Minion Method problems-Advice wanted

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by scmelik, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. scmelik

    scmelik Smoke Blower

    Okay I have attempted to use the minion method three seperate times now and all three times I had the same outcome: all the coals and wood lit almost immediately and my temps went WAY above 300. With a big smoke planned for the weekend I would like to attempt this again but I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

    The first time I tried it I put the lit coals right on top of the unlit which makes sense why they all started right away.

    The second time I made a hole in the center of my pile of coals and still I had all my coals light up within 20 min.

    The third time I did exaclty the same as the second time only used two or three good sized pieces of lump in the chimmeny, and yet I still had every coal lit within an hour and temps sky high.

    What on gods green earth is the trick to this? I an using an ECB by the way, I have lifted it up off the ground with a couple of bricks and got a grate in my coal pan to get my coals up just a bit.
  2. I've always had luck by having all my lit coals on one side of the firebox and the unlit on the other side. Try pushing all the lit ones to one side before adding another set of unlit for reloading. It also sounds like your airflow may be a bit too open, I like to pack my firebox with a ton of fuel and keep the intake airflow slightly open with the exhaust airflow completely open.
  3. bigsteve

    bigsteve Master of the Pit

    I use Mininion in my Brinkman Gourmet. Before it got so hot, I would light up 32 Kingsford coals. I'd put them on one side of the cooker, and fill the rest of the cooker with unlit coal. I would overlap the unlits on top of the lits only about two deep or so. I found I could keep 225 at the grate for 4 hours that way.

    There are a lot of variables here. Exactly which Brinkman do you have? Folks tend to call every version of the bullet smoker an ECB, but they have some differances that factor in. Whichever Brinkman you have, have you done any modifications, and if so, what did you do?

    My gut feeling is that you have a bad leak somewhere. To keep it simple, is your lid full on the body? I know it leaks around the edge, it's supposed to. If you have a Gourmet model, is the cylinder sitting flush on the charcoal pan? There is a lip on the chrcoal pan, and the cylinder has to be inside of the lip. If you don't get it right, it leaks bad and temperatures soar. Lastly, are you cooking with the access door closed?

    I have a Gourmet. I live in So. Florida, and have been having a little trouble keeping the temps down when it 95+ degrees. Is it very hot where you are?
  4. scmelik

    scmelik Smoke Blower


    As far as I know everything has been sealed up just like it was designed to be, I suppose it is possible that I did not have the cylindar on there correctly.

    I have done with an abient tempature of 40 all the way to 80 is the highest I have smoked in so far.
  5. bigsteve

    bigsteve Master of the Pit

    Here's a thread I did for Tsunka showing how I light my coals. In this case, I used more lit coal, and fewer unlits because I was shooting for a higher temp, for a shorter duration. But it should give you the idea of what I meant. I have my coals on an elevated grid, and the intake was not damped. Since it got so darn hot, I'm working on a damper for the intake to keep the coals under control. But no matter what, after 2 hours all of my coals aren't even lit yet. Maybe you're starting with way too many lit coals, or you have a leak.
  6. herkysprings

    herkysprings Smoking Fanatic

    I found on my WSM that the first time I tried this, I had my vents in such a way that one or two of them were almost always getting a breeze. Since then I have rotated the bottom so its very hard to get them in line with a breeze.

    Also when my temps start getting to 200, I pretty much have the vents at 25% or less and I watch it there until it settles down, or at least is raising only slightly.
  7. billbo

    billbo Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    With my ECB I only add in 8-10 lit bricks to the pan on one side and let it burn side to side. I have found that I sometimes have to open the door or take the lid off kilter to let some heat escape for a while if it gets too hot.

    Try using less lit coals and the side to side meathod, I think you will see a difference.
  8. timleo

    timleo Smoke Blower

    The minion method never worked for me either.

    I try to use less coal and the side to side method as well. I try to keep only 3 or four charcoal briquettes in contact with each other when I'm setting up for the cook and make a little trail around the pan for the fire to travel. I keep the inlet vent nearly closed to help control the amount of fresh air entering the firebox.

    Keep trying different things until you find what works for your smoker!
  9. iron

    iron Fire Starter

    this might work.... i saw somewhere on either this forum or another ( i cant remember)...anyway what the person did to his charcoal box is put a aluminium divider,then he lit one side this forced the fire to burn in a specified path.. kind of in a horseshoe shape.. this way he made his fire do what he wanted ..i hope you can visualise this. wish i knew where the link was...[​IMG]
  10. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The divider is a good idea . . . just don't use aluminum in the firebox.[​IMG] Read in another thread on a different forum where a guy did this and went to reload and the divider was gone. Well, not gone exactly, it was a puddle in the bottom of his firebox.

    But I think that would only work in a side firebox smoker anyway. I don't know that you have that kind of room in a bullet smoker.

  11. billbo

    billbo Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You could always put in less unlit and try to control it that way. Just know that you will have to stoke the fire all day. You can keep temp down that way but it is time consuming. If your loading the pan you could cut back.
  12. timleo

    timleo Smoke Blower

    i do use the divider in my vertical smoker just fine. Use fire bricks as the divider.
  13. bigsteve

    bigsteve Master of the Pit

    What kind of smoker are you using? How many lit coals do you start with, and how long can you maintain your grate temperature?

    Dave, my ECB Gourmet has enough clearance below the water pan for a vertical divider. Don't know about other brands/models though.
  14. timleo

    timleo Smoke Blower

    here's a few pictures of what I do...I hope it may help...

    I use a perforated stainless steel pan that I found at the Home Depot that's made for grilling vegetables to hold the charcoal. It works great and lets air in to the coals. I use a couple of fire bricks to make a little maze for the fire to travel along. I load the coals in so that each charcoal bricquette is touching three other coals. At the front of the smoker I use some Cowboy Lump to get the smoker heated up fast.

    Here it is, all loaded up and ready to light. I use one of those cast iron boxes to hold the flavor wood. This works good for me because it delays the flavor smoke generation until the entire smoker and the food is warmed up.

    After the burn, there's just a few ashes left to shovel into the bucket.

    Here's a shot of the smoker running on the patio.

    At the end of the day my wife's dogs know what's coming!

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