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Unread 08-20-2013, 10:45 PM   #1
FIREPIT
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Default Newbie ?'s on fire management on an offset

There are many threads on fire managment and a wealth of information on this forum and I'm so grateful for all that I've learned here. In addition to what I've learned, I'd like to ask a specific question on keeping my fire steady.

First, my info: I'm a proud owner of a new 24X42 offset with tuning plates, it is not a reverse flow. Firebox is 22X24 and pit/FB is 1/4 inch thick. I start my fire with charcoal and one or two post oak splits approximately 4"X 18" on top of the lit coals. All doors are open until the fire gets going then I shut the chamber door and keep the FB door cracked open. Once the temp gets to 240ish, I close the FB door and start adjusting the intake vents until temp hits 250ish. Exhaust vent stays wide open throughout cook.

QUESTION: Should I add another split(s) when temp starts to drop or while the temp is still steady? During the eight hour seasoning and five hour rib cook the following day, the pit temp was very steady except a couple of times the splits I added just smoked and didn't ignite. Is that because I waited too long to add them and my coal base was lost? I read somewhere that I should add splits when the burning splits are about half way burned. Is this correct? Sorry for the newbie question, I just want to learn wood fire management from the experts. Thanks in advance!
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Unread 08-20-2013, 11:18 PM   #2
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Congrats...seems you have a good handle on working your fire. You can tinker but no need to deviate much from everything you already do or are considering.
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Unread 08-20-2013, 11:21 PM   #3
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I keep a few splits on the FB to warm, I'll even turn them to preheat evenly they will ignite pretty quickly when I throw them in. I add wood when I need to, basically I like to keep a fire going. I try not to let the fire go out. no smoldering. hope that makes sense. good choice on the gator I love mine.
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Unread 08-20-2013, 11:29 PM   #4
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Like trufunk said, put splits on top of the firebox to warm them up before they go into the fire. They will ignite very quickly with little or no bad smoke being present.

I personally like to add the splits when the pit temp is about 10* below my desired temp so when the new log goes on, the pit temp won't spike too high. This method worked for me, but it wasn't on a 1/4" pit, so your results may be different.

The best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice. You will learn more by doing, than by reading.
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Unread 08-20-2013, 11:35 PM   #5
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I add splits about an hour apart.. Try tapping you fire grate to let the ash fall through.. Then adding a fresh log in 45-hour long intervals... When I add a log previous split is still burning.. But when I touch it with next log or fire poker it breaks into lump charcoal.. Then I add another split. That previous log should still be burning but almost completely carbonized when u add your next log...
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Unread 08-21-2013, 12:31 AM   #6
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Also make sure that your fire is getting enough oxygen
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Unread 08-21-2013, 11:22 AM   #7
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Thanks for all of the suggestions! It seems that I'm waiting too long to add a split and my fire is too low to ignite the new split. I'll try putting the split on the firebox to get it ready. Thanks again!!!!
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Unread 08-21-2013, 11:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FIREPIT View Post
Thanks for all of the suggestions! It seems that I'm waiting too long to add a split and my fire is too low to ignite the new split. I'll try putting the split on the firebox to get it ready. Thanks again!!!!
you want that split to ignite really quick. Leave the firebox door open and watch it and make sure it lights good before you shut the door.

There have been times I have forgot to preheat a split, then I would put it in the firebox oppisite side of the fire and after it heated for a few mins then put it on the fire

welding gloves come in handy for this also
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Unread 08-21-2013, 11:54 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButtBurner View Post
you want that split to ignite really quick. Leave the firebox door open and watch it and make sure it lights good before you shut the door.

