Using a CharGriller as a stick burner

Discussion in 'CharGriller Owners Group' started by cliffcarter, Jul 18, 2014.

  1. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I have been using my CG Smoking Pro as a stick burner for 4 years and I was asked recently for the method I used when cooking with wood. This thread is the result of that conversation between fpmich and myself and as a result I have begun to take a closer look at the method I have been using and see if I can improve on it.

    As a bit of disclosure- my CharGriller has been barely modded. All I have done to it is add a decent thermometer at grate level and replace the charcoal grate in the SFB with a lava rock grate rescued from an old gas grill.

    These are the size splits that I used- 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 inches long and 2-3 inches at the widest point

    I have replaced the original charcoal grate( which broke up and became unusable 2 years ago) with a grate from a gas grill that held lava rocks.

    I started the fire with about 2 chimneys of lump in the center of the charcoal grate

    Once the pit was up to temp I added the chicken and some maple chunks for smoke and let it cook. The next pic shows a split heating up on top of the SFB

    I added the first split at 50 minutes into the cook

    This where things got interesting.

    Friday into Saturday we got a taste of hurricane Arthur as it passed by on it's way to Canada,

    As a result Sunday brought gusty swirling winds that effected the fire, cutting down the flame and making the wood smolder. I had to open the ash drawer to get enough air to the fire to get the wood to burn.

    That worked, after that I added a split every 20 minutes.

    After I added the second split the temp climbed to 335° so I closed the ash drawer to bring it down a bit, it settled back to 280°. After I added the 3rd split I had to open the ash drawer again to get enough air to the fire. About 8 minutes later I had to add a second split in order to get the temps up to the 280°-300° range. 11 minutes later I had to add split #5, #6 14 minutes later and the final one 6 minutes after that. The reason for adding so quickly is because there were not enough live coals to help keep temps up and keep the fire burning.

    15 minutes later the chicken was done, total cook time was 2 1/2 hours. 1 hour and 40 minutes of that was cooking with wood splits, I used 7 splits total. I could have cooked another 15 minutes after the meat was done without adding more wood.

    One thing- don't be married to a particular cooking temp, I find that cooking with wood it is easier to maintain the fire at higher cooking temps. 275°-325° range works well for me.

    What did I learn from this cook? Gusting, swirling winds are a PITA if you are trying to keep a fire burning, which I already knew from previous cooks. Normally I like to have the prevailing wind blowing toward the intakes on the SFB and I have turned the pit 180° in order to keep the wind blowing toward them in the past. In this case simply opening the ash drawer worked. If it hadn't I probably would have turned the pit.

    Also, documenting when and how much wood you add and the conditions before and after adding it will help you learn how to manage the fire efficiently and keep it burning cleanly.

    I cooked again this past Sunday under better weather conditions and will post that cook soon as a comparison.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
    sentim likes this.
  2. Great Job under some very tough conditions. Takes a lot of experience to run a smoke like that in such bad weather.
  3. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    Cliff seems to be a great guy, even though I've never talked to him until recently in PM.

    I asked him on tips for using CG as a stick burner.  (someone suggested me to PM him)

    He took the time to document his next burn for me, and all these pics came from that PM.

    Now that takes time and effort, just to help someone who you have never talked with before.

    He could've just typed how he does it, but taking the time for pic's along the way and explaining, was much better.

    Thank you Cliff.

    I got some wood about 14" long (little longer than I wanted, but will fit in box)  So going to try stick burning smoke today later on.

    Wood is a mix of Ash, Maple, Oak, and Birch.  I don't think there is any birch in my bundles, or if there, are, it debarked.  So It will be interesting.

    I can recognize the Ash, Maple and Oak.  Can't identify Birch without the bark.  The only white wood I see, has maple bark on it.

    I'm going to do a 1st attempt on cooking a couple of small bottom round roasts for French dip sandwiches, or just snack sammys,  Will let you know how it goes.  Wish me luck.

    My worry now is can I keep it low at 215* - 235* for a couple of hours, before going to 275* of so to finish at 125 - 130* IT.
  4. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Thanks for the compliments, gentlemen[​IMG].

    Frank, I don't think you will be able to keep temps as low as 215°-235° unless you use shorter, thinner  splits than the ones you have. Personally I have no qualms about cooking beef at 275° and higher.

    Good Luck on today's cook.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014
  5. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    This is the promised second cook using wood splits. I had a much easier time with this one because the wind conditions were much more favorable, blowing out of the west and steady with no gusts.

    This time I used oak splits to start and switched to apple after about an hour.

    A few pics to start and then I'll give you the timeline and some thoughts at the end.

    One chimney of lit lump and the first split of oak heating up- notice that I have added a second air intake,

    I find that this does help get more air to the fire when using wood for heat but is not necessary-

    First oak split on the fire, second added to heat up-

    Apple splits, these were a bit smaller than the oak-

    Time line

    11:45-The charcoal and the first into the fire box

    11:54- pit at 250°, the chicken goes on

    12:00- put the first split on the charcoal base, added a split to heat up. After 3 minutes pit at 280°, five minutes later at 300°

    12:23- pit at 250° so second split added to the fire. This one got a bit interesting. When I add a split I hold the fire box door open until the wood is flaming, as in the second photo.

               I left the door open too long on this split and ended up with a roaring fire. The temp shot up to 350° in about a minute, so I closed the vents and waited for it go back down.

               It stayed high for 6-7 minutes and began dropping back, another 6 minutes or so and the temp was back to 300°.

    12:39- Added the final oak split and put the first apple split in to heat. Because I left the door open too long the second split burned too quickly.

    12:55- added a second apple split to heat up in case it was needed to keep a good coal base for subsequent  splits.

    1:07-   Add the first split of apple. Burn time on the third oak split was 28 minutes. Excellent in a COS IMHO. Which leads me to think that I can make the splits larger than I have been.

    1:25-   Put the second apple split on the fire, added 2 smaller splits to heat up. Foiled the chicken thigh with Cattlemen's Classic.

    1:37-   Added the two small splits, plus one to heat up.

    1:54-   Added one apple split, pit temp at 280°.

    1:58-   Breasts done.

    2:06-   Added one split to get temp up from 250°

    2:13-   Put the last split on early because it is time to eat, those foiled thighs are for pulled chicken so they won't mind.

    2:40-   The last split is still burning a bit, the pit temp is at 240°. The thighs are done.

    Total cook time about 2 1/2 hours, I used 3 oak and 6 apple splits.

    Did I learn anything? Yes.

    1. Don't leave the fire box door open too long or the wood will really take off making the fire too hot, even for someone like me that cooks at higher temps than many on SMF

    2. I need to try using slightly larger splits in order to get longer burn times. Next cook happens today.

    Here's a couple more pics just to prove that the chicken wasn't a tall story-

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014
    5oclocksomewher likes this.
  6. Great post Cliff. Makes me want to give stick burning a try on my chargriller. :points:

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