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Guidance Request on Temperature Equilibration


Joined Nov 10, 2020
Hello – very new, hoping to get some guidance from the pros here.

So I took the plunge and purchased an Oklahoma Joe Highlander. By “plunge”, I mean I am a pretty inexperienced griller- barely use a gas grill appropriately. Can eke out some burgers but that’s about it.

So why did I do it? I love ribs. Like, could eat them every night every which way. But can’t afford to eat out to get them as often as I’d like. It’s my hope to gain the skill set to do my own at some point. Plus the occasional tri-tip. So though I’m completely intimidated by the idea, I went down to my local Ace and picked an OJ up.

I went through a number of You Tube vids to check out setups and followed the basic mods, as listed:

  • Detached the firebox and laid a bead of high temp food grade RTV around the hole, bolted it back up
  • Got a roll of Lavalock gasket seal and sealed all around the barrel opening where the lid sits.
  • Drilled a hole on the cold side and inserted a silicone grommet for probes.
  • Purchased a second OJ analog temp gauge for the right side (so now 2 on top, left and right)
  • Installed a door clamp on each side of the barrel (glad I did this as the barrel lid had quite a bow on the firebox side).
  • Purchased the horizontal baffle plate specific for this unit
  • Purchased a Kibaga SS firebox basket
  • Purchased a Maverick XR-50 (like the idea of 2 grill probes 2 meat probes, and being able to sit inside while smoking outside)
  • Purchased a big bag of lump coal and another of applewood chunks.
  • (Forgot to get a piece of 90 degree galvanized to add to the inside of the exhaust vent)
Seasoned it last weekend (Canola oil rubbed on all the innards, basket, tuning plate and grates), 300-350 for 3 hours, used a little apple in the charcoal. So far so good.

Last night was the big event. First tri-tip, about 3.5 lbs. Set the Maverick probes on the grate, 1 hotside 1 cold side. Laid some coal in the firebox basket, filled the chimney with some more, lit that. Once white, dumped it into the basket. Monitored temp. I was super pleased at first, temperature at firebox side at one point was 241, cold side was 240. Sat down to drink a PBR, a few minutes later temp was 300 one the firebox side, 260 on the cold side. Realized I didn’t need to use as much charcoal as I did (I’m still learning!), waited about an hour for the temp to come down enough to be meat ready.

But here’s the thing. I couldn’t get better than 30 degrees difference between the hot side and cold side, and to be honest, most of the time it was 40-50 degrees (e.g. 220-230 cold side, 270-280 hot side). I messed with the baffle plates no difference. I shut down the damper, no difference. Added a meat loaf pan of water to the hot side by the box, no difference. I was able to smoke the tri-tip ok by keeping it on the cold side, but I couldn’t get that equilibrium I thought the baffle plate was to provide.

Good news is, the tri-tip came out nice, a little more done than I’d like though. I was shooting for medium rare, so I took it off when the internal probes (I placed 2 inside at different spots) reached 125, the seared it on the grate over the charcoal for 5 minutes each side. Wrapped it in foil and placed it in a small cooler for 20 minutes. After resting, I unwrapped, sliced and it was a bit more on the medium side, but still juicy. I think maybe I seared too hot/too long?

Really bummed about the temperature distribution though. Can anyone provide me some guidance on this? Would so appreciate it.

Thanks in advance for your time,




Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Feb 25, 2018
Do yourself a favor and don't use any galvanized metal inside of the unit, folks can quote all they want about it only puts out toxic fumes at a certain temps but why chance it? good luck on getting a handle on the temps, rarely will any smoker keep the temps even across all the grates, I think the reverse flow might have a advantage on that , having the meat and grate probes sure makes a difference so your on the right track for some great Q


Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Group Lead
Joined Apr 5, 2018
Don’t get too worried about side to side temp if it’s within 30 degree that’s pretty good. Before my baffle install I was running 60 degree difference side to side as well as burning food close to the firebox. I don’t have that problem with the baffle


Smoking Guru
SMF Premier Member
Joined Nov 26, 2019
Tri tip looks good. It overcooked because you wrapped tight in foil for 20 minutes. Next time just sit it on counter and tent with foil for 10min so heat can escape. Or let it sit uncovered which is what I usually do.

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