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Top Damper.. When to open, when to close?

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    Top Damper.. When to open, when to close?

    I'm still learning how to use my new Stumps and the DigiQ. I'm just a bit concerned about using the top damper on the smokers. On my electric, I leave it full open. On my offset, full open and I still get plenty smoke in the chamber and the food. With the gravity, I'm concerned that I'm losing too much smoke with the damper wide open. Last nite, I did some chicken quarters with the damper wide open. Near the end of the smoke, I closed the damper almost 80% and found it put a lot more smoke on the chicken although the IT on the chicken was 150F. I've read that meat doesn't absorb smoke past 140F so I may have been late with my adjustment.

    I was wondering what you guys think? I kept the ball valve full open on the Stumps and used the middle setting on the DigiQ.

    Any advice would be welcome!

    #2
    Cman60, there's actually no time or temp limit on smoke absorption, only on the formation of the 'smoke ring' which is merely color and not flavor. Check out Meathead's Smoke Ring Mythbusting article for further info on the ins & outs of smoke and how it behaves.

    Not having your cooker to know exactly, I would say if temp control is NOT the issue, but merely amount of smoke on your food, I would stick with leaving you top damper mostly open. When you begin closing it, it obviously stifles airflow and therefore less smoke escapes. Your meat bathes in smoke slower, and the smoke particles deposit more readily on the meat's surface. For quicker cooks like chicken this may be a good thing for you. If you practiced this with a longer smoke like ribs or a brisket, your results may be much less appealing. Typically it's recommended to keep a good flow to avoid sooty deposits which can negatively affect the smoke flavor, making it harsh, bitter, or sour. But...it's all relative to your personal preference. If you like the results it gives you, do what works best for you.
    Last edited by Huskee; February 27, 2015, 09:13 AM.

    Comment


    • Dewesq55
      Dewesq55 commented
      Editing a comment
      Huskee - I might be wrong but I thought that Harry Soo said that once the maillard reaction is complete (bark full formed and set - scratch test, etc.) that there is no more smoke flavor added. Did I imagine that or did he actually say it?

      DEW

    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      Dewesq55 He may have, I don't really wanna rewatch it again to see for sure, I've seen it a few times, good flick. Moist meat attracts the smoke particles, we all probably understand that by now. You'd need a bone dry piece of meat for no more smoke to stick to the surface. Hot meat will attract less, but if it's moist it stands to reason it doesn't stop. Whenever I cook anything, even for many hours, the meat is still juicy and slightly moist on the outside, even in barked up well. Therefore smoke will keep sticking.

    #3
    Thanks Huskee. I was wondering just how to keep more smoke in the box on long cooks. Looks like I got some experimenting to do. All part of learning the new cooker. I'll keep playing with the airflow until I get the right combo.

    Thanks again!

    Comment


      #4
      document everything, including the results on the table. It will go a long way to recreating your successes.

      Comment


        #5
        Did you see the video seminar on smoke? The risk you face by closing the damper is too much fuel and not enough air which can produce bad smoke, although he alluded to gravity smokers in the video and it sounds like this isn't much of an issue with these devices.

        That's all I've got. I had never even heard of a gravity smoker until a week ago so I don't have any usage tips.

        Have a great weekend and keep on smokin'!

        Comment


          #6
          Originally posted by JeffJ View Post
          Did you see the video seminar on smoke? The risk you face by closing the damper is too much fuel and not enough air which can produce bad smoke, although he alluded to gravity smokers in the video and it sounds like this isn't much of an issue with these devices.

          That's all I've got. I had never even heard of a gravity smoker until a week ago so I don't have any usage tips.

          Have a great weekend and keep on smokin'!
          Yeah Jeff, i'm still learning the nuances of the GF smoker. I'll check out the video though. Thanks for the information!

          Comment


            #7
            Well, I completed a 12hr smoke yesterday and really learned a lot about using the dampers. I did a 14# shoulder at 225F. I had a problem with my DigiQ blower so had to use the dampers only until I got to TastyLicks up in Reading and got a replacement blower.

            Anyway, Once I got the smoker up to temp using Lump for fuel and Briquettes in a chimney for minion starter, I went full open at both ends. At first, I noticed the smoke was white but not too thick. I was using Hickory chips and Mesquite chunks. After playing with the top damper, I got the smoke exhaust down to a nice stream. I worked the bottom damper valve to get the smoker close to 225F. After a while, I opened the top damper all the way and immediately, I got TBS. Talk about doing a happy dance!

            I came back from Reading with the new blower unit and hooked up the DigiQx2. Set it for 225F, spritzed the shoulder with cranapple juice and watched some TV.

            Long story short, perhaps one of my best Pulled Pork efforts! IT at 195F and pulled after several hours.

            Although the DigiQx2 is very convenient and locks in the smoker temps, I think learning how to manually manipulate the dampers for a target smoker temp is crucial in learning how to use my smoker.

            Comment


              #8
              NICE!

              Congratulations on a GREAT smoke, and a great recovery!

              Comment


                #9
                Originally posted by richinlbrg View Post
                NICE!

                Congratulations on a GREAT smoke, and a great recovery!

                Thanks Rich! Certainly was a learning experience.

                Comment


                  #10
                  "Top Damper.. When to open, when to close?"

                  I struggle with this on my weber kettle when I'm trying to keep it at 225. I don't have any crazy gadgets, just a digital thermometer, kingsford charcoal, a top damper and a bottom damper. It seems like I have both dampers almost completely closed and still struggle to keep the temperature down. A lot of times it seems like I end up pulling off burning charcoal to keep it at 225. Any thoughts?
                  My guess is that I must be starting it with too much burning charcoal - a little less than 1/2 a chimney. Maybe opening the lid too much is getting the fire hot? It's still fun trying to dial it in, makes me feel like I'm doing something when all I'm doing is drinking beer and poking at coals

                  Comment


                  • Ernest
                    Ernest commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Is half the chimney lit?
                    I used to use half a chimney of unlit coals then add 8 - 12 lit coals. that did the low and slow smokergrill trick.

                  • JeffJ
                    JeffJ commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I think you figured it out yourself - too many lit coals for that kind of temperature. The problem with the Weber kettle is that it's very sensitive to even the slightest change in damper settings.

                    If you are going to smoke in your kettle I highly recommend the Smokenator. I've done some extremely good smokes utilizing it and with the water pan right above the coals the resultant humidity helps stabilize temps in that low/slow range.

                  • Craigar
                    Craigar commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I have a 26.75" kettle and have struggled with holding at 225-240, especially when the ambient temps are above 50. Since I am too cheap to buy the smokenator I use 2 firebricks and a couple of small loaf pans I picked up at the Dollar Tree. Right now with the outdoor temps being in the 20's & 30's I had success using just the firebricks and no water pan above the charcoal. It takes a little experimentation, but I have had excellent results.

                  #11
                  Smoke does not penetrate meat, correct? So, technically, bark formation will have no effect on concentration of smoke flavor.
                  I started controlling temp using the top vent after watching Harry Soo, it actually works. I just never close it completely. That would put out my fire.

                  Comment


                    #12
                    Same here, Ernest. This past weekend I had the bottom vents on my mini WSM open about 3/4-7/8 and controlled the temperature with the top vent. For the WSM, this worked like a charm. On my Weber Performer I find that I need to fiddle with the bottom vent.

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