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New to offset smoking but not new to the game


Joined Jan 5, 2021
Good morning folks.
So recently for my birthday I got my first offset smoker, OKJ Highland. No Academy Sports here in PHX so I couldnt grab a Pecos or Brazzos. Not doing a 6 hour drive to El Paso.
So far my mods are as such...
Lava Lock Clamps
Lava Lock gasket on the CC and FB
RTV on all the joints and smoke stack
3” Aluminum stack extension, stack is now roughly 24-27 inches tall.
Home made fire basket with expanded metal
Deflector plates made from wrapping the grates in foil x 2.
ThermoPro TP20 dual probe, one set at grate level where I intend to cook.

I’m running a hardwood charcoal base to start and using wrist to fist size chunks, one at a time, from there on since I’m using up what I have left from a previous “smoker”.
My problem I’m running into is this bad boy wants to run hot. My target range is 250-275... I add another chunk once I hit 275, starts to ignite well when the CC hits between 240-250. Close the FB lid leaving the side door wide open to ensure a good flame then close that. Boom 320. Burp the cook chamber a few times to lower it and it settles back down to 270-280. Then creeps back up to 290-300. Side vent still wide open for good flame/air.

I guess my question is what the hell am I doing wrong that hamy set up running so damn hot? I see these videos of folks regarding managing a fire, especially on a Highland, and it’s no big deal for them even using 2x2x10 splits. I’ve tried doing even smaller chunks of wood than I have on a tiny coal base already and that still wants to run hot. Too much air/draft because of the stack extension? Too dry a wood, so far just hickory and cherry chunks, because I’m in PHX? No water pan? Is it because I’m using Chunks instead of splits?

Any help would be appreciated.


Smoke Blower
Joined Dec 1, 2019
Welcome to the board.

Wood chucks vs. splits - combustion occurs to a great extent as a function of the surface area of the fuel you add. I can imagine your small chunks are going up in flames in a hurry due to their high surface area per mass of wood. The spikes you describe make sense. I suggest you get some seasoned splits instead.

On my stick burner, I leave the stack open and throttle the heat with combustion air. Stick burners bob up and down in temps, so don't chase the gremlin too much. Find the sweet spot that generally keeps a flame going so you have good smoke. Combustion air has the control authority, so you control with your intake air setting. I think you will find that seasoned splits are the answer as well.

Good luck on learning the sweet spot for your particular pit.


Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
Joined Oct 17, 2014
Welcome from Gilbert, AZ! I run my SQ36 offset using mostly hickory splits I get delivered from Cabelas, then I have to cut them down to about 2x2 using a hand ax and a single jack. I keep my side vents about 1/3 open, stack always wide open, and control heat with the firebox door. Alphonse Alphonse gave you some excellent advise, stick burners do bob up and settle back down. I use mine all year long and if you haven't smoked during the summer heat yet there's a few other tricks to learn. #1 is keep your CC out of the direct sunlight when it's 113º, a patio umbrella can make a 30-40 degree difference. Try running with your side vents closed half way, maybe a little more, once you get dialed in leave them alone. I quit using charcoal a year ago, just start some splits with a weed torch. My SQ36 eats wood, usually needs to be fed a fresh split or two every 30 minutes or so. I also try to run most smokes around 275º, keep that lid closed as much as possible, a short up-tick isn't gong to hurt a butt or brisket much. It all just takes a little time and experience getting to know your smoker, good luck! RAY


Meat Mopper
SMF Premier Member
Joined Oct 29, 2020
I generally like to have a large water pan in my coal or stick smokes. Because it is a large thermal mass, it evens out the ups and downs and definitely keep the outlet wide open and control the burn with the inlet. Only on rare occasions do I half close the outlet.
I used to live in Tucson, so smoking in July when it was 112 degrees outside meant that it was 180-200 in the smoker with no fire lit! Add fire, and it was real tough to keep at 225-275. Putting in a large bowl of cool water allowed me to minimize the ups and downs as well as keep the baseline low. When the temp started creeping up, I'd put another bowl of cool water in.
Smoking in AZ is not as easy unless you are at higher elevations.

I'd also look at all of your mods... sealing it up also keeps the heat in, and the smoker wasn't designed to be super sealed.


SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
Staff member
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 22, 2009
First off, welcome to SMF!
You will be fine, there is a big learning curve with a stick burner, but as said above a water pan on the grate next to the firebox will even out the temps & keep them from fluctuating so much.


Joined Jan 5, 2021
Thank you folks for the welcome folks... I will go with the water pan next and was thinking maybe take the stack extension after I see how the water pan goes

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