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Light my (PBC) fire: tips on lighting and maintaining temperatures

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    Thanks for all the very useful tips. This article and other posts you have made in this forum have really sped up the learning curve for me on the PBC.
    I have a question ( which probably has been discussed somewhere already, sorry!). Noah in his website videos never adds any wood to the charcoals. Meathead in his article on the science of smoke makes it clear that the charcoal is for fuel, not smoke. So on my first few cooks on the PBC I followed Noah and did not add wood (results were great). On my last few cooks I've tried adding just a handful of wood chips (cherry) to the coals early on. What I found was a tremendous amount of smoke (too much?) and a significant bump in temp of the cooker that lasted for over two hours. On the last cook I had to cover the rebar holes with foil to get the temp down under 300F. So my question: do you add wood to your PBC cooks? If so do you worry about the increased temps?
    thanks!

    Comment


      Hi GasPasser , welcome to the PBC bunch. We all love our PBCs!

      Short answer to your question, yes I add wood for almost every cook. I do not use wood chips because I have found, just as you have, that they put out that thick white smoke which I try to avoid if at all possible. They certainly don't settle in to the thin blue smoke that is so wonderful.

      Parenthetically, that's one reason why I let the fire burn that extra 10 minutes with the lid on, rebars out before adding the meat in my PBC fire lighting routine--because I found if I added the meat sooner, I'd get a bunch of white smoke..

      You may be able to get around the white smoke effect from using wood chips by making a smoke bomb out of aluminum foil and your wood chips. Wrap the chips in double aluminum foil and poke a few holes in it and toss it on the coals. The smoke is released more slowly, but I'm still not a fan of it compared to the quality of smoke I get from my one or two little wood chunks placed directly on the hot coals 10 minutes before I add the meat.

      I put 1 or 2 chunks of wood on the coals, each about 3 to 4 ounces. I get them from the Fruitawood website. http://fruitawood.com/shop.html#!/Wo...=0&sort=normal

      Their wood is great--pesticide free, and cut in chunks that are just the right size for the PBC. I love their cherry, peach, pecan, and post oak pieces. I also use Jack Daniels Charred Oak Barrel chunks and of course hickory chunks which I can source locally.

      I find that wood adds a subtle flavor that I enjoy from my PBC cooks . But certainly 95% of the flavor in a PBC will come from the smoke and aromatic gases formed when the meat drippings hit the charcoal. In the PBC, unlike other smokers, the charcoal acts both as a heat source and a flavor source. Charcoal is, after all, wood (with some binders).

      I have not found that wood in the amount I use it changes the pit temperature of my PBC one bit.

      You may have seen your temps go up because your pit probe was right over some chips that were on fire. Any time there's actual fire in the hole, you're going to see the temp go up in that one area.

      FWIW, I always use 2 smoker probes in my PBC, one on the side of the vent and the other on the side opposite. They can be as much as 40 degrees apart for some of the cook, so I just assume the average of the two readings is good enough. I used to use only one probe and was constantly fiddling with the pit temperature, trying to get it to "settle" when in fact it had already settled, I just didn't know it. My PBC's sweet spot is about 275, and I have yet to have a bad cook on it (knock wood, pun intended )

      Hope this info helps, and welcome again to The Pit's PBC bunch. There sure are a lot of us happy folks here.

      Kathryn

      Comment


      • UncleFester
        UncleFester commented
        Editing a comment
        Really good advice. I made a similar mistake awhile back with using some hickory chips I had leftover. It's like a nuclear bomb of white smoke -- not the best tasting at all. The smoke seminar with Dr. Blonder is SO helpful.

      Thanks. I had several bags of chips left from my electric smoker that I was trying to use up. I'll just put them away with the electric and buy some chunks. I've been placing my smoker probe by wrapping a few loose turns of wire around the rebar and letting the probe hang down about 6 inches near the center of the barrel. I'll have to try the 2 probe technique.

      Comment


        GasPasser , I think you're making a good choice not to use chips with the PBC. Just for grins 'n giggles, last night I threw a foil pouch filled with cherry wood chips on my PBC, along with a small chunk of cherry wood. (I smoked chicken and sausages).

