Question on the Minion Method

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by dburne, Aug 4, 2013.

  1. dburne

    dburne Meat Mopper

    Hey gang,

    Ok so I have two smokes under my belt now, since getting my new OKJ Longhorn offset smoker. Both turned out really good, however an observation regarding both.

    Both smokes, were for spare ribs. The first smoke, was 1 rack for my wife and I, just to see how I did for my first time. This was after of course smoking for a few hours a few days earlier, to season it.

    Now this first smoke with a rack of ribs, I had read up and used the minion method. I put a pile on the fire grate in my firebox, had arranged to where there was a hole going down the middle,  then lit about half a chimney a coals, once those were ashed over, I poured them in the middle of the pile of unlit coals on the fire grate. It worked very well for me, was able to maintain temp  and burn for app 3-4 hours, before having to add more coal. I used some chunks of hickory as well. ( 3-4 at a time). I smoked using the 3=2=1 method.

    Now the second smoke - this was for 3 racks of spare ribs, as we had company. It poured the rain all day and was cooler than previously, only got up to about 69 degrees that day. I had a pop up patio cover over the grill, so it stayed dry for the most part.

    Using the same minion method, and starting the coals the same way, I really struggled this time Keeping the temp up where it should be, and it really burned through some charcoal - I found I had to keep adding about every 45 minutes to an hour, just to keep the heat close to where it should be. I was so frustrated after getting through the first 3 hours, I wrapped them up and put them in the oven for the next two hours, and finished them off back on the smoker. They turned out great, but dang it was work and worry.

    So why the big difference in the two? Did the weather make that big difference, and the charcoal to burn up that much faster? And since it was burning much faster, ash buildup was a problem as well, starving the fire eventually.  I used Kingsford charcoal, for both smokes.

    My OKH Longhorn is obviously still new, has some leaks , will be working on sealing it up better in next few days. I also have a custom convection plate and charcoal basket on order with Horizon, if they ever get here.

    Thanks for any tips,
  2. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The weather will make a bit of a difference. That extra 20˚ of ambient temp needs to be made up for by burning more fuel. Plus if it was windy, that also sucks the heat out very efficiently. One other culprit might have been humidity. Charcoal, especially the blue bag stuff, soaks up humidity like a sponge. Once it gets damp, it'll still burn but not very willingly.
  3. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Rain and humidity can be a bear! With crappy weather like that try to keep the pit under shelter and use lump for a hotter fire. There's no easy answer because water and fire don't go well together.
  4. dburne

    dburne Meat Mopper

    Ok thanks guys, I will chalk it up to the weather - hopefully my next smoke will be on a pretty and warm day!
  5. Don't get discouraged, it's all part of the learning curve! Fire tending is probably the most important factor in turning out great Q. Anyone can lay a nice rub on a quality piece of meat and cook it to a predetermined temp. What seems to separate the elites from the beginners is the fire tending skill, knowing how to run the equipment given any set of atmospheric conditions and still turning out high quality product.

    I've been focusing hard on this angle a lot myself the last few weeks. Working on my minion method, modding my ECB for more efficiency, and stretching the amount of fuel used for longer periods while maintaining stable temps. When I started I was all over the place tempwise, adding fuel every hour, and burning through entire big bags of Kingsford charcoal for an 8-10 hour cook. I was also struggling with creosote and bitter smoke flavors.

    By researching and working on my equipment and techniques, I've been able to go 3-4 hours at a time, using dramatically less charcoal, and keeping the temps in a much more stable window. Keep focusing on those fire tending details and you will find it gets MUCH easier as you learn the equipment.
  6. dburne

    dburne Meat Mopper

    Will do thanks Steve! I figure my first two smokes ended up good even though I really struggled with that second one, hopefully from here on I only improve!

  7. I read this with a lot of interest with issues I had on Friday night.  Good to know about wind as I couldn't get temp above 180.

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