Offset fire management...?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by dirtworldmike, Oct 31, 2015.

  1.  I got this Oklahoma Joe's Highland offset a few weeks ago. I made all the normal mods , sealed lids and firebox,raised firebox grate ect. My intention is/was to use just wood for fuel but have been starting it with about half a chimney of lump. I've been doing practice burns trying to learn how to maintain a constant temp before I throw a $40 piece of meat in it.

    So far not doing so good on the fire management thing. I just can't seam to get and maintain a good "clean" fire at the 225-250 range.And only been able to maintain a steady temp for about 15 minutes.   I let the fire burn down to where the temp gets right, at that point there just isn't enough hot coals left to ignite a new/small piece of wood and I loose the fire.  When I have a good fire going the temp spikes to around 350-400. If I close the damper some the fire eventually smolders out. I seam to get the best fire with the fire box door wide open but at high temps. 

    As  mentioned above, my hope was to only use wood as I have a bunch of it(seasoned oak splits) and not have to use a $10 bag of lump per cook.  I've watch a bunch of vids and have read a bunch of posts on here but it appears that most use lump or charcoal with this unit and add some wood for smoke. I've put a ton of wood through this thing since I got it and just can't seam to get the hang of it yet.Anybody have success just using wood? What am I missing here?. This can't be that difficult... Any suggestions? Thanks !
  2. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I don't know anything about your particular cooker, but with my smoker, the best is a good hot fire with a good bed of coals. I start with a good load of lump in my FB and start it with about 2/3 chimney of briqs. When the lump is fully involved, I add 2-3 splits. When I get a little above where I want to cook, I add my flavor wood and put the meat in. I follow that with another split or two. That way the temp comes back up from the doors being open to put the meat on. The real trick for me is to manage the coal bed. I just make sure that i maintain a good bed of coals and the heat will take care of itself. My smoker likes to run at 260-275*. If I want 240*, I can close some of the air damper. If I need 300* for some chicken, I will use some extra splits of the smaller size and prop the FB door open a little bit. That will give me a hotter fire.

    That's what works for me. Your cooker may be totally different, but just try some different ways and see what works best in your cooker. Good luck and good smokin', Joe
    cats49er likes this.
  3. rogerwilco

    rogerwilco Meat Mopper

     Depending on what size splits you are using, you might try splitting them into much smaller diameter pieces, and then placing several of these on top of the FB to warm-up prior to being tossed on the fire. Having the splits heated before being tossed in the FB has made a huge difference for me.

     Also, the smaller pieces ignite much faster and burn cleanly much sooner. They also raise the cook chamber temperature much faster. All-in-all, it makes for a good method to maintain a fairly consistent temperature and with only the "good" smoke coursing through the cooker. The only down side is that splits must be added more frequently, but the pay-off is huge.

    Good luck.
  4. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    That too. I always pre heat my splits. They ignite almost immediately.
  5. Thanks for the help Joe and Roger..I think I'm getting a little closer.

    Did another practice run on it today and had much better luck. I started out with a full basket of lump and some brks. and started them with a full chimney of burning lump. I was able to hold the temps at 230-260 +/- for around 7 hrs. but my fire was still pretty dirty ,I think I put too much wood on at once(2 large splits) which took about 3 1/2 hrs. to burn down. Didn't really burn clean just smoldered as I had to keep the fire box vent closed up to keep the temps down.

    Yesterday I think I  was trying to use too  small of a fire and kept loosing it. Today just the opposite.I guess I'll have to find that happy medium.  I'm gonna give it a few more practice runs this week.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015
  6. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I too am thinking smaller splits preheated on top of the FB ... I see you said 2 LARGE splits...
  7. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Practice, practice, practice. That's what makes a stick burner so much fun.
  8. During the times I have used an offset I used primarily briquettes and added wood to them. I found when I used lump I got more temp variance. Sounds like you are on the right track now though.
  9. stickyfingers

    stickyfingers Smoking Fanatic

    Leave your firebox door open for a few minutes when adding your split....this will help ignite your split. Your temp should not drop too much. As far as adding spits to maintain a constant temp, its a timing thing. With practice/experience you'll know when to add a split and how much to maintain a constant temp. 
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2015
  10. Today is my first burn in my custom RF smoker. I'm having the same results and reading this post has helped.
  11. hardcookin

    hardcookin Master of the Pit

    I would lit a chimney of charcoal and lump mixed. Then dump the fully burning chimney into the smoker and add 2 splits. Usually about 30 minutes later when the temp would start dropping I would add 1 or 2 splits and leave the firebox door open till they would ignite. Then close the door and repeat the process until the meat is done.
    If splits was lasting 3 1/2 hours it sounds they was way to big.
    You control your temp but the size of your fire once you get a good bed of coals established.
    Keep practicing!!
  12. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The trick to a good clean fire is complete combustion. If your splits are pre-heated, they will ignite very quickly. This keeps down the time for cold splits to warm up. Cold splits will also smolder badly while they are warming up and cause a dirty smoke.
  13. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    For your pit I would use splits no bigger than a 2x4 at 10" long, a decent size for your pit would be 1.5" x 1.5" x 8". Use smaller splits and you can always add two three four at a time to help control the fire.

    You want to get the splits through the combustion stage as quickly as possible, also don't sweat temp fluctuations so much on as a stickburner, it will drive you nuts, you can also add water pans, and more metal in your pit to increase thermal mass. You can add thermal mass to your firebox as well.

    More metal will help with heat retention and recovery and the water will help maintain a more consistent temperature.

    Water pans



    Some of my splits


    With my pit I can go a little crazy with the fire and still maintain a satisfactory temperature swing.

  14. I use charcole as my base as it burns at a steady rate. Lump, for me is harder to keep a staedy fire. Burns real hot and fast. When I add charcole I also add a piece of wood. Lay the wood on the existing coals and then pour the new coals on top covering the wood. I get a great blue smoke using this method.

  15. SQWIB, are those commercial stainless chafing dish/steam table pans inside your rig??  If so, that's so brilliant:  saves extra effort on cleaning out the barrel of the smoke chamber.  Better yet, I can access those things for next to nothing!
  16. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    yes they are the stainless steamer pans.

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