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

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  • lschweig
    Former Member
    • Jul 2014
    • 979
    • Oswego, Il

    Larry Grover the PBC is a 30 gal drum and a typical homemade drum smoker UDS is a 50 gal drum. Two different animals and two different dynamics.

    One intake at the bottom is sufficient typically for a PBC, although I added a lid vent for cooking poultry, but most people just crack the lid.

    Comment

    • Skelly
      Club Member
      • Jul 2016
      • 94
      • Tuscaloosa, AL

      Originally posted by Larry Grover View Post
      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.
      Larry Grover I'm definitely not in the same league with fzxdoc in any capacity, but I will tell you something I had to do that really helped. Get a full basket of charcoal (Kingsford Original), follow lighting instructions, etc....but don't cook anything. I should point out that I use the Maverick ET 732 digital leave in thermometer setup. What I did was I left the screw just snug (not tight) in the intake cover. Once I got it blazing hot and nice coals, I played with everything, one thing at a time and watched the temps for 20 minutes or so. It gave me a really good feel for how much to adjust and tinker. I find this method works well with a notebook, a lot of cold beer, and a book or rerun to watch on TV. You'll be shocked how sensitive the temps are to lid placement (moreso than the intake vent). Also, you can choke it down to a reasonable level after getting it really hot by wrapping foil around the rebars, allowing very minimal air escape. I find that once I get around the temp I want, I can remove 2 (not all 4) pieces of the foil and maintain fairly well. I believe the scientific method is called "play with it a while".

      I hope you'll give it a couple more shots. It's a really great product once you become friends with it...

      Comment

      • fzxdoc
        Founding Member
        • Jul 2014
        • 5467
        • My toys:
          Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
          Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
          Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
          Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
          Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners


          Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
          SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
          SnS for 22" Kettle
          Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
          SS Rack for DnG
          Cast Iron Griddle
          Grill Grate for SnS
          Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
          Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
          2 Grill Grate Griddles
          Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

          Fireboard Gear:
          Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
          Additional control unit
          Additional probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
          2 Driver Cables
          Pit Viper Fan (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
          Pit Viper Fan new design (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
          Thermoworks Gear:
          Thermapen MK4 (pink)
          Thermapen Classic (pink too)
          Thermoworks MK4 orange
          Temp Test 2 Smart Thermometer
          Extra Big and Loud Timer
          Timestick Trio
          Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
          Maverick ET 733
          Maverick (Ivation) ET 732

          Grill Pinz
          Vortex (two of them)

          Two Joule Sous Vide devices
          VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer

          Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
          Instant Pot 10 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

          Charcoal Companion TurboQue
          A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

          BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

          Shun Classic Series:
          8" Chef Knife
          6" Chef's Knife
          Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
          3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

        Larry Grover , the PBC is really well designed--the PBC folks had several prototypes before they came up with the barrel size and the vent placement, rebars etc. To my mind, it's not worth it to mess with (near) perfection. It's better to spend the time to understand how to maintain your desired temperature like Skelly has or by doing several cooks and noting all of the settings and resulting temps . Maintaining a solid barrel temperature is the first and most important key to consistent cooks on the PBC, not unlike your kitchen oven.

        That said, I think that a lid vent mod like lschweig has done makes sense if you don't want to mess with cracking the lid to get the temps up high for a poultry cook. I haven't done it, but I think about doing it from time to time, especially with a loaded down barrel of food.

        Kathryn


        Comment

        • Larry Grover
          Club Member
          • Mar 2017
          • 333

          I was reading up on a forum where people build their own UDS. The consensus is 3 to 4 intakes with 3/4" pipe. One of which has a ball valve and the others either open or capped. To start they open them all up then start capping. When their desired temp is achieved the only one still open is the valve. If they need small or moderate increase in temps they start uncapping. Not so sure about consensus on exhausts, but 1.5 to 2" seemed common and one said total exhaust space should be close to intake.

          Long story short it seems they use intakes to control temp while the PBC is opposite - you mainly use the exhausts for control.

          one very experienced user said he has 10 barrels and they each have their own personality. One loves to run at 325 so he uses it for poultry. Another loves to run @ 240 so he uses it for L&S. He recommends doing a bunch of dry runs until you find the long term stable temps that your barrel prefers then work with it. This dude just drilled 3/4" intake holes which were adjusted with heavy duty flexible magnets, and said some of his barrels only have one intake and still gets good results.

