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Advice using Lump Charcoal

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    Advice using Lump Charcoal

    Hi PBC folks!

    I’ve been experimenting with lump charcoal in my PBC and having a real hard time with the temps blasting off and staying super hot. I know there is a way to do low and slow but would love some advice.

    for lighting I did 2/3 unlit in basket and a full PBC chimney. Lit and let sit until burning hit (15-18 minutes) and dumped onto unlit coals in basket. Then I let it sit for 20 minutes (maybe too long). I’ve been mostly cooking big hunks of meat (and made some incredible roast beef/pot beef) but today I’m tackling a pork shoulder and need it to dial back (with lump was in the 400s and then when I tried to stop up the holes it still was mid 350s).

    how do folks light and manage low and slow cooks with lump in this group. Any advice welcome.

    This has been probably the biggest challenge with the PBC. Makes me envy my Traeger friends sometimes with their "set it and forget" attitude. Then I remember the PBC is possibly the best deal going in cookers. I’ve found the best way to control the heat is with a Fireboard and a fan. Thermostatic controller coupled with meat and ambient probes + internet access so I can control it when the family goes for a walk on a summer day. The fan kicks on automatically to maintain the temp you set. Also, ensure that the cover is on properly - even a little oxygen will start that fire back up again. Some charcoal also burns hotter, what brand are you using? When I need more heat I use Jealous Devil.


      I haven't used lump in my PBC yet. I would imagine with starting less lit, and not such a long warm up. Lid on? I get the meat on when smoke has diminished.


        Lump charcoal comes in all different sizes, so in the past when I used charcoal stuck with briquets and avoided the lumps.
        Thank you for the post, looking forward to the answers.


          Use less lit charcoal to start with. Probably more of an art than a science using lump.


            I have been using lump charcoal in my PBC exclusively for the past 6 months and am feeling fairly comfortable. Like HawkerXP said less lit coals and shorter warm up will keep the temps down.

            I am in Northern CA at 800’ elevation, air vent 1/4 open and both rebars installed.
            Using B&B Oak Lump charcoal
            Therm Pro two probe remote thermometer.

            Here’s my process:
            • I fill the charcoal basket about 3/4 full using some of the larger chunks.
            • I fill the fill the small PBC chimney with some of the smaller chunks that light easily and can be spread evenly over the unlit coals in the basket.
            • I let the coals in the chimney burn until all but the top layer is fully glowing. (about 10 min)
            • I pour the lit coals over the unlit coals in the PBC with the lid off and let burn until the smoke runs clean (about 10-15 minutes)
            • Add a couple chunks of smoking wood here if desired.
            • Put meat on and keep the lid closed for the first hour!
            • I find keeping the lid closed will allow the initial temp spike to come down and stay down. Lump charcoal is very responsive to extra oxygen and will take off again when the lid comes off.
            • If the PBC temp gets too low just crack the lid for a few minutes and it will come right back up. Don’t let it get away as it’s hard to bring it back down!
            The initial spike is in the 380 range and I have learned not to sweat it. It will come down to 300 in the first 30 minutes. The PBC will settle in around 270 within the hour and cruise. I have found that 270 on the PBC is very similar to 240 on the Weber kettle or my GMG pellet grill.

            I have cooked brisket, pork butts and beef ribs long and slow with great success using this method.

            When running regular Kingsford briquettes the PBC is a set it and forget it cooking machine. With lump there is a level of uncertainty but it satisfies my urge to tinker and tweak the process.

            13 lbs packer brisket 9 hours with lump charcoal.
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            • frailinryan
              frailinryan commented
              Editing a comment
              I am thinking of cooking a pork butt using B and B lump in the PBC. I will try your lighting method.

            • fzxdoc
              fzxdoc commented
              Editing a comment
              Excellent post. Thank you!


