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

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    #46
    There you go bringing up all those valid points again. Now that I am a member I will have to watch that seminar. It is one of the concerns I have about the chimney method. Dumping 40 lit coals on top of 120 unlit coals and then hanging your meat right away just seems like you are asking for the acrid smoke. I notice you dump the lit coals out of the chimney and then wait for another 10-min. That would make sense, as it allows for more coals to light and puts the unlit coals at the bottom. With using the weber cubes I felt I got a good light and good ash over after 20-min, but what unlit coals I had were at the top. Hmm...

    I'm a total newb so I will definitely be watching that seminar and reading your feedback. I've never tried the fluid method, just scared to. In the PBC video the fluid method gets great ash over from edge to edge and again puts any unlit coals at the bottom. I know this is the method Jerod uses, maybe I'll give it a go one day.

    Daniel

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      #47
      Originally posted by fzxdoc View Post
      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.

      Kathryn
      I agree with Kathryn on the double-hook method, it really works. I also agree with getting the pork butt off early, and moving it to the grate. I had one drop at about 180F as it was trying to power through the stall.

      Comment


        #48
        I tried the new lighting method this morning. I didn't have wax cubes, but I have lots of wood chip/wax fire starter biscuits about the size of a hockey puck. They light easily, so I lit one up, let it get flaming all over, and placed a full basket of coals on top. It may have taken a bit of extra time, but it started a nice hot lit area in the center of the basket, which should work well for my expected longer cook today.

        Temps after putting the lid on hit 425F, and now 30 minutes later has dipped below 300F, lid closed tightly. I'm going to go crack it open as I have a couple of whole chickens on the hooks that will need it a bit hotter. Once those are out, then the pastrami can continue until I move it to the rack, maybe at 160F. I don't want it to fall !

        update: Chickens are out, the pastrami is on the grate at 154F internal. Lid closed tightly for low and slow until the brisket is done.
        Last edited by BruceB; March 22, 2015, 11:31 AM.

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        • fzxdoc
          fzxdoc commented
          Editing a comment
          Bruce, let us know how the taste is with that new lighting method.

          And I'm already experiencing pastrami-envy, since mine is all gone.

          Kathryn

        #49
        Daniel, I've never tried the lighter fluid method either. I just can't get my brain around squirting a bunch of flammable hydrocarbons over the coals and hoping there's no transfer of flavor.

        And yes, it's the idea of those unlit coals on top of the lit ones that made me back away from the method you used until I get a chance to re-listen to that portion of the Smoke seminar. I'm thinking that ashed-over coals on top might be a better idea.

        I've modified my lighting method a bit over the past several months--now I let the 40 coals burn in the chimney for 15 minutes (I'm at 3700 feet altitude), pour them over the unlit coals, leave the lid off and rebars out for 10 more minutes, then toss in my (weighed) chunk of wood, if using, put the lid on but leave the rebars out for 10 additional minutes. After that, I hang the meat. By that time I get some pretty nice blue smoke going on, usually.

        Kathryn
        Last edited by fzxdoc; March 22, 2015, 02:50 PM.

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          #50
          Kathryn that sounds a lot like my method

          Comment


          • fzxdoc
            fzxdoc commented
            Editing a comment
            Oops, my bad, Dave. I think it must be Jerod who uses lighter fluid. How could I possibly confuse the two of you?

            I see on the first post in this topic that you light the basket outside the PBC and then transfer it into the PBC. Is that how you still do it? Is there an advantage to that? I'm always eager to learn a better approach.

            Kathryn

          • David Parrish
            David Parrish commented
            Editing a comment
            I light some of the charcoal in the chimney until ashed over, transfer those to the PBC charcoal basket, then put all of that into the PBC (quickly!). I don't light the whole PBC basket outside of the PBC.

          • fzxdoc
            fzxdoc commented
            Editing a comment
            Good to know, Dave. Thanks!

            Kathryn

          #51
          Originally posted by BruceB View Post
          I tried the new lighting method this morning. I didn't have wax cubes, but I have lots of wood chip/wax fire starter biscuits about the size of a hockey puck. They light easily, so I lit one up, let it get flaming all over, and placed a full basket of coals on top. It may have taken a bit of extra time, but it started a nice hot lit area in the center of the basket, which should work well for my expected longer cook today.

