In my first run with the smoker, I had a hard time getting it above 180, and blamed it on the cold and wind. Yesterday was sunny and 60F and not too windy and I couldn't get it above 150 for the life of me. I had the chimney and intake wide open, a basket of lit lump with some dried, seasoned maple chunks, and brought the meat to temp before putting on the grill. It seemed that the charcoal kept smoldering. I tried cracking the door, opening the ash tray a bit, etc.
I may have identified two issues (but I don't know enough to be sure until the next run):
1) The basket of charcoal contained many "fines" from the end of a bag. I think these packed in too tightly and wouldn't let air through as the bottom coals were red and the top stayed black after several hours ( I dumped hot coals from chimney starter on top of basket).
2) There is a "backpressure" issue restricting air flow in the cooking chamber. Even with the exhaust open full, my tuning plates must be too restrictive to get enough oxygen moving over the coals. I've got about four 1/4 gaps between the plates. That's it. I think this may be part of the issue, because when I finally gave up and moved the meat to the oven and removed the tuning plates (with my bare hands mind you!), the temps shot up to 300 in the cooking chamber and the coals had full fledged flames for an hour.
So, as the title said, it was a frustration. I know it's part of the learning curve. The good news is that the food was still tasty.
Menu: 8 Chicken thighs, 2 Sprite can chickens, 2 domestic turkey thighs, 1 bacon wrapped wild turkey drumstick/thigh, 1 bacon wrapped wild turkey breast. All except whole chickens were brined in Tip's brine for 12 hours.
Fuel: Maple Leaf Lump and Maple chunks
I normally use the wild turkey legs for great soups, and although the flavor turned out good on the smoked leg, the rest will be soup. It was just too tough, not dry, just tough. I predicted that and said I'd try it once. There wasn't any left as our guests still liked eating it. The soup is just too good to use another leg on the smoker.
The turkey breast I normally oven roast with a lemon/garlic/butter injection. Very good. This was equally as good, albeit obviously a different flavor. My wife wants me to make more and run it on the slicer for sandwich meat. Said it would be the best sliced turkey she's had.
Wife (my barometer if you can't tell) said the chicken was a 10 for her. She's pretty honest about these things. I thought it wasn't smokey enough, but I'm just not a poultry guy. Pork and beef are what does it for me.
Domestic turkey thighs were same as chicken.
So, I have to go back to the drawing board for the process, but can still turn out a meal in the oven if it comes to that.
Domestic turkey thigh
Beer can chicken
Wild turkey leg
Wild turkey breast