Regulating Temperature

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by mrlederman, May 20, 2013.

  1. mrlederman

    mrlederman Smoke Blower

    I was curious how yous go about regulating your heat. I guess I will describe my issues and then post some questions, but any answers, suggestions, comments, etc. are welcomed.

    I am still new to smoking, but have done a few smokes by this time. I always use the Minion method, but I have noticed it takes a while for my grill to heat up and I am left having to dump a lot more charcoal in the SFB. After the box is heated up and I get the temp. in a range I want, I usually add four unlit briquettes into the SFB. However, I am not sure this is enough because the temp. will steadily decrease until I am fighting low temps. after smoking for a little while.

    What is the best way to increase or decrease temp. while smoking?

    When adding briquettes, does that just maintain heat? (I am assuming as they light up, the others die off and the heat stays the same.)

    How long do you wait until checking the temp. after adding coals or adjusting your vents?

    How many briquettes do you think I should add and how often?

    Thanks, guys. I know I threw a lot out there. I enjoy smoking, but constantly fighting temp. is very frustrating. I think it is a combination of my cheap grill and inexperience, so I thought I would get pointers from yous! Thanks in advance!
  2. so ms smoker

    so ms smoker Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

      Hi neighbor! First of all, what smoker are you using? My SFB is a new braunfels hondo. Very inexpensive smoker but works quite well. Also, do you use a charcoal basket? That is the only mod I have made so far and it made a world of difference in holding temps and lenght of time.

      To keep from ruining perfectly good meat, try some test burns with only a water pan to play with controlling temps. Just an idea! 

  3. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I gotta agree with Mike!

    We need to know what smoker you are using before we can give good information.

    A charcoal basket is key, as is good insulation, and air flow.

    Give us more info and we can help!

  4. mrlederman

    mrlederman Smoke Blower

    Sorry. It is a Char-Broil American Gourmet Charcoal Smoker  ( I usually smoke with a water pan, which seems to have helped with temperature skyrocketing. I have not used a charcoal basket, but it is on my list to buy. I actually just returned one to the hardware store because the Weber basket I bought was too big for the SFB. I will probably buy a wok or some other grate I come across. However, I was also curious as to how the charcoal baskets work. I know that it helps airflow, but as the coal in the basket ashes, doesn't it accumulate on the bottom of the basket and grill, eventually cutting out the air to the bottom of the coal anyways?

    P.S. So MS Smoker, my wife is from Ocean Springs and my family likes to gamble - I know the Coast pretty well. I also graduated from Ole Miss. Hope all is well in Mississippi. The weather has been nice for BBQ!
    Last edited: May 20, 2013
  5. so ms smoker

    so ms smoker Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

      Here is a pic of my basket, just to give you some ideas.

     This is just lit and only half full.

  6. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Air plus fuel= heat and fire...SEAL LEAKS AND ADJUST AIR. With a tight pit you can control your temp better than any stove.

    Sent from my SPH-M830 using Tapatalk 2
  7. mrlederman

    mrlederman Smoke Blower

    I appreciate the responses. Does anyone have any advice as to the best way to increase or decrease heat while smoking, how long should I wait until checking the temp. after adding coals or adjusting the vents or

    how many briquettes I should add and how often?
  8. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

