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?
Edited by AlwaysHopeful - 1/25/16 at 11:22am