Can't Keep the Heat Up!

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lb dallas

Newbie
Original poster
Nov 9, 2006
2
10
Hi all. I'm new to the group and hoping for help. I'm in Dallas, TX and use a New Braunfels (Charbroil) Bandera, which has an offset firebox and a large vertical smoke chamber. I've done chickens and a brisket with good results, but I'm not sure I'm doing it exactly right.

Here's my problem: I'm having a hard time keeping my chamber in the 225-250 range -- it's constantly falling below 200 degrees. I'm burning logs of mesquite wood (bought in a big sack at Home Depot), but I seem to be going through them really fast. For your reference, in a 12-hour brisket smoke I went through more than a whole bag (2 cubic feet; about 30 pounds of wood). It seems the only time the smoker stays up to temp is when there's a rather large fire burning (not just coals) so I'm adding more wood every 15-20 minutes. I'm also keeping the air intake open so the coals will burn hotter, but that also makes the wood burn even faster. Finally, I'm keeping the damper nearly closed on top of the chamber to hold the heat in, but I know that's not recommended.

From all I've read on this site and others, it sounds like most people can get their fire going and leave it alone for long stretches (maybe adding a log every 30 minutes to an hour). To summarize, I'm constantly tending the fire in order to stay above 200 degrees. Is this normal, or am I dont something wrong?

Thanks in advance for your advice!
 

up in smoke

Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
Hi LB, You will get plenty of help soon! But I think you need to burn a wood with a higher Btu rating like oak, and use the mesquite more for flavoring the smoke (plus mesquite is a very strong tasting wood!) Have you measured the temp on your grate? Hang in there buddy, helps coming!
 

jabo

Smoke Blower
OTBS Member
Aug 29, 2006
148
10
I use charcoal for heat and wood for the smoke flavor.

Jamie
 

cajunsmoker

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
May 21, 2006
1,828
15
Monroe, La
Hi LB,

I have a BSKD which is a twin sister to your Bandera. I converted mine to propane to help control it's temp swings, but before I did I always started my smoke with about 10# of Royal Oak charcoal to get a good hot coal bed going and then about once an hour you can use a split of wood to keep adding new coals and continue producing smoke. On long smokes like Briskets and Butts, I have occasionally had to add another chimney full of hot briquets to maintain the coal bed.

I would caution against closing the top vent as you will eventually get a creosote build up in your smoke chamber and everything will taste sooty and bitter :( . Always keep it at least half open.

There are some modifications you can make that are shown in the charcoal smoker forum. These will help you to distribute your heat more evenly in the chamber.

Any other questions be sure and ask.
 

mrgrumpy

Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
Mar 18, 2006
385
10
NC
Welcome LB,

I have the Chargriller SuperPro with SFB, similar so I might be able to help. Keep your vent wide open, adj the air intake to control the temp.

You might even want to try some oak in there so you won't get too strong of a mesquite taste, unless you like it stronger. I myself do not. Or if you don't want to buy a lot of wood just to burn, try some good quality lump, and supplement it with the mesquite.

I use to use only briquetts, but have all but switched to lump. I have abt 3 bags of briqs left, and then it will be all lump. I have abt 180lbs of lump stored up.

I hope this helps.

Bill
 

veener88

Smoke Blower
Apr 16, 2006
141
11
Northern IL
I have to agree. With just starting with my first all wood smoker I have found out I need Oak to keep my temps up. About 50% of my burn is oak. It keeps the temps up and I only have to add wood about every 45min to an hour.
 

lb dallas

Newbie
Original poster
Thread starter
Nov 9, 2006
2
10
Thanks everyone. All your suggestions sound good. I'll give them a try. As a follow-up question, does anyone have suggestions for where to buy oak? Home Depot, Academy, and some grocery stores around Dallas sell mesquite, hickory, and pecan but I have yet to see any oak. Thanks again.