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Khyu80 12-06-2012 09:30 PM

Stickburner fire/smoke control, seeking advice
Hi all,
I have finally decided to move to a stickburner. I got a used one that is pretty big (used to be a catering smoker) but the price was too good to pass up. I did my first cook but was looking for a little more smoke flavor on my ribs and sausage. Coming from a WSM, I don't know the exact smoking technique I should be shooting for but here's basically how the smoker behaved.

I was able to get the temp up to 300 on 5 logs and a chimney of charcoal. There was an active flame on the logs but I noticed as the flames died down and the wood turned into embers, the temp dropped to about 250. I added a preheated log on the embers, it turned into a flaming log again, temp increased to about 275 and slowly went down the next 30-40 minutes as the flame on the log died down until embers and 250ish again. I decided to shoot for 260 since this was my first go and it seems it could stay +-10 degrees easily so I just added a log once it turned into embers at 250ish. The whole smoke, I left the firebox intake at about 3/4's open.

Now I am seeking advice on what I should have done better on the fire control. My initial guess is that a flame is needed for 250+ temperatures.

Should I be looking to maintain an active fire the whole smoke or are embers the best smoking technique? I've looked up and some say they let a flame be present, other say embers so I'm a bit confused.

When adding a piece of wood, would letting only half of the log flame up be better for keeping the temperature swing down? I am guessing if only half the log flames up, there should be less of an initial swing. I have tons of room in my firebox to position half of the log onto the embers.

I've also read that too hot of a fire will not get the smoke flavor onto the meat. Any truth to this? Should I drop my intake to 1/2 open instead of 3/4? I'm afraid of dropping the airflow and getting a dirty smoke. I'm trying to get as much advice as possible to try and experiment on my next smoke. Thanks all!

Bludawg 12-06-2012 10:28 PM

Cooking on a stick burner you cook in a Zone. My zone is 275-325 YMMV. As you have discovered you need to maintain an active flame how big can depend on a few factors, Type of wood, moisture content,size of split, size of coal bed, wind and humidity.
Just because you cant see the smoke don't mean it aint doing it's job. Coming from a WSM your used to the flavor from charcoal. A stick burner gives a lighter flavor providing the fire is clean. your intake is your temp control more air hotter fire. the bigger the fire the more air required. It will take a few cooks but the pieces will come together, *Stick with it. *(Pun intended)

BBQ Bandit 12-06-2012 10:39 PM

Welcome to the fire - literally!

You have already began to see the true necessities for a stickburner.

The fire needs to remain a small but hot burning fire (after you establish a bed of coals)
White smoke bad - Thin Blue Smoke GOOD! (Thinner the smoke, the cleaner burning the fire.)
Add a pre-warmed split every 30-40 minutes.

A side note: The choice and overall condition of woods will play a role, too.
The species of wood will also impart different intensities of flavor.
Oak burns clean, hot, with a mild flavor.
Maple is slightly stronger.
Burning hickory would be a much stronger impression.

See - you are already on the right path... congrats and keep on burning.

indianagriller 12-06-2012 11:01 PM

remember you are getting your heat from the bed of coals adding the log is only a process of getting to the hot coal stage...

FireChief 12-07-2012 09:50 AM

My best advice is to always run your intake and outtake (smoke stack) wide open. Manage your temperatures by the size of your fire. That way you'll always run a clean fire and never "over smoke" your meat.

I think people get too hung up on a fully sealed firebox. Take a look at how they run the big pits in Central Texas like Kreuz, Smitty's and others. The "firebox" is just one big ass opening where they burn the coals. Nice and clean.

gtr 12-07-2012 10:02 AM

^^^All these guys got good stuff for you. Airflow is a big deal - I keep all vents open all the time. If the fire is getting too hot I either move the meat further away from the firebox or open the firebox door - that way the temp drops and I still have a clean burning fire - if the fire is too low, I either add more preheated wood, or I'll throw in some lump - but after awhile you'll get used to your cooker and you won't have those sorts of problems nearly as much. Just keep after it - it's a learning curve for sure but worth it. My stickburner is still my favorite cooker.

Deep South 12-07-2012 10:15 AM

Keep in mind that your hardwoods (oak hickory) are a higer BTU. I run fruitwood for smoking butts and ribs (200-250) and hard wood for chicken (275-375). Every smoker has a temp it likes to run based on the design and air flow. Mine settles in @ 220 on fuit wood and 325 on hardwood and I never touch the intake or exhaust (both wide open).

IF my temps have dipped I leave the ash door open until the new log ignites and burns a little before I close the door. If the temps spike, I raise the main door and let a little heat out. I usually get a bout a 20 degree drop each time the main door is opened.

Khyu80 12-07-2012 12:15 PM

Thanks for all the advice! I found it very fun using the stickburner. It's the small micromanagement of the fire that I'm wanting to nail down first before worrying about product quality. I learned on this cook about the zone people are talking about and mine was from 250-270ish. However, I did open the doors a little too long at one point and found that I lost this zone because temp dropped too low to 220 and it wouldn't go back up! Before the stickburner, I had just assumed the temp would pick right back up. I had to add another piece to get back into the zone.

I'm going to try to practice keeping the zone at a higher temp and see what I learn next. It's so much more than just throw a log into the fire that I find very refreshing and would appreciate more micromanaging advice!

It's a very big pit and I only cooked two ribs and several links of sausage so I'm guessing if I do a big cook, the amount of wood and process is going to change a bit.

I'm loving this stickburner business!

neuyawk 12-07-2012 12:32 PM

Also make sure your logs are split. When I first used a stickburner i thought a whole round log would look cooler. But the longer it takes to get to coals the harder it is to keep temp. Once you get a really solid level of embers it'll be pretty stable.

jestridge 12-07-2012 12:33 PM

If you want good control cook in a oven

indianagriller 12-07-2012 03:07 PM


Originally Posted by jestridge (Post 2290886)
If you want good control cook in a oven

OR... buy a Jambo... but just work within the means of the cooker, it will find its own sweet spot and run there.

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