcoal to get rid of the ash problem, filled the now drilled out charcoal pan thinking that lots of charcoal was required for a six hour burn and lit them using the minion method.  I bought the lumps because this site recommends them for low ash and leaner burning.  The part I missed is that they burn much much hotter than briquettes.  Had ceramic briquettes in the water pan as my heat sync.  I stayed with the smoker throughout.
    Early on the temperature spiked to 350°F and at that time I closed all dampers (in the lid and next to the charcoal pan).  The temperature dropped to 300°F over time.  One hour and twenty minutes later the temperature was at 260°F.  This “correcting time” was probably prolonged due to the ceramic heat sync in the water pan.  Three and a half hours in, the fire needed tending.   Shook the ash out (all those holes in the ECB charcoal pan worked as hoped for).  Moved the remaining coals together and added some briquettes.  I have since learned that if I wanted to use lumps it would be a good idea to have water in the water pan.  The temperature remained constant for the rest of the smoke.  The ribs were a little charred due to the time in the high heat….

    Here are my questions to you.   My experience with charcoal is only for grilling NOT smoking.  My smoker, as I see, it will not be affected by ash as long as I shake it out from time to time.  No big deal with that.  I have learned the pros and cons of both sources of fuel, lumps or briquettes.  I want to avoid the 350-300°F hiccup next weekend.  Should I use the lower heat producing briquettes or the cleaner burning lumps?  Now here is the biggie, for the initial fire set up, how many pieces of charcoal (briquettes or lumps) should I use in the pan and in the chimney?

    Last edited: Jan 25, 2016
  2. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    That's not a model I've used but hopefully bumping this up will get someone who knows to see this thread
  3. alwayshopeful

    alwayshopeful Newbie

    Thanks Pineywoods, much appreciated. 

    This topic has been brought up several times but never answered. 

    Being a newbie and not knowing what questions CAN and CANNOT be asked, maybe asking someone what their initial charcoal pan set up is and start up (online) might like asking where their favourite fishing hole is or hunting spot is (online). 

    I hope my questions are not crossing any lines here....
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  4. drewed

    drewed Meat Mopper

    I'd skip starting the charcoal in the chimney and just use one of the weber lighter cubes.  I'd also go for a mix of lump and regular.  Different kinds of charcoal have different ash amounts.  Kingsford blue bag seems to be one of the highest.  Royal Oak I've found to be lower ash.  

    The is no hard and fast rule about how much fuel to start with as every smoker is different.
  5. alwayshopeful

    alwayshopeful Newbie

    Using briquettes today, ash not an issue with my set up.   Put two layers of briquettes on the bottom of the charcoal pan.  Added 1/3 of a chimney over VERY lit briquettes then added couple of pieces of wood chunks.  2.5 hours in and the temperature has been and is ~230F.   Perfect.  Only added more wood chunks so far.  Will be adding a few briquettes soon.

    Last time (and my first time EVER for smoking) I filled the charcoal pan to the brim with charcoal lumps and added to that 2/3 of a lit chimney.  All dampers fully open. Nailed 350F in no time and that is where it stayed for a long time....  First lesson learned, smoking is not grilling and had to get my head around the initial fuel set up for each.

    Looking good Drewed.  Thanks.
  6. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I don't have your smoker but a similar WSM. I light 10-12 coals get temp to about 200 and after that only use one intake to control temp. A little practice and you'll be smoking fine!
  7. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    How about this for a method that works great in every smoker I've tried it in. Load your basket full. Place your smoke wood on top, I use (3-4> 2"-3" chunks. Then torch one spot thru one of the vents with a propane torch. You end up with quick pit temps and less burnt up fuel. Which equals longer cook time, and a more
    Efficient burn.

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