            • bocaboy
              bocaboy commented
              Editing a comment
              I have a Pit Barrel Junior and today is the first cook where I've used Royal Oak lump charcoal. No problem lighting it and the initial cook, but I found the temp in the pit kept going too low. I ended up adding more lump charcoal and keeping the lid off for a few minutes. My temps seemed to moderate as high as 280º and down to 200º.

              IMO, the problem here may be that I'm using a 9 lb. butt on the grate, and it pretty much covers up the entire circumference, limiting the air flow.

            Lump has lots of craggy surface area so it can burn hotter at the same airflow than briqs. It also will have more peaks and valleys in the temperature so you have to limit airflow to compensate and bring the average temperature down.

            I’ve had success with it in the PBC but using a thermostatic controller to automatically compensate for the variations while burning.


              What Burkester said.
              I switched over to Fogo lump recently and have been very pleased with the results. Key is lighting less in the starter chimney than you would with briquettes, and keeping the initial spike under control, mostly by limiting the amount of time you allow the coals to get started after dumping the chimney on the unlit basket.

              I've actually been able to dial in better low n slow temps with lump vs. briqs, but probably has more to do with me actively managing it than anything else.


                Noah G said on a podcast I listened to at some point that he uses exclusively lump. Same one where he announced the lifestyle room and PBX. There must be a way


                • Burkester
                  Burkester commented
                  Editing a comment
                  You know jhapka, I am a bass fisherman. Years ago there was a lure that was very difficult to use but was catching tournament winning bags of fish, it was the top water frog.The way I learned to fish the frog was to leave all my other rods at home so I had no other options.

                  I have tried the same approach to mastering lump charcoal. Put away the briquettes which are easy and take the time to figure out the lump. It works great but takes a little more babysitting. The clean flavor is worth it!

                • jhapka
                  jhapka commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Burkester after getting a kamado last year I’ve been using high quality lump more and now when I cook with KBB it tastes funny. Hate to be snobby as a rule but I think I’m phasing out the blue bag.

                I've been using lump the past 8-10 cooks on the PBC and have found if I use a quality lump and fill the basket 2/3rds full then use 15-20 briquettes in the PBC chimney to start it, it works great for me. Plus I can get repeatable results using briquettes. Lump has so many different sized pieces it's hard to get the same results each time.


                  Originally posted by Dadof3Illinois View Post
                  I've been using lump the past 8-10 cooks on the PBC and have found if I use a quality lump and fill the basket 2/3rds full then use 15-20 briquettes in the PBC chimney to start it, it works great for me. Plus I can get repeatable results using briquettes. Lump has so many different sized pieces it's hard to get the same results each time.

                  I tried this today, using KBB briquettes in the chimney and dumping them over B and B lump. Working great, with temps staying pretty steady at 270-290 (had to crack the lid once to raise the temp though). I think I'll stick with this method when using lump charcoal.


                    Because of the inconsistency in size of lump charcoal, I've found I can't go by the old standbys of using my chimney or PBC charcoal basket to measure the amount. I bought an old grocery store vegetable scale and weigh out how much charcoal to use. I still have occasional problems with the temperature going wild on me but not nearly as often. To be perfectly honest, on my PBC I only use B&B briquettes now. I couldn't get the consistency I wanted with lump. I still use lump in my Weber though.


                      I have a Weber Performer, no PBC, but I've been wanting to use lump for low and slow. I saved the following by Elder Ward from what I believe was a kamado site. Foolishly didn't note the URL (sorry) but perhaps it'll contribute to the discussion. Here goes:

                      "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use anything but lump charcoal. NO fast start and NO briquettes.

                      Now you're going to think I lost it here, but open your bag of LUMP and separate the coals into three (3) piles. 1) large pieces 2) medium pieces 3) shake & dust. This last is usually left in the bottom of the bag of even the best lump.

