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

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    Wow, Hagen , that's great news! Congrats on that successful pork shoulder cook. I bet it tastes great.

    I'm happy that the info here helped you enjoy cooking on your PBC even more.

    Kathryn

    Comment


    • Hagen
      Hagen commented
      Editing a comment
      I normally use the kettle and thought I did pretty good on my pulled pork. But, this was the most moist pulled pork I have ever done and flavorful. I used Memphis Dust rub and a Chipotle honey bbq sauce I made at home to top it off. Incredible😃😃

    Just a quick .02 to add which may already be in here somewhere. Today when lighting my coals, as I reached to the shelf for my usual flame clicker I saw... my culinary torch sitting beside it! Interpreting this as divine intervention (as I never leave my culinary torch in the garage) I decided to use it instead to fire off the coals, and it worked great! They kicked right off with the torch, rather than taking what feels like forever using the soft flame of the clicker.

    So from now on when lighting, as the young'uns say, here'w how IIIIIIIII do...

    1) Fill charcoal basket to level
    2) Soak em with lighter fluid (outside the barrel)
    3) Throw on some work gloves and lower the charcoal basket into the barrel
    4) Hit em with the culinary torch!

    Comment


    • lschweig
      lschweig commented
      Editing a comment
      I put a liberal amount of lighter fluid on the coal after the loaded basket is in the PBC and light it with a propane torch or preferably a MAPP gas torch, the type you use to sweat copper pipes, and it works great every time.
      I do it this way as I don't want the lighter fluid to soak in too much.

    best lighting method I have found so far.
    Attached Files

    Comment


    • hogdog6
      hogdog6 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thats exactly how I light mine for chicken 😎

    • UncleFester
      UncleFester commented
      Editing a comment
      Nah, I don't do that to light my coals.

      That is how I cook my food.

    I was having temp issues and called PBC customer service for help. A female employee asked for the exact steps I took which were all correct, except for the fact that I used a lighter cube to ignite the charcoal. She was very adamant "DO NOT USE A LIGHTER CUBE!" She went on to say it makes the coals too hot and basically throws everything off.

    I'm honestly not thrilled with the PBC. I live at sea level with great weather all year and it's just not easy for me to get good results. It's not "stupid simple" like they claim but I'm not giving up. Guests always think the device is pretty studly so I'm hanging in there.
    Last edited by Larry Grover; March 25, 2017, 12:55 PM.

    Comment


      Larry Grover a hearty welcome from northern Illinois.

      You have come to the right place to help solve your issues with the PBC as there a a bunch of us here that are willing to help. You just have to ask the specific questions to get a quick reply.

      Comment


        Originally posted by Larry Grover View Post
        I was having temp issues and called PBC customer service for help. A female employee asked for the exact steps I took which were all correct, except for the fact that I used a lighter cube to ignite the charcoal. She was very adamant "DO NOT USE A LIGHTER CUBE!" She went on to say it makes the coals too hot and basically throws everything off.
        Huh? That's one I've never heard before! Kathryn ( fzxdoc ) ... or anyone else for that matter ... have you ever been warned against using lighter cubes for the PBC?

        Perhaps Pit Barrel Cooker Co. would comment, too?

        (BTW, welcome to the Pit, Larry)
        Last edited by MBMorgan; March 25, 2017, 11:08 AM.

        Comment


        • lschweig
          lschweig commented
          Editing a comment
          Nope.

        • Hondo
          Hondo commented
          Editing a comment
          As a matter of fact I always use two cubes... No particular reason other than I'm a "if one is good, two must be better kind of guy"...

        Thanks for the warm welcome, awesome site! So here's what happened so we are clear on the issue. I noticed on the PBC website FAQ page that you can use less charcoal for small jobs. I called customer service for details and a lady told me to use 1/2 to 3/4 load and to light 30 briqs in the chimney instead of the usual 40. So I tried cooking with 4 pounds instead of 8 ensuring to follow all of the instructions to the "T".

