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Charcoal Advise Please

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Well, I did my first meat smoking yesterday and I have a few questions that I wonder if you experts can help or give me advise about please?

I used reqular charcoal briquetts and had to add more charcoal every 30 minutes to an hour along with a few chunks of soaked Hickory to keep the smoke and temp between 225 and 240 degrees F. This is the grill and side fire box I have.:

Is there any other way I can keep the temp and smoke coming and not have to add charcoal as often? I think I read that using a different type of charcoal was better. Was this because it lasts longer and therefore doesn't require as much attention? I'm thinking that larger pieces of charcoal might last longer and require less effort.
post #2 of 16
Congrats on your first smoke...

Alot of us here use lump charcoal so you dont get the added chemicals briqs have. But thats not your problem. A couple solutions. First...use more charcoal! Fill that thing up. These cheap (not a dig as i have a Chargriller) side box smokers eat up the coal. That will keep you at temp longer. Second, make a charcoal basket. You can find some ideas on this forum. It will hold more coal and make it more efficient and controllable by keeping it up so air can flow underneath it. Also, it looks like you might have your grate upside down?
post #3 of 16
I would consideer using Lump like Royal Oak. Also I know there are a few mods that have been found beneficial with this smoker so check out some theads and you should be fine.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your response but this causes me to have more questions. If I put more charcoal in it will cause the temp to be much higher where the meat is. I realize that adjusting the damper on the fire box and possibly the smoke stack might help regulate this, but this thing isn't exactly air tight with those exceptions.

I will turn the thing the charcoal is sitting on the other way as I do believe you are right that it would allow more air underneath.

I will try to find this lump charcoal when we use up what we have. I hope it isn't too much more expensive.

I do have another question about making a bigger bed of coals. The manufgr of my new smoker says that allowing the temp to exceed 400 degrees F. will burn the heat resistant paint off the outside and I'm a little concerned about that.

Comments and advice are appreciated.
post #5 of 16
Lump charcoal=more cook time IMO. I add 1 chimney full per hour to keep temps up in my Chargriller (depending on ambient air temp, I cook in the cold a lot). I also find that briquettes need to have the ash knocked of them, not a problem with lump. For Chargriller mod you can search SMF or go here-

All the info in one place.
post #6 of 16
Yep I use lump charcoal/lumpwood. You should be able to regulate the fire temp by adjusting your air intake like you said. But just make sure that your damper on your smoke stack is always wide open. Check your local sams club they have been running a special on 40lb bags of lump wood lately but they may be out now.
post #7 of 16
David, I don't have the Duo, but the CG Smokin Pro. You really need a charcoal basket & use a version of the Minion method to get sustained, stable temps. I use a Charbroil shaker basket that you can find at most Lowes stores. You will need some way to suspend the basket above the ash drawer to allow you to dump ash during long cooks without disturbing the fire & keeping good air flow. It also gets your heat source up high enough so that air from the side vent is drawn up thru the fire & into the cooking chamber rather than just flowing over the fire. I used an grate from an old grill that I bent to hang from the cooking grate ledges. Others have used stainless steel bolts or pieces of angle iron wedged in the SFB above the drawer. Here are a few pics of my basket & how I build the fire. I can get 3+ hours of 225-240 temps before needing to ad more charcoal. I do have to make some minor adjustments to the side vent during the 3 hours.

First, I fill all but the front, left corner of the basket with briquettes with 3-5 chunks mixed in. I don't soak chunks as they don't take up much water unless you soak them for a few days. (I know I've posted these same pics several times but it easier for me than searching for the old threads)

Next I fire up about 3/4 chimney of briquettes on the side burner of my gasser. I don't wait until they are all ashed over. Just as soon as I have a good fire going, I dump them in the empty corner.

I have used this method with Kingsford bluebag, Royal Oak bricks, & Sam's Choice. I open the stack all the way & keep it open all the time unless I need to close it for just a few minutes to choke the fire down. I open the side vent all the way & pull the ash drawer open about an inch or two.

When the temp in the main chamber hits about 205-210, I shut the drawer & close the side vent down to less than 1/4" at the widest point. In about 15 mins, the temp will settle in between 225-245. From that point I make small adjustments to the side vent to dial in my target temp. During the next 2-3 hours, when I see the temp drop below my target temp, I will open the side vent up a little more. When I have it wide open & the temp still drops; I shake the basket to get rid of as much ash as I can; rake the remaining hot coals over to the left side & fill the basket up with more unlit briquettes and a few more chunks if I want more smoke. If I cooking butts, I only add chunks on the first reload. After that its charcoal only. Hope this helps.

BTW, if you flip the charcoal tray in the main chamber upside down, you can use it as a heat baffle to avoid hot spot next to the SFB
post #8 of 16
I also have the CG Duo with SFB just like yours. After several smokes here's what I've found works well for me:

I made a square basket using a 24" square piece of expanded metal like I saw here on the forum. I purchased the expanded metal at Home Depot for $20. The result is a 12" square basket with 6" sides.

I use the minion method which I also learned here on the SMF site.

I place an 2# coffee can upside down in the front left corner and fill the basket to capacity with Royal Oak lump charcoal from Wal-Mart. It's about the same price as regular briquets. I put several large chunks of wood on top of the lump charcoal.

I fill my chimney with briquets and use my side gas burner as you've done. I prefer to use briquets to get things started. Their uniformity in size just make it easier to work with. I've not had any "taste issues." I have my grill on my deck and quickly learned to put a galvanized pail under the gas burner since some hot ashes will fall thru the CG side burner.

When the chimney of briquets is glowing, I lift out the coffee can and place the glowing coals in the space. I've found it easier to put the chimney on the cooking grates and use long tongs to place the briquets in the basket rather than dump them. Keeps hot ashes and poorly aimed briquets off the deck.

