Why are my temps so low! Char-griller Pro w/ Sidebox

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by mintee, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. mintee

    mintee Fire Starter

    Hey everyone,

    First post here, so go easy on me, haha!

    Anyway, I purchased a Char-Griller Pro about a year ago and added the side smoke box as seen here. http://img.shoppingnexus.com/products/char-griller-smokin-pro-grill-smoker.jpg

    I've used everything from chips, to chunks, to logs and I can never seem to get my temp up past 200F.  Today, it's been about 80F outside and my temp has basically stayed around 160 for the past 5 hours.  Sadly it looks like I'm going to have to turn the oven on and finish my Brisket, Ribs and Chicken.  

    I've messed around with both the chimney and vent on the side of the smoke box, but no matter what the combination I cannot seem to have a steady temp.  Usually I keep adding hot charcoal to the main barrel to keep the temp up, but that requries moving the meat and obviously releasing heat and smoke. I know this isn't the proper way of doing it.

    I have 1 vent from the smoke box to the main chamber wide open at all times.  I feel maybe I'm losing heat between the two, but I haven't read anything about insulating the seam.  I can provide any extra info needed, but I need help!  

    What could I be doing wrong?
  2. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the forum Mintee.

    First question to ask is have you done the mods to your smoker? There are some basic mods that make the chargrillers a much better smoker and make it a lot easier to hold steady temps. Here is a link: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/forum/thread/81884/char-griller-smokin-pro-mods-complete-w-qview  

    Main mods to make are:

    1) Replace the factory therm in the lid with two set just above the grate level on the left and right. Factory therm can be off by 50-100°.

    2) Get/make/buy some sort of charcoal basket to use in the firebox. It should hold at least 5 lbs. of charcoal and be suspended or lifted at least 4" off of the bottom of the fire box. Do a search for charcoal basket and you will find many threads on these.

    3) Use heavy duty all metal dryer vent tubing to extend the smoke stack down to grate level.

    4) Flip the charcoal pan in the cooking chamber upside down and hang it as high as it will go. This will act as a baffle/tuning plate to eaven out the temps from end to end. You can also make tuning plates and a baffle out of other stuff as well.

    Those are the must do mods for your smoker and they can all be done for under $30.
    terryd likes this.
  3. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    How are you measuring your temps?  If you are using the stock therm, those will read about 60 degrees low if not more.  Do you have a probe therm in the pit at meat height from the grate? That will give you an accurate pit temp. Also, as Johnny said, those units require some simple mods to work right.  Extend the chimney down to grate level as he said.  You can see examples using the search tool.  Also, a coal basket is almost a requirement on these units.

    Keep at it and you can get good smokes.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  4. What they said plus...Make sure the smoke chamber is sealed up. You may be bleeding off most of your heat through leakage. Smoke should only be coming out of the smoke stack only. There is a vent between the firebox and the smoke chamber? It should be a hole about the size and shape of a football. Leave your exhaust wide open to help the draft. Start with a full  chimney of charcoal. Preferably RO lump.
  5. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Something I have had to do at times during strange conditions is, 

    I have had temp troubles and had to prop the door to gain enough air flow to make the fire burn hot enough to keep temps. Hot enough may be the wrong term, because if you really crank a giant fire, your gonna warp the pee diddle out of it. 

    Two real easy things to try also would be to slightly elevate the stack end or even lower it to make it sit close to level. 


    Turn the smoker 180 degrees to see if you are getting a funny air flow caused by a surrounding building or house. I only mention this since I don't know how close your rig is to the house.
  6. mintee

    mintee Fire Starter

    Hey guys,

    All good things, thanks for the input.  I haven't extended the stack, or gotten a basket for the charcoal.  I believe that's the biggest problems I'm having.  Ended up smoking for about 6 hours yesterday and finished everything in a 275 oven for 2 hours.  Everything was awesome, but obviously I had to cheat!

    I think you also hit the nail on the head regarding both losing heat out of the smoke box, and turning the box 180 degrees.  I've used this thing so many times and now I'm gonna take it apart and start sealing it up.  It's gonna be a messy job.

    Thanks y'all
  7. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    You didn't mention what you are using for fuel or how much. Fuel type and amount will effect your temps more than any other factor except wind direction and as Tom37 stated you must keep the intake on the fire box pointed into the wind. If you are using charcoal briquettes switch to lump charcoal the ash from the briqs will choke off the fire and cause low temps. If you are using lump and you are getting low temps use more at the beginning, I always use 2 full(and fully lit) chimneys of lump when I start my CharGriller. Two other very simple things you can do are turn the charcoal grate in the SFB upside down, this will allow more air to get to the charcoal, and remove the charcoal grate from the main chamber so you're not heating it up, too. These are the only mods I have done on mine and have never had problems getting to or maintaining temps and I've cooked at temps ranging from 230° to 325° with no problems. with the right amount of fuel you should be able to also. 
  8. I raised my charcoal basket up so more air can flow under it. It helped a bunch.

    Last edited: Jun 27, 2011
  9. I'm not specifically familiar with your equipment, but the sentence above gave me pause. You have controllable vents between the smoke box and the main chamber? If so, I expect you would want all of them open, all of the time. In a nutshell, you want to control the level of combustion in your firebox by adjusting the air inflow, and you want the heat and smoke to move into the main chamber. If you are choking the flow of smoke and heat between the firebox and the cooking chamber then you are working against yourself.

