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Solidkick 11-06-2003 08:42 PM

Fire Control
 
Guys, I'm not doing so well with fire control. I need an idea from you all as to how much charcoal you start out with for your initial fire. I'm starting with a chimney of lit coals put over a chimney of unlit charcoal, with it being a mixture of lump and briqettes. I add wood for the smoke flavor. I'm just not getting up to a good cooking temp. I've added the baffle and raised the fire, though I don't have the new fire grate made yet, I do have the materials. The 3/8 inch door gasket proved to be too thick and the door wouldn't close, so I'm going to have to go down to 1/4 inch.

Should I be starting out with more like 10-15 lbs of charcoal, then adding small amounts later to maintain a constant temp?

Thanks in advance guys!

willkat98 11-06-2003 09:12 PM

Holy **** Batman.

Sorry Mr. Kick.

You live in Missouri I see. Do you have Meijer stores by you? If so, I will give you a different set of tips.

10-15#'s in my opinion, is too much to start with.

First off. Do the first grate mod. I have a 3/4 inch expanded metal, cut to 16" (I think that is what it was across) by 20 inch long. Covers the entire firebox. For support, I sacraficed a grill grate (ordered 6 extra, so I dont miss it)

So here goes. Oops, now wait. Before I start, let me first point out that Mark, and a few others, have contributed nicely to a recent thread on using wood only. In my case, and in people like Josh, it just isnt' practical, so charcoal is a necessity. Wood versus charcoal is a whole nother thread.

Okay. I take a chimney of lump, and start it on my gas grill side car. While that is starting, I try to carefully place an entire layer of briquettes (unlit) in the beast. I then add a second layer, only around the outer ring. On the corners, I build up a third layer. I now have a "bowl" of unlit charcoal in the beast.

When the lump is hot, I pour it in the bowl. All dampers full open, water pan in with hot water. digital probe in middle of smoke chamber down the chimney.

about 45 minutes later to 1 hour, I have reached 240 in the smoke chamber.

about 20-25 minutes in, I start assembling splits on top of the fire box (or large chunks) to preheat them. I am about to lose all my heat as I load her up. When I hit 230-240, I start loading. If water pan is on rack 1 (for discussion sake) the pork loin and turkey breast on rach #3, then ribs on 5-10, then chicken and pork on 11-14.

I use the heat shield. Check out a quick pick in the Brethern Bash, Bills camera at the end.
simple shelf covered in foil 3/4 th of the way.

Okay, so you've loaded it up, and you see your temp is now at 160 since the door was open and closed so much. Don't panic, and don't over add fuel. You now have 2-3 splits or chuncks preheated as noted above. Leave the firebox top CLOSED. Use the side door, along with some gloves, to add a split of two to the top of the coals. You should get instant ignition.

2 more things. 1, do you have a Menards in Missouri, and 2 you said you raised the fire grate, but did you raise it to the first level of notches in the firebox?

So now the splits ignite, and your temp quickly goes back to 240-250.

After an hour or two, I would pour out some charcoal on the patio. I then grab 2 at a time, and start filling in the space close to the firebox door, from the top, closing after each open, drop, close, technique.

You now have about 15 ulit briquettes in the back, which will back burn. Time for another split or chunk or two. After another hour, all the coals are lit. Some from the first batch are gone. So this is now at nearly hour 4. I take the bag of lump, and pour a 1/4 bag in. It's not alot, in weight, since it is light, but 1/4 to 1/3 bag is a ****load.

Watch the smoke!!! The purpose of pouring in lump is to continue a good coal bed. Temps will go down a little, and you will need to raise the firebox lid is white smoke appears until ignition.

But after it gets lit, you will have a **** storm. Watch those temps, and add a split or couple chunks. Whenever it goes above 260 during initial burn, I'll open the smoke chamber door, and the firebox, then close her up. She'll go down to 190, then slowly rise. When she stops spikeing to more than 260, you don't open anything, just sit back and wait.

Monitor temps.

When she comes down to 220-230, check the coal bed (quick peak) throw on a split or two, then sit back and monitor temps.

The beast is a fuel hog, but with the damper, and with putting coals in back of the fire versus in front of it, you can get some decent burns.

