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

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    Never tried lighting my PBC without using the chimney. This method might be closer to the lighter fluid method. Several folks here who have used Stubbs are not particular fans of that brand. YMMV, though.



      Okay...about that PBC vent opening. Many discussions regarding the size of the vent opening with respect to temperature. Does anyone actually have a measurement that equates to a given vent size? I know that the size of the vent hole is 3" diameter. So how does one determine, for example, 1/4 open? 1/4 of 3" is 3/4" so does that mean there should be 3/4" from the vent hole edge in the barrel to the edge of the vent cover? Or, is there a template available from PBC/Noah for making this critical adjustment?


        The vent opening is not too critical as long as you get it in the ballpark, 1-bigmac . Just set it for the size recommended for your altitude. The Pit Barrel website has diagrams for the openings. Just set yours close and run a smoke.

        Here's their diagram: Click image for larger version  Name:	PBC Vent Opening Diagram.JPG Views:	1 Size:	34.5 KB ID:	308365

        The vent opening has little to do with temperature. It just ensures that the coals are getting enough oxygen at your altitude to do their thing. It doesn't function like the lower vent does, for example, on a kettle. It's a set-it-once and let it be type of deal.

        If your PBC runs too cold, you might consider opening your vent up a bit more. At my altitude, 1/2 open is recommended, but my PBC likes 5/8 open better. It's sat at that 5/8 opening for a few years now--I never touch it no matter what I'm cooking. I control the temps (when necessary) by cracking the lid to increase temps or foiling the rebars to decrease temps once I've made sure that there are no lid leaks, that is.


        P.S. Welcome to The Pit!
        Last edited by fzxdoc; April 22, 2017, 07:14 AM.


          Thanks for the welcome and quick response! As one who likes measuring/reproducibility, I would still like a number. One person's guesstimate of 1/2 open is probably quite different from another's. I'm sure PBC/Noah must have a gauge for doing their factory preset vent openings. Any knowledge of their spacing? I suppose I could scale the photo you included to where the barrel hole is 3" on paper and get a dimension. This assumes of course that the drawing/photo is accurate. Hummmm.


            compute the size of the open hole and then determine how much you should have open, or have a beer or 2 and wing it


              Since it's a 3" opening, you can measure the distance from the edge of your vent to the edge of the vent opening, that's what I did(.25 *3=.75) So I measured 3/4 of an inch from the edge of the vent to the edge of the vent opening. I just imagined a line going right through the middle of the vent and measured from that spot to the vent opening edge, as straight as I could ballpark. It's definitely not exact but it's pretty darn close IMO. Here's my crude drawing.

              Click image for larger version

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                Thanks! That makes total sense to me, but note that the oriface using this calculation just "looks" larger than what the PBC/Noah folks show in the diagram that fzxdoc provided. So I see all these comments re how large someone's vent is open, and no where on all the posts do I see for example what 1/4 open really is! So we have all these PBC users trying to compare things without fundamental knowledge "how open" their specific Barrel vent is relative to each other. Three years ago, I asked Amber and Noah via email about this, but no response, so I thought some of the cognoscenti here would have the info...I guess not


                  Sorry to disappoint you by not having a firm answer to your question, 1-bigmac . As a fellow scientist, I certainly appreciate your need for exactitude, because from that comes, hopefully, consistency and reproducibility cook to cook.

                  But, much like medicine, for example, there is as much art in running the PBC as there is science. That's why I recommended setting the vent at what looks to you like the best opening for your altitude and trying a cook. See how it goes. If you're not happy with the cook, then modify the vent opening accordingly for the next cook. Change one parameter at a time, and you'll get to the perfect setup that makes your PBC run sweet every time.

                  After all, smoking is as much fun as it is science. Blending both will give you some awesome cooks, which I assume you've already had since you've had your PBC for a while now.

                  Best wishes,


                    OK, one more retentive comment on vent opening. I took the diagram provided by fzxdoc above that she got from the PBC web site. I then expanded their diagram until the barrel opening circle was 3" in diameter (as it is on the actual barrel itself). From this exploded view I then used the method shown in phoccer response above to my earlier reply. From this method I was able to glean the following measurements:

                    1/4 open = 1/2" from barrel edge to vent edge apex
                    1/2 open = 1"
                    3/4 open = 1 1/2"

                    It would be interesting if members wanted to take a ruler to their PBC and take a quick reading in inches to correlate with their perceived opening size....

                    Now all may not be right with the world, but I'm feeling better about setting my vent. I've been using my Air Force PBC for 3 years now with a multitude of cooks, and have been searching for reproducibility. Hence my attraction to this forum and especially fzxdoc excellent treatise on lighting the PBC. Mods to my PBC are: a stainless steel screw & hardware for the vent hinge, a small shelf that mounts on the horse shoe handle to the left as you're facing the vent for my Maverick and anything else, a 30 gallon drum dolly so I can roll the PBC around, and finally a lid mounted temperature gauge to monitor lid temps when I don't want to mess with the Maverick.

