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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, equipment and outdoor cookin' . ** Other cooking techniques are welcomed for when your cookin' in the kitchen. Post your hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures, but stay on topic and watch for that hijacking.


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Old 01-21-2021, 11:32 AM   #1
ArtBQ
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Default Workhorse Pit - 8 months in - Fire Question

So this time last year I ordered a Workhorse Pit 1957, their smallest model. It arrived in May. It was my first offset smoker, coming from owning several Weber Smokey Mountains. There was a major learning curve with a live fire and I feel like I have learned quite a bit and I do feel like the barbecue I am making these days is some of the best I have ever had.

One question I have for the community is about temperature fluctuations. I have read Franklin's book easily 4 times and took his Masterclass. I understand a 1000 gallon pit is way different than this little guy. Taking advice from these forums, I scaled my fire appropriately. I cut my logs in half and even split those down to smaller pieces. I find that's the only way to keep temperatures low enough.

I track my temps with a Thermorworks Smoke attached to a Gateway to get accurate graphs from my cooks. A question I have, is it normal to have such a fluctuation in temps from when you put a log on and then when its just about spent and you put a long on again? Franklin and others I have seen on Youtube talk about maintaining a temp of like 275 plus or minus 5 degrees.

I have not idea how to get my fire to hold in such a tight threshold. Am I missing something? I have attached a graph from my last smoke, you see major dips in temps when I opened the lid to spritz, but you can see each time I add wood - a spike to about 290 and then let it burn until it gets below 230 because I know another log will spike to 290 again.
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Old 01-21-2021, 12:16 PM   #2
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I am by no means an expert, and I'm going to settle in to observe the feedback here.

However, one thing I've done with my Shirley that I've found helps is managing temps with the firebox door. My splits are usually preheated on top of the firebox and then when I throw a log on, I'll keep the firebox door open for a few minutes to avoid any huge spike in temperature. Like I said, I'm no expert, but that's helped me.
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Old 01-21-2021, 12:24 PM   #3
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Just my experience on my Old Country Brazos, 290 to 230 would be a large swing. I can generally keep it within a 25 degree range.


I can't keep it within a 10 degree range, like Franklin speaks of. Maybe on those 1K propane smokers that's possible, but not on my Brazos. Temp swings are just gonna be a reality for me.



I have found that the stronger the coal bed, the temp swings aren't as large. I've begun using a couple B&B Char logs that burn for a long time, to help keep the coal bed steady.
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Old 01-21-2021, 12:25 PM   #4
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That is pretty standard for a small offset smoker. I have a similar sized Horizon and it's the same. You can get the fluctuations down by decreasing the size of the splits and adding them a lot more frequently. But that increases the work to run the pit.

The best advice I read (and what I adhere to) is aim to cook in a range on a pit like this: +/- 25 degrees of your target temperature.

I fretted about the temperature variations when I first got this smoker (also after studying Aaron Franklins stuff). Ultimately, as long as you don't let the fire get out of control either way for extended periods of time, and burn a clean fire, the BBQ is going to be fine.

Personally, I think dialing in an exact temperature becomes more critical for cooking large amounts of meat where you need things to be a bit more predictable. On my backyard pit where the quantity I cook is small, I can adjust the cook based on what is needed. But I'm just speculating on this point.
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Old 01-21-2021, 12:33 PM   #5
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Here's a pork butt cook from last October




Last edited by Lynn Dollar; 01-21-2021 at 12:41 PM..
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Old 01-21-2021, 01:48 PM   #6
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my vertical runs a 50 degree swing. +25 -25
Used to sweat it
stopped and happier for it.

I have no doubt that some guys can hold a +5 -5 range...or say they can- or that they are scratch golfers or bowl 300 games consistently or...
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:09 PM   #7
Greygoose
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I have a Shirley 23x36 patio model and I keep it in a 25 degree swing,,,250-275
When the temp is just above 250 I throw a split in
I have to do this every 30-45 minutes depending on the split that I toss in
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:22 PM   #8
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I run my Lang pretty much the same Greygoose does.
Another thing you should do which will help even things out a little is preheat your splits on top of your fire box so the ignite as soon as you add them. Don't worry too much about temperature swings, you're not baking a cake.
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Old 01-21-2021, 02:52 PM   #9
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For myself i tried a digital thermometer in my stick burner and it drove me crazy. I think they are so sensitive and fast acting that they pickup every degree of change from the live fire.

I just rely on the tel tru gauge, and for me i think its accurate enough and i check it occasionally with a digital to ensure its still calibrated.

I think if you can get your temp stable within 20-25 degrees or so of your target temp for backyard bbq you are doing just fine. I agree with the analogy of a scratch golfer. Anyways it's always fun to practice up and keep working in the fire skills.
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Old 01-21-2021, 03:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackdogbbq21 View Post
For myself i tried a digital thermometer in my stick burner and it drove me crazy. I think they are so sensitive and fast acting that they pickup every degree of change from the live fire.

I just rely on the tel tru gauge, and for me i think its accurate enough and i check it occasionally with a digital to ensure its still calibrated.

.

Once I quit cooking with the digital gauges, it got a lot easier. The digital caused me to react to fast, and then I would get spikes.



I still put a digital probe or two in the cook chamber, but I got one TelTru on the stack end that I cook with.
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Old 01-21-2021, 03:49 PM   #11
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I am in the market for my first real stick burner. I have watched videos and studied fire management and all the experienced cooks Ive seen say the same thing. DO NOT chase a digital thermometer. Get a good analog one like a tel tru and trust it. You will drive yourself nuts trying to keep a tight temp window.
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Old 01-21-2021, 04:12 PM   #12
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Toss the graphing of temps out the window. No need to stress over temp fluctuations in a stick burner imo. As long as you Keep it within an acceptable range, it will be fine. The smaller the pit the harder it will be to keep a relatively constant temp. You likely need to split your splits down even smaller and use smaller logs and add to the fire more often. A bigger pit is much more forgiving with temps and you can burn a much larger, more complete fire and the temps won’t swing as much.


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Old 01-21-2021, 04:15 PM   #13
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I think it comes down to measure with the tool you know, and adjust accordingly.

The analog gauge on a lot of smokers is not grate level and will be cooler than the grate temperature where you are cooking. That's fine if that's what you cook by. Learn what that gauge reports you, cook by it. If it tells you its 250 when you are actually 275 - that's fine.

Digital thermometer will be grate level and a more accurate read than the lid, but will fluctuate as mentioned. I use this - as I like the remote access. I can keep an eye on temps while not at my smoker.
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Old 01-21-2021, 04:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thedude9999 View Post
I think it comes down to measure with the tool you know, and adjust accordingly.

The analog gauge on a lot of smokers is not grate level and will be cooler than the grate temperature where you are cooking. That's fine if that's what you cook by. Learn what that gauge reports you, cook by it. If it tells you its 250 when you are actually 275 - that's fine.

Digital thermometer will be grate level and a more accurate read than the lid, but will fluctuate as mentioned. I use this - as I like the remote access. I can keep an eye on temps while not at my smoker.

That's what I do also.


Also, I put a digital on both ends and then I can chart how even it ran end-to-end. And I like to look back over a chart the next day. Its no different than keeping a record of cooks, and there's nothing wrong with that, can be very helpful especially when learning the smoker.
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Old 01-21-2021, 08:03 PM   #15
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Don't get caught up in Franklin too much. He's awesome but you're not gonna get +/-5. Keep doing what you're doing. You'll get it to +/-25 (maybe 20). If you want tighter temp ranges you'll need a different type of cooker.

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