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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 04-19-2013, 06:55 AM   #1
jonmhenderson
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Default Santa Maria Pit Fire

Hey all! Great to be on the forum! I hope someone will be able to help me with a question. I have a custom made Santa Maria BBQ pit with a 24"X20"X14" firebox with an Argentine V Slot style cooking screen. When I look at pictures online of the pits at Jocko's, the Hitching Post, et al, they all have raging fires in their cookers. I'm not able to get enough airflow into the firebox to create that kind of fire. I had my pit made like the ones I see on various websites, so there is no draft intake. It's just a solid firebox. Any insight how to make the fire happen like this places would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again!
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Unread 04-19-2013, 08:07 AM   #2
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Can you post a few pictures?
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Unread 04-19-2013, 08:23 AM   #3
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Hey welcome to the forum. Without seeing what you have specifically it is hard to give specifics. The obvious answer is you need to introduce some air flow to the fire. It could be a blower fan of some type


Hope this helps.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 08:51 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonmhenderson View Post
Hey all! Great to be on the forum! I hope someone will be able to help me with a question. I have a custom made Santa Maria BBQ pit with a 24"X20"X14" firebox with an Argentine V Slot style cooking screen. When I look at pictures online of the pits at Jocko's, the Hitching Post, et al, they all have raging fires in their cookers. I'm not able to get enough airflow into the firebox to create that kind of fire. I had my pit made like the ones I see on various websites, so there is no draft intake. It's just a solid firebox. Any insight how to make the fire happen like this places would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again!
Just be patient, I have about the same size Santa Maria PIT. You will need a lot more wood than a closed smoker. The raging fire is not for cooking. Once it has burned down to glowing coals is the time to start cooking.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 09:14 AM   #5
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Thanks for the responses, everyone! Here's a pic:

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Unread 04-19-2013, 09:15 AM   #6
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On the glowing coals comment, that's what I thought too, till I saw those pics of Jocko's and Hitching Post with raw wood in the pits.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 12:36 PM   #7
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Jocko's, The Hitching Post and Far Western Tavern cook over coals, not raging fires. But, the coals are hot and when you flip the meat, you get dramatic flares of flames. They do this on purpose. If you ever see the owner's of Far Western Tavern cook at their ranch, they do not get the huge flames, nor do the guys doing Santa Maria the true old school way.

Fill you fire box to the top, light the wood and burn it down to coals, them put some logs around the edge, and cook some meat in the center, over the coals. In the restaurants, they cook very hot and fast, as that works best for that style of cooking. You also might consider that you want to have a fire grate built, so that the coals do not sit on the bottom of your fire box. The cooker will last longer, and the fire will burn easier.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 03:49 PM   #8
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Thanks for the report, Landarc! I'll give it a shot!
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Unread 04-19-2013, 04:33 PM   #9
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First, nice looking pit! Excuse me for barging in, just trying to learn a little. I'm assuming there are no air intakes other than that coming in through the cooking grate? Makes sense when you look at the built in pits, most don't have any air intake.

Question for those experienced in the cooking style: is this common and would adding intakes help any?

PS:landarc's suggestion for a raised fire grate should make for a cleaner fire, regardless of how air gets to the fire/coal bed.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 04:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
You also might consider that you want to have a fire grate built, so that the coals do not sit on the bottom of your fire box. The cooker will last longer, and the fire will burn easier.
I have a fire grate for mine, but I don't use it any longer because the fire ends up being so hot, that I have to raise the grate practically all the way up, and there is so much heat coming out from the fire box, that it's painful to tend to the meat.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 07:28 PM   #11
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I use a fire grate but I have a very deep pit (about 24 inches). Elevating the grate will get you a roaring fire so be careful. Your goal is coals as that is how you achieve the best cook.
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Unread 04-19-2013, 07:51 PM   #12
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Yes, dwfisk, no air intake vents at the bottom of the fire box. It's just a closed in box, same as the pit I originally had from Santa Maria BBQ Outfitters and foolishly sold awhile back. The air comes in through the top. I've noticed that Arizona BBQ pits have air intake in the front of theirs. I'm going to put some expanded metal on some fire bricks in the corners of the firebox and see what that does tomorrow. I do love the argentine style cooking screen. It's good at keeping flare ups to a minimum.

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Unread 04-19-2013, 07:55 PM   #13
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Air intakes are a good thing, but, a lot of Santa Maria pits do not have them. All of the built in pits I have designed have them as part of both the clean out system and the ventilation system. But, they are not needed at all. A fire grate only needs to be a couple of inches off the bottom of the box, no more. But, as Dave mentioned above, you do not need it, I think it makes it easier to get the fire going.
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Unread 04-21-2013, 06:27 PM   #14
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I put an expanded metal grate on some firebricks turned up on their ends and got the fire much further up in the fire box, just a few inches below the front lip. The results were excellent, exactly what I was looking for. Very hot fire. Thanks for all the advice.
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Unread 04-21-2013, 10:05 PM   #15
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When I lived and worked on The Central Coast my employer would give a safety bbq every three months. It was always linguica tacos at break with tri tip at lunch. The caterers would show up at 8am and start the fire so it would be ready by 10am for the linguica. They would throw a bunch of red oak in and let it burn down to a good coal bed and add wood as they saw fit. I've done this style of cooking more times than I can count. As recently as today in fact. My pit is 24x30 and I find that I need a fire grate in this smaller pit or it doesn't seem to work as good. I use two oven racks. I start out with about 5 or 6 logs and add as needed. Works really good. I've been to the Far Western dozens of times when they were in Guadelupe but you couldn't see the fire pit. Hitching Post you can and it's as others say, the fire flares up as the move the steaks around. It's important to note that they are cooking mostly steaks rather than tri tip.
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