Oklahoma Joe first fire

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by rhaugle, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. rhaugle

    rhaugle Smoke Blower

    Hey all, Fired up my OKJ Highland for the first time today to do the seasoning. Having a LOW TEMP (not high) issue...

    First off, mods I've done:

    1. Baffle plate

    2. RTV all gaps

    3. Dryer vent elbow for smoke stack

    4. Have tuning plates, but not in yet, as my temp is TOO LOW

    5. BGE gasket around CC and FB doors

    6. Rotated my FB grate 90 degrees so it sits higher

    As per the manufactures instructions, I have the smoke stack only about 30% open and the FB about 50% open. I don't have a large fire in there either. Is that why my temps are low? Currently sitting at 135F on FB side in the CC. 

    Also, I am losing a lot of smoke out of the bottom drain. I have seen people put ball valves onto these. What size and how do I install one? Do i need to thread the existing drain tube? Do you keep it closed during cooks and then open it when you're done, while its still hot, and drain the grease? 

    I will be purchasing some latches for the CC door as I still have 2 leaks on the left and right sides, even after the BGE gasket. 


    Smoke on.

  2. rhaugle

    rhaugle Smoke Blower

    I also Have made a charcoal basket, however I'm worried its a little to big.. Might have to make a little bit smaller one! 

    I think the fire size may be my problem, but not sure and still need input! This is my first offset smoker, so I'm as green as they come with this. the manual said "build a small fire..." I might have gone a little to small?

    Heres my FB

    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
  3. twoalpha

    twoalpha Smoking Fanatic

    Congrats on the new smoker and as you are finding there is a learning curve and have some patience.

    I would agree that your fire is on the small side, add some more wood and develop a good bed of coals.

    Go at it a couple of sticks at a time until you start building some more heat.

    Also search this forum for more info on your smoker and controlling the fire.
  4. I've got the same cooker and have done many of the same mods.

      As twoalpha said, build/start with a bigger fire and get a good/ large bed of coals going and add small wood splits as needed.You want a clean burning fire with very lite smoke and not billowing like a freight train.

    1)Leave the stack vent wide open and control the air flow/temp with the fire box vent or by leaving the fire box door open some. You want good air flow without any restrictions.

    2) Don't worry about the drip drain, it doesn't need a valve. The reason you had smoke coming out of it is because you  didn't have the stack vent wide open.

    **I personally think the Highlander  needs a larger diameter smoke stack and lowered to grate level to give it better draft for better fire management. Which I feel will allow it to burn cleaner. I will be making this mod to mine as soon as I find some pipe.

    3) Dryer vent. I tried it and took it off. With it on I got too much top to bottom temp variation for my liking. 

    4) Leaking smoke. Again, probably more noticeable because you had the stack vent closed off. Some smoke is going to leak and won't hurt a thing. Remember it's not a pressure cooker.

    Just keep with it and hope this helps. Good luck!
  5. txbonds

    txbonds Newbie

    Just stumbled across this post.  I'm struggling with temps that seem too low too.  I've had a boston butt on my highland now since 7:30 this morning, so 11.5 hours.  I have modded my highland with all of the usuals including red rev between halves of the fire box, and between firebox and cook chamber.  I've used lava lock on fire box and cook chamber.  I've added hold downs to cook chamber.  I've welded in some metal and put lava lock on the firebox side door too.  I welded up some 3" pipe to make a stack drop down to the grill grate.  Also welded some 3/4" black iron to the drain and put a ball valve on it.  And I added a tuning plate with water tray.  

    Long story short, mine is sealed up well and has all the goodies added but I'm struggling with getting enough temps in the cook chamber.  I can't seem to get mine above 210 to 220 in the cook chamber no matter how hard I try.  Right now, I have a 750 degree fire box and a 210 degree cook chamber.  Good thing is it is consistent perfectly from left to right side and measures the same within a few degrees on the grill grates via my ir thermo.  But I'd like to get temps up to 250 or more when I want to.

    I'm thinking larger firebox opening panels and larger chimney might help.

