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unattended temperature control

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by fatguy, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. Hi folks! I posted this in a buried thread a few days ago and I doubt it got any exposure. I'm reposting it in a new thread, hope that's ok. Here goes; BTW I use a Char-Griller Pro with the sidecar [​IMG]

    I've read a few times about "banking firewood" One of the things that I find most challenging about smoking is keeping a consitent temperature and the fact that I must tend to the fire constantly.  seems like I'm always adding more wood or messing with the firebox and the chimney.  Is it really possible to load that puppy up and let it burn on its own for hours on end? I mean I understand you need oxygen and fuel for fire and limiting one will result in no/slow burn.  I tried using the search function but couldn't come up with any threads that explain to a newbie how to effectivly do this. A point in the right direction would be greatly appreciated
  2. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hi FatGuy,

    I'm sure there will be a few guys here soon who can answer that question. I often see posts of people telling of how long they are able to hold a certain temp. It all seems impossible to me, which is why I use electric (I cheat!). All I do is push 230˚ or whatever I want on the digital control, and I'm good to go.

    That should bring 'em running to tell you how to do it!

    Best of luck,

  3. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yeah... that is one of the reasons I switched from the Char-Griller to my 22.5 WSM. I wanted to keep the charcoal fuel, but wanted better temp controll - the WSM has done both really well.
  4. I'll be interested in the responses since I'm using the same smoker. I haven't figured that one out yet.

    I kept getting a bunch of spikes this past weekend which is obviously too much fire. It is definitely a "hands on" sport.
  5. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If you make the mods and switch to charcoal you can get a 2-3 hr. burn out of the char-grillers. But you have to have a charcoal basket and use the minion method, after that 2-3 hr. period you have to add more charcoal.

  6.  minion method?
  7. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Pioneered by Jim Minion - get a charcoal basket/ring, fill it with unlit charcoal, then put about 10-20 lit briquets on top in the middle. It slowly burns down and out over a period of several hours, providing a long, slow, steady heat.  A lot of folks mix their chunks of flavor wood in with the unlit briquets/lump and as it burns out it hits the flavor wood every so often providing a fairly consistant stream of thin blue smoke.

    If you look in the "Charcoal Smoakers" forum and do a serch for charcoal basket you will find a lot of threads showing various cheap easy ways to make a charcoal basket for the Char-griller and Char-broil smokers.
  8. Agreed! I was over my bros this past weekend and printed up the minion method for him (as i have gas and he has yet to master temp control on his SFB)... It was night and day on holding a nice Long steady temp... he hasn't stopped thanking me since Saturday...

    In a few weeks we plan on making the rest of the mods needed to perfect his smoker...

  9. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

  10. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Well I read your question and there's an easy way to keep your smoker at temp and not do much to it for hours. It's called a Gas Smoker. I have a few and I can leave them for hours and hours.
  11. Thanks for the links, they do help. In one of the mod threads I read someone made their basket with a wall in the middle about an inch wide, that extended about half way across. The wall created a U shape in basket and the charcoal went in that. He lit one side and it burned around. At the time I read it, I didn't know why that would be of interest to me. Now I do. I might try that with mine. After I used it once I cut a bunch of holes in the bottom to let the ash fall out.

  12. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    Yes, airflow coming up under the fire basket is the key as well as ash dumping. They go hand in hand. the key is to find the balance for your smoker. [​IMG]
  13. I have the same smoker. It does require you to maintain the firebox pretty often. I have a shaker basket (from Lowes) with stainless steel carrage bolts on the sides & the bolts rest on the "shelves" for the grates on the side-firebox. So the basket is above the ash drawer.

    I use the minion method to start my smoke, fill half the basket with unlit lump coal & a couple chunks of wood & add 1 chimney of lit coals. I may get around 1.5 to 2 hrs on this 1st load (temp around 225F) but after that, I have to add unlit coals about every 45 min to 1 hr & have to add chunks of wood about the same amount of time.

    I don't mind this too much, I get a good workout doing 12oz curls while watching/working the smoker.