          Comment

          • fzxdoc
            Founding Member
            • Jul 2014
            • 5467
            • My toys:
              Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
              Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
              Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
              Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
              Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners


              Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
              SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
              SnS for 22" Kettle
              Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
              SS Rack for DnG
              Cast Iron Griddle
              Grill Grate for SnS
              Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
              Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
              2 Grill Grate Griddles
              Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

              Fireboard Gear:
              Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
              Additional control unit
              Additional probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
              2 Driver Cables
              Pit Viper Fan (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
              Pit Viper Fan new design (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
              Thermoworks Gear:
              Thermapen MK4 (pink)
              Thermapen Classic (pink too)
              Thermoworks MK4 orange
              Temp Test 2 Smart Thermometer
              Extra Big and Loud Timer
              Timestick Trio
              Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
              Maverick ET 733
              Maverick (Ivation) ET 732

              Grill Pinz
              Vortex (two of them)

              Two Joule Sous Vide devices
              VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer

              Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
              Instant Pot 10 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

              Charcoal Companion TurboQue
              A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

              BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

              Shun Classic Series:
              8" Chef Knife
              6" Chef's Knife
              Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
              3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

            Interesting commentary, Larry Grover . Thanks for giving us the additional information. It's always fun to learn something new.

            I personally don't need any more lower vents (that I know of) but as I said, I've toyed with the idea of putting a vent in the lid. I even thought of drilling a couple of rebar-sized holes perpendicular to the standard ones, using them to adjust air flow with magnet covers.

            Kathryn

            Comment


            • johnec00
              johnec00 commented
              Editing a comment
              Two rebar sized holes is what I did. I just use 1/2" pipe plugs to open/close the extra holes. Magnets would work too, but I had the pipe plugs.

            • fzxdoc
              fzxdoc commented
              Editing a comment
              Good to hear that it works well for you, johnec00 . Thanks for letting us know.
          • Larry Grover
            Club Member
            • Mar 2017
            • 333

            I'm not about to mod anything yet. But I now have a better understanding about how barrels work and I think I'm ready to cook. Want to try chicken as I'm curious how hot it gets with one rebar out. One reallly nice design decision is that the PBC can work in the rain. Some of the drum builders (who put vents on top) looked at those rebar holes in the side of the PBC and said "Dang, wish I had thought of that."

            There was also some discussion on proper placement of vents on the lid which may effect the swirling convection inside. Who knows? But I'd probably just add holes to the side like you noted if I'm using both rebars and feel the need for extra exhaust. I really don't like cracking the lid, I just feel like I'm messing up the program inside unless of course I just want to blow it up to crisp the skin at the end of a cook.

            Comment

            • fzxdoc
              Founding Member
              • Jul 2014
              • 5467
              • My toys:
                Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
                Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
                Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
                Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
                Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners


                Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
                SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
                SnS for 22" Kettle
                Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
                SS Rack for DnG
                Cast Iron Griddle
                Grill Grate for SnS
                Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
                Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
                2 Grill Grate Griddles
                Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

                Fireboard Gear:
                Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
                Additional control unit
                Additional probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
                2 Driver Cables
                Pit Viper Fan (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                Pit Viper Fan new design (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                Thermoworks Gear:
                Thermapen MK4 (pink)
                Thermapen Classic (pink too)
                Thermoworks MK4 orange
                Temp Test 2 Smart Thermometer
                Extra Big and Loud Timer
                Timestick Trio
                Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
                Maverick ET 733
                Maverick (Ivation) ET 732

                Grill Pinz
                Vortex (two of them)

                Two Joule Sous Vide devices
                VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer

                Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
                Instant Pot 10 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

                Charcoal Companion TurboQue
                A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

                BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

                Shun Classic Series:
                8" Chef Knife
                6" Chef's Knife
                Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
                3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

              When I'm only doing one chicken at a time, I cook with one rebar in, placed diagonally, Larry Grover . My PBC will run in the 325-350°F range the whole time, cranking that bird out in just over an hour. I always use a full basket of coals, even for the short cook. Sometimes I toss a meatloaf in when the chicken is done to grab some more of that good PBC fire and smoke.

              Kathryn

              Comment

            • Larry Grover
              Club Member
              • Mar 2017
              • 333

              Kathryn when you cook a single chicken have you figured out a good way to make a complete meal in a barrel? For example tossing in some potato's & veggies? I have all the PBC accessories (folding grate etc.)

