Can't maintain heat in CSP

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by choochmm, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. Hi All,

    I am having a big problem and it is driving me crazy. I cannot maintain a temperature above 200-210 degrees in my smoker no matter how much charcoal I load into it. Initially I thought I was doing something wrong or that I was losing heat through the gaps in the grill.
    The smoker is now fully gasketed and modified (plus an external and internal thermometer for accurate temos) and I still lose heat. When I just fire it up and the smoker is "cold" I can hit 250 degrees for a little while, then the temp starts to drop off to where it hangs out at 200 degrees or so.
    This has been going on for about a year now. As I was new to the world of smoked meat, I attributed it to my newness. I now have smoked a ton of meat with this smoker. I always need to finish it off in the oven or I would never get a brsiket done.
    Right now I have a brisket as little under 4 pounds that was on the smoker for 7 hours that would not break 144 degrees. I popped it into the oven and the internal temp is slowly getting to where it should be.
    What the heck am I doing wrong? After 7 hours that brisket should have been done. Now I'll need to wait until 9:00pm (TX time) to slice into the thing.
    I am getting greatly discouraged and am about to go out and buy me a better quality smoker. My only thoughts are that I am losing too much heat through the thin metal of the CSP. My buddies have smokers with thicker metal that do not have the same problem.

    I'm frustrated!!!
  2. coyote-1

    coyote-1 Smoking Fanatic

    You say you did all the mods....

    Try losing the buffer plate. In cold & windy weather, you have to get as much heat into the smoke chamber as possible - the buffer blocks that process and you waste heat because it goes directly from the firebox to the atmosphere.

    Try it and see what happens.
  3. smoke freak

    smoke freak StickBurners

    chooch... Its as easy as this...Add some wood to your bed of coals. A small fire is all you want. A small clean burning fire will also give you better flavor. If you let the wood smolder too much you will get an off flavor.
    It works for me and it can work for you too. It will take some practice and more tending than charcoal alone but the payoff is worth it in the end. After all if you didnt want to tend the fire a bit then you would be using electric...
  4. I never thought about removing the baffles (I have 3 in place). It makes sense so I am going to try this next. I tend to have a frequent breeze running through the back yard which I figured was cooling things down some.

    I did try adding the wood and it does work to bring up the temp a little (5-10 degrees but it does not maintain for very long).

    I am also going to switch back to lump charcoal going forward. I started out using lump, then tried Kingsford Briquettes for the last 2 smokes. The briquettes are so asjy that I need to keep emptying them out so I get decent air flow.

    Thanks for the suggestions. Do you all think that if I closed the chimney damper it might also help? I don't want to overwhelm the meat with too much smoke.
  5. ol' smokey

    ol' smokey Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I had the same heat problem with mine after the original mods.
    Original mods were:
    1. Turned the stock baffle over and hung it on bolts.
    2. Put the chiminey extention on
    3. Raised the grate in the fire box about 3".

    Next I tried moving the chimney extention all the way to the right.
    Same problem so I returned it to the left side.

    Then I turned the baffle right side up and hung it on the factory hangers.
    Bingo temps went way up had to throttle the damper back to hold 250°. The temps from right to left were about 15° different.

    I then cut a baffle and placed it here

    Now I maintain practally even temps all the way across the cooking grates.

    My damper position for 250°

    Hope this helps ya
  6. geek with fire

    geek with fire Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I feel your pain brother, the the chargriller can be a good cooker, but it does have some stock problems. I know you said it was mod'ed, but what about your firebox? Do you have a basket? One of the biggest improvements I made for mine was a charcoal basket that allows full ventilation under the coals. Mine works a little too good sometimes that I have to keep the inlet completely closed for hours just to keep it under 240. Do you have a basket?

    It's also possible that you are building too large of a fire to start with. (not accusing here, but...) Don't be impatient with your fire building. You don't want it to come up to temp in mere minutes, you want it to be steady. This increases your fuel efficiency which is what I'm guessing your cooker is struggling with.

