Intake issues with Oklahoma Joe's Highland

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by srmartin15, Jul 22, 2017.

  1. Hopefully you fellow smokers can help me out with this problem. I give my wood plenty of time to catch and really get going before I close up the firebox and then leave the intake vent wide open. Well after all this the fire smolders out and white smoke galore! The only way I can keep the fire going properly is keeping the intake door open and then that kinda leads to temperature control issues. I tried to raise the grate to allow more air under the fire but that didn't work either. I also have a fire baskets and did just about every mod for the OKJ I just can't figure out this intake issue. No matter what I do it just will kill the fire and smolder. I even turned the smoker into the wind and that didn't help. It seems like the intake needs to be larger with control other than how much I close the side door to the firebox... Thank you guys for the help. I even looked into getting the perfect draft BBQ blower but that takes away the art of stick burning.

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  2. My thoughts on things to look for:

    Make certain your wood is completely dry.  Wet wood doesn't burn well.

    Try using smaller pieces of wood and feed the fire more often.

    If all else fails, use a temp control blower system.  It will provide the necessary amount of air to keep the fire burning.  I use a BBQGuru.

    I understand your desire to be a total stick burner, but based on what I've been reading lately, maybe burning wood exclusively isn't the best/only way to go.  On really big smokers (like 200-500 gallon tanks), wood may be fine.  But smaller smokers don't seem to act the same.  I don't know the thermodynamics, but maybe smaller units don't "scale down" in a linear fashion.  They seem to be a lot more sensitive to changing dimensions.
  3. Thank you for the quick reply. I'll actually dry my wood sticks on top of the firebox. I split my hickory into 2x2" sticks to help them burn. Maybe I'll need to experiment more with a charcoal and stick combo and see how that goes. Maybe the minion with some wood chunks but once the minion is done burning do you just restart it all over again from scratch? I'll give a few more burns of just wood and see what I can come up with and figure out... I'll keep everyone posted maybe someone else can learn from my faults

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  4. Turn your grate sideway in your firebox, that should give you 3-4" of airspace under the grate.
    Then try dumping a half of a lit chimney of charcoal on your grate. Then add 2 splits. Leave your rear door cracked until your wood catches fire. Close the door and adjust the fire with the damper on the rear door. In the meantime have a couple splits warming on the firebox.
    When your temp starts to drop add 1-2 splits.

    I don't care what you know about whatever,if the fire and fire wood is not right you are not going to achieve the results you want. Every pit is different and all requires learning to manage the fire to achieve proper temps.
    Offset smoking is an art..... be ready to get mad, disappointed and amazed! Good luck and enjoy.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  5. hardcookin is right on.  Make sure you have a good bed of coals to put the splits on, initially from charcoal.  I put the "next" wood on top of the firebox.  Mine has a flat warming plate on the top of the FB and I've had wood that was almost ready to ignite.  Some pieces are black (and hot) on the side resting on the FB.  They ignite quickly when added to the burn chamber.
  6. If you watch some of Franklin's backyard videos, you'll notice he's using a small offset with the side fire box door wide open. When stick burning on my smoker, which is a little different design, I crack the FB lid with a poker to get the proper airflow. What are your temp control issues when the side FB door is open. With a stick burner, you're looking for a range of temps. A lot of smokers like a range of 250-275 meaning, when you add your splits the temp goes up to 275. When the temp drops to 250, its time to add more splits. That's just a simplified example but once you find where your smoker likes to run it is that simple. The trick is to burn a hot, clean fire just big enough to keep your smoker within range.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  7. Thanks guys! I really appreciate all the help. I too put my wood on top of the FB in order to dry it out and prepare it for the fire. I also make sure it's burning real good before I close the lid. I did find that if I only put in one 2"x2" stick the FB gets just enough air with the intake vent all the way open to keep it lit. Now this will only get me in the 225-235 range which is good for just about every smoke. Now granted I need to feed the fire about every 30 mins but it seems to be working today while smoking my Boston Butt.

