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Unread 06-17-2013, 07:45 AM   #1
Mahoney86
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Default Trouble keeping coals on my Lang

Ive done about a dozen cooks now on my Lang 84, Ive been better luck with keeping the temp lower by the use of smaller splits, though my trouble since day 1 is that I loose my bed of coals usually around the 2-3 hour mark ( this is when all my charcoal has burned off).

I start with a whole lit chimney, toss it on the fire grate and then add a 3-5 splits and a chimney of unlit charcoal so that I get a roaring fire. I bring the cooker up over 300* and let it ride there until I can start knocking down some of the wood. I throw another split on and begin to throttle down my dampeners. My top grates run about 15-20degrees hotter than my bottom so normally I will let the top be in the 275-300* range, by turning all 4 of my pinwheels to 1/2 open and I will normally run my whole cook that was as anything lower chokes the fire.

I try to run a small centralized fire right in the middle of the fire grate. I find myself adding small splits every 20minutes. I start my cook with splits only about 2" wide in hopes they will burn down quickly to help create a coal bed so I can use larger splits later. If i try and add in splits that are a bit larger, they will engulf in flames and drive the temp nice and high, however when I go back to check in 20min or so it normally turns into a smoldering log because the coals have all burned up and there is not enough heat to keep the large split going. At this point, Im in trouble and fire up another chimney and blow as much oxygen into the fire to try and get the flames back up. Ill get it all sorted out before overall temps go below 225*, however I am back to square one again trying to build my coal bed.

I don't know if it is a wood issue, the standard lang grate is just too large or I am just doing something totally wrong. But I do know that I lit my outdoor fireplace finally last night and that had a bed of coals quicker than I could imagine and was maintenance free.

The previous owner of this Lang told me he never cooked higher than 225* degrees and it would ride there for 20hours straight. He was old school and had a fire bin where he would shovel coals into the cooker all night as needed and says I should never be burning wood in the firebox. Obviously we cook 2 different ways.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 08:38 AM   #2
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Get another piece of expanded metal and put it on top of your existing grate and see it that helps things.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 08:55 AM   #3
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Also different woods burn at different speeds/temperatures, try a really dense wood for longer burn times. If I want a fast hot burn I will throw alder on, for longer and slower I will use maple.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 09:24 AM   #4
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You just need to learn your pit sometimes there is a larger learning curve. It may help to remember that on an offset your cooking in a Zone. My Zone is 275-325 zone and I consider 300 to be my ideal cook temp. I start with a larger fire than I cook with this will establish a good bed of coals and preheat the pit min 1 hr I will let the pit get as hot as it can during this time and keep an active fire. once I finish the pre heat I add a split cut back the intake damper and set about doing my prep while the pit settles back to My Zone.
A few min before I set the meat load I add another split, load it up and close it up. When the temp drops to 275 I add a split it will run up to 325 and slowly fall back, repeat as necessary. IF for some reason(rare) I have a difficult time keeping the coal bed I will add some lump along with a split. Don't beat yourself up cook where the pit wants to run and adapt to it.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 10:29 AM   #5
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Yeah.... I use about 15 lit pieces of charcoal to build my initial bed, and then add sticks to that. All I need to maintain 225*-250* is 1 pinwheel at about 1/2 open. Holds a nice bed of coals all day.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 10:39 AM   #6
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I've had the exact same experience with my new Baby Jambo. What I've come up with, right or wrong is that when I get to the point when the original charcoal starts to run out, I'll add a second split to the fire. It usually runs the temp up about 25* for a little while (15~ish minutes)but it will give me more coals from the wood to counter the fact that I'm about out of charcoal. From that point forward, I'll start adding the splits with a little more frequency than I was when i was setting them on the bed of charcoals to ensure that they have time to get burning before the old coals run out. I usually keep one split at the front of the firebox, so it will be hot, in case I need an "emergency" split should I miss adding one earlier. That one will be really preheated and will catch fast should I need a quick infusion of heat. Again, don't know if it's right, but it seems to be working.