              Comment

              • fzxdoc
                Founding Member
                • Jul 2014
                • 5467
                • My toys:
                  Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
                  Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
                  Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
                  Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
                  Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners


                  Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
                  SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
                  SnS for 22" Kettle
                  Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
                  SS Rack for DnG
                  Cast Iron Griddle
                  Grill Grate for SnS
                  Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
                  Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
                  2 Grill Grate Griddles
                  Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

                  Fireboard Gear:
                  Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
                  Additional control unit
                  Additional probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
                  2 Driver Cables
                  Pit Viper Fan (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                  Pit Viper Fan new design (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                  Thermoworks Gear:
                  Thermapen MK4 (pink)
                  Thermapen Classic (pink too)
                  Thermoworks MK4 orange
                  Temp Test 2 Smart Thermometer
                  Extra Big and Loud Timer
                  Timestick Trio
                  Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
                  Maverick ET 733
                  Maverick (Ivation) ET 732

                  Grill Pinz
                  Vortex (two of them)

                  Two Joule Sous Vide devices
                  VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer

                  Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
                  Instant Pot 10 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

                  Charcoal Companion TurboQue
                  A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

                  BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

                  Shun Classic Series:
                  8" Chef Knife
                  6" Chef's Knife
                  Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
                  3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

                Larry Grover I think the best way to do veggies and potatoes at the same time as the chicken is to put them in a basket that looks something like this:



                or this


                That way you can hook and hang the basket from the rebar along with the chicken. I do a similar thing for sausage, which I like to smoke with chicken because I think the sausage drippings on the fire really enhance the chicken's flavors. I modified a sausage basket by cutting the wooden handle part off so it hangs from the loop from the rebar.

                Click image for larger version  Name:	Sausage Basket modified 2.jpg Views:	1 Size:	250.4 KB ID:	295811

                Click image for larger version  Name:	Sausage Basket 3.jpg Views:	1 Size:	181.4 KB ID:	295812

                Kathryn

                P.S. I just googled and saw a bunch of basket styles that can be modifed for the PBC on the Bed Bath and Beyond site:

                https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/1/3/grilling-basket
                Last edited by fzxdoc; March 28, 2017, 01:03 PM.

                Comment

                • Planner47
                  Club Member
                  • Mar 2017
                  • 96
                  • Salina pa 15680

                  fzxdoc

                  did
                  as you said about starting over again on lighting the pbc for a longer and consistent burn. I did a modified odc spinnaker layering of the coals. I filled the basket and removed the 40 from the center and returned the lit coals to the hole in the center. lid off 5 and rods in 5 and I loaded 2 rack of ribs. 350 down to 255. stayed there for 8 hours at 255 and I went to bed. wish I could have stayed up but to tired.at 70 no spring chicken any more. I did look in to see how the coals looked and I think it could go a couple more hours. I have done chicken the way you have said and I that my be drill two holes below the rods. 1below the left one and 1 opposite side on the right, went you said placed diagonally (rod) are you talking about from the right rod hole to the left rod hole?

                  Comment

                  • fzxdoc
                    Founding Member
                    • Jul 2014
                    • 5467
                    • My toys:
                      Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
                      Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
                      Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
                      Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
                      Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners


                      Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
                      SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
                      SnS for 22" Kettle
                      Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
                      SS Rack for DnG
                      Cast Iron Griddle
                      Grill Grate for SnS
                      Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
                      Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
                      2 Grill Grate Griddles
                      Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

                      Fireboard Gear:
                      Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
                      Additional control unit
                      Additional probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
                      2 Driver Cables
                      Pit Viper Fan (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                      Pit Viper Fan new design (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                      Thermoworks Gear:
                      Thermapen MK4 (pink)
                      Thermapen Classic (pink too)
                      Thermoworks MK4 orange
                      Temp Test 2 Smart Thermometer
                      Extra Big and Loud Timer
                      Timestick Trio
                      Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
                      Maverick ET 733
                      Maverick (Ivation) ET 732

                      Grill Pinz
                      Vortex (two of them)

                      Two Joule Sous Vide devices
                      VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer

                      Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
                      Instant Pot 10 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

                      Charcoal Companion TurboQue
                      A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

                      BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

                      Shun Classic Series:
                      8" Chef Knife
                      6" Chef's Knife
                      Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
                      3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

                    Planner47 , it sounds as though you've solved your problem for a good light to the PBC fire. Congrats!

                    I didn't drill any extra holes in my PBC. When I smoke one chicken, I put one rebar end on the right rebar hole on the vent side and the other end of the rebar into the left rebar hole of the opposite side so the rebar goes diagonally across the barrel.