                      In your sparkling clean fire box arrange the largest chunk dead center. This will be the last piece to burn up and, since it can't clog the bottom holes, it will allow the air circulation to remain at a relatively even rate during the entire cooking time. Place remaining large pieces like a jigsaw puzzle until it appears as even as you can make it with the large pieces. Next, fill in as many holes and cracks with medium pieces until it looks as even as you can make it. Then, using the smallest pieces, fill in more of the area. Last, take all that dust, for lack of a better term, and level out your bed of coals. (do not make a mound, just like I said LEVEL). Fill to the top of the fire box, but not above.

                      We feel this method will start easily and burn at a controlled rate, and as the finer stuff on top turns to ash, most will remain where it was placed. It will be hard, if not impossible, to clog your air holes until the last of your fuel is gone. This gives us maximum cooking time and the hottest fire early when we need the unit to reach temperature soonest."


                      • Potkettleblack
                        Potkettleblack commented
                        Editing a comment
                        For a link:
                        How to make North Carolina style pulled pork in your ceramic charcoal cooker!

                      • fkrall
                        fkrall commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Potkettleblack Just caught up with your post. Sorry for the delay and thanks! That's a great link and I'll save it.
                        Last edited by fkrall; June 13, 2021, 10:40 AM.

                      • moteltan
                        moteltan commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Seems like this advice would have us making some nice pathways for airflow with the big chunks, choke those down with the medium chunks, then almost seal them completely with the fines.

                        I have a vent on the top and bottom of my cooker to control airflow, and I don't want the type of dirty smoke that comes from oxygen-constrained, incomplete combustion.

                      I always dump the coals on the basket, then lower it into the barrel, then close that lid up. I almost never allow that fire to turn open to the air, unless it is really cold out or I am trying to do a cook with a ton of meat in the barrel.

                      I put about 10 briquettes or a handful of Lump in a chimney then use my torch to light them. I make sure they are blazing hot, then I give the chimney a good shake to get the ash off.....then I add them to the basket. Then I put my glove on, and lower the basket into the barrel. It is pretty simple. Then just throw the lid on and let it rip.

                      Also, make sure that your lid is sealing well, that can cause a jump in temp. I mitigate this with some bricks to make the lid seal down well. (Just something to check)


                        Just got my PBC this week, used it last night and had similar issues. 1/2 basket of Jealous Devil lump,1/2 PBC chimney lit, with flames out the top, intake closed(I'm at sea level and JD runs hot) which is technically 1/8 open, dumped and spread, lid off for 5-10 minutes(20 is probably way too long). So it was off to a good start but went to 380 and settled around 325, too high for my taste, so looking at the intake damper I noticed it was kicked out about a 1/4" at the bottom, effectively giving it 2x's the air needed. I took the damper off and noticed it had a slight bow to it and overspray or a run in the coating if you will, around the bolt hole. So I ground the excess coating off the damper and there was some on the drum as well, turned the damper around so the curve matched the drum(it's probably supposed to be flat but mine wasn't), now my damper hangs parallel to the drum and lets half the amount of air in, I haven't fired it up again yet, but I'm pretty confident this is the issue.

                        Edit 3/11: Ran the same set-up over the weekend, ambient conditions were a little cooler and breezier(more O2 ) went to 320 and settled in at 280. Problem solved (for me)!
                        Got about 3 hours of run time out of it, the same amount of fuel would probably get me 8 in my kamado at 225, so this is where the debate for briquettes would come in, but I won't use them. So I probably wouldn't expect more than 5-6 hours out of a full basket. Also I separate my lump by size, over 3", under 3", and chips(won't fall through) I feel this is necessary to get the right fuel density for shallow baskets like the Weber kettle and PBC or just to do BBQ and pizza vs. low and slow in my kamado.
                        Tip: A Behrens 10 gal. locking lid can makes an excellent snuffer in the PBC.
                        10 Gallon Galvanized Steel Locking Lid Trash Can with Lid - Behrens Mfg
                        Last edited by Hrlytramp; March 11, 2021, 12:40 PM. Reason: Problem solved



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