          Temps after putting the lid on hit 425F, and now 30 minutes later has dipped below 300F, lid closed tightly. I'm going to go crack it open as I have a couple of whole chickens on the hooks that will need it a bit hotter. Once those are out, then the pastrami can continue until I move it to the rack, maybe at 160F. I don't want it to fall !

          update: Chickens are out, the pastrami is on the grate at 154F internal. Lid closed tightly for low and slow until the brisket is done.
          I didn't notice anything bad or different with the taste. It was probably 20 to 30 minutes after initial lighting with the lid off before I hung the pastrami and chickens. There was a good fire going in the center, so I hoped it would spread evenly out to the edges rather than dumping hot coals on top of unlit coals and spreading them out, which seem to burn down rather than sideways. Does that make sense? Anyway, it didn't work quite as planned, there was a big group of coals that never really lit against the side of the basket farthest from the vent. The pit temp dropped quickly about 6 hours in to 220F, with the pastrami still at 180F. I got everything out of the way, and re-distributed those unlit coals to get it going again. Temps came back up and the pastrami finished at 202F.

          I did sneak a tasty bit off the small end before wrapping and cooling it - very peppery, but delicious! I even reduced the pepper in the rub by about a third.

          Comment


          • fzxdoc
            fzxdoc commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for the detailed info about the fire, Bruce. Interesting about the patch of unlit coals after 6 hours. I noticed that in Daniel's 4 hour photo there was a patch of unlit coals as well.

            The only super-peppery part will be the end pieces. On the thin slices, you'll only get a bit of that peppery bite. Honestly, writing about it makes me want to throw another pastrami into the PBC today. Only one obstacle: no uncooked, soaked, cured-with-rub-for-2-days corned beef in the house. Sigh.

            Kathryn

          #52
          Bruce, as Kathryn said I wound up with a small section of unlit coals after the 4-hr mark on my rib cook when lighting them from the bottom. I watched the smoke seminar and at about the 1-hr 28-min mark is where Meathead and Greg start talking about charcoal and the PBC. Very interesting seminar, kinda made my head spin. There is a good back and forth about lump and briquettes. I will have to watch that section again and wrap my head around it. My takeaway is to make sure your briquettes are fully lit before you put the meat on. This will reduce the chance of any nasty compounds tainting your food. I believe Ernest uses lump in his PBC (sorry the whole @ thing in front does not seem to work for me, it keeps putting the members name at the beginning of my comment). Greg seemed to like lump but did say they can be unpredictable. Meathead disagreed a bit and preferred briquettes but stressed the importance of getting them fully ashed over.

          One question I have for you is, if you get the whole basket of briquettes lit before putting your food on, will you be able to do a pork shoulder or brisket on the PBC without wrapping? Would your briquettes last that long? It seems more time is needed to get a full basket lit if you are not using the fluid method. As far as wood, it seems like a good idea to get your chunks on early so they can get to the proper high temperature. I'll be lighting the PBC quite a bit over the next few weeks and playing with different charcoal and wood lighting techniques.

          Daniel

          Comment


          • BruceB
            BruceB commented
            Editing a comment
            Daniel -

            So far, I've only used the '40 briquettes in the chimney' method, and drop those on top of the rest of the unlit coals in the basket, and spread them out evenly. After another 10 minutes or so, certainly not all of the coals have even lit, or are ashed over. I think we'll always have unlit coals at the beginning of a cook that will light progressively. That's why no MatchLight briguettes with extra chemicals once the meat is on!

            I don't think I'll use a whole fire-starter again, they are just a bit too thick, and may have blocked airflow under the basket enough to leave the unlit coals directly opposite from the bottom vent. Maybe a few broken pieces spread around under the basket would work better.

            I've had trouble getting to the end of long cooks with a large port butt and even a medium sized brisket. I probably need to start looking at adding some new coals around 4 to 6 hours in, but that can be a hassle if you're already on the grate! Hey - there's a new mod idea, a hatch in the side to add more coals

          #53
          I've had trouble getting to the end of long cooks with a large port butt and even a medium sized brisket. I probably need to start looking at adding some new coals around 4 to 6 hours in, but that can be a hassle if you're already on the grate! Hey - there's a new mod idea, a hatch in the side to add more coals
          The problem with adding coals or rotating the coal basket to put the hot area under meat (been there, done that) is that no matter how deftly I do it, it stirs up ash and white smoke takes over for a while.