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  8. Sounds like you're getting in dialed in. Feeding the beast is just part of stick burning. The Lang guys seem to feed a split every 45 min or so. I feed mine two 1/4 splits every 25-30 min. It's just about putting in the time to learn how your smoker likes to run. But hey, if the weather is decent and the beer is cold, it's a pretty good way to spend the day.
  9. Amen to that!

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  10. Here is my Boston Butt progress and results[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

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  11. :Looks-Great:
  12. Looks like they turned out great!!
  13. FWIW..
    Sounds like you are doing everything right and I completely understand what you are experiencing with your Highlander.
    I have the same cooker. Got it 2 years ago at Wal Mart for $100 on sale. My intention was the same as yours, to stick burn(primarily  for briskets) and for $100 I thought "what the hey"  I have made several mods to it as you have.Put several hundred hours on this cooker and a truck load of wood through it and have turned out some great Q  .. But,but but......  Like you are finding out it is very challenging if not impossible to burn just wood in it.Even oak that has been seasoned for over 3 years. The only way I can keep very small(pre- heated) splits of wood burning clean and not smoldering(on a good bed of coals) is to leave the side firebox door wide open and prop open the top firebox lid  a few inches.

    I personally believe that this cooker doesn't get enough air flow/draft with the 3" exhaust pipe to allow wood to burn clean.  At some point I'm going to cut mine apart and weld up a 4 1/2 or 5"  exhaust pipe and also lower exhaust to grate level. I just haven't got motivated yet to find some pipe and dig my welder out of the garage. LOL.  When I do, I'll post the results.
  14. I have an OkJ highland and works great no problems actually maintaining 225 is almost impossible, mine likes 240 so that is pretty much what i cook at, it stays at 240 with the FB vent cracked at 1/4 inch..  Might be your wood, never tried oak, I use apple wood mini logs from Acadamy Sport almost exclusively, once in a great while maybe hickory.  I too start out with a half starter chimney bucket of charcoal once they are good I add two mini logs during which time I have both lids open and the FB vent door open, until the harsh smoke stops, about 20 mins, then close both lids and wait until temps come up to 225, then I shut down the vent to 1/4 and it well level out at 240 or so, takes about an hour to get there, then ready for the food and start cooking after that...usually add a mini log every 30 min to 45 min after that to maintain temp.  So my .2 cents is it has gotta be the wood, give a different wood a try see if things change some...good luck
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  15. I ended up building a PID controller for my highland got sick of fighting temps none stop.. this thing works like a charm.



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  16. That thing is awesome! Do you have the plans for it?

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  17. So I finally think I figured it out! I was tired of my air flow being garbage and so I took the time and put the dimensions into a custom build smoker calculator and guess what I found out! 1) the smoke stack is about 5-6 inches too short! and 2) the intake is a little too small so I got creative. I took out my elbow inside the smoker because my temps are 5-10 degrees from end to end on my smoker so I didn't think I needed it (I have a nice baffle in there). I took that elbow straightened it out and put it on top of the smoke stack making it roughly 24" tall which 25ish would be ideal. Let me tell you! This thing was pulling air like crazy!!!! I actually could start using my intake the way it was meant to be used and not have to open up the door to the fire box.

    I have a plan for a more permanent fix and it's to get a 3" dia aluminum air duct and then cut it down so that the total height of my stack is around 25" in total with everything. I'll also have an aluminum blast gate 3" so I can adjust the exhaust as well because once you extend that thing your temps will be a lot higher and consistent!

    Next to the baffle, fire baskets and gaskets this mode has changed my view on the OKJ

    I'll post some pictures in here to show you what I mean.


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  18. I don’t really have plans on how I built it but I believe I still have a parts list somewhere, mine wasn’t the cheapest because I used some stuff on it that really isn’t needed for it to function. Here’s a video of it in action


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