Well I gave it a test run with mixed results. As expected, temperature control is a challenge. Especially since I have never used any charcoal smoker before, much less this one.
I started off by spraying peanut oil on the inside and adding a lit half chimney of lump to a half bowl of briquettes. My intention was to season it and also kill anything that had grown or inhabited the smoker in the 10 years it sat even though I had hosed it out pretty good the night before.
I let it run for about an hour while I prepped a Fatty and some Bacon Wrapped Corn (hat tip to SmokinVegasBaby and her featured post)
It ran up to over 300 but settled back to 275 after an hour. This was with the top vent wide open so I “assumed” I could lower the temp by partially closing the temp once I put the fatty & corn on.
But after another 45 minutes the temp had dropped down to 200. I “assumed” I had not used enough charcoal so I added additional lump (essentially the same amount as the lump/briquettes I had used before) and let it catch while I finished getting the fatty & corn ready.
I added a foil wrapped terracotta saucer as a diffuser and put the fatty & corn on. But when I checked about 45 minutes later the temp had spiked to over 450. I closed the top vent and the temp slowly dropped to about 375.
The fatty reached an internal temp of 130 in an hour and 160 after 90 minutes so I took it off. The corn had gone on later so I left it on. I also had opened the vent to remove the probe and had left it open.
When I came back the temp was 250 (I assume opening the door had caused the heat loss). But I closed the vent to see if I could lower the temp to 225 and instead the heat started creeping up. It climbed up to 340 in about 15 minutes so I opened the vent and the temp dropped to 275 after 15 minutes.
I opened the door to remove the corn and it only recovered to 250. So I closed the vent again to test the impact and again the temp rose to 325 after about 15 minutes. Since I was done I left it alone and after another 15 minutes it was down to 275 and continued to drop for the remainder of the evening.
The fatty turned out pretty well (my first to cook or taste). I think I will add more cheese to the center and use regular cut bacon. I used thick cut and it did not get as crispy as I would have liked. Not sure how much of that is the thick cut or the temp issues.
The corn was good but I forgot the olive oil and will use more rub next time.
My thoughts on the smoker:
I need to do a fire only run without trying to cook anything so that I can keep the door closed and only adjust the vent.
My first load was probably light and my second load was probably too much. I will try again with about 1 ½ of my initial load.
I need to let the initial fire get up to temp and settle before I try to control it.
I need to start with the terracotta diffuser and not add it later. I think I introduced to many variables and made it hard to determine what impact something had. I also wonder if the diffuser pushing the heat to the outside caused the thermometer to read higher than the actual temp at the food.
I am bewildered by the impact of the vent. I would think closing it would lower the heat and opening it would raise it but it seemed to do the opposite. I need to try partially open (1/4, ½, ¾) as well. I only set it at closed or open last night.
I forgot to test the thermometer, will do that tonight.
What do you guys think?