    Third, you mentioned that you have your cooker gasketed. Since mine is sealed about as good as an open window and runs pretty well. It could be that you are too sealed, not allowing for enough ventilation. Make sure your exhaust is fully open to create a draw of air. Also, perhaps set a light powered fan in front of the intake to stoke the fire a bit. My control system powers a blower fan and can get my chargriller up over 450 degrees, so I know the cooker is capable of the temperatures.

    Lastly, what kind of fuel do you use? If using bricks, you might consider using lump. Bricks, among other problems, produce more ash with will choke your fire and keep temps low. Lump also cooks hotter, which will help you out a bit.

    Sorry for being long winded, but temperature control is my favorite part of the craft.
  7. crewcab4x4

    crewcab4x4 Smoking Fanatic

    I have my csp set up the same way as ol smokey and I don't have any problem with temp. Have you changed your thermometer from the original? It isn't accurate. I also found to get your heat up a little more if you need it open your ash door a little bit. It lets more air get to your charcoal and it will burn hotter. Hope this helps.

  8. 1894

    1894 Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    My chargriller seems to cold blooded as well , my neighbor has the identical unit and his runs a good 20 - 30 degrees warmer . ( using my therms in each )
    Things that have helped me is :

    1. spin the unit so the air intake is facing into the wind.
    2. open the ash door 1/2 to 1" to get more incoming air to feed the fire
    3. Never close the exaust
    4. Bigger charcoal basket and shake it now and again so it breaths well.
    5. Keep pouring in the lit charcoal , add some unlit and cover with lit coal when I add fuel.

    I use a lot of coal and plan ahead and have a couple bags on hand.
    Play with your mods one at a time. Basket and airflow in and out being high on the list.
    I kept the upper rack in mine and the flex tube extension was S shaped to go around it . Just removing that helped the air flow a lot.
    I also stick a section of 4" flex vent over the exaust , seems like the extra height gives a little more draw and a slight bend at the top I point away from the wind in hopes of a little vacuum effect.
    Still a work in progress but that is where I'm at so far.
  9. I do use somehat of a charcoal basket. I picked up a stainless steel "wok" pan at Lowes. Fits perfectly on the hangers but I thought it was part of the problem with air flow due to the small holes.

    I re-drilled the holes with a larger bit and that helped to both increase flow as well as allowing the ash to drop quicker than me having to shake up the coals every 30 minutes.. I was thinking of just laying down a sheet of 3/4" expanded aluminum and getting rid of the wok. What type of charcoal basket are you all using??

    I have installed 1 thermometer at the grate level and keep one of those grate top thermometers in the smoker. The difference from the side closer to the firebox is about 5-10 degrees. It used to be alot hotter of the firebox side but the baffle helped to level out the temps.

    I have my baffle bent so that it sits on the side walls of the smoker barrell. It blocks the top half of the firebox opening. I also have 2 additiional baffle "plates" in the grill. There is approx. 7 inches between each opening. I am going to remove those 2 plates to see what happens with the next smoke.

    I was using lump charcoal but wanted to try briquettes. I am switching back to the lump as the briquettes produce an incredible amount of ash. They also don't provide much in theway of smoke flavor to the meat.

    I start with one chimney full of lit coals into the firebox then start another half chimney and add that into the basket as well when they are ready. I then add unlit charcoal to the lit whenever needed to keep the smoker going. I'll add wood chunks every hours or so for the first 3 hours before I start to cut back (I usually smoke brisketts in the 4lb-6lb range as my wife does not care for smoked meats).

    The wind in my yard is constantly shifting so it's hard to nail down the perfect spot to place the smoker. I don't think it is over sealed as I still have some smoke leaking from the back of the lid.

