I've had my basic analog Bradley for about 3 months now, and I've gotten a lot of use out of it and loved the results. I have had no trouble with the bisquette feeding system, which some folks seemed to think might be a problem. The only problem I have had is A. getting it up to temperature when I have a lot of meat in it and B. the time it takes to recover after opening the door. A more powerful element would be a good thing I think.
Any Bradley owners out there?
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I had the same issue you are having. I pretty much solved the problem by wrapping a heavy solid fire brick in foil and heating it in an oven @ 450 degrees. prior to the cook. Then I place it next to the water bowl. If it is really cold out put another one on a rack and reduce the amount of meat per smoke. This helps modulate the temperature swings and improves the recovery time. I leave a pizza stone in the oven for the same reason. After the smoking period is done, I finish cooking in the oven....more temp control, especially in the winter. Just my 2 cents absolutely free.
Yeah, same issue with my 4-rack digital, and a buddy of mine had the same issue with his 4-rack analog.
Additionally, I was seeing huge swings in temp while it was running - 20F+ degrees! That's BS.
He and I both invested in a dual-probe PID controller from Auber Instruments. Dials in a temp dead-on and holds it within 1F. Seems to heat up and recover faster, I'm guessing due to a higher output from the controller, or a more stable power supply.
He went the extra step of installing a second element (wired in series) beside the first one in the heat shield. They're 500W, and the controller is capable of handling 1500W. He says it's a lot faster to recover, bump up temps, or heat up in the first place.
I have the second element and the wire/connectors to do the upgrade myself, but haven't done so yet. Smoker has been hot for about 2 months straight any time I've had free time.
Thanks Ragnar. I think the element in mine is 800 W; the one that toasts the biskettes is 500. Unfortunately I am a wood guy and dangerous around electricity or plumbing. Is the installation difficult?
Should help. I know that there is a difference whether I use "first run" water (whatever temp it is when I just turn the faucet on, which right now is friggin' cold) vs. "hot as I can get from my water heater" hot.
Geoff, you have a different model than I do, so it may well be different. Dunno. What I know is that on mine, the element looks like this:
The roll mark has info on the element itself. It's not terribly clear in the photo, but it reads "QRT 120V 500W 15 03". Not sure what the QRT stands for, but the rest means it's a 120V element (like most of the electricity in your house supplies, unless Canada is different), 500 Watts, and was manufactured in March of 2015.
I'll say that in no uncertain terms, I am NOT a licensed electrician, that this modification WILL void any warranty, and I make no claim or guarantee that it is safe, meaning that if ANYONE does this, it is solely at their own risk. In other words, "I'm not a professional, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn once. Hold my beer... y'all watch this!"
This modification HAS been done before, and there is guidance on how to do it elsewhere online. I am NOT using the standard control, which I am not sure what it's rating is - instead, I am using one that IS rated at 1500 W output. I did run the concept by an electrical engineer at work, and he felt OK with it.
With all of that said, it appears to be a fairly simple deal. The reflector that holds the original element can be carefully drilled on either side with a 9/16 hole to hold the second element. Wiring in parallel provides the same current to both parts (like a string of Christmas lights that stay lit if one bulb goes out). Wiring in serial requires twice the load/splits the current to each part (like a string of Christmas lights that go out if one bulb goes out). I'll wire them parallel, which needs a small piece of 14 gauge high-temp wire with a size 10 ring terminal at each end for each end of the elements. SHOULD take about an hour, which means I have planned on 4 hours, a couple of beers, and a whole supply of curse words. If I do the upgrade, I'll document the process.
I took a look at the element in mine but it's all blackened, like some fool has been burning wood in there or something, and quite illegible. I got the 800W number from Cabela's catalog, where I bought the unit, but the diagram in the manual just points at the general area and says 500W element, and says nothing about the bisquette toasting one, so it appears that you are correct and Bradley, seems to me, is kind of stingy with the wattage.
Why not put a bigger heat source in there and improve recovery time? How much more could it cost them? Grrr. Anyway, being, as I mentioned, about as mechanically inclined as Wiley Coyote, I think I'll try the cast iron water pan thing first. Once it gets up to somewhere near freezing again that is.
The hot water thing did occur to me early on. I use water from the hot side of the water cooler, which is hot enough to make tea. Now if I can just remember not to preheat the cast iron pan in the microwave....