Just hit PM private message if you would like to have my number to call me this weekend (or the next Q weekend) of you need help.

Disclaimer, I am the furthest from an expert as you can get, but I love Q, and I love playing with fire. If I want to put it on and forget, I use the WSM. If I want to fark with it, (usually do) then I go Bandera.

Hope tis helped, even a little.

I asked a couple questions in there. if you answer them (with a yes) then I have even more tips.

willkat98 11-06-2003 09:26 PM

Whoa, now that I posted, I think I may have babbled. Sorry :)

So just PM me and I'll call you.

Solidkick 11-06-2003 09:40 PM

(You live in Missouri I see. Do you have Meijer stores by you? If so, I will give you a different set of tips.)

Nope, gotta Westlakes, a Home Depot and a Lowes, that is if it is a hardware type store.

(2 more things. 1, do you have a Menards in Missouri, and 2 you said you raised the fire grate, but did you raise it to the first level of notches in the firebox? )

No on Menards. Notches? 1st from the bottom or the top? Mine now is about level with second from the bottom. Using a grill wok on 2 1/2 inch bolts as a charcoal basket.

(I use the heat shield. Check out a quick pick in the Brethern Bash, Bills camera at the end. simple shelf covered in foil 3/4 th of the way.)

Yep, I did this too, forgot to mention in my first post. I also have 2 probes I use just for cabinet temps (stick in a half of a potato) and a turkey fryer thermometer that has a clip on it that I stick in the stack. I have 4 probes just for the meat temps.

Thanks for taking the time to write all of your comments out for me. I'm saving as a word doc file for future reference. Great info for a newbie!

Oldtimer 11-06-2003 09:54 PM

I just turn the gas up or down. :-) I always throw this in a fire control thread. It's one of my relevant irellevant's.

BBQchef33 11-07-2003 12:29 AM

I start with a full chimney of Kingsford or lump, dump it up against the wall of the firebox closest to the smoke chamber. Add 1 split log on top, close the firebox lid and forget it for 45 minutes.
All dampers wide open. That gets me to 250 in about 20 mins to half hour. My grate is at the height that the fire is just below the bottom of opening, I think its the second shelf level. I'd go check, but my bandera is 3000 miles away right now.

willkat98 11-07-2003 09:18 AM

Just to clarify Phils comment Mr. Kick, when he says "dump it up against the wall of the firebox closest to the smoke chamber" he does not mean literally "against" the wall with the opening into the smoke box.

He has the firegrate mod like mine, a 20"x16" expanded steel, which pretty much cover the entire firebox so no coals fall down to the bottom.

It really helps to have this entire surface area, as you can put coals close to the opening to start off, then later when you have a coal bed and are maintaining temps, you can add coals to the back near the side door, to have a slower burn, or add coals closer to the smoke box when you need them to light quicker to add heat (can do this with chunks of wood too, just using charcoal in my examples to be consistent with my splaining.)

So back to what Phil said, you never lay coals direct against any of the sides of the firebox. You'll end up getting burn through and shortening the life of the box. So he means, pile a chimney on the fire grate, close to the opening in the smoke chamber side.

As reference, I have the grate on the lowest notch. This allows me to have enough room to reach up into the chamber from the side door to add splits, rather than opening the top and loosing heat (and a fuel wasting way to tend the fire. Get heavy gloves, like welders gloves and reach up in there. I buy these blue leather ones in the Bash Pics section that I gave to everyone. They work great.

BigAl 11-09-2003 08:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by willkat98
Holy **** Batman.

Sorry Mr. Kick.

You live in Missouri I see. Do you have Meijer stores by you? If so, I will give you a different set of tips.

10-15#'s in my opinion, is too much to start with.

First off. Do the first grate mod. I have a 3/4 inch expanded metal, cut to 16" (I think that is what it was across) by 20 inch long. Covers the entire firebox. For support, I sacraficed a grill grate (ordered 6 extra, so I dont miss it)

So here goes. Oops, now wait. Before I start, let me first point out that Mark, and a few others, have contributed nicely to a recent thread on using wood only. In my case, and in people like Josh, it just isnt' practical, so charcoal is a necessity. Wood versus charcoal is a whole nother thread.

