I have one of the Landmann Great Outdoors smokers. I have a question that I imagine pertains to all propane smoker brands. Here is the situation:
I have used a digital thermometer to check the accuracy of the built in thermometer on the door of the smoker. I positioned the digital as close as I could to the built in and fired up the smoker with no meat in it. I let the temperature settle and adjusted so that it was at 225 degrees. (by the way I have had very little trouble getting the gas adjusted to hold at a steady 225 - the stock control knob on mine seems to work good enough). The digital and built in thermometers registered within a few degrees of each other. I repositioned the digital to the center of the smoker at the same height as the built in thermometer and got exactly the same results - both read within a few degrees of each other. The seemed like real good news after hearing about the inaccuracies of the built in thermometers.
But, when I put in some food to cook ( 3 chicken breasts loaded on one rack above and 3 on one rack below the thermometers ) the situation changed. The built in thermometer continued to read 225 degrees after some settling time, but the digital positioned near the meat read significantly cooler by maybe 60 degrees. After two hours in the smoker the thermometer near the meat still had not reached 200 degrees and the internal temperature of the chicken was still sitting at about 125. I guess this all makes sense, since the meat goes into the smoker at nearly refrigerator temps and the thermometer near the meat must be affected by the proximity of a bunch of cold stuff.
So, here is my question(s): if I am trying to achieve a cooking temperature of 225 degrees, do I adjust the flame to give me 225 away from where the cool meat is and just leave it, or do I adjust it so the temperature is 225 in the vicinity of the meat? If I adjust for 225 near the meat I would probably have to adjust the flame as cooking progresses to keep a steady temperature, correct? Can I adjust the vents to get more convection in order have more uniform temperature in the loaded smoker? Do I move the digital thermometer to another position that gives a happy medium reading and then adjust to that?