                    To document that I'm not a poser, here's a PBC photo of a butterflied leg-of-lamb with fat cap mostly removed, 24 hours in a fresh rosemary-garlic-EVO rub, and then reinserted in original netting for hanging. Turned out great after 3 1/4 hours in the pit! Thanks again to the forum for the constructive feedback and tolerating my vent 'fetish'.

                    Click image for larger version

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                    • phoccer
                      phoccer commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Mine is set at 1/2" now. My last cook ran in the 350 range for 90 minutes then eventually settled down into the upper 200's. I'll likely knock it down to 1/4" for my next cook just to see how it runs. My elevation is 900'.

                    Glad you worked the vent position out to your satisfaction, 1-bigmac . I hear you loud and clear about wanting things to be set up precisely so that you can get closer to reproducibility in cooks. I did the same thing myself when I first got the PBC. (In fact, it's still an ongoing endeavor.) While the PBC folks' "set and forget" claim was all well and good and turns out great food, I wanted to tighten things up a bit. It's not a good thing when guests are waiting for an extra hour or more for their supper--I'd rather aim for reproducibility and bring that meal in on time. Sounds like you've got the same goal.

                    I found that documenting the parameters of each cook helped me a lot to set up good game plans for brisket, pork butts, etc. I keep a Cooking Log for every single cook, using a modified version of Meathead's Cooking Log shown here.

                    From those Cooking Logs I compile a spreadsheet of the pertinent facts for each meat that I cook--one spreadsheet for chicken, one for chuck roast, one for ribs, etc. That way I can quickly scan the spreadsheet and see, for the ambient temp of the day, type of charcoal, etc., how former cooks went. It gives me an idea of what to expect.

                    Nice mods to your PBC. That shelf is a really good idea. Do you find that the thermometer in the lid accurately reflects the temps that the Maverick probe gets when suspended at the halfway point of the meat, a few inches away from it?

                    That leg of lamb shot is a nice one. Sounds like it turned out great. Do you happen to know the average PBC temp that you used for that cook, and the weight of the butterflied leg of lamb? Along with the cook time, I'd like to add it to the list of PBC cook times in the sticky here. If you don't have that info, no worries.

                    Best wishes,


                      All These $20.00 Words are Too Copreous For My Comprehension❓ Was the Que "Guude" or Not❓❓ πŸ˜‰πŸ€—πŸ˜‡πŸ€—πŸ˜‰
                      Eat Well and Prosper! From a Backyard Cremator in Fargo ND, Dan


                        So I looked back at some rudimentary notes on the leg-of-lamb cook, fzxdoc. It looks like the PBC was running a little cool around 265-270 degrees. I pulled the leg at 2hr 45' and then contrary to Meathead I foiled it and let it rest for 20. The internal temp at pull was 125 degrees as we like our lamb rare to med rare. The lamb was great with a typical PBC-induced flavor...all that lamb fat on the coals yummm!! A fuzzy close up on the carving board and a plated photo are attached. Actually @fsxdoc has inspired me to be more compulsive regarding my 'labnotes' on cooks and I will modify Meatheads Excel spreadsheet or she could post her template. Maybe fzxdoc should code an App for this...might supplement your income?! Ha..

                        As for the lid thermometer. I don't have any hard data correlating lid temp with down in the barrel temps. I know that if I have my Maverick probe near the rebar mounted with the clip as in the photo above, it is within 2-4 degrees of the lid thermo. The lid thermo probe ends at a point slightly below the bottom of the rebar holes in the PBC. I intend to compile some data on this on future cooks. A few photos attached to show lid mount etc..
                        Thanks again,

                        ​ Probe tip relative to rebar hole​ ​ ​ ​


                          Thanks for the additional info, 1-bigmac . Can't see the photos, though. I'll add your cook to that post.

                          I imagine you'll make up a really good cooking log that suits your needs. I always run 2 pit probes in my smokers, one on each side (vent and opposite on the PBC) so I needed to change up the log sheet to reflect that among other things.



                            Bummer about my photos as they show up on my MAC, but with a little "?" below each one, fzxdoc. Let me try the photos again.. BTW, I already have a column for 'Lid Temp'

                            Here it is on carving board
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                            Close up of Tue-Temp day-glo thermo
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                            Edge on showing depth of Lid Temp probe
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                            1-bigmac's Air Force PBC
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                            Attached Files


                              That leg of lamb looks perfectly done. You sure have that PBC doing your bidding, 1-bigmac . Thanks for getting the photos to work. They're fun to see.




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