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

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  • Sandpaper
    commented on 's reply
    I used the LavaLock 1/2 inch and the wires were run through the rebar holes.

  • fzxdoc
    replied
    Another question, Sandpaper , are you running your remote thermometer probes over the top of the barrel or through the rebars? Just curious.

    Kathryn

    Leave a comment:


  • fzxdoc
    replied
    It's a good thing that you are going to try another lighting method, Sandpaper --perhaps it will provide you with a solution. Please report back to us after your next cook with the new approach, to let us know.

    FWIW, I didn't have a lid leak when I first bought my PBC. It developed over a year after I had used it, pretty heavily, in the area between the rebars where the barrel's seam is. Like you, I began experienced abnormally high cooking temps, even though I had used the same x-10-10 lighting method from the very beginning.

    I verified that the lid leaks were the problem because if I crimped a skinny length of heavy duty aluminum foil on top of the lid, wrapping it around to the underside of the barrel's rim in the area where the smoke was coming out, the smoke would stop coming out and the pit temperatures would stabilize. That's when I decided to insert a gasket into the indentation of the lid's rim, and my wispy leaking smoke problem (and concomitant high pit cooking temperatures), went away for good.

    May I ask, how is your gasket installed, and which gasket did you use?

    Kathryn

    Leave a comment:


  • Sandpaper
    replied
    I posted about this in another thread, but want my experience and conversation with the folks at PBC to be on this thread as well. In about 12 cooks over the last 5 months, my PBC has been running hot (360+) with smoke wisping from the lid. My cooks were finishing pretty fast, but the quality was fine - but it has been unnerving that the barrel has been running so hot. I gasketed the lid but that didn't change the cook temps.

    After smoking 4 turkeys this Thanksgiving (all different cooks), I couldn't take it any more and emailed PBC. They called me back within an hour and told me that the 12-10-10 method is responsible for my temps.

    The 10 minutes with lid off (Step #11) is over-igniting the coals and causing both the high temps and the excess smoke. More precisely, putting the lid on after the 10 minutes damps the fire to the extent that more smoke than desired is produced from the coals. He strongly urged me to try the PBC-recommended method of 13 minutes in the chimney, then dump and cook.

    I am going to try this on my next cook - as I have used the method in this thread from my first cook. Obviously, your mileage will vary, but I wanted to share this issue of over-hot, over-smokey barrels, and PBC's proposed solution.

    Leave a comment:


  • Voodoo628
    replied
    Tons of great info in here.

    Looking forward to getting my PBC in the mail this week so I can start getting it streamlined! Plenty of stuff waiting to go in the cooker.

    Thanks for putting all this together!

    Leave a comment:


  • fzxdoc
    replied
    Parisie

    About the vent setting: some people here in The Pit have said that their PBCs work better at sea level with the vent closed more than the setting recommended by the PBC folks. I’m suggesting that you close the vent more and see if it makes a difference for your PBC.

    For cooks ready at different times:It shouldn’t make a difference what you start first for most foods that are best cooked at the same optimum PBC temperature. For example, you can smoke a meatloaf and a pork butt at the same time but the meatloaf will take less time to cook. If you want everything to come out at the same time, then you can easily add the shorter-cooking meat later on in the cook. The PBC will cook both just fine.

    I don't smoke ribs and chicken at the same time because they have different optimum temperatures. Meathead recommends smoking chicken at 325 deg F or higher to have moist chicken and crispy skin. I smoke my chickens in the PBC at around 350deg F. They are done in just over one hour.

    Ribs are best done at your PBC’s sweet spot, usually between 260 and 290 deg F and take around 3 to 5 hours. If you smoke a chicken at this lower temp it will take 2 to 3 hours to get the chicken breast to 165 degF, the safe serving temp. It will still be juicy and delicious but the skin will most likely be rubbery. You can always crisp the skin by leaving it in the PBC with the lid off for a few minutes at the end of the cook, as recommended by the PBC folks on their website. I don’t do this for fear of over cooking the chicken, but it may work just fine. Maybe others who have tried this method for crisping chicken skin will chime in with their results.

    HTH,
    Kathryn

    Leave a comment:


  • Parisie
    commented on 's reply
    Thanks much for for the response everyone, I will keep it in mind the next time I use the PBC.

    fzxdoc - It to be clear, there has been reports of consistent results at sea level with a vent opened less than 1/4? It really would be useful if the PBC came with notches on the barrel to use as a guideline for the vent.

    For cooks with foods that are ready at different time what is best practice? For example, w/ chicken and ribs should I load at once or start with the ribs and then add the birds?

  • fzxdoc
    replied
    Oh gosh, Parisie , don't give up on the PBC! That said, I can understand your frustration.

    I find that "loaded" cooks with 3 chickens almost always adds around 30 minutes to the cook because the fire has a hard time keeping up with all the moisture released by the chickens. It's more difficult to keep the temps in the desired 350°F range without keeping the lid cracked the whole time.

    I too had to add a gasket after about 1.5 years of heavy use of my PBC. With that lid leak problem solved, it once more was easier to get more consistent cooks.

    Some people at sea level report that they have to close their lower vent more than the recommended amount to have consistent cooks. You may want to play with that. Since I live at 3700 ft altitude, I actually have to have my vent open slightly more than recommended. Try adjusting the position of the vent's disc for the next cook and see if you have better results.

    Every now and then I have a cook like you describe where the temps are solid at 275ish and then after a few hours begin to drift down. I always use two ambient probes in the PBC and find that often when one probe trends down the one on the opposite side of the barrel is actually trending up. They are often 40 to 50°F different from each other.

