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

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    I did get those gloves. Wow do they work great, but then they're pretty pricey. I think I could grab on to the hinges of hell with them, though.



      New Pit Member here, love this site and all everyone's great and helpful tips! I just got my PBC and will be doing my first cook (prolly ribs or tri tip) this weekend prior to smoking an 18 lb bird on it for T-Giving. My question may seem remedial but I was wondering if any of you could post pics on how you assemble the foil liner underneath the charcoal basket? I think I get the idea, but have this fear of messing it up and therefore temps not running correctly. Thanks for any help you can provide with this!


      • fzxdoc
        fzxdoc commented
        Editing a comment
        Sorry I don't have any technique photos for the aluminum foil liner method. Basically I put two layers of Al foil on my countertop and take the lid of the PBC and place it on top. I run my finger under the foil to get an impression of the inner edge of the lid. That gives me a nice circle to follow as I remove the lid and fold/crimp the foil under. Then I drop that double-layer circle of foil into the bottom of the PBC making sure none of it obscures the vent opening. The basket goes on top and the rest is history!

        I use Reynolds wide heavy duty Al foil and it works great.


      • skrose
        skrose commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, I appreciate it!

      Hey there, I'm new to The Pit and thought I would describe my unique lighting method. I came up with this after several cooks using the standard PBC lighting method as well as the tin foil method from this thread. While I like the ease of clean up afforded by the tin foil method, I don't feel so comfortable with the act of dumping lit coals from the chimney into the basket--probably because I have the larger chimney.

      1. Remove basket from PBC
      2. Fill basket with as much Kingsford charcoal as needed for your cook
      3. Place basket back in PBC and alighn the handle to be parallel with the rebar holes (btw, great idea!)
      4. Use an garden torch to create a small circular 'core' of lit coals within the coal basket that is about 5 inches across. This should take no more than 4-5 minutes.
      5. Place a thermometer probe in the barrel to monitor pre-heating temperature. For example, run the probe through a rebar hole and hang it on one of the rebar rods. I place mine slightly off-center so that it is not directly over the lit core.
      6. When the desired pre-heating temp is reached, add meat to PBC and close the lid tightly.

      This is a faster lighting method and, if done properly, one can still get up to 10 hours of burn time as the combustion slowly spreads from the lit core to the surrounding unlit brickettes in the rest of the basket.

      When I tried this with the heavy-duty foil under the basket, the foil lost it's integrity--probably from the high heat of the garden torch. So I use a narrow broom and a dust pan with a long handle for clean up.

      One of these days I will try the lighter fluid method--probably when I discover that I'm out of propane!



      • Curtis Ellzey
        Curtis Ellzey commented
        Editing a comment
        Interesting method! Btw, what's a "garden torch"? I might be gardening wrong...lol

      • smarkley
        smarkley commented
        Editing a comment
        I use the lighter fluid *occasionally* when I am in a hurry. -- I use Noah's method and have never - ever tasted fluid on the meat.

      • mtford72
        mtford72 commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm with smarkley. I've just given up trying to use the chimney. The lighter fluid is so much simpler. I've never noticed any residual flavor. It burns so thoroughly so quickly, the residue has to be practically nothing.

      This thread has been very helpful and helped flatten the learning curve for me... Thank you fzxdoc and everyone that has contributed to this thread...


      • fzxdoc
        fzxdoc commented
        Editing a comment
        You're welcome, Hondo. Enjoy that brand new PBC!


      I just finished my first cook on the PBC, 2 chickens. All turned out well and the chicken was awesome. One question, has anyone ever used the wax cubes for lighting the PBC? A guy from a local BBQ store told me to give it a try. He sets 2-3 cubes at the bottom of the barrel, lights them, and then sets a full basket of coals right on top of the cubes. Waits the 15-20 minutes and then hangs the meat. I thought is sounded interesting but I've never used the cubes on anything.



        Daniel, I use wax cubes all the time. I put 1 cube on a square of aluminum foil on the grate in the PBC. Light the cube, put the chimney with 40 briquettes in it over the cube and let burn for 15 minutes. Pour the hot coals on remaining unlighted coals in the basket at the bottom of the barrel and you're good to go.

        I use the foil so I can just fold up the spent wax cube and any ash and toss it away before removing the grate and pouring the burning coals.

        Congrats on your first PBC cook. The PBC makes the best chickens. One Pit member, Ernest , calls the PBC the Chicken Whisperer.

        Last edited by fzxdoc; March 21, 2015, 06:20 AM.


          I'm thinking that Daniel has hit on something. Many of us are already using the foil in the bottom of the barrel to help ash cleanup, why not just place the wax cubes or firestarter of choice on the foil and place the full basket of coals over it. Sounds like a totally easy way of starting things without the hassle of transferring coals from the chimney to the basket.

          I'm turning my home-brined corned beef into pastrami this weekend, so I think I'll give this a try.


            @BruceB, let us know how that method works out. I'm particularly interested in how quickly the PBC comes up to temperature using a few wax cubes under the basket for a starter. Thanks for doing the research!



              Well, I am breaking the rules a bit because this is only my second cook on the PBC and I'm venturing off of the traditional lighting techniques. Noah would not be happy Here is what I did:

              1) Made a foil liner (don't laugh I know its not the best) but that is what I get for not having heavy duty foil on hand.
              2) Dropped 3-cubes on top of the foil and lit them. Gave it about 30-45 seconds then dropped the coal basket right on top of them.
              3) Waited for 20-minutes (lid off of course, no bars in). I'm at sea level and was only going to go 15-min but there was still smoke coming from the barrel at 15-min. My bottom port is open right at 1/4 given my elevation (3-miles from the beach).
              4) After 20-min I added the bars with a probe hanging from one, and put 2-racks of spares in. Will post temps and times below.


