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Fire management help need for under 275*

Discussion in 'CharGriller Owners Group' started by fpmich, Aug 17, 2014.

  1. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    Hot & Fast Ribs, not for me.

    Last week I smoked some whole rib slabs.

    Been reading where some folks cook ribs at higher temps up to 300* or more, and talk about the reduced cooking time.  And it's true, to some extent...

    My one rib slab was done and flavorful in only 4 1/2 hours for one full slab.  Much longer for other one from same store, about 6 hours.  Both were enhanced ribs from same store.

    Either the hot and fasters know some trick I haven't read or learned, or they don't know what a good rib is like.  LOL 

    Sorry all you hot and fast, rib smokers, I was just teasing you a bit.

    I tried this, while trying the stick burning thing again. 

    This time with good DRY wood.   I paid a very high premium price, for some dry smoking splits from Home Depot,

    Very hard for me to keep temps under 275* with wood burning.  Temps ranged from 325* down to 180*, before adding a split.  They bounced up and down, and all over the place.

    Mostly I'd say I cooked these ribs at 275*-300*, as an average.

    On Both rib slabs, ( 1 @ 4 1/2 hours and 1 @ 6 hours) the meat was done and tasty, and very nice bark. 

    BUT... the fat and collagen had not cooked off at all.  Very messy to eat.  Had to scrape off all the fat stuff between layers.  Next day I foiled them in oven for 2 1/2 hours at 240* and they finished up just fine.  But that made my total cooking time longer just than just low and slow at 225* - 250* with charcoal and wood chunks for flavor until done.

    So I'll stick to charcoal and wood chunks for ribs, and anything that needs low and slow, and save the stick burning for things that can take the higher heat, or is needed ( like chicken, beef roast, potato casseroles & etc.  Hopefully I will learn the In's and outs of stick burning control.  I have to learn it.  It's calling me!  LOL

    Fire problems?  Yep!

    I started a chimney of very poor lump (dusty, small pieces).    It took me at least an hour to get the chimney entirely lit with propane torch under it!. 

    After dumping it in sfb,  45 minutes later, it had cooking chamber to only 230*.   Added 2ND fully lit chimney of "good charcoal" and temp rose to 290*, and then I added 2 full rib slabs to chamber.

    I may have had too much coals due to poor chimney requiring another chimney of good lump,

    Temp dropped to 150* as expected with lid open, but I thought the ribs would also lower temps, so I added a split.  MISTAKE!  Temp rose to over 325*!

    Anyway here is some pics.  I think I just need to learn more on fire control with stick burning.

    Other than adding small Maple dry stick branches from time to time for flavor, I think had my fire running too hot, by adding splits too soon.  (read panic on temp drop)

    Maple branches on chamber, rather then sfb to warm, because they were so dry and small they caught fire on sfb. 

    Maple branch to start flavor going was first on.

    As you can see the 1st chimney did me no help at all.  Low bed of coals  here, and it was the beginning of my smoke.

    Later...  Adding more splits and leaving door open to burn off heavy smoke.

    You can't see smoke here because it only happened when I closed the door.  Not enough O2

    Just before closing door on it.

    Temp dropped 205* to while I was letting excess smoke burn off.

    First slab coming off grill at 4 1/2 hours.   Looks great doesn't it?

    2ND slab ready to  pull at 6 hours.  sry, no pic of it coming off to show bend.

    Even though the meat was smoked through, you can see that the fat and collagen had not rendered at all,

    Same for both the early one and the late one.

    First one - 4 1/2 hours  Not sauced

    The 6 hour one was sauced at end, but still had same un-tamed fats.

    NOW..... Instead of looking at ribs, and getting hungry or laughing at me, ( I know, I know... You can't help doing either one) 

    Look at the fire pics!

    The fire is really where I need feedback.  Any tips, hints or experience on fire management is welcomed!

    Later today or tomorrow I will be doing beef roast for use in sandwiches, sliced thin.  Using Bottom round (cheaper)  I plan to start it quite hot ( 400* if I can get it)  or at least above 350*, and reduce temp to 250*-300* until 135*-140* IT is reached. for medium rare.  Will try to take pic's.  Wife is out of town, so fire tending and pic taking takes some doing.  LOL

    I'll do my best.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
  2. I'm a hot and fast cooker, but while hot and fast for my pork butt might be 300-315, my hot and fast for my ribs it 275. Fire management was the hardest thing for me to learn. When I start my smoke, I light 2 chimneys of kingsford competition briquettes. After heating up in the chimney 20 minutes, I dump them in my charcoal basket. They bring my smoker to temp really quick. I add peach mini splits for smoke. My chargriller outlaw will usually hang at my target temp for 2-3 hours before I have to add another LIT chimney of charcoal. I add 1 mini split every 30-45 min as needed to keep my thin blue smoke flowing. I obviously regulate temp fluctuations with my vent and ash drawer if necessary.

