New to the forums and I could use some help.
Welcome aboard, brother smoker!
First off this is the grill/smoker I got:
I have the SNP, which is a left-hand sfb, and probably much lighter built. My biggest problem on longer smokes was ash build-up in the coal-bed, snuffing out the fire.
I've smoked numerous briskets, ribs, chickens etc but that was all on a charcoal grill where I had the meat in the middle with the 2 side fires going with wood chunks on top. I am experienced with the times and temperatures I need on the meat, just not with a side firebox.
I was curing the smoker tonight and was really surprised at how hot the main chamber got! It jumped up to 300-350 for awhile.
About how much charcoal/wood chunks do I need to use to keep it at 2-250?
I start mine with a full chimney of briquettes, and run the vent near full open, with the intakes being closed down enough to maintain control of temps. With factory built smokers, they will all run a bit differently, so there will be a learning curve involved. Oh, mine has been modified extensively as well, with a full-length one-piece tuning plate and charcoal grate mods.
On the firebox how wide do I want to keep the side vent?
When adding more charcoal...when do I want to do that and how much?
This may take some time to figure out for sure, but I try to add as soon as temps begin to drop, as long as no other changes have occurred, including weather conditions.
Do I need to start the new coals in my chimney starter or can I throw them on top of the still lit coals?
That depends on a few factors...if the cold coals cause too much smoke for your liking (heavy smoke flavor on the food), then you should add hot only. If you're just maintaining the fire, you can add cold and it will get those burning as the others burn down. If you're trying to rebuild the fire or bump temps quite a bit, then hot is the way to go. For volumes, try just 1/4 to 1/3 chimney at a time and go from there. If you don't see much for temp spikes after adding briquettes, you could probably use more and add them less often.
I know that was a lot of info and questions so any and all help will be greatly appreciated!
No problem, man! May many GREAT smokes find your backyard!
I know some of my responses here are a bit in-direct, just going over some of the basics from my past experience...hope I helped you in some way.
Had trouble posting this so I really hope it didn't post 3 times...
Oh, BTW, you may want to check out Jeff's 5-day ecourse...it covers many aspects that beginners should know to be successful, though you're not a beginner...the fire tending can be a bit overwhelming to some folks if they have temp issues and find a quick solution...(yea, been there and did that, too).