Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:10 pm

After a year of ownership I tried to post an honest review of the Yoder Loaded Wichita last month on Yoder's ATBBQ site, but they apparently rejected it. They did allow my review of the probe port, but my separate reviews of the smoker and log lighter are stuck in the "My Product Reviews" section of my user account page. At least sites like Amazon allow honest feedback - even from unhappy customers. In a way, negative reviews add credibility to the review system (not everyone is going to be a devoted fanboy).

I'll expose my short reviews here for anyone interested in honest feedback from an actual customer, since ATBBQ won't show them:

Feedback for Loaded Wichita:
http://i.imgur.com/i4nx9Sp.gif
Feedback for Log Lighter:
http://i.imgur.com/MpGJWOE.gif
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Sun Aug 13, 2017 5:55 pm

I have always hated how Yoder turned the pipe seams towards the bottom on my Loaded Wichita. Do all companies do that? They interfere with cleaning, and I've thought about grinding them smooth, but I don't want to weaken the welds by removing so much material.

Loaded Wichita pipe seams turned to the bottom:
Image


I'm constantly cleaning the ashes out of my firebox, and I curse this stupid weld every time I clean near it. I did a deep clean today before I oiled the firebox, and I had to get a grill brush out to clean the debris that gets caked into the weld.
Image

Is it safe to grind and sand these welds smooth? I asked a question on the Yoder forum to see if they turn the pipe seams down by design, and whether they could turn the seams to the back where they wouldn't interfere with regular cleaning. This is yet another poor design decision from a very young fabrication company that doesn't seem willing to learn from its mistakes. I have no confidence that they'll address this problem either.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby txsmkmstr » Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:28 am

IMHO... I'd grind it off - - - OR - - - notch your cleaning tool if you're that concerned about removing the weld.

One thing I don't get is how pit manufacturers build up a weld bead on the inside around the grease drain nipple, which forms a darn that really traps grease. It's not like they couldn't put a good leak free weld on the outside.... or maybe that's why they build up the inside.

I finally got tired of the grease puddle and ground off the weld. Of course I should have done that before initial seasoning to make clean-up easier but I didn't. I would hate to have a grease leak on the outside because I ground off the inside. Turned out the nipple leaked so I had to grind after a few cooks. :angryfire: Grinding dust and grease are a nasty combination. :banghead: At least the outside weld "sealed" up after a few cooks. That was a bit of a letdown.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Tue Aug 15, 2017 1:36 am

txsmkmstr wrote:One thing I don't get is how pit manufacturers build up a weld bead on the inside around the grease drain nipple, which forms a darn that really traps grease. It's not like they couldn't put a good leak free weld on the outside.... or maybe that's why they build up the inside.


That is very true. Mine has the same bead on the inside of the drain opening. When I was hosing mine out after the last cook little pieces of crud that flowed down to the drain got stuck there, and I had to use my hand to push them through. It's not a terrible inconvenience, but as long as we're adding to the wish list, I'd like to have a better transition there too.
Image

Mine has a nice weld on the outside of that joint too, so the inner weld could probably be contoured smooth.
Image

Sometimes I think Yoder made a conscious effort to build these wagon wheel smokers exactly as they would have been built in the past by oil-field workers. I'd rather they looked old-school but performed like there was more science behind them. Consider how Dodge "rebooted" classic cars like the Dodge Challenger, yet gave them all the modern advances a new car should have.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:01 pm

I just received a PM from another forum stating that Yoder VP Joe Phillips announced some upcoming changes in the smoker design (not sure from what context this quote was taken, but he mentions intake and exhaust for temperature control):

[removed quote after learning it was from a closed forum]
Last edited by slamkeys on Wed Aug 16, 2017 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby freddie987 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:44 pm

Wow. Which forum? Do you have any way of finding out where this was originally posted? With all of the posts that you have done on this cooker Slamkeys I am curious which post made them eventually update the design...
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:33 pm

freddie987 wrote:Wow. Which forum? Do you have any way of finding out where this was originally posted? With all of the posts that you have done on this cooker Slamkeys I am curious which post made them eventually update the design...