There have been times I have forgot to preheat a split, then I would put it in the firebox oppisite side of the fire and after it heated for a few mins then put it on the fire

welding gloves come in handy for this also
I leave the FB door open until the split ignites but when I shut it and ten minutes later, my fire seems to just smolder. Is this because I'm not preheating the split or my intake vents aren't open enough, or both?
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Unread 08-21-2013, 12:00 PM   #10
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Yeah, the trick is to add a new log JUST BEFORE your temp starts to drop. The trick to knowing when THAT is comes from experience with cooking on your smoker.

You're right on track I think. Depending on recovery time, it will more or less critical when you add the log. On the Jambo, for instance slight air adjustments or even opening the cook chamber door will cause fluctuations, but it recovers very quickly. Once it's dialed in, we just add a log once in a while and the temp needle never moves and we don't have to adjust intake or exhaust. Again.....we know this because we've cooked on it enough.
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Unread 08-21-2013, 12:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FIREPIT View Post
I leave the FB door open until the split ignites but when I shut it and ten minutes later, my fire seems to just smolder. Is this because I'm not preheating the split or my intake vents aren't open enough, or both?
Sounds like it needs to breathe more before closing it up. Is the FB door pretty air tight? If so, leaving it cracked longer to let it really get rolling before closing it up may help.
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Unread 08-21-2013, 12:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FIREPIT View Post
I leave the FB door open until the split ignites but when I shut it and ten minutes later, my fire seems to just smolder. Is this because I'm not preheating the split or my intake vents aren't open enough, or both?
both, if the wood is not preheated and the vents are not all the way open

start with them open after adding the wood. when the wood flames up, give it another minute or so with the door open. then close the door and keep an eye on the chimney. If it does continue to flame then you wont have the white smoke which indicates your flame went out

If you still cant keep a flame going, its possible the fire isnt breathing enough, maybe from too much ash in the firebox, the fire grate is too low or its a poorly designed firebox.

Since you have a Gator Pit I am sure its designed properly LOL

you can also try smaller diameter splits like has been suggested. I have found the thickness of the splits can make a big difference too.

But make sure that split is about hot enough to burst into flames before you put it on and that will really help
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Unread 08-21-2013, 12:17 PM   #13
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Lately I have been putting 2 or 3 splits on top of the firebox and 1 by the door inside the firebox and rotating from top to inside to fire. Also keep a couple small pieces ready for when I wait too long.
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Unread 08-21-2013, 12:31 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wampus View Post
Yeah, the trick is to add a new log JUST BEFORE your temp starts to drop. The trick to knowing when THAT is comes from experience with cooking on your smoker.

You're right on track I think. Depending on recovery time, it will more or less critical when you add the log. On the Jambo, for instance slight air adjustments or even opening the cook chamber door will cause fluctuations, but it recovers very quickly. Once it's dialed in, we just add a log once in a while and the temp needle never moves and we don't have to adjust intake or exhaust. Again.....we know this because we've cooked on it enough.
Thanks for the advice! Sounds like with everyone's knowledge here and some hours of pit time, I'll learn. Again, thanks!
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Unread 08-21-2013, 01:06 PM   #15
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One thing that will help is placing some expanded metal with smaller holes on your current grate to keep fewer coals from dropping through. This should help quite a bit and if the fire burns down too low you should be able to get the split going by keeping the door open and blowing on the coals.

For your size smoker you shouldn't need too add too much wood each time. Remember you need a small, hot and clean fire and trying to choke the fire, due to too much fuel in the firebox, can be a bad thing. If I were you I would try cutting the splits in half and keep the intake and the exhaust wide open. In my offset, where the chamber is 14' x 3' and the firebox is insulated, I'm using one ~18" x 4" split per hour. Many of the guys running comp Jambo's, which are similar if not slightly larger than yours,are using small pizza splits to keep their fires small, hot and clean. Figure out what size splits work best in your smoker and you should be good to go. Going back to your original question, I run my pit at 260-280. When it hits 260-265 I add a new split and it will go to 275 or 280. Now some people will say they want a smaller range but I don't have the time or desire to do that and I have found that a small range like that doesn't matter.
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