        Within minutes I had flames shooting out of the holes in the pouch and tons of that white smoke. Yuck. Plus the area of the basket where the foil pouch was did not stay lit as well. There was a weird pattern of hot coals for sure in that basket. So I took the pouch out and all went back to normal.

        I know that Mbmorgan has mentioned that he uses foil smoke bombs in his PBC, so maybe he can enlighten us on his success with them.

        I too have a bunch of chips left over and would like to use them up. It's not the end of the world if I don't, though.

        Kathryn

        Comment


          Originally posted by fzxdoc View Post
          GasPasser , I think you're making a good choice not to use chips with the PBC. Just for grins 'n giggles, last night I threw a foil pouch filled with cherry wood chips on my PBC, along with a small chunk of cherry wood. (I smoked chicken and sausages).

          Within minutes I had flames shooting out of the holes in the pouch and tons of that white smoke. Yuck. Plus the area of the basket where the foil pouch was did not stay lit as well. There was a weird pattern of hot coals for sure in that basket. So I took the pouch out and all went back to normal.

          I know that Mbmorgan has mentioned that he uses foil smoke bombs in his PBC, so maybe he can enlighten us on his success with them.

          I too have a bunch of chips left over and would like to use them up. It's not the end of the world if I don't, though.

          Kathryn
          To be honest, I rarely use wood chips in the PBC but when I do I just do what I do (how's that for bad English?) when making a smoke pouch for my gasser ... double foil and a few really small holes poked in it. I've had problems with the foil pouch when I get too aggressive with poking those holes ... too big and as Kathryn ( fzxdoc ) observed, a smoke pouch quickly becomes a flame thrower instead.

          Comment


            Flame thrower...good description, Mbmorgan . That's exactly what my aluminum smoker bomb looked like last night. At first I flipped it over, figuring the smoke would find its way out, but then discovered that the packet was preventing oxygen from getting to the coals in that area. At that point I extricated it from the PBC and tossed it on my gasser grate to cool down.

            Kathryn

            Comment


              OK... I'm 1 hour into my first test burn. No meat on the line. I used the prescribed amount of Weber Original and a few chunks of wood.

              I followed Kathryn's instructions to the T with one minor difference: all coals in the chimney were not burning or even close to it at 10 mins, so I continued on to about 14 mins before pouring it on the coals. Was I supposed to just blindly pour at 10 min since I'm at sea level, or was I right to wait til they were all at least ashing a little? At 14 min the top ones were ashing on the corners.

              I have two digital Maverick thermometers dangling in there, one where the meat would go and one closer to the coals, but not all the way there.

              At the closing of the top, I see 284/367
              10 min: 358/352
              20 min: 356/345
              30 min: 367/352
              40 min: 370/360
              50 min: 381/365
              60 min: 367/396

              It's an hour in and it doesn't seem to be "settling in." It seems that it's climbing a little each 10 min.

              At 60 min I put some foil around the rebar holes.

              70 min: 342/331
              90 min: 309/300

              The latter is more like it, although it's still higher than I wanted. I see others settling in under 300.

              Do you think it's because of the wood chunks?
              Last edited by wcpreston; December 1, 2016, 07:02 PM.

              Comment


                Originally posted by [email protected] View Post
                OK... I'm 1 hour into my first test burn. No meat on the line. I used the prescribed amount of Weber Original and a few chunks of wood.

                I followed Kathryn's instructions to the T with one minor difference: all coals in the chimney were not burning or even close to it at 10 mins, so I continued on to about 14 mins before pouring it on the coals. Was I supposed to just blindly pour at 10 min since I'm at sea level, or was I right to wait til they were all at least ashing a little? At 14 min the top ones were ashing on the corners.

                I have two digital Maverick thermometers dangling in there, one where the meat would go and one closer to the coals, but not all the way there.

                At the closing of the top, I see 284/367
                10 min: 358/352
                20 min: 356/345
                30 min: 367/352
                40 min: 370/360
                50 min: 381/365
                60 min: 367/396

                It's an hour in and it doesn't seem to be "settling in." It seems that it's climbing a little each 10 min.

                At 60 min I put some foil around the rebar holes.

                70 min: 342/331
                90 min: 309/300

                The latter is more like it, although it's still higher than I wanted. I see others settling in under 300.