I was told it was on Yoder's Facebook account somewhere, but I have never been able to find anything on that site. I'm awaiting a PM to see if I can get a link to the comment.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby freddie987 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:39 pm

Ok post it if you get it!
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Tue Aug 15, 2017 4:56 pm

freddie987 wrote:Ok post it if you get it!

OK, it appears you have to join the Facebook closed group "Team Yoder Smokers" which is led by Joe Phillips, Yoder Herb, and Josh Cary. They have 3,352 members right now. I'm not even going to attempt to join because I would most likely be rejected. Others can try to join though and see what they're talking about. I was alerted by someone else who was participating in the discussion.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:40 pm

I posted a question on the Yoder forum asking about upcoming "tweaks." Maybe they'll clarify what exactly Joe Phillips is talking about.

http://community.yodersmokers.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=1595
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:48 pm

I also posted a couple of other nitpicks on the Yoder forum a long time ago that never received any responses, and the photos were lost due to the Photobucket debacle (and their forum moderator will not allow us to fix the photo links) so I'll show them again here.

Latch Scratch

The latch on the Loaded Wichita (and other models) rubs on the door and scratches all the paint off eventually. This photo was taken on delivery day (before any cooking) and you can already see the ring forming in the paint along the latch's rotation path:
Image

Here's a Kingman that has been used enough to wear the paint down to shiny metal:
Image

Adding a simple washer fixes the problem permanently. I recommended Yoder do this at the factory so the customer doesn't have to deal with the unnecessary wear marks.
Image

Heat Management Plate Fit

The heat management plate doesn't fit tight against the cooker's curved sides, which leaves gaps large enough to scorch whatever is on the firebox end of the cooking chamber. I was first alerted to this issue when I read posts by other owners who were complaining about it.
Image

After a number of cooks, a scorch mark appears on both sides of the cooking chamber. The cooker walls and the grate both exhibit these scorch marks:
Image
Image

This photo came right off the Yoder Website (looks like a Kingman) and the gap is clearly visible on the Kingman too:
Image

I have been using heavy tin foil to block off these openings so I can use that end of the cooker without hot spots in the corners:
Image

I expected somebody at Yoder to tell me that blocking those gaps with foil might be contributing to my flow issues, but nobody ever responded to my post, so I guess they didn't come to that conclusion. I'm currently in the process of acquiring a thermal imaging camera so I can capture where all the heat is going during my cooks on this smoker. I'm planning to take photos with the fire door closed and open, and with the original factory vent in place vs. the modified vent. I can also remove the foil from the sides of the heat management plate while I'm at it, and compare the area before and after to see how much heat enters the cooking chamber through the gaps.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Thu Aug 31, 2017 11:19 am

freddie987 wrote:I am curious which post made them eventually update the design...
I think they have been working on a change for quite a while, but they had to be tight-lipped about the issue until they felt like they had a real solution. in the meantime, they dealt with the increasing number of complaints from customers who have been willing to speak out by posting videos about fire management and telling customers the design hasn't changed in years because it doesn't need to change.

If I had to guess, I would say my review on ATBBQ may have been an eye opener to someone higher up in the company. They had to make a conscious decision to suppress my review, and that is a tough choice to make if you're a good, honest person. I have never had a review suppressed on any site before this. They also locked a thread on their forum where we were discussing the flow issue, and that decision also did not look good for Yoder. One poster labeled these decisions (posting training videos, locking threads, denying reviews) as "damage control," and I'd have to agree. I don't blame them for taking emergency measures to protect their company - I think any company would do the same, but I'm still a little skeptical that a "tweak" to the damper is enough to solve the issue. We'll find out what the tweak is soon enough, and I hope for the sake of the Yoder company it transforms their offset performance in a way that makes them fun and easy to use.

