View Full Version : How to start a smoker fire

04-17-2013, 02:08 PM
Hi. I have a CharGriller with a side firebox. I fashioned a good charcoal basket that fits well. I can smoke pretty well, but I spend way too much time tending to the fire cuz I don't know what I'm doing. I need to learn how to start a "slow fire" that lasts a while, rather than dumping a chimney full of coals in and adding more frequently. Right now I manage the smoker temperature by keeping the firebox door propped open at various levels - stupid, I know, but it works, however inefficiently.

I would like to learn how to start a slow fire so I don't have to manage the smoker temp by propping open the smoker door.

BTW - I just bought a BBQ Guru CyberQ wifi to help manage the temperature, but that unit assumes I know what I'm doing and just want to walk away from the smoker for a while...

Also, I'm going to put some high-heat caulk in this weekend to seal the air gaps in the smoker as much as possible, to minimize heat loss.

Anything anyone can help me with, is more than I know now!:icon_blush:

04-17-2013, 02:16 PM
If you can seal it up better (as you say you plan to) to make it more air tight, this will help.

Other than that, what I do in my offset smoker when cooking only with charcoal, is fill up the fire box with charcoal and either light only a few coals on the top and closest to the cooking chamber or leave space there and put in lit coals from a charcoal chimney.

The point is to have lit coals farthest from the air intake (the firebox door) so that the air doesn't cause the lit coals to light more unlit coals quicker. Sort of a "sideways minion method". Ideally, you only want the lit coals to light the adjacent unlit coals a little at a time. This will make for a longer, more sustainable burn.

Then, regulate your air flow into and out of the smoker to allow ONLY enough air to fuel the coals to keep the temp you're looking for. Once you overshoot and the cooker temps start climbing, it's pretty hard to get it back.

More air = hotter coals = higher temps

Once you get close to your desired pit temp, close down the intake vent at the firebox door as much as possible without having the pit temp drop. Manage it that way going forward.

Fire management is KEY. It's also an ART.

Good luck!

04-17-2013, 02:48 PM
I have a pro also. I haven't done any mods on it yet but do need to seal it. I've never had to use the door to vent it. Using the side vent provides enough adjustment. I've also started using logs in it and it will hold temp for an hour or more now. I also always keep the chimney all the way open, I just use the side vent on the fb to adjust.

04-17-2013, 02:50 PM
Downside to a lot of offset cookers is their lack of airtightness. You mentioned heat loss with this but more importantly, air getting into the firebox except through your controlled vent is bad. Depending on the size of your smoker, but for pretty much any backyard smoker, I like to light about 12 kingsford charcoal pieces in my chimney. Once they are good and ashy, I put them on the pile of unlit charcoal, then shut up the firebox. You might want to put some of the higher temperature aluminum foil insulators style tape over firebox openings once you have it all shut up with smoking wood in there. This will help keep it airtight during the cook. It is better to bring the smoker up to temperature, than try to cool it down, so don't overshoot, and be patient. When you make an intake adjustment, give it time to take effect. Once you have some lit charcoal in a pretty much airtight firebox, the BBQ Guru should be able to do its thing and regulate the temperature. It simply controls the only air into the fire.

04-17-2013, 02:50 PM
I too have a Chargriller set up like yours I bought over a decade ago and still use (last night to grill steaks as a matter of fact) to grill and I have a rotisserie set up I use as well. I've since moved on to a uds but what I did to get a fire and good constant temp (I showed this to my brother in law and he does this with great temps and results) was to place a full chimney of hot charcoal brickettes on the fire grate of the side firebox and place large split wood on top. It worked for me to fill the side firebox with three or four large split pieces of hickory. My brother in law fills it as full as he can. Try experimenting with a method such as this and see how it works for you.

04-17-2013, 04:40 PM
Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I'll be doing a brisket this weekend. Will let you know how it goes!:becky:

04-17-2013, 08:49 PM
man I needed you guys yesterday, I overshot mine not taking in for the fact I had been cooking all winter,30-50*, learning a new smoker using my usual brand of charcoal/lump then using all kingsford on a 90* ,very windy day. It really was different. one thing about it, I always learn here.