Novice Smoker... Questions about weather and lump vs briquettes

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by quagmire38, Jun 24, 2011.

  1. Hey Everybody.

    I did my first double smoke session on Thursday. I did two 4lb chickens and a single rack of spare ribs. The chicken turned out great. The spares.... not so good. Thats another post.

    Now on to business. I have a 18" WSM. I used Cowboy Lump Charcoal. Got the heat going using the minion method. When I got things going the heat was around 350. It settled around 275 to 300. All vents open. I got the chickens on the bottom rack and ribs on top.

    Not long after getting the food on the temp dropped to 250. All vents open. During the smoke I was having trouble keeping the heat in the 250 to 300 range. It finally stayed at 250. At certain points it would drop to under 250 to 175 at on point. I kept adding charcoal. At one time another chimney full. I went through an entire bag of lump. The weather was very windy with passing showers and humid. Smoker under awning.

    With all that said here is what I think and my questions:

    Is it possible that the wind played a big factor in the heat problems?

    Could it be that the heat problems were due to the amount of food in the smoker? Was it both wind and amount of food?

    Do charcoal briquettes burn hotter than lump charcoal? Whats better between the two?

    Or was it a series of mistakes on my part?

    Thanks for your help and advice in advance.
  2. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  3. smokinal

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

    Sounds like James has you covered.
  4. nwdave

    nwdave Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Quagmire, why not post your location  so the answer (while very satisfactory) can be more tailored to your area.  Just the state or region if you want.  Heck, you might just be around the corner from one of us (well, it could happen).  You're definitely off to a good start with one of the popular smokers, a WSM.  Lottsa WSM "experts" here ready to answer any and all questions.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  5. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    My opinion is that Lump burns hotter, briquettes last much longer.

    Cowboy Brand [​IMG]
  6. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Heres a little reading about charcoal.  

    Most WSM owners dont leave all the vents open..

    The top one stays wide open.

    The bottoms are all open til ya get to around 180..

     Then shut all except one and put that about half open.

    The WSM will get up to 220/230 slowly.

    Get your food on quickly and keep the top on and door shut.

      There is tons of info about working yer WSM here...


    This is how TYOTRAIN showed me how to fire it off.

    I put 8-10   kingsford briquettes in the can after  getting them hot in a chimney   and R.O red bag for the fire..

      Hope this helps!!

    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  7. Than you all for the advice.
    Adiochiro: How would I go about checking to see if the factory thermo is Properly calibrated?

    NWDave: I'm located in New York City.

    Flash: Cowboy brand may not be the best but it's what's available. Allow me to correct myself. I came across a small, out of the way supermarket that sells Red Oak Lump. Is Red Oak better? I'm also willing to order online. What's the best lump?

    FPNMF: thanks for the pics and vent advice. I think I will try a dry run just to play around with the vents.
    Thanks to all.
  8. SORRY GUYS... The other lump is ROYAL OAK. I said it was red oak. Sorry.
  9. nwdave

    nwdave Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Quagmire33, we're encouraging members to go to their profile---"My Profile" at the top of screen (in that brown bar-it's brown for me anyway) --Click on My Profile and then click on the Edit Community Profile.  When the edit box pops up - in location, enter New York City, or whatever you desire to enter in the location.  Now, everyone will know they may have a kindred spirit near them.  Thanks.
  10. nwdave

    nwdave Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Forgot to add - I use Royal Oak all the time -- excellent lump. 
  11. To calibrate your therm, pull it and stick the probe end in boiling water. It should read, obviously, 212 F. The difference between 212 F. and your actual reading is what you need to factor in as you use the therm in your WSM.

    Cowboy burns hot but quick. Given your experience you will benefit from a longer, cooler burning lump like Royal Oak.
  12. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

     I have only used Cowboy Brand and Royal Oak. Cowboy Brand popped and snapped alot more than Royal Oak did.
  13. jeff 1

    jeff 1 Smoke Blower

    royal oak is all I use for charcoal,  i love it
  14. pdx210

    pdx210 Fire Starter

    what works for me is about  80-90 % real charcoal and 10- 20% Kingsford.

    The kingsford seems burns easier than lump and help stablize temps 

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