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Fluctuating Smoking Temps? Quit Worrying So Much.

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    Fluctuating Smoking Temps? Quit Worrying So Much.

    There’s been a lot of discussion lately about maintaining steady temps on people’s smokers. We get occasional questions from members, mostly new ones, on how to best maintain the temperature on their smoker. A lot of times they’re freaking out because of 20*-30* temp swings that have occurred during their cook. I remember one poster was concerned because he couldn’t keep his temps within 10* of his target temp of 225! Ten degrees? That’s almost impossible on a non pellet grill and should be of absolutely no concern for anyone.

    I know that most of us here don’t spend a lot of time worrying about our smokers going from 20*-40* over, or under sometimes, of our target temp. This post is mainly for people that might be new or fairly new to smoking large cuts of meat..briskets, pork butts, beef ribs etc. In almost all cases, smoking larger cuts of meat at higher temps than 225* will not affect the taste and just make it cook quicker. (Reasonable smoking temps)

    Try to think of your smoker as an outdoor oven. If you didn’t know, your kitchen oven is going to have many temperature swings also during your cooks inside. As many types of food as I’ve cooked over the years in my current oven, I’ve never had a problem with temperatures ruining any of my food, maybe too much beer did, but, not the ovens fault. ecowper and Jerod Broussard have recently posted similar remarks about temp swings.

    To help validate my “opinion” I decided to test my own kitchen oven temps during a couple of cooks. I used my new ThermoWorks probes for the test. The results surprised me a little. I tested my oven temps on 2 fake cooks, nothing in the oven, just turned it on. One test was @ 250* and the other was 350*
    1. On the 250* cook, during the preheat, it got up to 293* before it shut off the heat element. Once it dropped to 250* it then turned the heating element on again until it reached 291*. So during my test at 250* my temps fluctuated about 40* between 250 and 290.

    2. On my 350* cook, during the preheat it got to 398* before shutting off the heating element. Then when the temperature dropped to 356* it started heating up again. Next time the element shut off when it reached 402* It dropped to 356* and turned on again until it reached 414*. A 58* temperature swing!

    Is my oven temperature swings typical of all ovens? I don’t know, maybe not…but I do know I’ve never burned anything in my oven because of the temp swings. And all my cooks have come out just fine using this oven for the last 15 years or so. I’ve cooked frozen pizzas and other prepackaged food in my oven at the recommended temps, and they all come out done at the recommended cooking times.

    Bottom line here? Relax and don’t freak out if your smoker goes from 250* to 300* for a while.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	5D9A7395-1FE4-4439-B5F4-60AE8B644E4A.jpeg Views:	54 Size:	2.74 MB ID:	1062516
    My ThermoWorks showed it was actually 291* for a while…for a cook at 250*

    Click image for larger version  Name:	BE8D7E44-AC8F-4E1E-B3CA-38E2CA60D20E.jpeg Views:	50 Size:	3.53 MB ID:	1062517
    Last edited by Panhead John; July 19, 2021, 05:26 PM.

    #2
    Good stuff PJ. I'd wager that most of our grills especially pellets in PID would not break more than 25 degrees in either direction, making them better than our indoor ovens.

    Comment


    • dubob
      dubob commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, good stuff. Except for cooking frozen pizza. Ewwwww! If your going to cook pizza at home, the LEAST you could do is make sure it's a Papa Murphy's (Love at 425 degrees). 😁👍❤

    #3
    My ovens did a complete sinusoidal, dipping below and rising above. For example, 170 set temp fluctuated from 145-195.

    Comment


    • Panhead John
      Panhead John commented
      Editing a comment
      Glad you posted that. I was curious as to how much other people’s ovens fluctuate.

    • Mosca
      Mosca commented
      Editing a comment
      That’s how mine does, too. Along with the +25/-25.

    #4
    I always tell people as long as you're within the bookends of acceptable low & slow temps, don't worry. The meat doesn't care, only the human cares.

    Comment


      #5
      Like Jerod Broussard, my oven runs on a very standard sine wave, swinging about 25 degrees above and below my set point. My WSM runs more constant than that, so I don’t worry too much.

      Great post, great info

      Comment


        #6
        My oven fluctuates 15 to 20 degrees either side of the set temp without any problems. I'd be concerned about the one sided rise if it was my oven PH, but since you are getting good results, don't worry. Most, if not all, ovens are adjustable in case it's not cooking properly.

        I have posted the info below here before, so if you remember it, you can skip the rest.

        Here's a simple text you can perform to check. First, ya know those refrigerator biscuits that come in a cardboard can? The instructions say bake at XXX° for 9 to 11 minutes, (for example). Ya better believe that Pillsbury knows exactly how long it takes to bake those biscuits at the given temp. But they also know that not all ovens are properly calibrated.

        So if you cook the biscuits as instructed, and the biscuits are too brown at the minimum time, or too light at the max time, your oven is out of whack, (sorry for the scientific talk ). If you need to adjust your oven, look in the owner's manual or find the model number and google it.

