First Time Smoker....SERIOUS Temp Problems. IMMEDIATE Help Needed!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by learnin2smoke, Aug 13, 2014.

  1. learnin2smoke

    learnin2smoke Fire Starter


    I am going to attempt my first some this weekend, but a little voice kept telling me to practice starting and controlling the fire first before trying to cook any meat. I have read up and watched hundreds of tutorials on how to start a fire in an offset smoker and how to control the temp once the fire has started. But for some reason I am getting 100% billowing white smoke no matter how long I let the fire burn. No TBS in sight. I am using a CharBroil offset smoker (I don't know the name/model number because I got it back in 2005, so I'm sure it's not one of the models available for purchase now). I started with the minion method using charcoal in my charcoal basket. I had white smoke then, but I'm sure that is to be expected when using 100% charcoal. Once all the coals ashed over I added 2 logs of oak wood (I plan on using oak wood logs and apple wood chunks this weekend, but I didn't think it was necessary to try any chunks yet until I can get the fire managed). The oak immediately caught and I closed the firebox and put the damper at 50% I let the wood burn for about 15 minutes thinking that would be enough time to start seeing thinner smoke, if not TBS. But no... nothing but thick white smoke. Granted, I do have several smoke leaks with the cooking chamber but I don't think that should have anything to do with the continuous white smoke. Also, I can't get the temp under control either. I am getting constant readings in the 320+ range, when the goal was to maintain a temp of about 260 - 275. I even have the damper and the smoke stack completely closed and I'm still seeing these high temps.

    I am guessing the reason for the white smoke and high temps is due to one of one of these problems:

    1. I used too much charcoal to start my fire

    2. I put too much wood on the fire

    Bottom line is I think I built a fire that was too big for what I'm trying to do. If I cut back on the charcoal and wood, do you think I will be able to get manageable temps and TBS? My biggest concern is the absence of TBS. I don't want to run into this problem again this weekend. In a way I am glad I did a test run today, but at the same time now I'm afraid to try again this weekend because I don't want to ruin the meat with all this white smoke and high temps. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
    swoodze likes this.
  2. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Guess #1 and #2 are both correct. Stack vent should be open all the way. Firebox vent should be used to regulate temp. The thick white smoke is coming from you having to smother the fire by closing the vents to get your temps under control.
    swoodze likes this.
  3. stickyfingers

    stickyfingers Smoking Fanatic

    Others may know better, but it sounds like there is a couple of things going on. At the start, when you add wood to your fire box, keep the firebox lid open and let it burn to where wood is WELL  ignited...half burnt or so.  Close the lid..the temp will gradually increase. When it gets close to your target temp then close your firebox damper half way and adjust from there. Keep the stack vent open..always. If your wood holds any moisture you will get some white smoke but it will turn TBS after a few minutes. After that you probably can get by adding only one log as needed (when there are just coals and your temp starts to drop.)
    swoodze likes this.
  4. learnin2smoke

    learnin2smoke Fire Starter

    Thanks for the quick and helpful responses! After I typed the initial post, I went back outside to check and the smoke had thinned out dramatically. It was very thin with a hint of blue hue. I think the lesson learned here is to start with a much smaller fire and then add to it if needed to get the temp up instead of starting too big. I wish I could have taken some before and after video of the smoke so everyone could see how drastic the change was. The thinner smoke has restored my confidence that I will be able to do my first smoke this weekend if I remember to start small. Just in case anyone ants to know, I will be smoking some jerk chicken leg quarters, with coconut rice and peas, and fried plantains as the sides. I will do a much better job of remembering to take pics of the fire, smoke and meat s it cooks. 

    I've read several threads where forum users are using something called "Q-View" to post pics? Is this an app? Is it the only way to post pics in this forum? 

    Thanks again!
  5. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    To post a pic aka Q-View, click on reply, and on the reply screen you'll see the icon for pics next to the film looking icon at the top of the screen. It's right below the underlined A. A pop-up screen will appear then just click on upload files and find the pic you want and click it.
  6. It sounds like they have you covered. If you can seal up your air leaks it will make fire control a lot easier. Start small and work up if needed. Chicken is always the best to start with, It is cheaper and can take wide temp swings. Top vent wide open all the time.

    Happy smoken.

  7. rob sicc

    rob sicc Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    All of the information given here sounds like exactly what I have read as well.  It sounds like you were very close to being spot on with you attempt.  You just need to tweak some of the things you did based on the advice given here.  I'm sure your weekend smoke will be a great


    I would be interested to see pic's of your smoker and your smoke.

    Here is the icon you need to click to insert pictures into your reply.

    I know someone alredady explained how but I thought I would send this incase you were still unsure what to clcik.
  8. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Glad everyone could help

    Not necessarily, I start with a huge fire with everything open including the smoke chamber then after I achieve a large red hot coal bed I add small splits. I like to get the pit up around 450° and work down to my desired temp.

    large splits less often= more smoke

    small splits more frequent=less smoke

    for me anyhow.

    I have had less success starting with charcoal then adding wood as this chokes my fire, I would also look into firebaskets and elevating your fire if you have not done so yet.

    with basket

    after this is a red hot coal bed, I add more splits, prep the pit for the meat, water pans, thermos etc.. then after combustion of the wood, add the meat and close the lid,
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  9. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hello , LTSmoke . I have an article that you may have read , however , if used with patience , should help you. 

    Most folks don't lie to have to "Babysit" a Smoker. IMHO , I feel this is the 'Joy of Smoking' ; fire crackling , good conversation with a friend , cool (or warm) beverage , sittin' back enjoying the Life.

    Good luck , have fun and always . . .
  10. learnin2smoke

    learnin2smoke Fire Starter

    Oh wow...THANKS to EVERYONE who has replied. Your advice will definitely be used this weekend when I use my grill as a smoker for the very first time in 9 years of ownership. I will definitely update this thread with Q View pics of the fire, smoke, and meat during the process. I have a couple of other questions, but they aren't dealing with temps so I will start another thread.
  11. big griz

    big griz Fire Starter

    A small hot fire seems to work best in my unit. I start with just a little bit of charcoal and like it was mentioned before, I start closing the intake down as the temp nears what I am wanting. It's a lot easier to catch it on the way up then to let it get to hot and try to dampen it down. Like they said that also creates a lot of the white smoke. You also need to make sure your splits have been thoroughly aged/died since moisture also causes the white smoke. One thing that I do that an old timer showed me is putting the next split you are going to use on the fire box to let it warm up before you put it on. It sounds crazy but it does create less smoke when you first put a split on if it has been warmed up a little. As soon as I add a split, I put one on my fire box to start warming up.

    Good luck and keep trying!!
  12. I always start with two lit chimneys of charcoal. Then I add peach mini-splits as needed. When my temps start to drop 10-15 degrees below my target (usually 275-300) I add another LIT chimney of charcoal. I usually add a chimney every two hours, because I'm usually smoking hit and fast. I do not add unlit charcoal. This meathod gives me TBS every time.


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