Fire Management on Old Country Pecos

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kpg

Newbie
Original poster
Jan 28, 2020
9
10
Had the smoker for over a year now, at least 2 dozen cooks, mostly ribs, sausage, and chicken. I think I may have finally figured out how to control the temperature. Prior to this I've been using charcoal briquettes to start then whole splits, but that was too difficult to keep the temps down. So I added a fire basket, a nice solid V-shaped one from Oklahoma Joe's site I think. That helped but I was still very easy to shoot the temp way up. I like using just wood splits because that's what I always thought BBQ and smoking was about (and still do) but I see lots of you tubes with lump charcoal as the main heat source with fist size wood for smoke. So I gave in and tried on on my current cook.

I put the fire box grate that came with the smoker in the bottom of the fire box and put the fire basket on top of it, it sits higher than I would like but it gets good air flow underneath. I think for next time I will get two pieces of angle iron and put them under the fire basket to elevate it off the bottom of the fire box instead.

Previously I added an extension to the pecos smoke stack to improve draw (it does help with the temps) and I play around with tuning plates as well.

Anyway this time I've got only 15 degree swings and at times it just locks in at 275. When it starts to drop I throw in a chuck of wood or a chunk of charcoal, alternating each time and it rises up and stabilizes. nicely,

I'm using BB lump charcoal, it was my only choice at Academy this time, and I'm a little disappointed in it. Some chunks are whole branches and others (most) at smaller than briquettes.

Also this time my only wood choice was Post Oak, so I cut the splits in thirds to get fist sized pieces.

Here's some pics of the fire. If the ribs turn out I'll post some pics of them too.,.
 

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I’m not familiar with your smoker, but I would say by the design it is made to run on charcoal with wood chunks added to give the smoke flavor. I don’t think the firebox is big enough to just run on wood splits alone. I wouldn’t worry about temp swings, anything between 225-300 will get the job done. Just let the smoker settle in at the temp it likes to run at & let it go. Obviously if it’s running hot you meat will be done sooner than if it’s running at 225. But I don’t think you will be able to tell any difference in flavor between 225 & 300. When I want to run at 225 I just start a small fire in my Lang & add small splits every 45 minutes or so. If I want to run hotter I build a bigger fire & add bigger splits. I always leave the stack wide open & in most cases I only have one damper open about 1/3 of the way. You just have to experiment with your rig & in no time you will be able to maintain any temp you want!
Al
 
I've had a CharGriller 8125 for almost 5 yrs now and the first thing I did was have the shop make me a basket out of leftover expanded steel in their (ahem) spare time.
basket 2.jpg
I've always dumped a chimney of hot charcoal into the basket and added splits after that, but I might try the chunks. Do you add charcoal as well?
I normally don't have a problem keeping it fairly steady between 260 and 280, but if the sun comes out on a cloudy day it shoots up the temp and vice-versa.
You might find that setting your basket too low will get it smothered in ashes.
I'm not impressed with lump charcoal, either. I tried a bag and wound up tossing the last 1/4 bag because it was just little pieces.
I cut up Oak from my fireplace logs to get firebox sized pieces, too. sawdust.jpg
Thank you for the informative post and like I said I'll be trying chunk wood.
BTW my firebox isn't very pretty anymore :-)
basket.jpg
 
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I ran one for a few years but can't take the Texas heat anymore and sold it off.
I did however discover a few tricks that made it run smoother temp wise.
First and most important is to burn wood that has the proper low internal moisture content, which is around 15%.
You can get away with 20% but when you get to 30% and above the ratio of coals produced to sticks burned gets too high and you get temp runaways.
Low moisture wood produces the best tasting smoke and quickly turns to ash as it burns compared to wetter wood that transitions from burning wood to coals too fast and in a too high a percentage.
Remember;
Burning wood produces the smoke that flavors the meat and coal bed provides the majority of the heat.
Heat off the coals purifies the smoke, by cooking off the volatile elements in the smoke that taste bad and are not healthy to consume.
You my friend are searching for the "pale blue smoke", it's the holy grail of all stickburners.
You'll know when you get there, the smell of the smoke is sweet and the meat will be the best you ever ate.
 