  9. mrlederman

    mrlederman Smoke Blower

    Nope, not looking for anything to buy. Just some tips on what you people do to regulate your temp to take some of the guess work out.
  10. This is something probably well know to all but I'll throw it out there anyway.  Whenever I have bought one of these the first thing I do is use the FB grate as a template and build a new grate from 1/2" concrete rebar.  Cheap to buy.  The thin grate starts to sag from heat and eventually rests on the ash cutting the air flow.  No air flow no heat.  I usually build my first fire in the FB.  After the fires go out and the smolder starts I close the lids open the vents add your therm. and finish prepping my meat.  When the coals are ready to go check your therm., close the vents down a bit and add the meat.  Use the minion method from there.  As FWIsmoker says seal the leaks.  The rest of your questions can really only be answered by your trial and error with your smoker and style.  Open 1 vent, close the other.  Reverse the process.  Set them both 1/4 open.  Was there a breeze that day; were you actually getting air flow into the vent and out of the stack?  Open vent doesn't always mean good air flow.  These type smokers will never be set and forget.  By nature you will usually need to add fuel.  My step-dad, in his late 70's has always dumped a whole bag of charcoal and a few chunks in FB.  Lit it,  and when coals burn down throws on whole packer brisket at stack end.  No other fuel added ever.  No therm. used.  But he uses his hand as a temp gauge and moves the brisket progressively toward the coals to a warmer spot.  10 - 12 hrs. later brisket is done.  Although I will be buying a therm to do more technical smokes, I have never used a therm for chamber temp.  Just my hand.  I also use my hand above the stack to "feel" air flow.  You can't always see TBS.  Been doing this a while, and yes got a few burns.  Although you will have certain ideas to begin with that trial and error will need to take place with every new smoker you build or purchase.  Just my 2 cents.  Hope it helps.  Keep Smokin!
  11. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    You have a vent on your FB and you have a vent on your CC...the more draft the more air is getting to your fire and thus the hotter it gets....simple as that.   Start by sealing the heck out of it, by doing so you'll be able to control the draft better your self.

     Say you want to cook around 225  but because of leaks it's pulling more air through your fire and you can't get it below 275.... Seal the leaks.     You have what's called a COS, which is a cheap offset smoker and it takes alot of mods to come close to make it perform well unfortunately. 
  12. mrlederman

    mrlederman Smoke Blower

    After adjusting the vents, how long until you check the temp? I guess what I am asking is, how long before the temperature steadies?

    Thanks again for all the help. I definitely think I will have to make some modifications (charcoal basket, some BGE felt and a dryer vent to extend the stack at least).
  13. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Mrlederman, heres an article that could help you, it's about wood, but comon sense will guide you in the Charcoal use. However, gist for 'Grins and Giggles' try the Wood thing. Pre-burning wood is a great way to use fuel, and most folks like a camp fire as they cook. . .

    Hope this will be of service, and as always . . .
  14. coockie1

    coockie1 Newbie

    I have a master grill smoker a cheap one for now but my question is on the border of warm and smoke is 250 degrees what I need to know is what temp do I smoke at? This is my first time at smoking and it is a charcoal smoker I am really not sure on what to do
  15. coockie1

    coockie1 Newbie

  16. mrlederman

    mrlederman Smoke Blower

    Hey Coockie (welcome and if you haven't gone to Roll Call - go get your welcome!),

    Alright, what temp to smoke at all depends not he meat and, well, you! Which is a cool thing because there isn't really a correct answer, maybe just a better one. A lot of people will say 225 - 250 degrees for their pulled pork and ribs, but some might say 300 degrees for chicken. However, some people may run their smoker hotter (or it just runs hotter) for their pork needs and some may run their smoker at a lower temp for poultry.

    For me, I usually try to cook in a range between 225 - 250 degrees for pork, and for chicken I will smoke above 300 degrees. As far as for the smoke, I like to throw my wood chunks on my coals and burn my coal using the minion method (plenty of clips on Youtube on how to do this, but basically a basket of unlit regular (not quick light) coal, then you dump about 15 lit coals on top -the lit ones warm the smoker and as they die down, the others are getting lit so you don't have to keep adding coal as much - of course having to add depends on your basket and how long you need to cook for). While everything is lighting and I have the cooker warming up to temp, I get my food ready to go on the grate.

    I have used a cheaper offset smoker (I think like the one you mentioned), and I think it is great to learn on. Mine was frustrating at times because the firebox wasn't that big so for longer smokes I usually had to poke at the coals and ash to keep it from snuffing out. After a few smokes you will get the hang of what works best for you regarding smoking temp, building a fire, and keeping it going.

    Whatever you do.... enjoy it and have fun!

    Hopefully this helps you out some. Good luck!

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