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First use - Smoke Vault 24"..........had some issues, could use some input (w/ pics)

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by bailey151, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    Did my first smoke in the unit yesterday. I'd rate the results as okay. Food was tasty but not to the level I've gotten with other units.

    I searched here & I've read the pages of threads......still think I'm missing some stuff.

    Two main problems I had were smoke & temp control. I could not get the unit to produce ANY smoke below a dial indicated 250 (digital 260ish near the vent). Chips (dry) wouldn't do anything. I bent the tabs on the vents & tried everything combination I could think of - from fully closed to fully open. Getting a static temp was nigh on impossible - it was constantly rising & falling. This was okay for the ribs & ABTs but I can't even begin to see work for pork shoulders & brisket (yeah, I ain't sitting there for 12hrs). Holding a constant temperature required a constant up a bit, down a bit, up a bit, down a bit.......................... Maybe I'm just expecting too much? I'm used to a set it & forget it unit that can hold a given temp for extended periods?

    I actually had the best result running it dry during the seasoning, just ran chips w/o any water pan. Had it on low & it stayed pretty much at 225 w/ some smoke.

    So my question is - how to do folks run them?

    Vent positions?



    Pre-heat for how long?

    Flame seems right, only yellow at the tips................but the auto ignite never worked. Food was fine...............as the pics show.

    ABTs, step one:


    ABTs & beans in:


    Ribs in:


    ABTs out:


    Ribs out:

    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  2. bassman

    bassman Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You may want to calibrate the thermometer to begin with.  Sometimes, I remove the chip pan from it's rack and set it directly over the burner to get the smoke started.  I always use water in the pan to help stabilize temps.
  3. matts

    matts Smoking Fanatic

    You shouldn't have any problems getting smoke at temps of 250-260 with everything where it is supposed to be.  Only time I have had problems with not getting smoke is with temps around 200 or lower and then I just to the chip pan and put it right on the very bottom of the smoker pretty much right on top of the flame.  That worked fine.  Just remember that a little bit of smoke is perfect.  You don't need a bunch of smoke blowing out everywhere. 

    I have found that in mine, I like using chunks.  Top vent wide open and sides are usually closed.  I haven't modified the side vents, so they don't close all the way.  I don't soak the chunks because its pointless.  I like to use the water pan as it seems to help keep the temps more stable.  I will preheat until the temps stabilize where I want them to start.  If I am going to run a smoke at 225, I will preheat to a stable 250 then throw in meat.  That also is determined on what I am smoking.  If I am doing a big load then I will go with those temps.  If it is something smaller, then the preheat will be lower.  The meat will cools things down for a while.

    The chunks I use are cut 2 inches thick and vary in sizes.  If I have a piece the size of your computer mouse, I will usually just put in one at a time and swap it out before it turns into ash.

    Every smoker is different, even if they were all the same smoker.  Just keep playing with it.
  4. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    DOH.......I knew I forgot something...............I did calibrate it to 212*, it was pretty close to the digital across the board. I'll have to try the pan on the burner. So if I read (re-read actually - lol) the threads correctly the idea is to heat the chips/chunks/lumps until they get going real well then back it down? How does one handle re-loads?

    I used the pan, just found it odd that it was more stable & used less heat w/o it. Seasoning was on low w/ no pan, cooking was between med & low w/ the pan.
  5. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    That's the only temp (& above) I could get any smoke.........less than 250 & the chips looked like they came out of the bag. Maybe a higher pre-heat, get the chips/chunks going & then lower it. I'll also have to figure out the temp issue........constant fiddling to avoid a rising/falling temp cycle. Should have been an ideal test, temps in the mid 80s with little or no wind.

    Has anyone tried sand in the pan? I've seen that in WSM forums, used for heat stability............never tried it myself.

    Agree, fortunately there's this place - heck I think 1/2 the fun is learning the new smoker.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  6. Something else that will help is to install a needle valve in the line going from the tank to the burner. That way, you can dial n the exact temp you want.
  7. matts

    matts Smoking Fanatic

    Not sure what a needle valve will do with this smoker.  The flame control on it will put the flame anywhere you want it as it is. 


    try moving the chip pan all the way down on top of the flame.  But the way it sounds, something is up with your temps.  With the chip pan in the stock location, you shouldn't have any problems getting smoke with cooking temps between 225 - 250.  At 250, you should be getting smoke pretty quick.  What kind of flame are you getting.  Is it a good blue flame with a little yellow tip.  That is what it should look like.
  8. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    I thought it was correct.......I checked it more when I was seasoning (don't like to open when it's in action). Seemed was the desired blue with yellow tips.........but after thinking about it & your suggestion I'll have to do a more through check, likely this afternoon. I get smoke @ 250+, if the temp drops it stops. That and the temp was either going up or down (even with the smallest adjustment) = need further investigation/tweaking.

    Also occurs to me that there might be draft issue, I did notice with one side vent open that some smoke was coming out there???? I would have thought with a good draft (once it's heated) it would all go (or most anyway) out the top?
  9. matts

    matts Smoking Fanatic

    Without a stack, you won't get a real draft.  The smoke will come out of everywhere.  Thats not a big deal.  The adjustment on these are very sensitive.  turn that dial just the slightest amount and the temp will move.  Also put a digital in the rack in the middle of the smoker and see what your temps on there.  I like using a small block of wood to hold the probe.  Drill a hole in the wood so the probe fits a little tight.
  10. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    Okay, spent a few hours testing with pretty much the same result...................I did however gain some additional insight.

