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Unread 07-02-2013, 03:13 PM   #1
Dauvis
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Default Just one frustration after another

So, I had the intention of smoking a meatloaf this weekend but did not get to because of the weather. I finally decided that I was going to smoke on Monday come heck or high water. As I checked the weather maps yesterday, it was clear that I was not going to have a rain free window. As a matter of fact, it seemed like there was this stationary green blob where my house should be.

I get home and arranged charcoal in the side fire box of my Chargriller, setup my grate level thermometers, and started a 1/4 chimney of charcoal. I was using Stubbs for the first time. When that was ready, it went into the fire box. When I finished the prep, I went to check on the smoker to see it was ready. It was just blowing white smoke like a chain smoker who had two minutes left on his break. Not only that, the cooking area was barely warm to touch. Never had that happen before.

After fussing with the charcoal to get a better airflow, I managed to get the temperature up to 220-230. Still had white smoke but not nearly as thick. Now, I noticed that there was a large temperature difference forming between the two ends (at one point it got to be as high as 80 degrees). Looks like that problem was not actually fixed

Put the food on and started checking regularly. Noticed that my wood chunks caught on fire - need to research that. However, the temperature on the side opposite of the fire box was yo-yoing in the range of 180-220 while the fire box side was going from 250-320. Not that problem again . Although the smoke was mostly thin. Occasionally, it would belch a plume of white smoke. To top it all off, my probe thermometer for the food went on the fritz and the batteries of my kitchen thermometer died.

Ended up finishing the meatloaf in the oven/microwave. Smoke flavor was a bit strong in my opinion. Only good thing I could say about it was that it had a nice smoke ring.

I know this is a bit much but if anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears. I am really dumbfounded and frustrated from this smoke. Last time, I had a consistent 260 on both ends. This time it is as if I did not have any mods or even a fire box.
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Unread 07-02-2013, 03:30 PM   #2
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Too many things not going well, I can't begin to guess. I think try again with better conditions and see if you can get a good cook with better weather. If so, then time to look for leaks and stuff
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Unread 07-02-2013, 03:40 PM   #3
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cheaper offsets don't like the rain.. if you have a tent i would suggest using that next time.. the white smoke comes from water dripping onto your fire from the firebox lid... Try to cover the firebox and cooking chamber next time and you should have better results..
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Unread 07-02-2013, 03:41 PM   #4
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water also cools the temps which is why further away from the firebox you got cooler temps..
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Unread 07-02-2013, 04:00 PM   #5
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If your smoker is throwing lots of thick white smoke it probably is burning your fuel at too low a temp. Also, you could have low quality charcoal (I've never used Stubbs so I don't know). As well, if it was rainy and the wind was gusting you may have had wind blowing down your chimney.

You mentioned that your smoke became thin but you would get some belching of thick white smoke. You may have had wind blowing down your chimney and when you got a little break in the wind the hot air was coming out the chimney properly. This can cause big fluctuations in your temp on your chimney side. If you think this description sounds like your day, you want to position your smoker so the wind is blowing perpendicular to it (ie, the wind is blowing west, you have your two ends, chimney and firebox air valve, going north/south). If you can't move your smoker you can make a wind block. Sometimes I see guys making one out of aluminum foil, kinda like a bent tube so the exit is facing away from the wind.
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Unread 07-02-2013, 04:14 PM   #6
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I would suggest ditching the charcoal as your primary fuel source and start using splits. Starting the fire with a chimney of coal with a split or two is a great way to get a quick bed of coals but that should be the end of the charcoal for the day. Offsets are designed for stick burning unlike the Eggs or WSMs and by maintaining a small hot wood fire you'll have a much easier time of holding temps. Offsets require good airflow and if you put too much charcoal into the firebox at once you always run the risk of too much of it igniting at once and then you end up with runaway or wildly fluctuating temps. Start with a chimney or less of charcoal and a large split or two smaller ones, as that burns to coals add another split and so on. The idea is to have the wood combust and not smolder as soon as it is put in the firebox. Combusting wood makes very little smoke which is the thin blue stuff that you want. You'll be putting a split on every 45 min. or so, your exhaust damper should be wide open and your intake should not have to be choked way down to control the heat, (mine is usually about a third to half of the way open). Just try this method and adjust as needed since all cookers are different but I think that it will really help you to get control over your offset.
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Unread 07-02-2013, 10:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DownHomeQue View Post
cheaper offsets don't like the rain.. if you have a tent i would suggest using that next time.. the white smoke comes from water dripping onto your fire from the firebox lid... Try to cover the firebox and cooking chamber next time and you should have better results..
The rain at the time was at most a light drizzle any water getting in the fire box was minimal. I think wind was more of the issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by legendaryhog View Post
If your smoker is throwing lots of thick white smoke it probably is burning your fuel at too low a temp. Also, you could have low quality charcoal (I've never used Stubbs so I don't know). As well, if it was rainy and the wind was gusting you may have had wind blowing down your chimney.

You mentioned that your smoke became thin but you would get some belching of thick white smoke. You may have had wind blowing down your chimney and when you got a little break in the wind the hot air was coming out the chimney properly. This can cause big fluctuations in your temp on your chimney side. If you think this description sounds like your day, you want to position your smoker so the wind is blowing perpendicular to it (ie, the wind is blowing west, you have your two ends, chimney and firebox air valve, going north/south). If you can't move your smoker you can make a wind block. Sometimes I see guys making one out of aluminum foil, kinda like a bent tube so the exit is facing away from the wind.
I forgot to add that part to my original post. At one point, I watched the temperature drop by about 30 degrees in five seconds. When that happened I closed the cover on the chimney to about 1/4. Seems like I might need to improve the sealing as well.