Okay. I take a chimney of lump, and start it on my gas grill side car. While that is starting, I try to carefully place an entire layer of briquettes (unlit) in the beast. I then add a second layer, only around the outer ring. On the corners, I build up a third layer. I now have a "bowl" of unlit charcoal in the beast.

When the lump is hot, I pour it in the bowl. All dampers full open, water pan in with hot water. digital probe in middle of smoke chamber down the chimney.

about 45 minutes later to 1 hour, I have reached 240 in the smoke chamber.

about 20-25 minutes in, I start assembling splits on top of the fire box (or large chunks) to preheat them. I am about to lose all my heat as I load her up. When I hit 230-240, I start loading. If water pan is on rack 1 (for discussion sake) the pork loin and turkey breast on rach #3, then ribs on 5-10, then chicken and pork on 11-14.

I use the heat shield. Check out a quick pick in the Brethern Bash, Bills camera at the end.
simple shelf covered in foil 3/4 th of the way.

Okay, so you've loaded it up, and you see your temp is now at 160 since the door was open and closed so much. Don't panic, and don't over add fuel. You now have 2-3 splits or chuncks preheated as noted above. Leave the firebox top CLOSED. Use the side door, along with some gloves, to add a split of two to the top of the coals. You should get instant ignition.

2 more things. 1, do you have a Menards in Missouri, and 2 you said you raised the fire grate, but did you raise it to the first level of notches in the firebox?

So now the splits ignite, and your temp quickly goes back to 240-250.

After an hour or two, I would pour out some charcoal on the patio. I then grab 2 at a time, and start filling in the space close to the firebox door, from the top, closing after each open, drop, close, technique.

You now have about 15 ulit briquettes in the back, which will back burn. Time for another split or chunk or two. After another hour, all the coals are lit. Some from the first batch are gone. So this is now at nearly hour 4. I take the bag of lump, and pour a 1/4 bag in. It's not alot, in weight, since it is light, but 1/4 to 1/3 bag is a ****load.

Watch the smoke!!! The purpose of pouring in lump is to continue a good coal bed. Temps will go down a little, and you will need to raise the firebox lid is white smoke appears until ignition.

But after it gets lit, you will have a **** storm. Watch those temps, and add a split or couple chunks. Whenever it goes above 260 during initial burn, I'll open the smoke chamber door, and the firebox, then close her up. She'll go down to 190, then slowly rise. When she stops spikeing to more than 260, you don't open anything, just sit back and wait.

Monitor temps.

When she comes down to 220-230, check the coal bed (quick peak) throw on a split or two, then sit back and monitor temps.

The beast is a fuel hog, but with the damper, and with putting coals in back of the fire versus in front of it, you can get some decent burns.

Just hit PM private message if you would like to have my number to call me this weekend (or the next Q weekend) of you need help.

Disclaimer, I am the furthest from an expert as you can get, but I love Q, and I love playing with fire. If I want to put it on and forget, I use the WSM. If I want to fark with it, (usually do) then I go Bandera.

Hope tis helped, even a little.

I asked a couple questions in there. if you answer them (with a yes) then I have even more tips.

This is the best testimonal I have ever seen as to why you should order one of my baskets! :wink:

Davewey 11-09-2003 08:35 PM

Let's say you have a nice fire going, and it has burned down to the point where what you see is a collection of hot "glowing embers." The fire is still producing a lot of heat, but it is producing no smoke at all. You might have gotten to this point either by starting with logs in a fireplace or by starting with charcoal. If you now toss a piece of wood, or even a sheet of paper, onto this fire, what you will notice is that the new fuel produces a lot of smoke as it heats up. Then, all of a sudden (often with a small pop), it bursts into flame and the smoke disappears.

If you have a fireplace or wood stove, or if you have been around a lot of campfires, this little scene is very familiar to you. It tells you a lot about smoke -- let's look at what is happening.