I open the SFB and chimney vents all the way. I modified my chimney with a piece of 3" flex stove pipe purchased also purchased at Home Depot. The chimney now vents from the grill surface in the front left corner of my cooking chamber. I also sealed all the edges of the cooking chamber and the door of my SFB with aluminum foil. When the inside temp reached 200 degrees on my digital thermometer, I closed the SFB vent half way. When it reached 220, I closed it another half. It leveled off at j240 degrees with a slight crack in the SFB vent, and stayed there for almost 6 hours with no additional lump required. I did add wood chunks several times in that period.

Last weekend I smoked two butts. After about 6 hours the temp dropped down to 210. I pushed the glowing coals to the left side of the SFB and I added more lump in the vacated space. After two hours more the IT of my butts was 170. I foiled them and placed them in the oven at 230 until they reached 195. I let them rest for about 2 hours and then pulled them. They were the best I've made and everyone raved about it. We had some visiting friends who live in Memphis and they said it was the best they've ever had. Made me feel pretty good.

I used to smoke using the grill only with my coals on one side. After finding SMF I've found a wealth of knowledge here that has really made smoking so much more fun, and successful.

Edited Addtional Comment - I wasn't repeating what olewarthog said. Looks like I was composing my reply while he was posting his.
post #9 of 16
What they all said. Making a charcoal basket out of some expanded metal will be your first best start. Here is a pic. of mine.

And one in the fire box.

It is about 13" square and 7" tall. Just small enough to get it in the fire box and close the door. As to firing: keep a big pile of UNLIT towards your intake side and add in 3/4 chimney of fully lit on the smoke chamber side. Beside, not on top of your unlit. When it's time to add more fuel, shovel the hot coals over to the smoke chamber side of the fire box and add unlit charcoal beside the lit on the intake side. I have a CharBroil Silver Smoker, cheap offset, and can get 2 hours or more between fueling with this method. You mileage will vary. Good Luck.
Oh yeah, the paint on the fire box will burn off no matter what you do. Best bet is to spray on some vegetable oil while the fire box steel is still just warm. Kind of like seasoning cast iron. That will do the best job of keeping rust at bay.
post #10 of 16
Lump charcoal is usually about the same price as briquette. Sometimes it may be $2 or $3 more a bag, but it lasts so much longer, it is actually cheaper. When i smoke for 10-12 hours, i might used 1/3rd of a large bag of lump. If you use briquette, you would use a whole bag. I hate to say this, but if you are looking for cheaper lump charcoal, get Cowboy Brand from Home Depot or Lowes. Cowboy brand isnt the best brand, but ill use it over any briquette any day of the week. Good luck!
post #11 of 16
Lump last longer than briquettes? Not the lump (Royal Oak) and briquettes (Stubbs) I use. I get much longer burns from the Stubbs. I have also used Kingsford blue bag that I got long burn times out of.

I do use lump at times but for the most part, in the WSM, I use briquettes.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
I really appreciate all this info from all of you. I followed the mfgr. instructions on seasoning but it sounds like that was not as good as what I've read here. :
  1. Curing Your New Char-Griller® BBQ Grill
    1. Curing your grill protects the grill's interior and exterior finish while preventing unnatural flavors in your first meals. Please follow these steps in curing your BBQ grill.
      1. Lightly coat ALL INTERIOR SURFACES (including GRILLS, GRATES, and INSIDE of the BARREL).
      2. Build a medium-sized fire on the fire grate.
      3. After coals ash over, spread out coals, replace cooking grates, close lid and heat at approximately 250º F for two hours.
      4. Re-coat GRATES and return to grill at approximately 200º F for two hours.
      Your GRILL will then be ready for use. NOTE: Your GRILL will drip a lot of oil during the curing process and for several uses, but the dripping will slow over time. NEVER EXCEED 400º F BECAUSE THIS WILL DAMAGE THE FINISH AND CONTRIBUTE TO RUST. THE PAINT IS NOT WARRANTED AND WILL REQUIRE TOUCH-UP. THIS UNIT IS NOT WARRANTED AGAINST RUST.
I guess maybe I need to quit worrying about the paint so much from what I've read here. Should I just occassionally coat the outside (especially the side fire box) with cooking oil when it's warm occassionally? Should I work longer on curing the inside of the main smoking area until it is really covered with a coat of smoke? I'll have to try and obsorb all the info on making a basket to hold more coal as I think that is the key to getting this smoker to do what I hope it will......allow me to maintain a temp for a much longer period of time.
post #13 of 16
David, I hit the outside of the fire box every time I use this cooker. I use a spray bottle with veg. oil in it and give the fire box and any spots on the smoke chamber that have no paint a squirt and a rub. El Cheapo is 4 years old and still looks pretty good.
post #14 of 16
I started doing the same with my Horizon. After ever cook I rub the fire box down with el-cheapo lard. Beats the heck out of trying to keep paint on it.

It looks pretty darn good too.
post #15 of 16
After I added some more sheet metal to my pit, to give it some thermal mass it no longer burns the paint off. The paint does discolor on the top of the firebox becoming duller than the surrounding paint but it doesn't burn off the way it did when I got it. Now I can even hold my hand on the top of the cooking chamber during a smoke with it all the way up to 225F cooking temp inside. It goes though a lot less fuel now too while the temperature across the inside from side to side is much more even than it was as it came from the store.
post #16 of 16

I did one curing session with my CG, then started cooking. I do spray the inside of the cooking chamber hood when I clean up the grill after a cook. Like the others I spray & wipe the outside of the SFB where the paint has burnt away. If I see a little rust, I give it a good brushing & wipe it down with oil. I also heat, brush, & oil the cast iron grates after every cook.
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