Grill Dome Newbie Needs Help From the Experts

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Original poster
Oct 13, 2009
Winter Park, FL
Greetings... I recently upgraded from a mod ECB electric smoker to a Grill Dome (large).  I have tried to use it twice but I cannot keep the coals going long enough to cook anything.  Yesterday, after speaking with the person that gave it to me, I tried piling the charcoal and putting a square fire starter, the temp rose to around 190 then fell.  He said that the point is to start a the coals and let them burn down. 

Then i tried using a coal chimney, heating that up and putting it on top of the coals.  The temp rose to around 400 for about a half hour and then fell.  My chicken got to around 150... almost enough to eat. 

Also, I use cowboy charcoal. 

Any suggestions are welcome, pictures would be awesome.  Is there a chance i put it together incorrectly?  Either way, I am at wits end.  I need to smoke meat for around 40 people in a couple of weekends and I feel like if i don't practice, bad things will happen (I'm out of town next weekend).

I'm not familiar with your smoker, but it sounds like you are not getting enough air flow. Are there vents in the bottom & top? If there are leave them all fully open to get your charcoal going then close down the bottom one's a little at a time until the temp stabilizes. Keep the top one open all the way.
Could be that your firebox isn't aligned properly and little to no air is getting inside. 

It sounds like your starting it properly, so that doesn't seem to be the issue. 

Can you snap a few photo's of the inside? And if you stick your hand through the bottom air vent, the fire box should line up properly with the air vent - ie. if your firebox isn't aligned properly, you won't be able to stick your hand through. 
Goose, I must agree with Smokin Al and Flbobecu, if your using the Minion Method, that's where you pile up your charcoal and then place a chimney of good hot coals in the top center of them to start your heat, ( for more information put Minion Method in the Search Bar or check it out in the WIKI section). It sounds to me like you are not getting enough air into your charcoal to keep the fire going and it is smothering out.  I, like Al, am not familiar with your particular smoker but apparently Flbobecu is and I would defer to his judgment but the fact is that fire must have an air flow to burn so I would think that you need to check out the air flow, open them up and make sure they are lined up and be sure the one on the top is open all the way.  That should get your smoker going and then you can adjust your temp with the lower air vents.  You sure don't need any 400 degree temps in a meat smoker!  Keep reading and asking questions, some pics of your smoker would be a lot of help see if you can get us a few to look at and study so we may be better able to help you out.  We have all had problems Goose, your not the first!

Your SMF Friend,

Hey Goose,

I have read on here, on a different post, that cowboy charcoal is not very good. Look at getting Royal Oak Lump from wally world.

If you elimante the possible look for the improbable. Run the smoker with the chimney all the way open.

Also be mindful of your weather, to wet out , too cold, to windy. Alot of people use RO lump charcoal, is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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