    I did have an extension of the chimney but I took it off recently (it needed replacing and have not gotten to it yet). I did not notice much of a difference with it on or off. I did help in that I could "direct" where the smoke was going (as in not in my living room). I always keep it wide open (I actually removed the cover a while ago and can't find it so it has to reamin wide open)

    I smoke with the firebox vent wide open. From time to time I will also crack the ash tray as well to try to get the temps up. It does help when I do open it a little to get more airflow.

    I think that's about it. I really appreciate all the input. I was thinking of going the route of the Weber Smokey Mtn. I am going to hold off until I try all the recomendations you all have provided.
  10. teacup13

    teacup13 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    i think you need a better flowing charcoal basket IMHO ... it sounds like your charcoal is choking itself out

    dont use expanded aluminum as charcoal gets hot enough that it will melt it. stick with expanded steel
  11. porked

    porked Smoking Fanatic

    I had the same problem as you at first, then I realized that burning wood was the way to go. I started with one layer of charcoal, and after about 20 minutes, hit it with split wood. With the baffle you can regulate the temp easily. I have done shoulders and briskets for 12 hours maintaing 200-225 degrees everytime. You have a great grill, trust me.
  12. smoke freak

    smoke freak StickBurners

    I agree. A small wood fire will solve your problem. Notice I said a small fire. Not the same as a chunk smolderin. When I open my firebox I expect to see flames. Most of the advice you have gotten will still apply but you gotta master the fire. Give it a try and have fun...
  13. I was always concerned that burning only wood in a small smoker would cause the meat to take on too much smoke and overwhelm the meat. Are you bunring the wood down to coals first and then transferring them into the smoker? I have an old fire pit and I thought about trying this a couple of times. It sure would be alot cheaper than buying charcoal.
  14. coyote-1

    coyote-1 Smoking Fanatic

    The wok pan works. But NOT if you're using briquettes; they produce too much ash and choke the fire even if you shake it out. Gotta use lump & wood for that to work.
  15. porked

    porked Smoking Fanatic

    I never had a problem with too much smoke ruining the meat. After several hours you can wrap the meat in foil which will eliminate too much if you like. The key is temperature, and using straight wood will enable you to do it. Mastering the fire...great advice.
  16. Sounds like I need to start experimenting with using wood. I just did a search on Craigslist for wood. There's a guy not too far from me that is selling 55 gallon drums filled with smoker sizes pieces of oak for $20. I can always add hickory and pecan to the mix as I have that already on hand.
  17. smoke freak

    smoke freak StickBurners

    The key here is a amall clean burning fire. You wont get much "smoke" from this kinda fire. Sometimes I dont see smoke at all. The smoke flavor wont get too strong. Ive done briskets and butts for 8+ hours before foiling and not had too much smoke. Just right. On the other hand if your wood is smolderin then it doesnt take long at all to get nasty.
  18. crewcab4x4

    crewcab4x4 Smoking Fanatic

    If you do go to just burning wood you will want to use an expanded steel grate in the fire box. When I put mine in I made it bigger so it sits higher than the ash pan so it can be removed during a smoke if need be. I always also try to get the firebox end of the smoker to face the breeze to help make the temp more even throughout the pit.
    I also never sealed mine up with gasket material and still have good luck holding temps. I did turkeys at thanksgiving at 325 deg. with no problem.

  19. joneser

    joneser Smoke Blower

    I use a basket I bought at Bed bath and beyond. It's a shaker basket with lid and removable handle. Similar to this [​IMG]
    I use a Minion method variation with it and have no problems whatsoever.
    • Start by filling the basket up with lump.
    • Light about 1/4 - 1/2 of a chimney of lump
    • Dump the lit on top of the unlit and let the pit come up to temp.
    • This should be good for 2-21/2 hours.
    • When you notice your temps dropping slightly, scoot the lit lump to the left of the basket.
    • Fill the void with unlit lump.
    • It will slowly catch...
    • Repeat as needed.
    While scooting the lump over you're also knocking the ash through the bottom...which is great for draft.

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