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Goal when building the fire?

Twangin

Newbie
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Joined Jun 11, 2019
New member here! Recently stepped into the offset stick burner world from solely being a Weber Kettle guy. It’s been fun so far and I’ve seen a ton of videos on fire management but I do have a question: What is the goal when building that fire- 1) Pre heating the cook chamber and getting to a clean/thin rolling smoke, or 2) getting a hefty layer of hot coals/embers?

I’ve been sort of having the mentality of the first option and find myself running wayyy too hot in the beginning (320F+ with a chimney of briquettes and 4 skinny wood splits) and when I try to close the intake a little, to lower the temp, the fire smothers and I get a nasty thick smoke. Then within 2 hours I all of a sudden find myself with virtually no coal bed because my temps were already so high that I couldn’t add more wood in the early stages. Once the coals have dwindled so early I’m left constantly adding tiny splits in attempt to keep a coal bed during the cook.

I’m starting to think I need to try just leaving all doors and vents open, getting a large fire going (4-5 hefty logs), and letting it burn all the way down to coals before I close the cook chamber door, firebox door, and intake door, and finally add the meat once my temp is where I want. Maybe then my temps won’t go so high since it will just be coals (versus big flames) and then I can just add a split every now and then to maintain that coal bed.. Any thoughts from you experienced offset stick burner folks?
 

JckDanls 07

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First.. it would help us if we knew what kind of stick burner you are using (pics maybe) ..
Second... #1 AND #2 is what you are trying to achieve at start up...
pending your smoker (S, M, or L) would dictate the size of the fire and coal bed ...
My start up routine is the same as yours (for 120 gallon tank)... I let the wood burn down to coals and then I use my garden hose and give the whole inside of the chamber a good dose with a light spray and then close the lid... This serves two purposes .. one, it cools the steel and chamber off a lil and two, it steam cleans the inside of the chamber as well ... This should/does bring my cooking temps back down to where I wanna be.. throw a split or two in on the hot coals.. let it flame up... close the door and adjust vents accordingly
 

Twangin

Newbie
17
4
Joined Jun 11, 2019
First.. it would help us if we knew what kind of stick burner you are using (pics maybe) ..
Second... #1 AND #2 is what you are trying to achieve at start up...
pending your smoker (S, M, or L) would dictate the size of the fire and coal bed ...
My start up routine is the same as yours (for 120 gallon tank)... I let the wood burn down to coals and then I use my garden hose and give the whole inside of the chamber a good dose with a light spray and then close the lid... This serves two purposes .. one, it cools the steel and chamber off a lil and two, it steam cleans the inside of the chamber as well ... This should/does bring my cooking temps back down to where I wanna be.. throw a split or two in on the hot coals.. let it flame up... close the door and adjust vents accordingly
I guess that would help knowing the smoker.. it’s an Old Country Pecos. Thanks for the info!
 

hardcookin

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Joined Aug 13, 2015
I am trying to achieve # 2 but in the process also doing #1
I start out cribbing my wood...3 splits on the bottom,3 splits the opposite row and 2 splits on top the same direction as the bottom row. On my cook chamber I crack my door. I feel that helps even temps in my cook chamber and gets rid of cold spots.
I lite my wood in the firebox with a weed burner and leave my firebox door cracked open for about 5 mins to get the fire going.
I let the wood in my firebox burn down and reposition the wood with a poker from time to time.
Then I add 2 more splits and adjust things up and I am ready to go.
Usually run about 280 when the temp drops to 278 add another split or 2 and repeat everytime the temp drops.
Also you will be smoking in a range. "275-300" with a little practice.
Fire management takes a little practice.


I have been running my smoker for so long almost everything is automatic.
 
Last edited:

radio

Master of the Pit
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Joined Jul 28, 2013
Sounds to me like the smoker is not drawing properly. make sure the stack damper is wide open and check for large gaps between the firebox and cooking chamber. Next, make sure the CC door is sealing tightly. If it gets air anywhere except through the intake vent it will cause these problems.
I have 4 stick burners of different configurations and once the splits catch well, I close the firebox door and barely crack the intake. I get TBS for about an hour before feeding it again. If you wait too long to add new splits, you must open the intake or the door to get them blazing good before closing it up again leading to wide temp fluctuations.
It also helps a BUNCH to keep extra splits on top of the firebox so they are pre heated and ignite easily
 

Twangin

Newbie
17
4
Joined Jun 11, 2019
Such good info! Sounds like my main issues are not building a good enough coal bed and waiting on too much of a temp drop to add splits (which was due to the temps running so high). Going to keep practicing and try out y’alls advice!
 

offset1945

Newbie
23
16
Joined Aug 5, 2016
These are a great set of questions ......

Let me rephrase slightly:
Should you build your initial fire to hit your cooking temperature or should you build a fire that will overshoot your cooking range but give you a solid coal bed as it winds down?

I am torn and I am now leaning towards building the initial fire to more or less hit my mark, let us say 250 degrees for example.

I know the top joints here in Austin, TX build the fires to get cooking, they do not have time to overshoot, nor do they want to waste the wood. They load with an amount of wood that more or less is going to give them the temperature they want assuming all the wood is fully burning.

I am so serious about this topic I have started to weigh my initial set of logs .... .... I can say for a fact that in my pit 7 lbs 9 oz of wood burning at full ignition is too much fire, too hot.
Next cook ... I am starting with less.
 

Twangin

Newbie
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4
Joined Jun 11, 2019
I feel ya, that’s what my instincts tell me but when I build a “small fire” (More proportioned to a small pit) the coal bed is virtually non-existent about 2 hours into the cook. It’s a tough one when dealing with less airspace to move.
 

JckDanls 07

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The reason I overshoot is threefold ... first would be to disinfect (so to speak)... burn all the nasty stuff off... second we be so it's hot enough to STEAM clean when spraying with water .. third is so I have enough of a coal bed to start the cook...

As twangin just stated... when building only big enough to start cooking then you are absent of a coal bed ...

Those are three reasons for me to burn 3-5 extra splits and 30-45 minutes of time ..
 

bluewhisper

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
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Joined Apr 1, 2014
Offsets are so variable that there are more than one ways to run them. Mine is a medium size (see my sig) and depending on what fuel I'm using I can sometimes have an open fire and run the right temps. The big trailer-mounted rigs do that.

As mentioned above, keep the exhaust stack wide open. I choke with the firebox door vent, usually about 3/4 open but that depends on how the fire is going.

Do you have a fire basket? Those are really helpful for managing a fire.

You'll just have to get the hang of it.

BTW with mine at least it's possible to make a fire in the cooking chamber instead of the firebox, which makes it work more like a Weber kettle, but since I have a 22 these days I can just run that.
 

Twangin

Newbie
17
4
Joined Jun 11, 2019
Offsets are so variable that there are more than one ways to run them. Mine is a medium size (see my sig) and depending on what fuel I'm using I can sometimes have an open fire and run the right temps. The big trailer-mounted rigs do that.

As mentioned above, keep the exhaust stack wide open. I choke with the firebox door vent, usually about 3/4 open but that depends on how the fire is going.

Do you have a fire basket? Those are really helpful for managing a fire.

You'll just have to get the hang of it.

BTW with mine at least it's possible to make a fire in the cooking chamber instead of the firebox, which makes it work more like a Weber kettle, but since I have a 22 these days I can just run that.
I’ve debated getting a firebox. Might have to give that a try.

Thanks for the convo/info, y’all!
 
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