    The peach mini splits I use do not cause a big spike in temp. They are around the size of a can of beer (or tad larger).
    I go by my thems at grate level for monitoring temps. The therm at the top of my grill reads about 75 degrees hotter than grate level because heat naturally rises.

    Last edited: Aug 18, 2014
  3. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    The first thing that jumps out at me is that you have too much wood in your basket. I am surprised that with 3 splits burning your temp was only 325°.

    The splits I use are generally a bit smaller than the ones in your pics, I only use one to begin with. The only time I put more than one at a time in the firebox is if the coal base gets too small.

    As for the heavy smoke problem try heating your splits inside the firebox, place them on, not in, the coal basket. If you do this they will flame much more quickly minimizing the time you have the fire box door open.
  4. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    I did another smoke, this time with beef roast for thin sliced sandwiches like French Dip and the like.  I used bottom round because I was slicing very thin, almost shaved, with slicer.

    This smoke went much better for me!

    To begin with I used new lump.  I think some of the stuff I used to start my other cook had absorbed too much humidity.

    I started with 1 & 1/2 chimneys of full lit lump.  Added 1 split and one fist sized chunk of hickory.  Left door open and drawer pulled about 3" until wood was going very well and hot.  Closed door and got chamber up to 420* for cleaning and sterilizing grates.   Opened chamber, brushed grates well, and temps settled back up to around 300*.  Added beef roasts, and closed lid quickly,  Temp slowly dropped to 260*.  Added small split. and 15 min later was holding at 280*.

    I added 2 small splits when temp dropped to 225*.  Back to 265* soon.  No heavy  smoke. 

    Cooked at that temp until smaller roast was at 140*.  Chamber temp was then 210*.

    Larger roast pulled at 140* IT also, about an hour later, while letting chamber temp drop to 200*.

    A couple of things stood out to me.

    1. coals were much hotter, even though less of them than before. 

    2.  I used the smallest splits I could find in bag.  Some 2 thick and some 1 to 1 1/2' (split larger ones down to smaller 2-3")

    3. Bark is bad.  I managed to trim some bark off some and didn't have any smoke problems then when adding after pre-heating.

    Trimming the bark and splitting larger splits into smaller ones wasn't easy.   I re injured my rotater cuff pretty bad about a month or so ago.  Entire arm developed tendinitis in it from shoulder down to wrist.  Had to drink left handed for awhile.  So for now,  no chain saw, no axe, maul or nuttin!  I managed to use a wide chisel and 3 lb. hammer to trim wood and split.  It wasn't easy.  I went at it like an 90 year old woman.  LOL

    tap tap tap.   tap tap tap.

    Now on too your replies...

    5oclock,  I really wasn't making fun of hot and fast.  I know I cooked those ribs too hot for rendering.  I think if I could've kept them under 275* that would've turned out okay.  As for your mini-splits, when I am able to use saw and maul again, I plan to make mine that size as well.  About 8" long and about 2" thick, or less.

    Cliff,  Yes, the splits I used on that rib cook were too big, and too many.  I was trying to make up for the poor heat from the damp lump.

    I couldn't split the wood any smaller then.  I tried, but my arm just wouldn't let me.  Couldn't lift the hammer or maul.

    Now a couple of questions.

    1.  Why would placing my splits on top of basket when adding prevent them from smoking too much? 

    2.  Do you mean pre heat inside first, and THEN place then on top of basket above coals?   Or preheat them on top of basket to pre heat, and let them catch fire as the dry?

    3.  Am I better off not using basket when wood burning?  I have my coal grate above lip of ash drawer slide. so plenty of space underneath.

    Thank you both for your replies.

    I appreciate them!

    Oh Yeah.  The roast turned out great!  But next time I think I will pull them sooner than 140* IT.  They are still very pink and med to med well, but I like them a little more rare.  Maybe 125*-130* IT ?
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  5. Sounds to me like you nailed it. It takes trial and error to figure out what works best for your unit. I know the biggest thing for me is when I add charcoal it must be lit. Those smaller splits will result in better temp management. Sounds like you've got good control of you air flow with vents and ash drawer. Nice job!!! Thumbs Up
  6. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    1. From your first pic I assumed you were heating your splits on the SFB door, rather than inside the firebox.