I've had a CharGriller 8125 for almost 5 yrs now and the first thing I did was have the shop make me a basket out of leftover expanded steel in their (ahem) spare time.
View attachment 501515
I've always dumped a chimney of hot charcoal into the basket and added splits after that, but I might try the chunks. Do you add charcoal as well?
I normally don't have a problem keeping it fairly steady between 260 and 280, but if the sun comes out on a cloudy day it shoots up the temp and vice-versa.
You might find that setting your basket too low will get it smothered in ashes.
I'm not impressed with lump charcoal, either. I tried a bag and wound up tossing the last 1/4 bag because it was just little pieces.
I cut up Oak from my fireplace logs to get firebox sized pieces, too.View attachment 501517
Thank you for the informative post and like I said I'll be trying chunk wood.
BTW my firebox isn't very pretty anymore :-)
View attachment 501520

I added some lump charcoal as the coal bed shrunk, usually with some additional wood as well. Had a downpour after I wrapped and the temp dropped to 200 before I could get out there and rev it up. So for this I did a 3-1.5-1 method I guess, ribs turned out pretty good IMHO.
 

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I’m not familiar with your smoker, but I would say by the design it is made to run on charcoal with wood chunks added to give the smoke flavor. I don’t think the firebox is big enough to just run on wood splits alone. I wouldn’t worry about temp swings, anything between 225-300 will get the job done. Just let the smoker settle in at the temp it likes to run at & let it go. Obviously if it’s running hot you meat will be done sooner than if it’s running at 225. But I don’t think you will be able to tell any difference in flavor between 225 & 300. When I want to run at 225 I just start a small fire in my Lang & add small splits every 45 minutes or so. If I want to run hotter I build a bigger fire & add bigger splits. I always leave the stack wide open & in most cases I only have one damper open about 1/3 of the way. You just have to experiment with your rig & in no time you will be able to maintain any temp you want!
Al
I know the big smokers are actually easier to run than the small backyard units. I am happier with how this cook went with the lump charcoal mixed in. In the end I probably used 5 splits (cut into thirds) and a chimney and a half of lump for this 5+ hour cook.
 
I've had a CharGriller 8125 for almost 5 yrs now and the first thing I did was have the shop make me a basket out of leftover expanded steel in their (ahem) spare time.
View attachment 501515
I've always dumped a chimney of hot charcoal into the basket and added splits after that, but I might try the chunks. Do you add charcoal as well?
I normally don't have a problem keeping it fairly steady between 260 and 280, but if the sun comes out on a cloudy day it shoots up the temp and vice-versa.
You might find that setting your basket too low will get it smothered in ashes.
I'm not impressed with lump charcoal, either. I tried a bag and wound up tossing the last 1/4 bag because it was just little pieces.
I cut up Oak from my fireplace logs to get firebox sized pieces, too.View attachment 501517
Thank you for the informative post and like I said I'll be trying chunk wood.
BTW my firebox isn't very pretty anymore :-)
View attachment 501520
To keep my firebox from rusting too bad I got into the habit of spraying it with the cheap no name brand of spray canola oil after each cook. I also spray any spot rust on the hinges or body or where ever...
 
I added some lump charcoal as the coal bed shrunk, usually with some additional wood as well. Had a downpour after I wrapped and the temp dropped to 200 before I could get out there and rev it up. So for this I did a 3-1.5-1 method I guess, ribs turned out pretty good IMHO.
They look good to me!
 
To keep my firebox from rusting too bad I got into the habit of spraying it with the cheap no name brand of spray canola oil after each cook. I also spray any spot rust on the hinges or body or where ever...
Actually I don't worry about it much. The first couple of years I sanded, painted, etc., then just gave up on it. It's a nasty old fire breather and still holds the fire.
If it gets bad enough I can just replace the firebox....
 
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