          And for the record, I usually get 8 to 10 hours out of one basket of coals, and only a couple of times have I had the coals poop out on me near the end of the cook.

          I've toyed with the idea of purchasing a second basket from the PBC folks, if they would make one available. Then I could just swap baskets. The old ash on the floor of the PBC might be a problem though, for air flow.

          Daniel, I do like Bruce does, except I do two 10 minute sequences after pouring the coals, first with the lid off, rebars out and second with the lid on rebars out. Then I put the rebars in, add the meat and start the cook. My takeaway from Meathead's comments was that as long as the surface is covered with burning coals, which is the case after 20 additional minutes, then the unlit coals underneath are not a problem. It's just another version of the minion method (top down vs. the snake layout or the center-->out methods.)

          The unique problem with the PBC is that the juices hitting the coals adds the flavor, and hitting unlit or poorly lit coals on the surface might lead to the bad taste. I'm just conjecturing here...

          And you're right, Daniel, there's a lot of great info in Dr. Blonder's Smoke seminar. I've listened to it 3 times and I'm still taking away "new" info.

          Kathryn
          Last edited by fzxdoc; March 24, 2015, 05:31 PM.

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          #54
          Wow. Where do I start? This site is a revelation. Thank you to the amazing ribs.com team and those who put together these PBC topics. I did my fist cook on the PBC a couple of weeks back and it was a bit of a disaster. My first mistake was having company over on my first cook! I followed the PBC guidelines for lighting my cooker at sea level and I was fighting getting up to temp throughout the entire cook. I had one rack of BB's drop in the coals, my halved chicken was a bit dry, ect.

          Then I signed up for the pitmaster club and found this resource! So this weekend I tried again. I went off of these recommendations for my lighting, for the most part, and temps shot up to where I understand they should be at. I skipped step 12 and I can definitely see how future rib cooks would benefit from this added step. I cooked 2 halved 5.5 lb chickens that were "dry-brined" with the PBC all purpose for 18 hrs. It took 1 hr 30 minutes with average temperature of 260 and an internal temp of 167. Next time I will pull them off around 155 or 160 IT.

          The tin-foil on the bottom of the barrel is so simple but a major time-saver. Would like to find the cheap aluminum serving dish referenced in this thread, to streamline the cleanup

          Jerod has been answering my earlier questions on the free site area regarding dry brining, and I greatly appreciate all the given there as well.

          I think I am ready to try ribs again and maybe a PB for some pulled pork

          Thank you thank you thank you

          Comment


            #55
            Tim, it's great to read the enthusiasm that you have about cooking on the PBC between every line of your post. It's such a great little cooker, but, simple as it is, there is a learning curve with it.

            To my mind, getting the smoker up to the right temp and watching it is natural. For example, when I cook a pot of green beans on my cooktop, I don't set it and forget it. I get the burner to the right temp and I watch the beans: are they boiling vigorously, not boiling or are at a gentle boil? The same thought process translates to using the PBC. Sure you can most likely have some great food with "set and forget" methods like Noah recommends, but I personally have consistently better food if I get my smoker to the temp I want and use little tricks to keep it there. I also like recording the weight of the meat, the weight of the wood I might add to the fire, etc. Each small parameter adds to the total taste result, IMO.

            You're going to love pulled pork on your PBC. Ohmigosh, is it ever delicious! Follow Huskee's recommendation, though, and cut a large pork butt into two smaller portions so you have more bark.

            And try a chicken again. I have found that on the PBC the best chicken is done when the temp is kept at 325 deg F either by keeping one rebar out (if I'm only doing one large 5 lb roaster, for example, split of course) or by keeping the lid cracked for most of the cook. With these conditions, my 5 lb roasters are done in 1 hour or 1 hour 10 minutes every time. When I first started out with chicken on the PBC, it sometimes took 2 hours or more, but that was because I was letting the temperature settle in at 250-270deg F or so. My chickens are juicier, the skin is crisper, and the taste is better when cooking them at the higher temperature (325 to 350 deg F) and taking them off at 160 deg F internal breast temperature. Honestly, I never check the leg/thigh temp any more because I know if the internal breast temp is 160, the legs and thighs are done perfectly as well.