    On high, medium, and lo the flame is as it should be - blue with yellow tips. However in between lo & med the flame is mostly yellow with only blue near the outlets? I also spent considerable time trying to tweak the temp (with little result). The setting that gets 225 is close to the D in MED. Less than 1/16th inch change in the dial results in a) a temp that bottoms out @ 200 b) a temp that climbs to area of 260. These are simply the indicated temp, just shows how little input causes a pretty large temp swing.

    Sorry I did not get pics of burner when set between LO & MED, I'll try that tomorrow (as I said it's not nearly as clean as any of these)

    Dial indicates "HIGH"


    Dial indicates "MED"


    Dial indicated "LO" (hard to see)

  11. matts

    matts Smoking Fanatic

    Those pics look pretty good.  Although I can't remember mine ever being that clean.  I would be concerned about that burst of yellow flame though. 
  12. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    With my Vault, I can pretty much get as little or as much smoke as I want. The main thing to remember about your smoke is that you don't need to see it at all. If you can, and it's a light blue thin smoke, great. If you can't see it, but you can smell it in the vent gases or especially if it stings your eyes, that is fine too.

  13. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    First - to everyone - thanks, I really appreciate the input.
    Hopefully it won't stay that clean long. That's my focus now, why is the flame yellow between MED & LO - that doesn't seem right to me. The flickers of yellow in the pics above are from the breeze, but that's not the case for the other settings.
    I'd have to say your review/use thread is my reference for the unit. I may end up moving the chip pan onto the burner, as I mentioned there is no smoke below 250. I used chunks yesterday & with the temp below 250 they are the same after an hour as when they went in = zero sign of use (even with the pan heated previously). At the moment I'm thinking of drilling/tapping the chip pan for some 1/4-20 bolts - that would allow me to move it down w/o putting it directly on the grease pan.

    I really wish I'd taken pictures of the flame when I had it set in between MED & LO - doesn't look like those above, it's mostly yellow. It's like I get the correct flame only when it's on a pre-set marker - anything else is bad?

    I may try the warm setting today, it's between MED & LO........I may get a decent temp which I can control with the vents.

    On the upside I did find the Nomex (aramid) material @ McMaster Carr - $4.90 for 10'................sure glad I didn't buy one of those $40 kits[​IMG] Also learned that Outdoor Cooking & Camp Chef are one in the same (see goobs/noobs can make progress[​IMG])

    I should add - while it may seem like I'm complaining, really I'm not I like the unit...........far larger capacity, no more removing shelves to stuff, rack of ribs lays flat........................
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  14. biggeorge50

    biggeorge50 Fire Starter

    I have had a Smoke Vault for almost a year and I like it a lot.  As others have said, I don't have any problem generating smoke, so I can't comment on that.  As far as getting a steady temperature - 1/16th of an inch turn on the dial makes a big difference.  When I first used it, I thought it would be impossible to get any closer than 30 - 40 degrees, but now I can control it a lot closer.  The knob on mine has a little "play" in it.  When I want a small adjustment, I take the slack out of the knob and then put just enough pressure on it that I can barely feel it move - no more than 1/64th of an inch.  My flame also has quite a bit of yellow.  I've been meaning to monkey with it but keep putting it off.  I also need to build a wind break for it, if I ever get around to it.  My smokes have been coming out great now that I can control the temp better.
  15. bassman

    bassman Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If you have any issues with your Smoke Vault that can't be resolved here, try contacting Brett at Camp Chef.  He took very good care of me when I had a burner issue on mine. 
  16. matts

    matts Smoking Fanatic

    I have the same slack in mine and adjust the same way.  Just stop as soon as you feel it move a hair.
  17. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    Wow, 1/64" - that's pretty tough. That's what I used, take up slack & just move it as little as possible...............guess I need better fine motor skills [​IMG]

    I did open the door & adjust visually - just enough to see a change in the flame.
    Some might call them problems, I prefer to think of them as challenges [​IMG]

    Seriously, thanks for the info - if I have some problems I'll contact him.
  18. bassman

    bassman Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When I contacted Camp Chef, I was having a bit more of a problem.  This was my burner then.  Brett sent me a whole new burner assembly at no charge.
  19. bailey151

    bailey151 Newbie

    I remember reading that thread, it pushed me in the direction of Camp Chef. That replacement & the melted replacement = good customer service, I viewed that as a major positive.

    Some say I have "issues" [​IMG] ............Propane forum + search "smoke vault" = 18 pages of results, I read them all [​IMG]

    Anyway, it would seem I have found my solution. I worked from the WARM end of the dial. For me & my unit it was easier/better. I could maintain a nice 225 - 250. The temp would drop when the breeze blew (closer to 225).........I'm guessing that's due to the slightly "crooky" door (leak). I could also use the vents to make the temp more even across the unit, especially from the middle to the top near the vent.

    It might not be correct but it works (ed) for me. Only issue I had was turning a bit too far = off [​IMG]

    The auto ignite doesn't work but that's trivial, they fail after a time anyway.

    Thanks to everyone for their help, much appreciated!
  20. That's why I installed a needle valve on mine.