    2. See #3-

    3. Yes IMHO you are better off without the charcoal basket, my coal grate is in the same position as yours so you will get plenty of air flow. So, in answer to #2, by eliminating the basket you will have plenty of room to heat your splits inside the firebox, which I find works best in allowing the splits to flame with little to no smoke produced.

    Glad to hear that this one went better for you.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014
  7. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    Yes, I was preheating heating on top of fire box for splits Cliff. 

    The small maple branches were so dry already, that I just laid them on the chamber just

    to warm.  They caught fire immediately, and with thin dry bark, did not smoke at all.  Love those maple branches.

    From most of the members posts, laying splits on top of side fire box, is what I've seen mentioned the most.  For me, it doesn't seem to work, unless they are bark free, or VERY thin barked.   They do smolder when on top of it, but when I add them to inside, they still produce more smoke than I need unless I open door for awhile.  And then my temps drop.

    How do you deal with the nasty thick bark smoke that starts first when adding splits, other than debarking?

    I am beginning to re-think my expectations of stick burning in CG.  I thought it would reduce the amount of charcoal needed by at least half or more, but that doesn't seem to be the case.    Lot of wood is bad.   So how do you get enough coals to keep wood burning and temps? 

    It seems that stick burning in CG is not like a larger unit.  (Surprise!  Ha Ha)

    CG seems to just need a little wood flame for smoke reduction (TBS), and a little added heat.  I'm only using about less than a 1/4 or 1/8th  of lump than I used to.  Is this about right. or am I way off base?

    Still learning.  LOL

    Wish I know someone close by, that used this method with same unit &  smokes with them.  Would be worth a year on the internet with written words, trying to explain.  Ya know?
  8. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    As I write this another possibility of where your problems lay comes to mind. You have made modifications to your CG, correct? It is possible that the baffle you have in place, or the chimney extension inside the cook chamber(if you have done that) is restricting the air flow enough to retard the fire and give you the thick smoke. I have done neither of these things.

    As for your charcoal use, I was not sure but it sounds like you are still using too much charcoal, is that correct? I only use the two chimneys to start with, usually, but sometimes on a rib cook I'll switch back to charcoal for an hour during the foil phase. My charcoal consumption is much less than it was when I used it for heat, I have cut it by at least 2/3 or more.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  9. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    No apology needed Cliff,   No one can cover EVERYTHING in one post! 

    Heck, I can't even ask all the right question in one post!

    Yes, I have a simple foil baffles under the grates, and the chimney is extended down to about 1" above grates. 

    Looking back, I think you are right, on air flow.  

    Even with drawer pulled out a bit, I still have a problem keeping a small  flame going.  Maybe I should raise chimney height to about 3" above grates?   Or, remove it entirely, when stick burning?  (My inside extension simply slides on and off  - no clamp.  So no problem removing or replacing)

    My simple baffles do help with across the chamber temps, and even smoke,  even though they are lightweight aluminum pan lids, so I'll probably keep using them.

    See http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/145402/sealing-a-char-griller-smoking-pro/40#post_1093602   I don't use water pans anymore those.  At least not right now.

    Too help air flow and raise temps when I need it, I add a 18" piece of dryer flex hose to outside stack.  It does help raise temps when I slide it on, and lowers them when I remove it.

    But I'm open to learning more.   

    As for charcoal, I only used 1 & 1/2 chimneys of lit coals to start this time.  Part of my problem is probably adding too much wood at once.  I'm a pyro campfire kind of guy.

    Here is some photo's I finally got uploaded of my recent smoke of bottom round for sandwiches.  They may help you figure out how to help me.

    I used 1 & 1/2 let chimneys to start and added a good sized split, a small stick sized piece and a couple chunks of hickory to get temps very hot to sterilize chamber.

    This photo is after 1 hour of burning .  I let smoke burn off before closing sfb to start heating.  Didn't want  to have to scrub entire chamber of soot again! <grin>

    It reached 420* before opening door to brush grates and upper rack.

    Firebox after one hour of high heat treatment.

    Closed chamber & sfb doors and temp rose back up and  settled in at close to 300*.  

    Added beef roasts.

    45 min later temps dropped to 260*, and I added a split, plus a stick size piece.

    Temps rose to 280*, but then dropped to 225* within 45 min.