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              Below photo is looking inside the port after setting the basket on top of the 3-cubes.

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              Coal Basket after 20-min.

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              Last edited by dpsphotos; March 21, 2015, 11:43 AM.


                Here are the temps so far. Just realized in all my haste to try this out and get the pit temp right, I did not even take a picture of the ribs before they went in. ROOKIE

                Peak temp after putting the ribs on. 432
                5-min - 424
                15-min - 363
                30-min - 307
                60-min - 284
                90-min - 270
                2-hrs - 268 - Still have resisted the urge to peak

                So at 2-hrs 15-min one rack fell off the hook (see post below). After opening the lid a few times to go to the grate, here are the temps.

                2-hrs 30-min - 277 (Not sure how well my probe is reading now that the racks are blocking it given they are on the grate).

                3-hrs - 288

                3-hrs 30-min - 287 pulled them off for saucing at this point. Will update end result below.
                Last edited by dpsphotos; March 21, 2015, 05:02 PM.


                  Wow, this sounds like a great method, Daniel! It looks like it works just as well as pouring coals from the chimney. I'm definitely going to give it a try on my chicken cook tomorrow! Thanks so much for the great idea.

                  I hope the ribs turn out well.



                    Well, right at 2-hrs and 15-min I heard one of the rib racks fall off the hook. I have had to go to the grate. They are not done (don't pass the bend and the bark is not done), not sure what I did wrong. Obviously I have had to open the lid a few times, will update temps above once it settles. I have the ribs on the grate, the bars in, and my probe back in.

                    Should Note, I did put the hook in after the second bone. I felt it was a bit thin there, but the hooks weren't long enough to go to the third bone. Also, the tips were kissing the coals when I first hung the ribs.

                    Last edited by dpsphotos; March 21, 2015, 12:36 PM.


                      Daniel, if the ribs are that close to the fire, I cut them in half. Also, I double-hook them like Noah does for brisket (vertical hook-in-a-hook method). So far, knock wood, nothing has fallen into the fire and I've done half a bajillion cooks on the PBC. Just as a FYI, for pork butt, I put the meat on the grate when the internal temp gets to be about 170 or so because I'm afraid of it falling as it softens at higher temps.

                      I hope no harm was done to those ribs dropping into the fire. Did you rinse/wipe them off? Good luck for the rest of the cook.



                        The cook was not that bad given that one rack fell into the coals just past the 2-hr mark. I went to the grate and at 3.5-hrs sauced them.

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                        The rack on the left was the PBC Beef & Game rub, the one on the right was John Henry's Texas Pecan rub. The rack on the right needed a bit more time I thought, so I sauced the other one and stuck them back in for 20-min. I used a doctored up KC Masterpiece sauce.

                        A few notes:
                        - I think 20-min with the sauce on them was too much, I would like to shorten that for next time. It just seemed to caramelize too much.
                        - The rack on the right with the John Henry's rub was tough. The bottom side got hard and crunchy but the top side was good. I'm not sure if that is from being on the grate or if the rub itself has too much sugar. Just guessing at this point but it was weird.
                        - Like the PBC all purpose better, the Beef & Game just didn't hit the spot for me. Although that rack of ribs cooked the best and was the most tender.

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                        Left rack done with 20-min of sauce time, right rack now going on for sauce.

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                        Coal basket after a total of 4-hrs. One side burned more complete than the other, but I noticed one rack dripped a lot more. The dripping rack of ribs was over the less burned section of coals and also seemed to cause flare-ups as that side would have a small flame every time I opened the lid.



                          Daniel, it looks as though you had a marvelous cook and learned a lot. Congrats! About the smoker temperatures, I find that the side closest to the vent gets hotter first and then the other side takes over after a few hours. Jerod (@Jerod Broussard one of our great moderators) has also reported this finding.

                          In fact, just a few days ago I did an 8 hour cook on the PBC and put two smoker probes in, clipped opposite each other on the grate, to test this. The vent side ran anywhere from 5 to 20 degrees hotter for the first 2.5 hours, then the side opposite the vent ran 10 to 25 degrees hotter for about 3.5 hours then both sides evened out for the remaining 2 hours of the cook. I had three hunks of meat on that grate, so it wasn't a true test with nothing interfering, but it was a good estimate I thought.

                          When I do short cooks, such as bacon-covered meatloaf or chicken, which take 1 to 1.5 hours, I rotate the meat after the first half hour or so. For long cooks, I don't bother as much with it.

                          And I'm with you about the Beef and Game rub--I think Meathead's Big Bad Beef Rub is way superior. I love, love love the All Purpose Rub on chicken and turkey though.

                          And finally, about your novel fire-starting method: after listening once again to Dr. Blonder's seminar on Smoke, Smokerings, etc. I'm hesitant to try the 3 lighter cubes under the basket method. There was a comment in it that people with UDSs or PBCs run the risk of acrid smoke because of the unlit charcoal due to the way we have light smokers of that design. I got to thinking that starting the fire from the bottom of the basket might make this situation worse. I've never had a bad smoke on my PBC, so perhaps I shouldn't mess with my method. I was busy working and had that seminar playing in the background, so I'm going to have to go back and listen to that part again to make sure I got it straight.




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