    I use Royal Oak 100% hardwood lump from WalMart. It seems to last longer, doesn't produce alot of ash but lately doesn't seem to burn hotter though (I will say that is due to the weather conditions the last few times I've smoked meat).
  14. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    A couple questions...I was running my brinkmann SNP with an elevated oversized coal grate and custom tuned 1-piece full tuning plate:

    1) With a shaker, are you having problems with ash getting into the smoke chamber, and if not, what do you do to prevent this from happening?

    2) Don't you get heavy coal smoke after you add cold briquettes to the fire?

  15. looks like I got some work to do and a little reading as well. Thank you so much folks, what a great forum![​IMG]
  16. pandemonium

    pandemonium Master of the Pit

    Those type smokers just require alot of work, thats why i got rid of mine
  17. Howdy Eric !

    I have a curved steal baffle in the chamber at the opening to direct the heat & smoke more into the middle of the chamber. All the ash just falls down out of the basket onto the ash drawer.

    I don't seem to get any coal smoke/taste from the unlit coals. Remember, using the minion method, you have unlit coals along with lit coals.

    I have wondered about that though, cause when lighting the lump coal in the chimney, there is alot of black coal dust/smoke rising from the chimney until it is burning. But I don't seem to see that when adding unlit to the firebox, it just seems to start developing the "grey" around the unlit very slowly.

    If it is adding this heavy black dust/smoke to my chamber, I will have no problem lighting a chimney of coals then adding to the firebox & I'll stop using the minion method.

    Eric, should I stop using the minion method as well due to the possibility of this happening ? I look-up to your ideas with great pride.

    I'm just a "grasshopper" compaired to you & alot of others here........


    Here's pic when I was smoking some beercan yardbird, the curved steel baffle is covered with foil:


    Heres a pic of my shaker basket:

    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010

  18. FATGUY - If you want some reading material check this out if you haven't seen it already. [​IMG]


    It's ten pages of mods and discussion of this smoker. I found it very helpful. The basket I mentioned before was in post #111.

    Coyote-1's description of it starts at #109.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010
  19. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Techinically you are getting "start up" smoke if you add unlit to the basket in mid smoke. A good way around this, without getting to much of a temp. spike is to light a full chimney of charcoal, let the bottom layer get good and hot, but dont let the entire chimney get lit. What this does is pre-heat the charcoal, which helps to drive out some of the gases and dust that cause that nasty start up smoke. When you dump the chimney only about the bottom 1/4 is fully lit, but the rest of it is still actually fairly hot. You will get a little bit of a temp spike, and a very small amount of start up smoke, but much less than if you dump cold unlit charcoal in.

    You can do two chimneys like that and completely refill your basket in mid-smoke, works great.
  20. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Jerry,

    I was just curious if you were doing something similar to what I've tried in the past.

    Heck, Jerry, I'm thinking if you've got a system down that works for you, stay with it. Every smoker and the various mods we do to them act a bit differently. The minion method was just something I never commited myself to mastering, and my smoker was modded more towards full use of the cooking grates than anything else. It just kept me pretty busing building up the fire due to the enherent inefficiencies of my tuning plate. It seemed I needed a much hotter fire for some reason, so I was adding about 2lb/hr of hot coals in order to keep chamber temps up (huge loss of heat out the vent).

    I noticed your wire gap on the basket is pretty tight...I'm running more of an open gap with all my charcoal grates...3/4", so the ashes fall out naturally...seems to work pretty well, with a bit of build-up after 9-10 hours, but if I close my exhaust vent for a minute of two and give the grate a couple light taps it will drop the ash out nicely. I close the vent hoping it will stall the air flow through the smoke chamber just long enough to drop the ashes and let the air-born ash settle, then I re-open the vent.

    Yeah, if the minion method works for you, by all means use it. It's much less tending, which translates to less risk of ash and likely the heavy smoke from what I've heard.

    As for the heavy smoke, you'll know if it's coming on strong or not from your fire box...it's just like when you first start heating up a chimney full to get it burning. But if what you do is working well, I wouldn't make too many changes at once or it may foul-up your whole process.
    Hey Johnny,

    Now that you mention it, I have actually used that very method myself and have gotten good results. My brinkmann gourmet is really touchy about adding coals...it'll smoke for over 20 minutes if I add cold, so I just keep a couple pounds in a chimney ready to toss over a burner to heat up.

    Thanks guys!