All that said, my pit likes right around 250. I think if I was to try to hold a steady 225, I'd have a harder time managing the fire to keep sufficient coals without getting a temp spike to 275. Hmmmm. Maybe I should try that this week....
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Unread 06-17-2013, 12:28 PM   #7
Mahoney86
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I always preheat my splits, but the issue is, if there is no coals for them to light from its not gonna light! lol. I see pictures of guys running Small Hot Fires and it seems there is a ton of coal and embers just glowing away. My fires more seem to run off of the burning logs, they never really drop any coals or embers. For instance when I wrapped my ribs last night and put my chicken thighs on I switched to apple wood. I know apple burns much cooler than the oak from my initial cook, however to maintain 250* I had about 6 fits size around logs in the firebox, no coals at all and it was just the wood morning, every 15-20min I was throwing another log on just to keep the fire lit. If it wasn't for a nice preheated log going in, the fire would smoke turn to smoldering and then bye bye fire.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 12:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahoney86 View Post
I always preheat my splits, but the issue is, if there is no coals for them to light from its not gonna light! lol. I see pictures of guys running Small Hot Fires and it seems there is a ton of coal and embers just glowing away. My fires more seem to run off of the burning logs, they never really drop any coals or embers. For instance when I wrapped my ribs last night and put my chicken thighs on I switched to apple wood. I know apple burns much cooler than the oak from my initial cook, however to maintain 250* I had about 6 fits size around logs in the firebox, no coals at all and it was just the wood morning, every 15-20min I was throwing another log on just to keep the fire lit. If it wasn't for a nice preheated log going in, the fire would smoke turn to smoldering and then bye bye fire.
this is what I do, I was in a similar situation when I first got my pit.

I first lay down a good bed of unlit, natural briqs. Why briqs? because they burn slower and make a good coal base that lasts longer than lump.

How much of a layer will only come with trial and error, I have a much different pit so I cant really help there.

Then I will light a chimney of lump, could use briqs for that too, but I like saving my briqs for base and I have plenty of lump.

I put the chimney right in the firebox, light it up and let it go until fully lit

Pour it on the base. Put a few splits on that, get it roaring good.

once its going good I start closing things up and let it settle in. I will put a split or 2 on my firebox once its closed to get them hot for when they go on (very important to put hot splits on so they light off right away when adding).

After an hour or so once things are settled and running fine, put on the meat.

I add a split when I see the temp is starting to fade maybe 10 degrees, or when I can poke at the split and it falls apart.

Put that pre heated split on, let it flame up before closing the firebox

After a few hours of this, the briqs will be pretty low, at this point I will add a handlful of briqs along with the new split. I try to keep just enough ahead of the fire getting too low to keep that small hot fire going with it getting too big or too small.

Sounds hard but its really not. Just takes quality time with your pit and beverage of choice.

It does help to keep a log at first, and pay attention to the size of the splits, if they are too thick this can cause trouble.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 12:57 PM   #9
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I usually use larger splits (they last longer) and fewer splits, and I usually keep 2 of the 4 vents completely closed, the other 2 only 1/2 open...

I start by laying 3 splits in, lining the chamber (open at the end with the door). Then a nice layer of unlit charcoal. On top of that I put in a lit chimney full of charcoal and throw one more split on top (for fun). It takes about 30-45 minutes to come up to temps and settle in. Oh, forgot, while I do this all 4 vents are wide open. It's at full temp time that I cut 'er back to 2 closed and 2 1/2 open...

Then, about once every 45 minutes to an hour I'll need to do something. Sometimes it's another split. Sometimes it's another unlit chimney full of charcoal... Throw 'em in, let 'er rip... Temps usually stay in the 250-260 range...