        The cooking temps were way too low - it kept dropping well below 200 so I had to keep cracking (or opening the the lid altogether) to get things hot. But the temp kept dropping fast which led to weak, acrid smoke and poor tasting meat (chicken.)

        I also noticed the pre-lit coals next to the bottom vent were hot but the ones on the other side appeared they had fizzled out. With only half a load of coal it seemed there just wasn't enough hot ones to carry the load. So I called customer service and asked for advice.

        I talked to the same lady and the first thing she did was ask what I did step by step. Bottom vent open 25% for sea-level? Yep. Using Kingsford Original? Yep. Everything great but the big "AH-HA" moment came when I told her I used a lighter cube. I also asked with a 50% load should I open up the bottom vent more? She said no and stated "The circle vent doesn’t have much to do with temp control. You must use the lid for that."

        Although I'm not an experienced smoker it was a head-scratcher.
        Last edited by Larry Grover; March 25, 2017, 01:56 PM.

        Comment


          Originally posted by Larry Grover View Post
          I noticed on the PBC website FAQ page that you can use less charcoal for small jobs. I called customer service for details and a lady told me to use 1/2 to 3/4 load and to light 30 briqs in the chimney instead of the usual 40. So I tried cooking with 4 pounds instead of 8 ensuring to follow all of the instructions to the "T".
          FWIW, until you're comfortable that you've absolutely and consistently nailed the lighting procedure and temperature control, I wouldn't recommend fiddling around with partial loads of charcoal (which is, after all probably a lot cheaper than the meat that might be less than perfect as a result).

          Originally posted by Larry Grover View Post
          I talked to the same lady and the first thing she did was ask what I did step by step. Bottom vent open 25% for sea-level? Yep. Using Kingsford original? Yep. Everything great but the big "AH-HA" moment came when I told her I used a lighter cube. I also asked with a 50% load should I open up the bottom vent more? She said no and stated "The circle vent doesn’t have much to do with temp control. You must use the lid for that."

          Although I'm not an experienced smoker it was a head-scratcher.
          They are a little inconsistent with their messaging about just how to set the vent. Personally, I do not believe you should be tweaking your vent setting to achieve a particular temperature range until you have exhausted all options for controlling temps with the lid (including making sure that the lid is sealing properly). It's a frustrating process that may take more than a few cooks to work through it completely ... but it's a necessary process.

          Comment


            Larry Grover After several attempts to use less charcoal in a PBC cook, I decided long ago that charcoal is just too inexpensive to risk a successful cook with scrimping on. Especially for chicken, which needs higher (in excess of 325°F) temps for a satisfying cook.

            I use a lighter cube every single time I use the PBC, and its temperatures are usually rock solid at around 275°F. The lighter cube should make no difference if you are waiting for your topmost coals to just start to ash over in your chimney before pouring them.

            I also agree with the PBC Customer Service person: the position of the lower vent does not change the temperature of the cook much. It does, however, affect how well the coals are lit and stay lit. So finding just the right opening for your altitude (or perhaps a bit more or less, depending on your results) and leaving it there for every cook ensures consistency, at least in my experience.

            Kathryn

            Comment


              I'm gonna go full Capt Obvious here, but anybody that struggles with this when they're still new to the PBC, fear not. I've had mine about 9 months, have used it maybe 12 times, and it was probably run 8 before I was a pro with temp regulation. It's really quite simple, but the variables you need to look for are easy to overlook when you still have a fledgling relationship with it. You will be surprised how easy it is to misplace the lid and let temps take off. If I had it to do over again, I'd just read the first post in this thread before every cook just for reminders. Once you and the PBC are old friends, it comes naturally - and so does amazing food.

              Edit: I admit to NOT leaving my intake alone once it's set though. I'm in Tuscaloosa AL, very close to sea level, and with my vent fully closed, it's still not really closed. That works well for a 250 degree run, but if you're cooking chicken, I move it over a tad more. If I'm doing chicken and pork, I just aim for the middle and run it around 290, then sorta sear the chicken on my gas grill at the end.