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Originally Posted by oldbill View Post
I would suggest ditching the charcoal as your primary fuel source and start using splits. Starting the fire with a chimney of coal with a split or two is a great way to get a quick bed of coals but that should be the end of the charcoal for the day. Offsets are designed for stick burning unlike the Eggs or WSMs and by maintaining a small hot wood fire you'll have a much easier time of holding temps. Offsets require good airflow and if you put too much charcoal into the firebox at once you always run the risk of too much of it igniting at once and then you end up with runaway or wildly fluctuating temps. Start with a chimney or less of charcoal and a large split or two smaller ones, as that burns to coals add another split and so on. The idea is to have the wood combust and not smolder as soon as it is put in the firebox. Combusting wood makes very little smoke which is the thin blue stuff that you want. You'll be putting a split on every 45 min. or so, your exhaust damper should be wide open and your intake should not have to be choked way down to control the heat, (mine is usually about a third to half of the way open). Just try this method and adjust as needed since all cookers are different but I think that it will really help you to get control over your offset.
Yeah, I tried the minion method but everything ended up igniting. I think I'll give the splits a shot. I'm in suburban purgatory so I don't have a good source for wood for the splits. In the interim, could I use campfire wood with hardwood chunks?

Thanks all
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Unread 07-03-2013, 09:54 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dauvis View Post
I forgot to add that part to my original post. At one point, I watched the temperature drop by about 30 degrees in five seconds. When that happened I closed the cover on the chimney to about 1/4. Seems like I might need to improve the sealing as well.
Wow, that is really quick temp drop. I think the wind got you on this day. Just to be clear, the aluminum tube I was talking about (if you can't move your smoker) is just some aluminum foil (like two or three pieces) that you roll into a ten inch or so tube, then scrunch one end over your chimney and bend the open top-end away from the direction of the wind.

Also, unless you have a good baffle (a diagonal piece of metal between your fire box and smoking chamber) don't go overboard and face the firebox end into the wind. You will likely get too much air blowing through your pit and you could get ash all over your food.

If you want to seal your lid better, which is a good idea, I suggest ordering some adhesive felt from a site that sells the Big Green Egg. It is just some felt with adhesive on one side and costs about $13-15 for the Large. Put some on both insides of your lid (inside of the lid when you open it and outside on the smoke chamber around where the lid touches where you close it) so the felt strips touch each other when you close your lid. Easy way to make a good seal. Will take you about five minutes to clean the area so the adhesive sticks well and five minutes to apply the felt. I use it on my big stick burner as well as my Egg and it works great.
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Unread 07-03-2013, 10:04 AM   #9
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I just want to say I use stubbs always it smokes a lot when it is first lit until it gets hot then it will stop.I would leave the chimney vent open all the way all the time keep the smoke moving.Those chargrillers aint real air tight.Lots of good advice here for you to try.I wouldnt use charcoal alone in there as oldbill said get some wood splits going in there.Better luck next time and don't give up.
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Unread 07-03-2013, 10:38 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dauvis View Post
Yeah, I tried the minion method but everything ended up igniting. I think I'll give the splits a shot. I'm in suburban purgatory so I don't have a good source for wood for the splits. In the interim, could I use campfire wood with hardwood chunks? Thanks all
Sorry, didn't see this part or would have put it in my previous post. I'm not sure what you mean by "campfire wood," but if you just mean any random wood that you would throw on a campfire the answer is no. There are many different woods that you can use for smoking, however, there are far more that you may not. For example, you may not use any of the "evergreen" woods. A lot of trees contain too much resin and will give off a "sooty" smoke that will result in a nasty flavor.

As a rule, you can use most any "hardwood." If you are in suburbia, stick with charcoal (I suggest simply the kingsford blue bag) and hardwood chunks. Splits are great to use if you have access, but aren't a necessity. You can find a source for splits as you get more experienced if the bbq bug bites you.
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Unread 07-03-2013, 01:02 PM   #11
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If you don't have access to splits and want a more efficient cook, pretend the side fire box is the air intake. Build your minion fire on the end of cooking chamber closest to the fire box just like you would in a weber kettle. Use a brick or something to shield the fire from the food which will be placed on the exhaust end of cooking chamber.

It's easy, dump unlit coals in fire box end of cook chamber, bury a few half fist sized or larger chunks of wood in the coals. Toss a dozen or so fully lit coals on top. The fire should be stable in a matter of 15 minutes. Use the firebox intake to control temps.

I've had great success on that exact model of cooker doing it like that. Far better than with using the fire box.
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Unread 07-03-2013, 01:53 PM   #12
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Yeah, I tried the minion method but everything ended up igniting. I think I'll give the splits a shot. I'm in suburban purgatory so I don't have a good source for wood for the splits. In the interim, could I use campfire wood with hardwood chunks?

Thanks all[/QUOTE]
Any hardwood or fruit wood will probably do, such as left over fireplace wood. I don't know what kind of hardwood is common in your area but around here it tends to be oak because it is pretty thick in central Texas. You may try looking into tree removal companies, they sometimes will sell the wood from the trees that they have taken out. You could also probably get a good deal from a firewood dealer at this time of year, they're in their slow time of the year and may be able to be haggled with!
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