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Unread 06-17-2013, 02:39 PM   #10
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I have a lang 48 not the 84 so your fire management should be similar just bigger.
P6170780.jpg
I split this size chunk in 2 pieces
P6140776.jpg
when the fire looks about like this, lay the chunk on the grate and then push it back with a poker as far as I can. If I want it to run hotter put the piece in sooner, cooler wait a little longer. 250-300 is my normal range using hickory or pecan vents and damper wide open on the factory lang grate. Haven't tried any charcoal yet. Once again I only have the 48 but when I bought it Ben Lang told me to run it wide open and so far so good.
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Unread 06-17-2013, 02:52 PM   #11
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The pic below is from an earlier thread on "small, hot fires"... added a smaller expanded sheet.
http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=121563

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Unread 06-17-2013, 03:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahoney86 View Post
Ive done about a dozen cooks now on my Lang 84, Ive been better luck with keeping the temp lower by the use of smaller splits, though my trouble since day 1 is that I loose my bed of coals usually around the 2-3 hour mark ( this is when all my charcoal has burned off).

I start with a whole lit chimney, toss it on the fire grate and then add a 3-5 splits and a chimney of unlit charcoal so that I get a roaring fire. I bring the cooker up over 300* and let it ride there until I can start knocking down some of the wood. I throw another split on and begin to throttle down my dampeners. My top grates run about 15-20degrees hotter than my bottom so normally I will let the top be in the 275-300* range, by turning all 4 of my pinwheels to 1/2 open and I will normally run my whole cook that was as anything lower chokes the fire.

I try to run a small centralized fire right in the middle of the fire grate. I find myself adding small splits every 20minutes. I start my cook with splits only about 2" wide in hopes they will burn down quickly to help create a coal bed so I can use larger splits later. If i try and add in splits that are a bit larger, they will engulf in flames and drive the temp nice and high, however when I go back to check in 20min or so it normally turns into a smoldering log because the coals have all burned up and there is not enough heat to keep the large split going. At this point, Im in trouble and fire up another chimney and blow as much oxygen into the fire to try and get the flames back up. Ill get it all sorted out before overall temps go below 225*, however I am back to square one again trying to build my coal bed.

I don't know if it is a wood issue, the standard lang grate is just too large or I am just doing something totally wrong. But I do know that I lit my outdoor fireplace finally last night and that had a bed of coals quicker than I could imagine and was maintenance free.

The previous owner of this Lang told me he never cooked higher than 225* degrees and it would ride there for 20hours straight. He was old school and had a fire bin where he would shovel coals into the cooker all night as needed and says I should never be burning wood in the firebox. Obviously we cook 2 different ways.
It sounds like you're starting with plenty of fire but perhaps using larger splits from the very beginning would solve the problem. Feeding a Lang 84 is like feeding a steam locomotive! LOL!
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Unread 06-18-2013, 07:54 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the tips guys. Judging by your guys picture it looks like your wood breaks down very easily into coals and forms a huge coal bed. I never ever get that.

I attached 2 pictures. First being in my Lang 84 from this weekend and the second picture is from another stick burner, but the picture shows what I end up with in my Lang at about the 2-3 hour mark



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Unread 06-18-2013, 08:29 AM   #14
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Yeah, the great thing about the well built and designed cookers like Langs is that the 1/4 inch steel holds and radiates a lot of heat. Once the coal bed is established the challenge is just maintaining it and with a few cooks you'll know exactly how much to feed that 84 and you'll have her walking and talking!
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Unread 06-18-2013, 08:40 AM   #15
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Notice on these smokers that there is a second piece of expanded metal on the grate that is placed perpendicular to the primary grate. The 2nd smoker actually has 2 extra pieces of expanded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQ Bandit View Post
The pic below is from an earlier thread on "small, hot fires"... added a smaller expanded sheet.
http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=121563

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahoney86 View Post
Thanks for all the tips guys. Judging by your guys picture it looks like your wood breaks down very easily into coals and forms a huge coal bed. I never ever get that.

I attached 2 pictures. First being in my Lang 84 from this weekend and the second picture is from another stick burner, but the picture shows what I end up with in my Lang at about the 2-3 hour mark



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