                Do you think it's because of the wood chunks?
                Your problem may be a lack of thermal mass in the PBC. I've found that mine likes to run hot during really small cooks ... like a single chicken, a couple of pork rib racks, or a couple of hangers of sausages. For bigger cooks, it tends to behave itself much better when there's a lot more protein dripping fat onto the coals.

                Comment


                  Well, since I have no meat in there, there is definitely no thermal mass. Here are my current times and temps at over 6 hours.

                  15:38: 284/367
                  15:49: 358/352
                  15:59: 356/345
                  16:10: 367/352
                  16:20: 370/360
                  16:31: 381/365

                  16:39 I put some foil on the rebar holes

                  16:43: 367/396
                  16:51: 342/331
                  17:00: 309/300
                  17:11: 288/273
                  17:22: 271/257
                  17:34: 257/256
                  17:47: 243/232
                  18:02: 230/217

                  At this point I took the tinfoil off.

                  18:15: 250/239
                  18:32: 270/259
                  18:39: 275/264
                  19:07: 286/275
                  19:14: 286/284
                  20:04: 297/295
                  20:19: 298/293
                  20:31: 300/289
                  21:03: 298/297
                  21:12: 297/300
                  21:53: 293/273
                  22:39: 297/271

                  So at over six hours I'm pretty solid with the temp. I'm guessing based on what I've read that if I needed to raise the temp I just need to open the lid for a bit.
                  Last edited by wcpreston; December 2, 2016, 12:39 AM.

                  Comment


                    Originally posted by [email protected] View Post
                    I'm guessing based on what I've read that if I needed to raise the temp I just need to open the lid for a bit.
                    To put it as concisely as possible: Yup

                    Comment


                      wcpreston I had to plug 3 of the 4 holes with foil to get the temps down to 250-260 when going meatless on a dry run (after following fzxdoc's lighting instructions without step 16). It wanted to stay up north of 300 with just the rebars. After plugging 3 holes and it dropping, I removed 2 plugs so that there was only 1 hole plugged with foil and it held at 250-252 for hours. Moral- yes cold meat will 'suck up' the heat and it will behave better.

                      Comment


                        Originally posted by wcpreston View Post
                        OK... I'm 1 hour into my first test burn. No meat on the line. I used the prescribed amount of Weber Original and a few chunks of wood.

                        I followed Kathryn's instructions to the T with one minor difference: all coals in the chimney were not burning or even close to it at 10 mins, so I continued on to about 14 mins before pouring it on the coals. Was I supposed to just blindly pour at 10 min since I'm at sea level, or was I right to wait til they were all at least ashing a little? At 14 min the top ones were ashing on the corners.

                        70 min: 342/331
                        90 min: 309/300

                        The latter is more like it, although it's still higher than I wanted. I see others settling in under 300.

                        Do you think it's because of the wood chunks?
                        wcpreston

                        Hi, welcome to the Pit and congrats on being a new PBC owner! I plan on clarifying that particular step in my first post to say that the coals should be allowed to burn in the chimney until the topmost coals begin to ash over.

                        For me, that takes 10 minutes with the large Weber chimney and Kingsford Original. It takes 15 minutes in the same chimney using Kingsford Professional. For a compact Weber chimney, it takes longer for the coals to ash over.

                        Sounds like like you've got a sweet-running PBC there. Let us know how your first cook turns out.

                        Kathryn

                        Comment


                          I think I am going to get another PBC. They are awesome. I wish they still had the horse shoe stand.

                          Comment


                            Spinaker , Whuuut??? No horseshoes? Say it ain't so! Those horseshoes make a great statement.

                            ETA: I just went to the site and looked. Sure enough the horseshoe feet have been replaced with a more generic look. Too bad. Thank goodness the horseshoes are still the barrel and lid handles. They add charm, IMO.

                            Kathryn
                            Last edited by fzxdoc; December 3, 2016, 12:39 AM.

                            Comment


                            • Spinaker
                              Spinaker commented
                              Editing a comment
                              I know!! I am gonna make my own. My buddy has a new one and it just doesn't look as cool. In the end it's about the barrel, it still makes killer food no matter what!!

                            Kathryn,
                            Great post! My PBC is in route (Should be at my door Wednesday)
                            I'm sure your info will help greatly, and get me to a good start using it with less trial and error.

                            Comment

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