Horizon Marshal Smoker and Temp. Management Problems

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by kageryu, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. Hey Guys,

    I bought a new Horizon Marshal 20'' smoker in the early spring and I've been using it all summer.  I've made some ok stuff on it, but I have not been able to perfect my temperatures in the pit.  It has a factory built sliding convection plate (it is currenlty all the way to the right, closest to the firebox).  I use kingsford charcoal loaded into a charcoal basket in the firebox.  Even with the damper on the firebox completely closed (and the damper on the pipe completely open), the temperature inside my smoker stays around 300-320 on the left side, closest to the pipe.  God knows what it is on the firbox side.  I would really like my temperatures at 250 or under.

    Now, here is how I start the smoker.  I use one bag of kingsford charcoal (23lbs I think).  I fill a chimney starter up to the top and put the rest in the charcoal basket.  One the coals in the chimney are lit and glowing, I dump them on the unlit coals in the basket.  I'm using this method to get a longer burn, which I do, but it is also a very hot burn.

    The stock thermometers read around 230 on the left and 270 on the right, but when I put a digital probe in the smoker, it reads around 300 to 320 degrees (on the left).  Actually, I had two seperate digital thermometers in the pit.  One that measures the temp in the meat and the surrounding temperature and one that was mounted on a potato.  The one in the meat recorded temperatures around 320 and the one mounted on the potato recorded temperatures around 290-300.  The one in the meat was higher, so that may be the difference there.

    I even tried opening up the door to let some of the heat vent out.  Not only did this not work, but I also lost my draw on the smoke, meaning it was not coming out the pipe anymore.

    Any thoughts?  Would it help if I only lit half a chimney of coals to dump onto the unlit ones?  Maybe the minion method does not work well in these offset smokers?  This weekend I might try just putting on chimney on hot coals in the firebox without any unlit coals.





    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I would try 1/2 chimney of lit on top of the unlit and see how that works.
  3. Thanks Al,

    I will try that.  I guess I should post some pics as well.

  4. ravanelli

    ravanelli Fire Starter

    I have seen the same behavior with my Horizon 16".  Basically what I've concluded is that the stock thermometer is accurate, but is not very close to grate level.  So when you put your probe at grate level you are seeing a difference between in inside and outside of the cylinder.  Over time they can reach equilibrium but the airflow with this unit keeps the stock thermometer from being as high.  The left to right difference is about what I see, even with the convection plate.

    What I do is generally put my meat on the left side, and have a probe thermometer in about the middle at grate level.  If you have a lot of meat and need to put some closer to the firebox, just rotate it every hour or two with the meat on the left.

    A typical 230-250 smoke for me on a moderately warm day involves starting with about 3/4 chimney lit and dumped on about 1/4 chimney, then I add some wood chunks and add fuel about every 2 hours.  My firebox vent is usually 1/4 open and the chimney is about 1/4 open.  Of course, my smoker is smaller than yours so keep that in consideration.

    To summarize, I think you should just dial down the fuel a little bit and eventually you'll get the hang of it.  
  5. terry colwell

    terry colwell Smoking Fanatic

    Im with Al about the charcoal, I would even go to say around 7 or 8 is enough. I leave a corner in the basket open and when the charcoal is ready I dump it in the corner that I left open. I also keep it as far away from the grill as I can.. If it gets over 250 I just move the meat to the left and find the range I am looking for.
  6. Thanks guys,

    I used half a chimney and was able to keep my temps around 250.  I can see why there is an art to this as I had to fiddle with the damper and watch the temps go up and down.  I never opened the damper more than about an eighth.  I didn't quite use a whole bag of charcoal this time and was able to get about a five hour burn out of it.

    I did some ribs (baby back and St. Louis style) using meathead's Memphis dust & KC sauce recipe from the Amazing Ribs web site and all I have to say is wow.  That was the first time I made my own sauce, and I can't see going back to the store bought ones ever again.

    Once I get some more experience I might get brave enough to try a small pig, but that will probably be next year.

    I almost regretted not getting a Lang (for the RF properties), but I think this one will work out just fine for me.  If it doesn't, I might have to get a new wife and a new smoker.


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