Can't get temp high on a Kettle

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Mark Hudson

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Iuse a full chimney of briquette and let it get white to the top. I have tried spreading it all over the grate, and on only half. Both with the vents wide open on top and bottom.

I can't ever get the dome thermometer over 400 and that's only when I cover it and don't open it...if I open it I can hardly kee
It above 300 (covered again)

What am I doing wrong?
Is it possible there's something wrong with the thermometer. Test the probe in boiling water and ice water and see if it's accurate. You should be able to get hotter than 400* even if you take the top off.

Bill already suggested checking the thermometer. I'd ask...
1. What size chimney you using? Some just don't hold enough.
2. Are you cleaning the ash out. Need to.
3. What charcoal you using. The cheap stuff is well, cheap and won't burn as long or hot.
4. Are you letting the charcoal burn too long in the chimney so that by the time you dump it, the charcoal is already 1/2 burnt?
5. Does it feel hot? Can you hold your hand over the grill? If not, maybe it really is hot.
Steve, I know there are varying opinions, but what am I looking for before dumping my chimney? Gray covering top coals? Or just beginning to get a hint? I haven't installed my thermometer, so I don't think I have a problem with heat as the OP does, just wondering about your opinion as you offered that as a problem.
Here's my routine for a direct high heat cook...

I always have left over charcoal from the previous cook, typically at least 1/2 a chimney. I use a small (coal pail type) shovel to knock the ash off the old charcoal and pile it on one side. I have a performer so I pile it on the left side away from where I set the chimney. Knock the bowl a little to get the ash to settle low in the bowl, and then clean it all out. Leave bottom vents wide open. I use an over filled Weber chimney, light and wait until the heavy smoke is gone and I can see any flame or any ash from top. When it’s ready, I lift the chimney in one hand, spread leftover charcoal using shovel in other hand, dump chimney in middle, spread evenly over entire grate, put on cooking grate and wait a few minutes for the rest of the charcoal to start burning well. I leave the lid off when cooking direct. If you want to cook with the lid on, make sure the charcoal is burning well before putting the lid on. The lid will choke it down a little but if it’s burning good, there should be no problem hitting 500.
Thanks for the detailed method, Steve. I've been able to re-use unspent charcoal, however, I've mainly been building a 2 zone indirect fire, if only because I still like the comfort of a safe zone if I'm cooking something too fast (I'm still getting the hang of charcoal).

So you're really not looking for any ash on the top coals of your chimney, it sounds like. Could it be you're not worried because you have a bed of half-spent coals underneath to help feed it once you drop the coals?

Mark, I apologize for jumping in on your thread, but I'm hopeful my questions may also be able to help you get your desired results, as well.
So you're really not looking for any ash on the top coals of your chimney, it sounds like. Could it be you're not worried because you have a bed of half-spent coals underneath to help feed it once you drop the coals?
If I can look down and see any ash, I'll dump, not because of left over charcoal, but because the un-ashed briquettes start burning and ash over quickly.
Just ordered a 22.5 OTG last Sunday. Stupid question. Why would one need their kettles to reach +500? Whats cookin?
Here's my thermometer Sunday right after dumping one chimney of charcoal in the center of my kettle in a charcoal ring.

It probably settled to 750 before I cooked my ribeyes.

I dump my chimney when I see flames coming out of the top. If you wait for the top coals to ash over, your bottom coals are spent and you won't get a hot fire.
I have found that using one full Weber Chimney starter the bottom half of the chimney coals are spent by the time the top gets going. I now use two chimneys 1/2 full and I ready for searing that way. A cool trick for Minion Method cooking is turning the chimney starter upside down and putting the charcoal in the inverted bottom...holds just enough to get your unlit bed of coals starting up nicely......
If you're waiting until the briquettes at the top are ashed over, you're waiting too long to dump the chimney. I dump as soon I can look down and see any flame, even if I see no ash. The briquettes on top are already very hot, start burning and ash over within a couple minutes.
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