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Smokenator Question

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I battled my Smokenator all day yesterday. I think most of the problem was me, not paying attention to what the manual was telling me.

However, I'm using it again today. And it's starting out the same way it did yesterday. I counted out 60 coals, and held back 12 to light in the chimney. When they were good and hot, I put them in the smokenator on top of the unlits. It's been 45 minutes, and the temperature is rising, but the dome is still only at 200*. Is it normal for this to take so long to come up to temp? I've got everything set up just as the manual describes. All I can compare it to is my Brinkman bullet, which seems ready to go after 15 minutes, although I wait an extra 15 just to let everything settle in.

If this is just life with the Smokenator, so be it. I just wanted to ask others if this is normal or not.

post #2 of 13
Steve, that does sound a little long to me. Are the bottom and top vents wide open? I never really counted the brics but just filled it up and added my smokeing wood. Seems to me it never took more than about half an hour to come upto temp. Are you loading the Weber down with cold meat? How about the weather?
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Weather is 95* here, no wind. When it was coming up so slowly, there was no meat in it yet. The bottom vent was open halfway, because the manual says 3/8 in min, on up to full open. (Yesterday, I had long stretches where it ran perfectly with the bottom vent 1/2 open.) The top was open 5/16 per the manual, I later opened it farther hoping to speed along the warm up.

Right now, it's gone up to 270* and doesn't want to come down. Water tank is full. The lid fits tight. And I have long stretches where everything will run just as it's supposed to. So I don't think a leak is the problem. I really don't have a problem with 270 at the dome, that's about 245~250 at the grate, which I can live with. But the coal won't last long at 270* I guess I'll write Don an email tonight after I get my thoughts together.

It's such a simple thing, and AFAIK there is nothing wrong with my grill. So frustrating.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Well, it's over. I've used it twice with great end results.

In the dome of my Weber, I installed a thermometer from Home Depot. It calibrates fine. But I thought I noticed something yesterday. Happened again today.... The thermo said 280~300 for awhile, wouldn't come down. But when I lifted the lid, the water in the pan was simmering real nice. At that temperature it would have been a full rolling boil. Also, I see the opposite. The lid thermo will show 230*, and the water is boiling furiously. Looks like my thermo is intermittant. I'll have to rig up a way to stick my ET-7 probe through the vent to see what's going on.

The food (in only two outtings) is coming out better than my Brinkman verticle. But the process is killing me. Will have to do something about the thermo before I start cursing at the Smokenator.
post #5 of 13
It does sound like your therm may be sticking. I bet with a accurate therm and a little tinkering you may find it easy to use. One thing I have read on the SMF was a thread somewhere about vents. It talked about opening or closing them too much at a time or too quickly between tries. The theme was if your gonna open or close a vent do it in very small increments then let the unit adjust and settle in before doing it again to truly see where your at. I looked but cannot put my finger on that thread. But you get the idea.

I'm really not familiar with your smoker so can't say much. Just trying to think of why you are getting such swings in temp. Things like that are very frustrating indeed.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hey Billbo.

It was a frustrating weekend. On top of this, I was playing with a new digital thermo. It was being crabby too, and I almost stompped on it. I think next time out I'm going to put about 1/2 inch of the digital thermo probe down through the top vent. See what that does.

In the meantime, I cooked 1 Chucky, and 1 batch of CS ribs on it. Both my family said were my best ever. So it looks like it will be worthwhile taming this thing.
post #7 of 13

Please keep us posted. Glad to hear that both your smokes came out good. I am contemplating buying the Smokenator - so I would love to hear more about your results. I am so new at this with Charcoal, I am worried my first time will be a disaster between temp regulation, cooking time.

I have used an electric in the past with good results, but only did Baby Backs and Pork Shoulders.

I want to get a good handle on the Weber and charcoal. I know you have to experiment, so next weekend if the weather is favorable, I am going for my first run with the Weber.
post #8 of 13


Steve, Don will for sure help you smooth out your cooks with the smokenator. He helped me a lot with mine, and I finally get consistent temps with it.

Mine comes up to temp in about 1/2 hour. I was having trouble with the temperature spiking, but in my case it was a nasty wind combined with the corner my grill is in forcing more air up through the bottom. I built a foldable windscreen and that problem ended.

Good luck!
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
He got back to me already. Before I do anything else, I'm going to rig up my ET-7 probe to fit through the top vent. I'll go from there........
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi, you wanted an update. First off, I suspected the thermometer I installed on the lid of my Weber was defective. And I confirmed that today. So I really consider today, to be my first outing with the smokenator. Secondly, I emailed Don, the guy who makes and sells the smokenator. He answered me the same evening, Mothers day! So that's d*mn good customer service.

Now then. Today I used my ET-7 thermometer. One probe on the grill, one through the top vent. After the grill settled in, the two probes were 15* different. Right about what the manual says to expect. When the vent probe showed 230*, the grate was at right around 215*. Perfect. The smokenator also did a good job of holding things constant. There wasn't any walking up or down of the temperature. It also came up to temperature in about 1/2 hr.

Today was a short smoke. About 2 hrs doing some Italian sausage and peppers. I won't be smoking on it any more this weekend, just grilling.

I must say, this thing seems pretty dummy proof. The first two outings I had a bad thermometer, and even though it made me crazy, I still had two great meals off it. Today was the third.

It seems to need a little more tending then I'd like. You really-really need to train yourself to fill the water pan, stir the coals, and sweep the ash (with the one touch lever) every hour. But maybe it will be less as I learn more. When I got my Brinkman, I had to futz with it every half hour. Now I light it, (the Brinkman) and don't have to do a thing for about 3 hrs. Doing all that to the Weber/smokenator really only takes a few seconds, so it's not like it's a chore.
post #11 of 13
Thanks Steve - still thinking of buying one. Doing my smoking on the ECB and gas grill today. But - looks like once you get the hang of it, the Smokenator will do the trick.

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Actually, I'm not even sure why I bought it, although I'm starting to like it. I had an old POS gas grill before. I found out how to smoke ribs on it, and liked them a lot. But then the grill needed repairs, and I wanted to switch back to charcoal. I ALMOST bought a Weber and Smokenator at that time. But when I saw the Brinkman could be used as a grill, my cheap gene kicked in and bought the brinkman. A short time later, I decided the grill feature of the brinkman wasn't what I wanted, so I bought a Weber kettle anyway. Curiousity got the best of me, so I bought the Smokenator too. So far, 2 of the 3 smokes were better than my Brinkman, and that was when I was having so much trouble still with the Smokenator. But I'm not ready to get rid of the Brinkman either. LOL my barbeque is so much better now that I smoke and use charcoal, wife isn't even batting an eyelash about me buying all this redundant stuff. Just keep the good eats coming, I guess.

Smokenator may be a decent choice for you. That way, you can smoke electric, gas or charcoal.

No smokes today. Going to Outback.
post #13 of 13
I am looking forward to my first Charcoal smoke. I am concerned about temperature regulation, and that was one of the reasons the Smokenator was appealing, at least from the website it seems that it helps, and once you figure it out, you can go about your day without tending to a grill constantly.

I love cooking, and now learning about BBQ & Smoke - but there are many things that need to be done around the house on the weekend! So, if it helps in that regard, it might be worth it!
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