Internal Smoker Temperature

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by matteasley2, Aug 14, 2014.

  1. matteasley2

    matteasley2 Newbie

    Hello all,

    I'm new to the forum so I apologize if this topic has already been covered...

    I've been smoking meat religiously for about 5 years with a Brinkmann upright smoker. I've recently switched over to a barrel smoker with an offset fire box. I've always smoked my meats at 225 degrees with great results and felt that I had a good handle on expected cook times. Now that I've started using the barrel smoker I've had to increase cook times quite a bit while cooking at the same temperature. I realize that the upright smoker is more of a direct-type of heat whereas the barrel smoker cooks with indirect heat.

    The way I typically build the fire is to start a couple pounds of charcoal in a charcoal chimney and let that get going for about 10 minutes. Then dump it in the fire box, add a few split logs, then just keep adding logs throughout the cook to keep the temp at 225.

    My questions are:

    Should I check the internal temperature of the smoker with a different thermometer to verify that my thermometer is reading correctly? If so, how?

    Should I increase the temperature of the smoker (to 250 degrees) for cooking?

    Or should I just expect meats to take longer with this type of smoker?

    Any feedback is appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Matt-

    If your food is taking much longer than you expect it to cook, you are probably cooking at lower temps...15-20* can have a huge impact on cooking time, especially with larger pieces of meat.

    You may want to check out the charcoal smoker forum for modifications for your type/model of smoker. Also, check your actual temps at grate-level with a long-stem fryer thermometer or digital probe if may have a large variance in grate temps from front to back compared with the center, or side to side, and probably much hotter near the fire box, unless specific mods have been made to balance the temps. Chamber thermometers are not of much use unless you compare grate temps with the factory chamber/lid thermometer, so using the lid therm only is not a good idea.

  3. matteasley2

    matteasley2 Newbie

    Thanks for the info Eric. I've been needing to seal the doors so I'll be sure to check out the mods in that forum.

    The variation in temperatures throughout the chamber makes perfect sense, and I'll be sure to check each area. This might be a dumb question, but can I just lay the probe directly on the grate, or will this give an inaccurate reading for the air temp?

    Thanks again.
  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You're welcome.

    It is best to not allow the tip of the temp probe to contact the grate when finding grate temps...the grates can pick up extra thermal energy from hot spots and transfer that additional heat towards your probe. If you can prop the probe into position, or clamp it in place with a wooden clothes pin will work nicely. Another trick is to drill a hole in a small piece of wood, just big enough for the probe to slide all the way through the wood...set the wood on the grate with the probe inserted. Some guys just stab the probe through a potato to monitor grate temps when smoking...then they get the added benefit of having a smoked potato to snack on several hours into the smoke...[​IMG]...[​IMG]...either of these methods allows for buffering of any possible heat transfer from the grates to give a better actual temp of the area. You want the probe tip as close a s possible to grate level without actually touching the grate.


    EDIT: I forgot to mention this, but you should do a calibration check on your thermometers periodically, just to be sure they are reasonably accurate. Most digital probes don't allow for calibration, while analog thermometers can be calibrated. For those you can't calibrate, you can at least make a note of how close they are to actual temp and take your readings accordingly. Lastly, elevation above sea-level effects boiling-point of water (as well as cooking time) when doing water-boil checks on therms. Here's a chart for reference to determine what your thermometers should read with a rapid boil:

    Boiling Point / Atmospheric Pressure / Altitude

    BTW, don't submerge your probes above the top of the stem or they may become damaged.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  5. matteasley2

    matteasley2 Newbie

    Great information to have. Thanks again for the help.
  6. matteasley2

    matteasley2 Newbie

    Smoked some EXCELLENT St. Louis style ribs last weekend 3-2-1 style, and went ahead and drilled a hole through a small log to set the probe right by the meat. Found out that the reading on the chamber thermometer had to be up around 260 degrees for the grate area to reach 225, which obviously means I've been smoking at extremely low temps with this new smoker. Needless to say, this solved my problems as the ribs were fall-apart tender, and one of the better racks I've had so far. This weekend we'll be having pulled pork on sweet honey slider rolls with smoked beans and bacon wrapped jalapeños......oh yeah!!

    You're the man forluvofsmoke!! I appreciate the help...
  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You're welcome Matt. Sounds like you're on your way to many great smokes!!!

  8. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Eric has you covered. I a bit more anal than most and check my calibration before each cook. [​IMG]

    Doesn't hurt and you're sure of the temp.

    Have fun and . . .
  9. I have 3 tel tru therms at grate level, and I replaced the original factory therm with a tel tru also. My unit generally is 75 degrees hotter at the top of the unit than at grate level. If my grate level temps are at 300 the top therm (where the factory one was installed) is around 375. So, it's really helpful to have a therm at grate level so I know what temp my food is really smoking at.


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