View Full Version : New Pitmaker, need help, Suggestions

04-21-2014, 01:24 AM
I have a brand new Pitmaker Vault, with the valve intake and a CyberQ Guru setup. I know this question has been asked and discussed, but people have only cited their preference and when it comes to bark etc.
I have done several cooks and have had various experiences, good to not so good. My first cook went pretty well, except that unless I added water my temps were starting to go north of 300, even with Guru set to stay at 275. I had the Guru open 1/4 of the way and it just wanted to take off. Adding water had the opposite effect, it would hang at 250 and even with the Guru fan constantly running and briquets well lit, it would struggle to get past the 250 mark. I cooked 8 racks of ribs and the results were exceptional, but it was a constant struggle with the temps.
My second cook was this past Saturday, and I had the similar results, this time I struggled to get the pit past 225, and that may have been because I had several large cuts and I started out with water. I also went through almost 2 entire bags of Royal Oak Lump, I switched from briquets because I figure they burned a little hotter, and I would need it because I always cooked my briskets with Water in my GrillDome. Anyway, this cook ended up taking 14 hours for 2 11 pound briskets. I never got past 225, and the stall lasted over 4 hours. I did wrap. I needed to get this thing up to 275 with water.
Questions, one, when cooking Dry, what are some of the secrets to keeping the Temps from running away.
Second, is it possible to get up to 275-300 with water? and how much fuel should this take?

I know I am just getting to know my pit and I love it so far, just need to get some tips on loading the fuel, the types etc. I am using about 12 to 15 wood chunks in all cases, should I use straight up splits instead of blocks?

How would I load the firebox to get the at least 8-10 hours without having to reload?

Any advice would help.

04-21-2014, 09:41 AM
It sounds like there is too much air getting to the fire, causing too much charcoal to combust at once! You should be able to run your pit on a load of coal for many hours before having to refuel, especially with a Guru setup! With that said, lump actually burns hotter than briquets and leaves less ash so lump would be my choice for charcoal. I think that you are better off with chunks rather than splits, since the goal is to get longer burn times with charcoal I think that large pieces of wood will end up smoldering too much and you could end up with creosote.
I have several friends who have had similar issues with their vaults, especially some of the earlier models. One friend (cooking dry) told me that he went to check the pit temp once and it was around 450 deg.!!!:shocked: He HAS to keep water in his vault to control it, and he uses "Wicked Good" lump which I can say in my experience is the best out there. It's VERY dense and solid, it actually reminds me of obsidian volcanic rock!
It's a little pricey compared to other lumps but I think it's well worth it. It burns really hot with little airflow and gives you looong burn times and perhaps using a higher quality lump with the minion method would get your temps where you want them!
Hope this helps a little!:-D

04-21-2014, 09:50 AM
It's a water smoker as such temperature control was designed around using water. To better control without water you will need to add firebrick or something similar to the water pan.

04-21-2014, 10:05 AM
Here's a comment made by Chris Goodlander pertaining to the insulated cabinet that he makes at Lone Star grillz! Maybe his advice will help you as well!:wink:
I would stick with just the single 25 cfm fan yes it requires more air movement to get it the fire going and pit heated up but once up to temp it needs almost nothing to maintain it. Two fans would stoke it faster but the problem is then you have twice the size fire you need once up to temp, you will over shoot and once you choke everything back your going to be left with a smoldering fire and billowing white smoke for a good amount of time. I did a brisket cook for Easter Sunday and aproched my water pan the same way as above, only adding about half the water then the rest once up to temp. I started at 60 ish and was at 215 (my target temp with 3.5 gallons of water) in 40 minutes running only the 25 cfm fan (I have never removed the extra air cap while running the guru). When I did add the extra water my pit had been at temp for about an hour and my food was on about as long. The extra 3.5 or so gallons of tap water didn't move the temp more than 2 or 3 degrees. At 215 degrees I didnt need to add water the entire 16 hours my food was on the pit. I think if your pressed for time heat the pit up first and add water a little at a time, if not add it all in the beginning it will just take a little longer to reach temp. My crating guy does go a little over board with the nails and I do get that a lot but if you saw how some shipping companies handle freight you would understand why I don't rain him in.