        Comment


        • Panhead John
          Panhead John commented
          Editing a comment
          Yeah Ron, I was surprised at my results also. Before I did the testing I was thinking about 20* above and below also. Not 40*-50* higher! And turning back on at the set temp, instead of going below for a bit? Strange

        #7
        Experience is such a grand teacher. The newbs referenced are living the comment, "you don't know what you don't know." I suspect most are "shocked" to learn the oven in their kitchen doesn't stay at a single, precise temp. Never gave it any thought and certainly never tested it. Now, they get excited about this new (to them) adventure called barbeque. They get a cooker, maybe even one of those "new fangled" digital temp thingies that promise precise temp measurement, and that's when the "don't know" thing kicks in. Maybe some of us more experienced hands don't immediately recall how insecure we may have been when we first started cooking, whether inside or outside equipment. Fear of making an error and ruining the meal prevails. How many times have you heard (or maybe said yourself), ".......but I followed the recipe exactly.............it turned out all wrong. What happened?" Keep learning grasshopper......

        Comment


        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          I learned to cook bbq using the dome thermometer in my grill. Then I read some Meathead, got a Maverick, and started measuring temps. I spent a year chasing temps in my cooker, trying for that magical 225. I finally figured out that I was driving myself insane and not cooking good bbq.

        • Panhead John
          Panhead John commented
          Editing a comment
          Oh yeah! I remember my first attempts at brisket on a $200. offset from Wally World. Hell, I don’t even think I was cooking by temps too much, just time. Thermometer? I don’t need no stinking thermometer! 😂
          Last edited by Panhead John; July 18, 2021, 04:51 PM.

        #8
        Oh yeah, I remember chasing temps when I got my first smoker. What an exercise in frustration. Talk about a stressful cook!

        Comment


          #9
          Panhead John Sounds like a proportional–integral–derivative controller is needed.
          What is your opinion of the nickname PID-Head?

          I can't believe I read the whole thing.
          Last edited by bbqLuv; July 18, 2021, 06:27 PM.

          Comment


          • Troutman
            Troutman commented
            Editing a comment
            You know, come to think of it, PID is awfully close to PBR is it not?

          • bbqLuv
            bbqLuv commented
            Editing a comment
            PID close to PBR, that works for me.

          • smokenoob
            smokenoob commented
            Editing a comment
            bbqLuv Troutman Come to think of it, I’ve been using a PBR controller for some time now. Higher temp than target, have a PBR, lower temp than target, have a PBR, meat at target temp, have it with a PBR!

          #10
          I learned this exact point when I first joined Amazing Ribs. I would panic pevery time my temps would swing 20-30 degrees. Messing with vents and making things worse in the long run. For larger cuts like brisket and butts, ive found that they are VERY forgiving and don’t seem to care about even short term swings of 40-60 degrees.
          My advice is relax, have another PBR and have fun making great BBQ.

          Comment


          • ecowper
            ecowper commented
            Editing a comment
            I remember some of those posts Dadof3Illinois ….. we all go through it at some point. And then we all learn to relax and have a PBR

          • bardsleyque
            bardsleyque commented
            Editing a comment
            or an Old Rasputin

          #11
          This all about science and technology. I have found the perfect method that always yields almost NO fluctuation. I simply place the food in my oven and never turn the oven on. Perfect control with plus or minus 1 degrees.

          Comment


          • IFindZeroBadCooks
            IFindZeroBadCooks commented
            Editing a comment
            The original low and slow method.

          #12
          My oven panel looks similar to PJs, here’s my result. I was actually surprised by how well it did.

          Click image for larger version

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ID:	1062694

          Comment


          • Polarbear777
            Polarbear777 commented
            Editing a comment
            I think this was with my old cyberQ. Had to export and make the plots myself.

          • Troutman
            Troutman commented
            Editing a comment
            Yea but the reality is every time you open the oven door you loose 20-40*. Where's that in your chart?

          • Polarbear777
            Polarbear777 commented
            Editing a comment
            Well I didn’t open the oven for the entire test. I guess that’s an add for next time.

          #13
          Great post Polarbear777 and good info. Anyone else reading this, if you have the time, I think we’d all be curious as to your oven temp swings.

          Comment


            #14
            My ovens around 25 degree swings above and below set point.

            Comment


              #15
              Humor aside, I actually did this kind of testing of my oven awhile ago. Using my Fireboard, I tested it at 275. Surprisingly, it held +/- 15. This started for me when I had my Camp Chef and freaked because it fluctuated +/- 30*. This was my first smoker, and I thought something was wrong. Spent a lot of bucks on a PID controller, plus auger motor, fan, etc. When I got my MAK, did the same testing. While temp control maybe be not significant, I can say that the MAK can and does hold to +/- 10* do setpoint.

              none of that says the food is better with tighter control. It just, for me, is not an issue anymore. I pay much more attention to food temp via probes and Thermapen.

              Comment

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