              Comment


                You fully close your vent? Skelly

                Comment


                • Skelly
                  Skelly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  lschweig Yes & No ... When in fully closed position, there is ~ 1/4" gap at the bottom of it. I assume it was misplaced in mfg, but it works for 250-290 degree cooks. I move it for chicken.
                  Last edited by Skelly; March 25, 2017, 03:52 PM.

                That's a normal setting for sea level.

                Comment


                • Skelly
                  Skelly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yes it is. But that's the fully closed position where mine is set. In other words, I can't fully close it. I don't mind because it works very well.

                Thanks for the advice. I think part of my problem is that the coals weren't hot & stable enough when the meat was put in.

                The customer service rep said to start a timer as soon as I light the newspaper and dump the coals @ 12 minutes on the nose for sea level (this conflicts with the PBC website video which says 15-20 minutes.) Also, Kathryn posted in another thread that chimney's burn at different speeds. I was using a Weber short stack but she discovered the Char-Broil Half-Time burns faster so that's problem #1.

                Problem #2 is that the PBC instructions say to put the meat in right away, but the advice here is to burn the lit coals in the barrel for 20 minutes first. Next time I'll try all the steps on page #1 in this thread and post the results.

                My PBC has been collecting rust since last summer because of underwhelming results. I understand for marketing purposes they want to keep things simple. But you also don't want customers out there struggling. I think the company needs to get away from "Just follow our instructions and don't worry about temperature" advice. Give us a built-in thermometer, more detailed instructions and some troubleshooting advice.

                Comment


                  Originally posted by Larry Grover View Post

                  My PBC has been collecting rust since last summer because of underwhelming results. I understand for marketing purposes they want to keep things simple. But you also don't want customers out there struggling. I think the company needs to get away from "Just follow our instructions and don't worry about temperature" advice. Give us a built-in thermometer, more detailed instructions and some troubleshooting advice.
                  Larry Grover

                  Awww, that's just sad, the smoker sitting unused like that, because the PBC turns out great food. Like Skelly said, sometimes you just need to figure out what works best for your PBC at your altitude and weather conditions.

                  Some PBCs work great right out of the box. There are folks here who use them all the time without monitoring PBC temperature, following Noah's cooking instructions, and are delighted with the results.

                  Other PBCs seem to take a bit more troubleshooting. Far and away, the biggest problem reported here is a lid that doesn't fit well (or the barrel is a bit out of round), causing smoke to leak at the rim seam. That plays havoc with temperatures.

                  I always think it's best to start with the PBC methods from their website. Try a couple of cooks. If you're not pleased with the results, then come here to the Pit and get info on other approaches to making the PBC cook consistently and well. Buy a remote thermometer, and start taking good notes on each cook. Certainly knowing what the PBC temperature is during a cook goes a long way to finding what works best for you, your PBC, and your altitude.

                  Larry, the fire starting method here is not cast in stone. While 15-10-10 works well for me and many others, some folks have found that 20-5-5 works better, or 15-10, leaving off the last 10 minutes of burn time. So start with, say, 15 (or however long it takes for your topmost coals in the chimney to ash over)-10-10 and see how it goes. Modify if necessary for the next cook. Good luck! I think once you master your PBC's temperatures, and start eating its delicious food, you'll be using it more and more.

                  Kathryn

                  Comment


                    Thanks Kathryn, i will surely follow your advice. Also, is the consensus here that one intake at the bottom is sufficient? I was poking around the forum last night and found a link to a Popular Mechanics build of a drum smoker.

                    Their instructions call for 4 intakes, and you mentioned Temps on one side of the barrel can be 40 degrees hotter than the other until it evens out during a longer cook. Just seems to me you'd want at least two so you have cross ventilation. I'm no expert though, just curious how you pro's feel about it.

                    Comment

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