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Temperature difference across pit barrel

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    Temperature difference across pit barrel

    So this morning I started an 8 lb packer and two pork butt chunks, one 3 and one 4 lb. I'm hanging both, and have been taking as many notes as I can. I've read Jerod's brisket posts where he mentioned the hot and cold side of the pit barrel, but I haven't really seen how drastic it can be until today. I lit 40 briqs in my chimney, let them burn for 15 minutes, and transferred them to the charcoal tray with two chunks of pecan. I let it burn in the barrel for ten minutes before hung the meat and closed the lid. My temps peaked at 255 about five minutes after then started falling. I cracked the lid, but my temperatures weren't rising nearly as quickly as I would have liked. It took an hour to reach 405. I reseated the lid, and temps fell back down to 240 within 25 minutes. I thought maybe my maverick thermometer wires both being run through the same hole may be affecting my temperatures, so I took the lid off to run the the grill temp probe through an opposite hole. I noticed then the side of my brisket facing the vent at the bottom of the barrel was completely barked, and the side opposite wasn't barked at all. I moved my grill temp probe to the side closest to the vent, clipped to one of the supports for the cooking grate, rotated the brisket, and re lidded the barrel. The temperature read 300. That's showing a 60 degree change in temperature from the hot side to the cold side approximately two hours after lighting. That's pretty significant in my mind, and I'm curious to see if others have noticed the same thing. I realize the gradient will shift as the cook goes on, but I think in the future I'll probably try and compensate some by loading more of the lit coals away on the basket side opposite of the vent, and also put my temp probe on the vent side. It also means that when the cold side was reading 405 the hot side could have been closer to 500, and much sooner. I don't have multiple probes, but In the future I'd like to keep both sides probed to track the difference across a cook.

    How do you crack your lid? If you had a full bed of coals and put on fresh lit and cracked the lid you should have been at 400 within probably 10 minutes. The fact that you weren't means airflow is restricted, so you might try opening the bottom vent a little more. Also be careful when you place the basket, getting it to close to the intake can block a lot of air.
    As far as the temp difference, yes it can be a substantial difference. I did 2 large pork butts yesterday and dumped all of my coals in one place as I normally do. The butt that was over this spot jumped ahead to 19 degree higher internal and stayed that way until the stall when everything sort of evened out and they finished within a degree of each other. When you are cooking for 8 hours it might not matter too much, but for shorter cooks it definitely would.


      About 10 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 very thing. 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. Kingsford Original was the fuel.

      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.



        That progressive burn is what allows it to keep an overall steady temp for so long, given you don't have copious amounts of meat stalling/sweating on you at any given time.

        I have cooked chock a block many times. Never saw a need to rotate. Just need to be aware what part of the basket is burning good when I go to the grate.


          Thanks for all the good feedback. As the cook progressed things did even out, and everything came out well in the end. I think the biggest take away for me is that if I have the barrel pretty full I need to keep my temp probe closer to the hot side during the beginning of the cook.


          • Jerod Broussard
            Jerod Broussard commented
            Editing a comment
            That is what I try to do. Either get it near the intake, or right in the medulla.


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