                    I have considered drilling two extra holes at the same level of the rebar holes already there, but on the sides of the barrel away from the rebars (on the right and left sides of the barrel as you are facing the rebar holes). I would use them only to add more ventilation when I want a really hot fire. I have not done that yet, as I said, and I may not do it.

                    Kathryn

                    Comment

                    • Larry Grover
                      Club Member
                      • Mar 2017
                      • 333

                      Thanks Kathryn, I'll pop in my nearby Bed, Bath & Beyond and take a look around. I want to try some Roli Roti potatoes. They're a group of food trucks operating out of the San Francisco bay area. The fingerling potatoes (potatoes in a box) are prepared by cutting up into large chunks and placing at the bottom of a rotisserie chicken. The fat drips onto the potatoes as both are heated by flames. That would be hard to do in a PBC (nor would you really want to) but you could drizzle the chicken juice on top after you cut up the chicken.

                      Click image for larger version  Name:	potato in box 1.jpg Views:	1 Size:	454.6 KB ID:	295862
                      Click image for larger version  Name:	Potatoes in a box 2.jpg Views:	1 Size:	304.9 KB ID:	295863

                      Comment


                      • fzxdoc
                        fzxdoc commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Yum!
                    • Larry Grover
                      Club Member
                      • Mar 2017
                      • 333

                      So I finally got a chance to do a cook. It's been really windy so have been waiting for good weather.

                      I followed the advice on page 1 and ended up doing a 23/10/10 using a Weber short chimney with 40 coals. I used about 6 lbs of charcoal, the PBC instructions call for 8 but according to my scale that's practically overflowing in the housing. So I just leveled it to the top which seemed to be 6 lbs. My chosen meat was one chicken mounted on a vertical roaster then hung whole. Thus, I went parallel with the rebar hanging the bird in the middle and the other rebar was out to keep temps hotter in the poultry zone.

                      After I put the lid on the temp peaked at 383 and slowly slid down to 317 one hour later. I messed with the intake (even opening it all the way at sea level) but it didn't seem to do anything so I cracked the lid slightly for about a minute. The temp shot up to 350 and slowly declined to 342 at which time the chicken was cooked.

                      The result was fantastic! Best chicken I've ever had. Before I was all over the place in the 225-290 range and the bird came out weird. But this time bringing the temp up in the recommended 325-350 range made all the difference. The texture was just right, especially the dark meat. The leg bone broke right off the ligaments but it wasn't soggy with grease. It was tender, Juicy and the smoked flavor was incredible! The breast was a tad dry but I took it out at 165, not Kathryn's recommended 160. Also, the vertical roaster stayed on during resting which may have slightly kept cooking the meat. I do like them because it's so easy to carve and it gives you a nice chimney to ensure the bird also cooks from the inside out.

                      Just want to say thanks to Kathryn and everyone else here for enlightening me. The other thing I was doing wrong was dumping the coals too soon, the 15/10/10 method did the trick. Now a couple questions...

                      1. Any advice on how I can maintain the same temp? Why are temps always sliding down?

                      2. What do you make of the intake not really doing anything? Is there a mod we could do to solve this problem?

                      I have a picture of the mounted bird, will try to post tomorrow.

                      Comment

                      • Jimmie Rhoden
                        Club Member
                        • Mar 2017
                        • 192
                        • Southeast Alabama at the bottom of the state

                        I'm glad I run across this post, this is great information and good detail, wonderful pictures, this is something that I can definitely do being an old country boy and being able to get my hands on some 55 gallon drums that are clean food grade thank you so much for sharing

                        Comment

                        • Larry Grover
                          Club Member
                          • Mar 2017
                          • 333

                          I was surfing around looking for reviews of the PBC 'Grill Grates' and accidentally came across a guy who lights his PBC as follows:

                          - Stubbs charcoal
                          1. Place 4 lighter cubes spaced in the charcoal basket with a full load.
                          2. Light cubes and let burn with lid off until ashed over: 20+ minutes.
                          3. Put lid on for 10 min to burn off white smoke & stabilize temp.

                          Anyone try this or something similar?
                          Last edited by Larry Grover; April 5, 2017, 03:35 PM.

                          Comment

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                          We've unfortunately had to cancel the 2021 Meat-Up in Memphis. We are rescheduling for March 18-20, 2022. More details and re-booking info coming soon! For now click here for more info.
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