    EDIT:  Just playing with it I've gotten then temp up to a high of 275 inside now but I've had to open the fire box side door fully to get there.  At the time my fire temp was about 850 to 950 degrees, so I still think I'm not getting enough air movement through the cooking chamber or I should be seeing higher temps.  I don't have any major air/smoke leaks so I'm not sure why the temps are struggling so much other than the cold air today, but regardless my IR thermometer temp checks confirm what I'm seeing.  also, I already have the fire box grate turned sideways and am using a mesh box for coal/wood.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  6. hardcookin

    hardcookin Master of the Pit

    Personally I would sugguest someone getting a new smoker to use it for at least a couple weeks without any mods and then decide what mods you would like to try after you see how it cooks.
    Myself for Mods I added a 12" convection plate and the expanded metal for the firebox grate.

    See post #2...I would turn one of your grates like that. Lay a piece of 1/2" expanded metal on top of the grate. Your ready for fire. Lite a chimney full of charcoal when it's fully burning dump it in your firebox and add a split and keep adding splits every time your temp starts to drop.
    Your goal is to maintain even temps and a good bed of coals which is fire management.

    Enjoy your new smoker!!

    Edit: I add 2 splits starting out.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  7. hillingdoner

    hillingdoner Newbie

    Open your smoke stack up all the way.  As someone else said, control your temps with the firebox inlet. 

    I think you mentioned having made a charcoal basket.  Hopefully not made out of galvanized metal (same thing for the baffle).  I imagine not, but does not hurt to check.  Use your charcoal basket.  I find the basket helps to keep your charcoal organized (and later your wood coals) and also allows you to stack in more for longer burns.  Put some charcoal in the basket and then drop in a chimney of well lit coals in.  Let that burn a while and warm your wood up on the top of the firebox while it is going.  I like to use coke can sized oak myself.  Then start adding your wood.  Let the wood catch good before shutting the firebox lid.  That is what works for me no problem. 

    Control your temps with the firebox vent.  Too cold, open the vent up a bit to increase air flow.  Too hot, then close it down a bit.  Your temp adjustments are not going to be instantaneous.  The smoker needs to settle a bit once a change is made.

    Word on your baffle.  Be sure you have not put too much of a baffle or too severe and angle baffle such that you are effectively chocking off your firebox so it can't breath well and trapping your heat in the firebox instead of the cook chamber.  

    Don't worry about the drain.  Yes, sometimes a bit of smoke may wisp out of it or you might get a strong gust that might go up in it, but does not hurt things.  Just have your drip bucket on there and you are set. 

    As far as the elbow, I'd remove it for seasoning and FOR ME, when I was testing out the whole tuning plates, baffle and elbow thing on mine I found that the tuning plates were able to give me within 3-5 degrees across and the elbow did not really do anything for me.  Granted I have the larger OKJ
  8. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    txbonds, make sure you have a large enough fire to get everything hot before you close anything at the firebox. You need full air intake. Make sure that your exhaust stack wide open at ALL times. It appears to me that your convection plate is too constricted, forcing your heat directly to the exhaust. You may want to make your holes a little larger and maybe add a few more.

    Good luck, Joe
  9. cyberb0b

    cyberb0b Newbie

    My Oklahoma Joe Highland firebox paint comically failed on the first burn in. I am going to call Char Broil and get a replacement bottom. It holds temps pretty well though.
  10. hardcookin

    hardcookin Master of the Pit

    It's hard to keep paint on them fire boxes. I would either put cooking oil on the firebox and it will season like a cast iron frying pan. Or touch up the firebox with spray paint once a month.
  11. cyberb0b

    cyberb0b Newbie

    Yup. I think it should last longer than the first burn in, however.
  12. rhaugle

    rhaugle Smoke Blower

    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
  13. ammaturesmoker

    ammaturesmoker Smoking Fanatic

    I am wondering if you are smoldering and not burning. Creating the air convection on the OKJ is very difficult to do with only that one inlet. What worked for me in the past on the OKJ was to put a small fan near the inlet and create some convection.
  14. spenceuiuc

    spenceuiuc Newbie

    txbonds/Rhaugle;  what did you end up figuring out on this one?
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2016

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