What am I doing wrong?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by bernarc, May 26, 2015.

  1. bernarc

    bernarc Fire Starter

    I just recently joined the smoking ranks and decided to do a dry run to season my smoker. I have a Napoleon Apollo smoker (very very similar to the WSM).

    I used the Weber chimney starter to get a chimney full of lump charcoal going. I might have dumped the charcoal a little prematurely because the smoker only got to about 250 before pooping out after 30 minutes. So in addition to premature charcoal dumping, I wondered if I wasn't using enough charcoal. So I got another chimney full ready and dumped it on the charcoal that had already been poured in. Got the temp up to 275-ish (all vents wide open), and maintained that for an hour and a half. I closed all the vents halfway to see how well it holds to 225-250. But shortly after that, the fire went out again.

    What am I doing wrong?

    Also, how hot should a smoker get with all vents open fully and all levels of cooking grates on?

  2. stickyfingers

    stickyfingers Smoking Fanatic

    Well one thing for sure, when you close all the vents there is no air flow so your fire is going to go out. if you maintained a 275 temp for an hour and a half without adding anything.... you're doing pretty well. 
  3. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I only use KBB in my WSM it will crank north of 400 if you let it. Maybe bad charcoal? Get a bag of briquetes and try them.
  4. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    May seem like obvious question but did you have top/chimney vent wide open? Fresh coals, no chance they were wet? If yes to both that should have gotten very hot very fast...
  5. bernarc

    bernarc Fire Starter

    Yes dry coal and with all vents - bottom and top - open all the way. With all the cooking grates on, it only got to about 300. Shouldn't it get hotter than that?
  6. bernarc

    bernarc Fire Starter

    I only closed the vents halfway. Was that a bad move?
  7. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sorry to ask the obvious, but was there any water in the water pan?

    Second, was the chimney the full sized Weber chimney or the smaller version?
  8. bernarc

    bernarc Fire Starter

    Yes, the water pan was about half full. And the Weber chimney is the full size.
    Last edited: May 26, 2015
  9. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Water in the water pan is going to significantly limit your max chamber temp. It's a physics thing. Do the exact same run again with an empty water pan and you'll see a chamber temp of 350 plus. You were burning your fuel extremely hot and fast trying to fight physics and get the temperature above 250F. Depending on the air volume of your smoker you'll never see temps much above 250F with water in the water pan.

    You snuffed out your tired and exhausted coals when you closed down the vents. The fire triangle needs fuel, heat and air in balance to burn at a steady temperature. Remove the air available by closing down the vents with an exhausted fuel load the fire will die.
    Last edited: May 27, 2015
  10. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    To get that temperature up for longer try some good quality briquettes as b-one suggested. They will usually burn hotter for longer than charcoal. You can put any flavouring wood on top of that.

    Partially closing both vents at the same time may have been a little too much too quickly - especially if the charcoal was not fully lit. Unless you are using a fan assisted temperature controller you should initially leave the top vent fully open and slowly control the heat with the bottom vent - trying not to let the temperature overshoot. You can fine tune the temperature using the top vent as well but most control is done at the bottom. It is all about balancing the air flow.

    You should also try replacing the water with sand the tray. You are looking for something there to act as a thermal buffer to help even out the internal temperature spikes. Sand will help do a similar job but at higher temperatures.
  11. bernarc

    bernarc Fire Starter

    Ok. That sounds great! Thanks for the tips. I've read a lot of books on smoking but it's amazing how much more info you get straight from the experts!!

    I will try again:)
  12. stickyfingers

    stickyfingers Smoking Fanatic

    Always leave your exhaust vent open all the way!
  13. bernarc

    bernarc Fire Starter

    Ok...good to know. So adjust temp (if needed) with only the bottom vents, eh?
  14. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    yes... If you have all the intake vents (on bottom) closed and the temps are still rising after 30 minutes.. then you have air leaks somewhere (which is highly unlikely) ... in this case you can close the top vent just a little to see if temps will come down ... so yes.. all your control will be with the bottom vents ...

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