    Added 2 med splits and a chunk, left sfb door open until smoke free, and then chamber temps rose back up to 265*

    I'm missing that pic. 

    After another 1 hour and 15 min.  small roast was at 140*, and larger one was just under 130*.  I pulled the small one and wrapped to rest.

    Coals at that point. when I removed the smaller roast.

    Did not add any more fuel.   Just let larger roast cook to 140*,  using what heat I had left.

    I did slide basket of coals close to chamber to eek out the last little of heat bit out of them.

    Chamber temp at end when I pulled roast at 140* IT,  was 203*

    I never did use that split setting in the sfb door.  But it should be quite dry and ready to go for the next one.  LOL

    I will pull my beef roast at 125* -130* from now on.  These turned out what I would call med well.

    And... as they say... Here's the money shot!  HA!

    Garlic roasted veggies and French dip.  Life is good even when you screw up!

    Is it me?  Or does that smoke ring look funny to you too?

    Only thing I can think of, is the W-sauce penetrated the meat to 1/4" down, or allowed the garlic, to go that deep.  I used the usual SPOG seasonings over night with the W-sauce on it.

    Seems weird to see that discolored ring below the actual smoke ring.

    AND.... The BIG Question!

    Am I truly , tho' slowly, progressing toward success with stick burning, or am I just fooling myself into believing I am?
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
  10. jakesz28

    jakesz28 Fire Starter

    I started using wood this weekend. I have a fair amount of firewood for campfires and the decorative fire place. So I took some splits out to the compound miter saw and cut them in to 5 to 8" lengths and chopped them to about a 2x2" square. I had a lot of luck on my first attempt.
    I used two chimneys of charcoal when I first lit the smoker. Then threw the wood on about every 30 to 60 minutes the rest of the smoke. No heavy smoke the whole time and held 225 to 275 for 6 hours. I am happy to say I'm cutting down on my charcoal costs from here on.
    These threads on here have some good advice. The exhaust pipe extension to raise the stack is well worth doing. That creates a better draft then you can choke down the intake vent to help control temp.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
  11. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    I think that is the secret to fire burning in CG Jake.  Small sized splits.  My first ones were way too large, last one, was better, I got them split a little smaller, but they were still larger than I would've liked.  Not much I can do about size right now.  I screwed up my rotator cuff again, and it is still giving me 24/7 painl.   I've got to find someone to do my dirty work of cutting and splitting to small size.  LOL
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  12. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    WOW!  Has it really been 3 years that I was too scared to try stick burning again?

    Of course that was only after a few smokes of me learning, to smoke on the CG.

    So today, I tried it again.  I'm not as nervous as I used to be 3 years ago, with this stuff.  I know I can make the food good, even if I screw up a little.  Whew, that's a relief!

    I used to sweat bullets, if temp's varied, or smoke a little too heavy.  I can fix the smoke.  Just open the firebox lid for awhile.  Temp dropped to low, no sweat, let it ride.  LOL 

    I'll get it back there in time.  Yeah, I'm a lot calmer now about it now.  [​IMG]  LOL

    Today I tried stick burning again.  Went fairly well.  Not perfect, but fairly well.

    I did have some problems.

    I did two racks of ribs, and two small turkey breast.  First turkey breast for me.  They came out great, in spite of me, but I fed the skin to dog. 

    Not a hot enough cook, to crisp up.  But I don't care.


    I started to type out my log, but I think I can shorten this up a bit.

    I used a mix of hardwood briquettes and RO/lump.  Mostly lump.   Added one lit chimney of coals.

    Added cold ribs at smoker temp of 178*, to surface dry.

    Added another 1/2 chimney of lit coals 45 min later after temp rose to 215* and dropped to 208*.

    15 min. later temp was 240*, and I put turkey on and added a hickory split.

    30 min. later temp was 264*.

    Added dry maple branch, or splits, as needed, but temps did not go above 264* until I added another full chimney of hot coals.  Then it went to 310* for a 10 minutes and settled in at 275*.

    From then on, temps kept close  between 250*-275* by adding small splits off and on.


    My Turkey breasts (Which I was worried about, came out nice and moist at 168*.  (I didn't brine it, only seasoned it with compound butter, both under and on the skin)

    Ribs were some of my brag about ribs.  Tender, juicy, and almost all fat rendered.  Good stuff!


    I learned a few things today (I think)

    1. Leave sfb lid open longer than you think you want, to get rid of smoke!  I closed it early once after adding a split and I got nasty smoke for a couple of minutes.  Yep, the skin showed it to me.  Don't worry about cooking chamber temp dropping.  It recovers quick, when you do close the sfb lid again.