    As far as the placement of your smoker goes, if you are having trouble with temps try orienting the vent to the firebox upwind to create a slight "forced induction" effect. Conversely if you need to quench temps, orient it 180 degrees.
  10. mintee

    mintee Fire Starter

    Ok, I had a family emergency I had to deal with for the past week, so excuse my absence.  Pressured washed my porch today, but I plan on ripping my rig apart this week and sealing up some holes, etc.  

    As for the fuel question, I've used everything from coal briquettes to lump, to wood chunks to logs.  This brings me to my next question, if I plan on using logs, raising the grate in the sidebox wouldn't allow me to use any more than maybe 1 small log.  Is there another way around this?  

    I'm going to research the fire ropes and see how I can use that, but where in the world can I find a coal basket.  I considered modding a small deep fryer basket and cutting off one side for easy access, but the one pictured from alelover  looked awesome, yet rather small.
  11. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    If you are going to use wood splits for fuel they should be about 8"-10" long and 2"-3" at the widest axis in my experience. I use no more than 1 at a time to maintain proper temps and thin blue smoke. I preheat the splits in the SFB next to the cooking chamber it ensure prompt ignition and avoid smoldering. If you cook with wood you will need to clean the cooking chamber more often. You should not use a charcoal basket if you are cooking with wood splits, simply turn over the grate in the ash drawer so it stands on the "legs".
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2011
  12. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I would stick with lump until you get your issues worked out.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  13. kid creole

    kid creole Fire Starter

    Forgive me if this has been covered, but when you say that you have a vent wide open, I'm thinking that I don't have a vent.  Just a football shaped hole in both pieces.  I guess, you could technically call that a vent, but it's not adjustable.  There's nothing there.

    With that said, here is what I do.  Compared to folks around here, I'm wet around the ears, but I've got that smoker setup and I've been really happy with how it holds temperature.

    I have a few very simple temp mods (if you can call them a mod).  The first is that I have inverted the charcoal tray.  The second is I put a piece of foil that acts like an extension of the tray over to the hole of the firebox.  So rising hot air and smoke all collect in that inverted charcoal pan.  The other thing I do, and I think this is the most important, is I took a piece of foil and folded it to make a long strip with a little bit of thickness.  Then I put two of these around the door to the smoker box.  A little air gap here or there isn't going to do anything except waste charcoal (which won't kill me).  But until I plugged a pretty reasonable sized gap in the door itself, I hot air was just taking the path of least resistance and all the smoke and heat were pouring out the firebox door.

    On Saturday, I cooked a butt for 10-1/2 hours, with no mods to the firebox other than what I just described.  What I do is start 1/2 of a chimney of Kingsford.  Once it's all red, starting to ash over, I dump it in the firebox, and immediately cover it with a load of lump.  My "load" happens to be an empty flower pot.  I'd estimate that it's about 2 quarts.  The lump, when dumped on top of those hot coals actually cools it down at first, otherwise just that half chimney will take the smoker up to 240 at least.  From there I leave the vent on the firebox open a little, and close it all the way when the smoker hits temp.  Then as it goes down, I'll open the vent to keep the temp up.  Once it needs to be fully open, I dump another load of lump on, wait for it to get hot with the vent open, and repeat the process.

    I hope this helps.  I'm really happy with the smoker.  I know there are better, but barbecue is one of a number of my hobbies, and I think the CG Pro is a good value.  I can see where it isn't going to be the smoker for everyone, but you should be able to get it up to temperature to really give it a fair shake.
  14. erodinamik

    erodinamik Smoke Blower

    I had very similar problems with my Char-griller.  The first thing that helped me in a pinch was to put the grates that came with my SFB back in, and put my charcoal on top of that.  It's hard to put much on it and tends to fall out if you over load it but it made a bit difference right away. I now have some expanded metal that rest on the inside of the SFB and gives me an air gap of 6 or so inches (about 2-4 inches lower than the cooking grates in the SFB).  For my money that was the biggest help.  I also installed 2 thermos at cooking level and it's amazing the difference between those two and the thermo on the lid.  I still want to seal up all my hole because I get lots of smoke coming out of lots of places in my smoker, and I feel like that would help direct the airflow to the charcoal and keep temps up.  Mines a work in progress but it's getting there.  Good luck.
  15. mintee

    mintee Fire Starter

    Ok, I've added my firerope yesterday, made a charcoal basket out of expanded metal, flipped the charcoal pan over in the cooking chamber, new thermometers should be in the mail today.  I've purchased the (dryer) exhaust vent and I'm going to mount it today, but I haven't determined a way to make it stay conformed to the lid like seen here.  

  16. Just bend it into shape and hose lamp it to the stack. I used a nut and bolt in front to secure it at grate level.

  17. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I attached mine to the chimney with a hose clamp.  Then simply pulled it a bit so it would stick under the front lip of the lid. I pre cut to approsimate length, as I remember I used about half of the chunk.

    Here is the pic of my smoker when it was new.

  18. mintee

    mintee Fire Starter

    Ok, just finished everything but the air filled tires.

    New Dual Grate Level Thermometers - CHECK!

    Dryer Duct Installed and Secured - CHECK!

    Charcoal Box made and Installed - CHECK!

    Fire Rope Installed - CHECK!

    Thinking about throwing a load of charcoal in to give it a dry run once the bonding agent for the fire rope drys out to see what kinda temps and time I can hold.

    Gonna maybe do a brisket and pork shoulder Sunday.  I'll post pictures then!  Thanks everyone!

    Oh, now I need a stand alone grill again, doh!
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  19. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Dry runs are a great idea.  Waste a little fuel so you know what you are dealing with.  Watch your temps from one side of the grate to the other.

    After that, you are on your own to learn the hard way just like the rest of us had to.  LOL

    Good luck and good smoking.

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