There are four things that you find in any piece of wood:

Water - Freshly cut wood contains a lot of water (sometimes more than half of its weight is water). Seasoned wood (wood that has been allowed to sit for a year or two) or kiln-dried wood contains a lot less water, but it still contains some.
Volatile organic compounds - When the tree was alive, it contained sap and a wide variety of volatile hydrocarbons in its cells. If you have read How Food Works, you know that cellulose (a chief component of wood) is a carbohydrate, meaning it is made of glucose. A compound is "volatile" if it evaporates when heated. These compounds are all combustible (gasoline and alcohol are, after all, hydrocarbons -- the volatile hydrocarbons in wood burn the same way).
Carbon
Ash - Ash is the non-burnable minerals in the tree's cells, like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Fun Fact
Perhaps 30 years ago, a magazine called "Mother Earth News" published an article on how to run a car off of wood smoke. They actually had a demonstration pickup truck that had been converted to run this way. In the bed of the truck was a sealed steel container full of wood, and outside the container was a wood fire to heat the wood in the container. The heat drove off the volatiles from the wood in the container, and this smoke was fed to the carburetor and burned in the truck's engine just like gasoline! I don't know what kind of mileage they got... But it does prove that smoke is simply combustible organic compounds.

When you put the fresh piece of wood or paper on a hot fire, the smoke you see is those volatile hydrocarbons evaporating from the wood. They start vaporizing at a temperature of about 300 degrees F (149 degrees Celsius). If the temperature gets high enough, these compounds burst into flame. Once they start burning, there is no smoke because the hydrocarbons are turned into carbon dioxide and water (both invisible) when they burn.
This explains why you see no smoke from a charcoal fire (or a fire that has burned down to embers). Charcoal is created by heating wood to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. That is, you take wood and put it in a sealed box of steel or clay and you heat it to about 1,000 degrees F (538 C). This process drives off all of the volatile organic compounds and leaves behind the carbon and the minerals (ash). When you light the charcoal, what is burning is the pure carbon. It combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, and what is left at the end of the fire is the ash -- the minerals.

Coke from coal is the same thing. Coke is coal that has been heated in the absence of oxygen to drive off the organics. The smoke that this process produces is actually very valuable -- it contains coal tar, coal gas, alcohols, formaldehyde and ammonia, among other things. And all of these compounds can be distilled out of the smoke for use. You may have heard of methanol (a form of alcohol) referred to as "wood alcohol." It used to be produced by distilling out of wood smoke.

Davewey 11-09-2003 08:41 PM

That last post came from How Stuff works

http://science.howstuffworks.com/question43.htm

willkat98 11-09-2003 09:14 PM

Dave,
an excellent testimonial on the science of what is going on in the firebox.

Knowledge is power brothers, and the more we know, the better our Q will be!!

BBQchef33 11-09-2003 10:51 PM

Quote:

"Coke from coal is the same thing. Coke is coal that has been heated in the absence of oxygen to drive off the organics. The smoke that this process produces is actually very valuable -- it contains coal tar, coal gas, alcohols, formaldehyde and ammonia, among other things. And all of these compounds can be distilled out of the smoke for use. You may have heard of methanol (a form of alcohol) referred to as "wood alcohol." It used to be produced by distilling out of wood smoke."

Uhhh.. Bill.. You still wanna make that trip to the train yard?

cptorrez 05-17-2010 09:21 PM

wow! i am new to the site and I am amazed at the wealth of knowledge you guys have. i am in good old sunny c.a. and i find people just don't know how to bbq out here. I do my best

bbqbull 05-17-2010 09:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Solidkick (Post 95005)
Guys, I'm not doing so well with fire control. I need an idea from you all as to how much charcoal you start out with for your initial fire. I'm starting with a chimney of lit coals put over a chimney of unlit charcoal, with it being a mixture of lump and briqettes. I add wood for the smoke flavor. I'm just not getting up to a good cooking temp. I've added the baffle and raised the fire, though I don't have the new fire grate made yet, I do have the materials. The 3/8 inch door gasket proved to be too thick and the door wouldn't close, so I'm going to have to go down to 1/4 inch.

Should I be starting out with more like 10-15 lbs of charcoal, then adding small amounts later to maintain a constant temp?

Thanks in advance guys!

Maybe I missed it but what type smoker are you cooking with?

Chef Jim 05-17-2010 10:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by willkat98 (Post 95010)
Whoa, now that I posted, I think I may have babbled. Sorry :)

So just PM me and I'll call you.


Hey Bill, Babble all you want!:clap2::clap2:


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