    2.  If too big of split and it is still smoking too much, once you have it burning a bit, you can place in the ash drawer under the main fire, and that will help burn off the smoke better before it reaches the food.

    3.  I've worked hard, tested, and succeeded in getting even temps across the grates. 

    But I think this only works for charcoal only.  It seems to mess with air flow for wood burning.

    (Your thoughts Cliff?)   I told Deb, that I might remove my evening out (side to side mods) a bit, and go with hot and cooler side for stick burning.  Even side to side temps is great for smoking all the same food at same time, but sucks when you are trying to two different temps for foods.

    Not hot enough!


    Drawer out a couple of inches, vents wide open.  Still tough to get temps to hold upwards of 250*.  Wind 10 to 15 mph today too.

    Letting first smoke burn off completely.  Close lid now and you get black turkey and not good tasting.  LOL

    After smoke subsides

    Yeah.  I know that is more hot coals than you use Cliff, but it was the only way I could get temps up to 275* or above today.

    I still think when I do stick burning, I will have to remove some mods.  Air flow is life!  Right?

    You are going to have to talk hard to me, in order for me to fore go my basket though.  So convenient, to slide fire close,r or father away from opeming.
  13. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    1. Yes, I leave the SFB lid open until the fresh split is burning with no smoke.

    2. Good solution to a common problem.

    3. Yes  IMHO your baffles will restrict airflow which is needed for a clean burning fire. But if you are happy with using them on some cooks I would not get rid of them completely. You can also open the ash drawer more and see if that helps with the air flow.

    Now here's my dirty little secret- I have been using a charcoal basket in the SFB. I started with shorter cooks but soon started using it with wood on longer ones.

    I find that it works better when cooking with splits for two reasons- it confines the charcoal base better than my other improvised grates, which means I get a more consistent burn from my splits and have less smoldering from the denser woods like black cherry and apple, and it sits higher in the firebox which means more air can get to the fire.

    I am also finding that I am getting fewer large temp spikes and overall I have more consistent cooking temps throughout the cook.

    So I am not going to try to talk you out of your basket.

    Cooking a turkey breast on Sunday so I'll post pics of my set up in this thread some time after
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017
  14. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

     A little [​IMG]  here Cliff.

    We seemed to have converted each other, somewhat.  You are now using a basket, (come on, ...face it now, ... it's a mod!  LOL)  , and I am trying stick burning again! 

    Someday we'll meet in the middle, and have it perfected!  Ya think?

    Looking forward to seeing your turkey breast, and what your fire set up looked like, off and on during the cook.

    I forgot to take pics of my ribs and turkey breast on the smoker, or afterwards, because I was more concerned with showing what my fire was doing, to get better feedback.

    Thanks for your input Cliff.
  15. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    Well, yesterday I dismantled my smoker some what, tossed out the grease filled pans and did some clean up. 

    Also removed what I "THINK" was the mods that was restricting my air flow in order to get higher temps burning wood.  We'll see later today.

    When I try to duplicate the same meat type, quantity, and placement, as my last cook.

    Here is all that I did.  It's not much, but I think it will make a difference.

    First I removed the foil shield placed tight up again the top of the sfb opening.

    Then I removed this baffle plate I'd made from the sfb opening.

    No more baffle on the sfb opening at all.

    I AM ... going to leave my sheet cake foil pans setting on the charcoal tray to catch most all of the grease rendered from cooks.  It helps with clean up and help disperse smoke.

    The pans still have about 1 1/2" to 2" open on front and back.  A little more space on the ends, so I don't think they will bother too much. 

    As you can see the first 3" near the firebox is open.   I can always slide the pans a little further away, if needed.  So I should, hopefully,  get enough air and heat going up that end, to achieve what I am trying to do.

    I only replace sheet pans when they are nearing full.  Maybe 4 times a summer, depending on what, and how many smokes I do.

    I will post in another thread pics of my smoke latter today after removing the tight baffles.

    It's kind of funny isn't it?   This thread started with how to keep under 275*, with stick burning, and now I'm asking how to reach 300* - 325* with stick burning.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
  16. DustyJoe84

    DustyJoe84 Fire Starter

    I'm new to smoking and have the same smoker as you. Just wanted to rehash this thread and say thanks for sharing your experiences. Lets me know I'm not alone and will help me as I learn to use my own stick burner!