    However, if I see that temps of both probes are trending down, I crack the lid repeatedly, about 3 times or so (every 10 minutes for half an hour) to get the fire lit back to where it needs to be for a solid cook temp for the coming few hours.

    Let us know how making some small changes works for you. If that PBC worked well for you for over 2 years, it will do so again, I'm sure.

    Kathryn

    Leave a comment:


  • HawkerXP
    commented on 's reply
    No thermometer mounted in mine. I do hang a probe off the rebar, but like its been said, temps in the PBC can be different in various places at the same time. I use it as a guide. Mine, lit correctly with rebar in runs 270ish. One rebar out 340 ish. Yes a big hunk or multiple hunks will drop the temp and cracking the lid for a little while helps with that.

  • cashelton
    commented on 's reply
    I've had to quit paying attention to my grill probe when doing large cooks. I cant give it the space it needs to give an accurate reading. I still attach it to keep an eye on temp spikes.

    Here of lately I've been using the 15-10-10 method...probably too much by the book. The charcoal hasnt been ready at the 15 minute mark, but I was loading it into the PBC. Those cooks, the temps stayed lower than normal (240°)

  • Skip
    replied
    Thanks jecucolo . I'm new to the PBC club. I've done less than 10 cooks on mine and feel some days like I've learned a lot and some days like I know less than nothing. I've got a lid Gasket ordered but also had to slightly prop my lid open during a Bacon cook yesterday. I'm not frustrated just a little confused. For now I'll keep reading and cooking. The last couple cooks I put my BGE Thermometer (which I tested and reset the calibration on to match the Smoke Themomter) thru a lid handle bolt hole besides using my Smoke Digital Thermometer. I struggle a little with the idea of adding a good Tru Tel Dial Thermometer but not sure where to drill the hole to place it. Have any of you added a GOOD Dial Thermometer? There are a few Fairly Accurate Dial Thermometers they are just a little costly.

    Leave a comment:


  • jecucolo
    replied
    I have heard this problem a lot lately. fzxdoc believes it is high humidity causing the charcoal to be moist. Due to all the rain we have been having I brought a bag of unopened charcoal inside the house. I cooked half a turkey and temps were high. Maybe just a coincidence. Another common thread is the use of sealing the lid with lava lock. I am beginning to think the just may be too tight. One of the things I have been using to compensate for the low temp is I pick a small twig in the yard and just prop one end of the lid. It just seems to need a little bit more air.
    A final option is go purchase some 1/4” rebar rods. This gives additional oxygen to the pbc.

    Leave a comment:


  • Parisie
    replied
    I have owned my PBC for 3 years now. The first two years I loved it and would get delicious food, nailing the cooking times on the PBC site. However, starting last year I have been having an extremely difficult time maintaining temperature for even a 2 hour cook. My usual go to cook is split chicken (1-2 whole chickens cut in half as Noah explains on the site) and baby back ribs (2-3 racks). I have tried both the 15-10-10 and Noah's lighting method, using the original Kingsford blue bag, with the same results:

    After a good start, the temperature drops ~ 1-1 1/2 hours later to low 260s and continues to do so. At this point I usually open up the vent more to try and compensate.

    One thing I noticed last year was that smoke was leaking out of the lid. After reading this forum's advice, I purchased the Lava Lock 1/8" gasket, removed the grease off the lid edge with Dawn Professional Power Dissolver Spray and installed.

    Keeping the difficulties of the past cooks mind I decided to keep things simple today and cook only chicken (3 birds cut into 6 halves). Since I was cooking only chicken I used Kingsford Professional, which I recently picked up from Costco.

    I lit up the Charcoal using the 15-10-10 method and started the cook with a hinged grate configuration: Four Chicken halves hanging on one side and the other two halves lying on the grate along with a circle of brie (the appetizer).

    Checking back 15 minutes later, I saw that the lid was leaking smoke and noticed that the lid was not seated properly. After reseating the lid I saw that the gasket was doing a fantastic job. The temperature of the PBC (I use a Thermoworks Smoke) was 415° F at this time. 15 minutes later I removed the brie, the grate and hung all the chickens 3 per side.

    To my frustration about an hour later, the temperature of the cooker was in the low 260s and dropping. At this point I decided to open up my vent (See Start-Vent.JPG for a photo of the vent opening at the beginning of the cook and End-Vent.JPG for the vent opening after I adjusted)

    Since I had hungry guests, and the chicken temp in the breast was not rising beyond 152-154° F, I decided to finish them in the oven.

    While everyone enjoyed the results, I felt the they were dry and lacking in smoke flavor. For some reason the chicken color was also a bit paler than usual.

    Since I really do not know where to start I guess I have the follow questions for the forum:

    * Is my vent opening correct? (I am on Long Island, New York with an elevation of 87')
    * Is it fine to smoke items in the PBC that have different cook times? Basically, should I minimize the amount of time the PBC lid is opened and stick with one type of food.

    Things have been so hit or miss I am almost ready to give up on my PBC so any advice would be much appreciated.

    I know how great the results of the PBC can be and hopefully I can get back to it and start smoking with confidence soon enough!
    Attached Files

    Leave a comment:


  • au4stree
    commented on 's reply
    stickbit, I lit according to Noah's vids.

  • stickbit
    commented on 's reply
    thanks for posting! curious when you say ' lit according to instructions' which lighting method did you use?

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