            And a bacon-covered meatloaf on the PBC? Pure heaven! Here's a link to the method I used. http://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/for...oaf-on-the-pbc

            And chuck roast on the PBC? Try this: http://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/for...-barrel-cooker

            Kathryn

            Comment


              #56
              I cooked two chickens last saturday... I use the garden rake to drop the basken in method because I don't need to worry about spreading the coals out after dumping.... used 40-45 coals, dumped into the basket while still outside the barrel. I then dropped the basket in,waited 10 minutes but not the second 10, and added 9 lbs of chicken... The temp would not come up to anywhere like 300... more like in the low 200s which sure isn't what I wanted... BUT I cracked the lid and it took a good ten minutes to come up to 340F... I then replaced the lid and the temp slid to 270-271 and started slooooowwwwllly climbing after that... it got near 280 after an hour. That was without a doubt *the most stable temperature* profile I've *ever* had... no seesawing (which happened big-time my last cook in december... WOW a long long time!) I'm am quite confident that had I done the extra ten with no rebar... it would have been a near effortless cook. One other difference is that I used to use 50 in my chimney and cut it back to 45. It's hard for me to believe that might make a difference... I think a bigger difference for me this time was I was a TON more patient spreading out the burning coals more uniformly.

              I think chicken doesn't need to cook at much above 270 for the full hour... mine have come out great... but they DO witness 300F+ initially and perhaps that's the help. BTW no chicken I get any other way (i.e. NOT out of a PBC) ever comes out this juicy. This last time, I carefully dried the chickens about an hour ahead with paper towels, and dusted with salt/powdered rosemary/thyme/paprika. No mixing... just dusted them right out of the tins.
              Last edited by JPP; April 21, 2015, 11:54 AM.

              Comment


                #57
                BTW... I've been permitted to see farther only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants... (Kathryn, Dave, Huskee, Jerrod and the entire AR gang!)

                Comment


                  #58
                  Kathryn Kudos for documenting this important process. I'm eager to try out step 12 (10 mins with lid on and rebar removed).

                  As many others have observed, the charcoal furthest from the air intake hole burns poorly, especially there's a lot of meat dripping juices. Presumably this is because the incoming fresh air is pushed up via convection before it can reach the far end of the charcoal basket, thus starving that part of the fire of oxygen.

                  I'm curious, do you guys place the charcoal basket exactly in the middle of the PBC, or do some people move it closer to the air intake vent?

                  Another idea I might try on the next cook is to purposefully add more hot coals to the "far side" of the charcoal basket to give the weak side a jump start. The extreme version of this idea would be to dump all the chimney-lit coals on the far side.

                  I need to watch the Smoke seminar I keep reading about...

                  Comment


                    #59
                    marcel, I find that it doesn't make a whole lot of difference that one side of the basket burns hotter than the other for long cooks, but for short ones like chicken I move the chicken around (swapping places with the two halves) at the halfway mark.

                    Ditto about swapping sides when I put two meatloaves on the grate.

                    For long cooks, I've seen that after 2-3 hours, the coals on the other side begin to burn hotter. They burn hotter for another 2-3 hours, and then the temps on both sides of the barrel even out. I know Jerod has reported seeing a similar phenom in his mega brisket cooks.

                    I'm interested in seeing what happens with your "more lit coals on the side opposite the vent" experiment. I'm thinking that no matter how many lit coals are on that far side to start with, Mr.Oxygen will win the day every time, so the coals closer to the intake vent will always burn hotter first. Let us know how it turns out--I'm curious!.

                    JPP, thanks for the nice words. I, too, stand on the shoulders of the great cooks on this site every time I toss something else in the PBC or my gasser. And did you ever hit the nail on the head about the juiciness of the chickens when cooked in the PBC! Even when I take chicken to higher internal temps (say, closer to 170) by mistake, the white and dark meat is still soooo juicy. It's an awesome chicken cooker, fo' sho' !

                    Kathryn
                    Last edited by fzxdoc; April 21, 2015, 06:29 PM.

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                      #60
                      Thanks for the reply Kathryn. And thank you for those threads you linked, they are excellent reads! You've talked me into it....my next cook is going to be pork shoulder/butt. I will start a new thread for that as I get closer to document my first go at PB.

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