Newbie question about fuel amounts

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by angerhesmiles, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. angerhesmiles

    angerhesmiles Newbie

    So I just got my rig, and it's a bigger smoker then anything I've used in the past and quite honestly the only smoking I've done in the past was PartyQ rigging my Weber kettle grill. 

    My first questions, of what promises to be many, has to do with fuel.

    First, should I be making a big fire in my firebox and then regulating temperature with my vents (I actually just bought a temp gauge that activates a fan that I plan on installing) or using as little fuel as possible to get the temp I'm aiming for? For reference I'm posting a pic of the rig again(I already posted on roll call but not assuming you all read that).

    Second, if I'm adding charcoal, should I be adding it prelit via chimney or just throwing it on the hot coals. I'm assuming I want to keep the coals going to keep temperature and not waiting til the temp drops so do I just add at prescribed times (every hour or so) or is it just a feel thing?

    Third, For now I'm gonna be using charcoal with sticks for smoke, but I'm planning on buying pallets of wood from Southern Fuel Inc. Would it be just as practical to use that wood 100% for fuel or should I continue supplementing it with Charcoal.

    i think that's all for now. I promise to use the search function in the future in case this has already been answered but didn't really know what search terms would find this for me.  Thanks in advance

  2. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I start with a chimney full of hot charcoal and dump it in the fire box. I then add 4 or 5 splits and let that let that get a good fire going. I let it burn from a half hour to a hour. I always start cooking on the downside of the coals. In other words my smoker might get up to 325 350 on the initial start. When it drops down to 275 or so I can start to put the food on. You will lose temp by having the door open and adding room temp or colder food.

    I then let it stabalize a bit further and then start adding splits to maintain temp. I have splits of all different sizes available most of the time. I look at splits as degrees of temp by their size. Kind of like in dutch oven cooking where one briquette adds 10 degrees to the temp of the dutch oven. A small split wont add as much temp as a larger one obviously. I try to cook on a bed of coals more than a open flame. You have a nice smoker there and a lot of steel. Once all that steel is heated it will hold temp without much of a bed of coals. Sometimes I'm rolling along at a steady 250 for more than a hour but I have to add a small split just to keep the bed of coals going not because i need more temp.

    It's always easier to add wood rather than to realize you overdid it and want to take wood out.

    It's a learning curve and each smoker reacts different. You will find the technique that works best for you and your smoker through trial and error and success.

    Best of luck in your new experience and keep the questions coming.
  3. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    3montes has you absolutely on the right track and you're heading in the right direction. Only one additional thought please. Pre-heat your splits before you put them in the FB. If you lay about 4 on top of your big ol' fire box and let them get warm before you need them, they will ignite much quicker when you put them in. The quick ignition will keep down any heavy smoke while they are warming up and it will also keep the temp from dropping too much while they get up to temp. Then add a few more on top to pre-heat.

    Great job 3montes.
  4. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks Joe and good point on the pre warming especially true if your wood is on the wet or green side. I notice the op's smoker had a large food warmer or vertical on the end. I wonder if this is dampered from the horizontal smoker? If it's dampered or not to where you can shut off the heat from entering it it will make a difference on how you build your fire.  If it's not dampered it will take more fire of course. Ideally it would be nice if you can damper it off. I have one on my horizontal and it is dampered off so I can cut the heat off entirely or open it half or all the way.

    If I'm not using it I have it dampered off so no heat enters it other than residual. It's also handy to be able to open it if I get a heat spike in the smoke chamber and I want to dump some heat out I just open up the dampers to the warmer.
  5. hardcookin

    hardcookin Master of the Pit

    Very nice smoker. Thumbs Up
    As 3 Montes said when I start a fire in my smoker. I start a big fire to get a good bed of coals.
    Probably 6 splits, I just light mine with a weed burner. I don't use any charcoal, I just burn all wood.
    As mentioned after some practice fire management should get easier for you.

    Different woods will produce different heat and burn times....
  6. mowin

    mowin Master of the Pit

    As a newbie myself to stick burning, i had the same questions you had.
    I start my fire with a bunch of lump, and several splits starting smaller to larger.
    My butterfly vents are wide open, as well as my stack damper. After i get a good bed of coals, i start adjusting the vents little by little to get the temps to where i want them. Dont get impatient, give each adjustment a few min to stabilise. You'll soon learn where your vents need to be with the size of fire needed. My first fire i built a rather large fire, my fire box is 32"x32, so i figured i needed a decent fire... man did it get hot.. lol.
    I basically use less ten 1/4 of my firebox to maintain 225-250*.
  7. angerhesmiles

    angerhesmiles Newbie

    thanks for the info guys...sorry for the late response. This is great info

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