04-21-2014, 12:33 PM
I have no experience cooking on that pit ( If you let me borrow it I would:wink:) I do know a few that have it and they use a "L" fire lay in basket for long cooks 6-8 hrs. It also helps to preheat with a weed burner for a few minutes.

04-21-2014, 01:55 PM
The key for me when cooking on the Vault is preheating the cooking chamber with the weed burner. I will spend about 1 1/2 minutes on each rack preheating the cooking chamber. It will get up to about 250 degrees when I am finished. I then light the charcoal and my charcoal is in a L shape and I light the end farthest from the air intake. I don't use the water pan in most cases. Mine likes to run 300-325 which is a perfect temp for how I like to cook. Good luck.

04-21-2014, 04:01 PM
Congrats on your new cooker. I had the same issues where this pit likes to run hot. My Vault has the old style flapper, but I modified it to a ball valve style similar to yours. I had a huge learning curve, so be patient with it. I usually pre-heat with a weed burner, so the pit will be around 175 when I start. I will form either an L shape or a U, depending on the length of burn. I use bricks in the charcoal basket to form my shape. I usually start my fire closest to the intake and put in no more than 6-8 pieces of KBB. I will ramp the cooker to 250 or what ever my target temp is. Once to the mark, I will close the ball valve down to 1/4. The cooker needs very little air and will hold that temp for hours. I always cook dry and try not to over shoot my target temp. It seems easier to ramp up slowly, than to correct an overshoot problem. I didn't like the pit at first, but if I had to it again, it would be a PM Vault or Safe. Best of luck to you.:wave:

04-21-2014, 04:23 PM
you need one of these:94757

04-21-2014, 05:52 PM
Billdanc, where did you get this, is it something that can be purchased for a Vault?

04-21-2014, 06:10 PM
You can just add the 3 center pieces to your tray.

04-21-2014, 06:15 PM
I have no problem running dry at 225-275. I use the weed burner to preheat while my KB blue bag charcoal is lit. I shut the doors and leave the valve wide open. The temps will fall just a little until the coals get going and everything stabilizes. When it start rising just above 225 I shut the valve till its about thumb thickness. It will rise slowly and settle in 250 or so. Its all about timing. I have the guru but have not installed it just because it stays on mark so well. I use the minion method U shape and lite the front left about 6-8 inches only. There is a learning curve but KB blue bag always helps. I also use a few small post oak chunks. If you get it to hot its very hard to go back down. Hope this helps you

04-21-2014, 06:15 PM
I use bricks, works the same.

04-21-2014, 06:16 PM
I found the Humphreys maze, it looks like it is just 2 pieces that act as dividers.

04-21-2014, 07:52 PM
Ray, i made the maze for my medium spicewine. A little angle iron a little expanded metal and a Harbor Freight welder and voila! Actually i stepped it up a bit and bought a Miller welder, but it can be done with a harbor freight welder. The maze does allow your charcoal to burn at a measured rate, i also put big pieces of wood on top of the charcoal as it winds around the maze. Putting one of these together is very easy!

04-21-2014, 08:37 PM
If you are a peeker, close the valve. It'll take off to recover.

04-21-2014, 09:07 PM
Nice work Billdanc, I'm not a welding guy, Miller or Harbor, I'd probably go blind, or burn my hands off....I can trade ya some computer or web work though ...lol

I could probably find a few angle irons and get them welded into a T to just place in the Pitmaker's firebox, or like some others have suggested maybe a few bricks.

SDAR, what is a peeker?

Thanks again ya'll

04-21-2014, 09:17 PM
If you open that huge door, it sucks a lot of air past the fire and really lights it up. You close the door and you are 25 degrees hotter and can't get it down because of the insulation. Close the valve and no air to light the fire hotter when you open the door.

04-21-2014, 09:26 PM
Mine actually has the old slide on it instead of the ball valve. I put high temp aluminum tape over the slide on the outside and I use a guru. I have to close the trap door on the guru to keep the air from sucking through when I check for tenderness or whatever reason there is too peek.

04-21-2014, 11:01 PM
Wow...great point, I'm not typically a peeker, i rely on the Guru or Stoker to monitor my meat and pit temps....but when I started running hot I would check for burned skins and I also had a few snacks in there cooking....but what you are saying makes perfect sense.....thanks