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Thread: New smoker pilot here...

  1. #1
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    New smoker pilot here...

    Hi there -

    I just joined the forum to get a better education on basics and tips for better control of my new Weber smoker. After a year or two of me talking about it, I was ready to graduate to a smoker from just BBQ'ing. My wife gave me a 18" Weber smoker a few months ago and I've toyed around with it, smoked chicken once and tuna 2-3 times. I love using the Weber. Doesn't seem like work at all. However a bit of frustration exists as far as temperature control. Everyone tells me the tuna comes out great, but a bit on the dry side one time. Every time, I've used a full chimney of Kingsford Professional charcoal, parrafin cubes to light, careful (I think) vent control, but the temp goes from 215-220 to 180 in one hour. A steady decline every time. I read that wind is a bigger enemy for temp control than ambient temp, but I still struggle at keeping the temp elevated. Even on mild days the temp goes to steady decline. To help this the last time, about one week ago, I placed three sheets of plywood around the smoker, but it didn't seem to matter, same result. I wash thinking of boiling water for the bowl - vs, cool water? Also, I tend to go heavy on large wood chunks, several of which I find are only partly burned the next day, maybe smothering the coals a bit?

    Any insight to correct what I'm doing wrong would be great.

    Thanks for reading,
    John

  2. #2
    TVWBB Platinum Member Timothy F. Lewis's Avatar
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    I’d skip water entirely but, if you feel you must, Hot is better.
    Keep reading! Do some pork butts, very forgiving as far as critical temperature and time.
    The more you do the better it gets!
    Distinguebant Sed, Ignoret In Particulari!
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease too big a skillet!" J. D. Clampett

  3. #3
    TVWBB All-Star BFletcher's Avatar
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    Welcome, John. I'm not a tuna smoker nor do I have experience with K Pro and, so, I don't know your target pit temp but in my uneducated mind here are a couple thoughts: if the 220 that you start with is your target pit temp, yet it descends before your smoke is finished, then add some unlit coals at the start of your smoke. If you're wanting a higher pit temp then start with more than 1 full chimney (and possibly still add some unlit). Depending on how long your lit coals ride in your chimney, some of that fuel may be well-spent by the time you add it to your WSM.

    I'm with TLF; I stopped using water shortly after I began smoking but I'm not saying it's wrong to use water. Also; you might elaborate on what you believe to be careful vent control so that others can suggest some tweaks if they feel you might need to make a change. I generally keep my exhaust vent fully open and tweak my intakes as needed.

    It would not seem to me that wood chunks would smother your fuel, nor that ash would be an issue in one hour.

    Keep pushing through this and keep a log of your smokes. Someday soon your frustration will be in the past!

  4. #4
    TVWBB All-Star BFletcher's Avatar
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    Also; are you familiar with the section containing operating tips and cooking topics? There is a wealth of informative detail. Here is the section on firing-up your smoker: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/fireup1.html

  5. #5
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    Tim and BFletcher,

    Thanks for all the great info, yes I'll try to cut back on the water (pre-boiled next time) or eliminate. I fortunately have been keeping a log of every smoke, and I have brined the tuna for 8 hours prior, I think that helps keep it hydrated quite a bit.

    I was wondering if it was ok to add a half chimney of unlit coals right on top of the chimney that I had just dumped inside the pit. I fire up the chimney and let it burn for apprx. 20 minutes, or until the white smoke almost disappears. I may cut that to 10-15 minutes.

    My intake vents I adjusted this last time to full open I I had 3 plywood sheets held up by cinder blocks (until I build something decent) and the exhaust vent half open. All vents stayed like this pretty much the whole time. My target temp was 215-220 for around an hour. I bought a Therm-Pro digital thermometer (dual probe type, but use only one for ambient inside the smoker) and it seems to work pretty well.

    So I think I may cut the water, add 1/2 chimney of unlit coal on top of the lit chimney I just dumped in the pit, topped by wood chunks, continue to use the plywood and see what happens this next time. I plan on smoking tuna again this Sunday, thanks again guys for all the help, and if there are any other nuggets of wisdom, I'll add those in as well.

    I'll make sure I read this too; http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/fireup1.html

    Thanks,
    John

  6. #6
    TVWBB All-Star BFletcher's Avatar
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    If you still can't get what you want you might try it once with the exhaust fully open to see if that helps. Good luck!

  7. #7
    TVWBB Platinum Member Timothy F. Lewis's Avatar
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    I agree, choking the exhaust vent(top) is generally not the best heat reduction method, in my opinion. I tend to think of that as “holding stale smoke” in the smoker. Reducing intake will slow combustion, slowing the burn. Choking the exhaust smothers it more.
    John, feel free to start a thread in The “barbecuing” forum, more folks might give you more ideas.
    Enjoy the ride!
    Distinguebant Sed, Ignoret In Particulari!
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease too big a skillet!" J. D. Clampett

  8. #8
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    Thanks guys, I'll try all suggestions!

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