Interestingly, the owner who is getting the first known "fix" for the flow issue is a Cheyenne owner and not a Wichita owner, and fortunately he has been providing status updates as things happen. I still don't know whether he has a heat management plate or not (I did ask), because simply removing the plate makes a difference, but at the expense of less-even temperatures in the cooker. I'm looking forward to his feedback after Yoder attempts their modification.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby slamkeys » Mon Sep 11, 2017 3:06 pm

The Yoder folks posted yet another video on their forum containing a segment on how to manage your fire in a Yoder offset (interview begins at 13:23):
http://community.yodersmokers.com/viewtopic.php?p=8928#p8928

The video is mostly an advertisement about their manufacturing facility and sales volume ("we are successful, therefore right"), but it concludes with an interview between T-Roy Cooks and Joe Phillips, where Joe attempts (once again) to portray his smokers as thoughtfully designed, but then proceeds to explain their usage and behavior in a way that had me scratching my head, and apparently also had T-Roy questioning his own strategies. The whole top/down bottom/up discussion is debatable. Aaron Franklin suggests he gets a top/down cook because his smoke stacks are at grate level, and he doesn't incorporate any type of tuning plates to keep the heat on the bottom. That makes more sense to me.

It's interesting to hear Joe's opinions (which obviously weren't rehearsed), because he continued to push the idea that anyone having issues with their fire management just doesn't have enough knowledge or experience yet, despite the fact they are currently working on some kind of damper modification for the next production run of cookers.

Take aways:
1. Coal Base, Coal Base, Coal Base, Coal Base.
2. Don't use natural fire wood. Buy kiln-dried wood.
3. Joe's design chokes the fire intentionally, so there! It produces more smoke that way! Heavy smoke is good.

One thing that was interesting to me in the interview was the notion that the Wichita's heat management plate was somehow adjustable. T-Roy apparently keeps his an inch or so away from the ash deflector instead of underneath it, which is where Joe Phillips insisted it is supposed to be. I'd like to see Yoder implement an adjustable slider on the Wichita's heat management plate like they have on the Kingmans.

Here's a transcript of the interview portion of the video, for what it's worth:

T-Roy Cooks: Joe, I just wanted to ask this question if you don't mind. A lot of my viewers who have purchased Yoder offsets, they have asked me about that heat management plate. Mine is set up, and my preferred way to do it is to set it up is so that you've got 50 degree variance to 75 degree variance from end to end within the cooking chamber, but I've never tried to get my cooking chamber to be totally even across the board. How would you suggest that my fans do that because they ask me this all the time, and I just don't want to reconfigure mine. If they get a new offset from Yoder, how should they configure that heat management plate?

Joe Phillips: A couple of things. If you talk about completely even across the grate, that's really hard because you have an offset fire. So let's talk about getting it within an acceptable range, say 20 degrees. On the right hand side you are always going to be a little more radiant because that's where the fire is. The heat management plate then it's going to radiate a little heat, so what's going to happen in a Wichita for example with a heat management plate is on the right hand side you're going to have a little bit of a bottom cook, and as you move to the left it's going to be a top down cook. So you're going to cook just a little bit different from right to left.

As you talk about managing that temperature from left to right and top to bottom, you want to control your air intake and the outtake of your air. If you think right brain left brain, as you back the stack off, you're moving the air flow backwards. You're not allowing the heat to flow through the pit, so you're backing it up. If you think about the air intake on the firebox, the more open it is, the more efficient the fire, the more heat you're moving to the left hand side of the chamber. So you'll want to play a balancing act in between your intake damper and your stack. I typically, If I want to be pretty even in the pit, top to bottom and right to left, I'm going to run the damper about 1/2 shut, and the stack cap about 1/3 to 1/2 shut. That really slows that air down, and allows you to really efficiently burn that fire, so that way you're not seeing spikes in temperatures.

The other thing that's really important, cooking in an offset wood pit, the more food you put in it the more BTUs you're going to consume. The tighter that meat gets, the more you're going to force the heat to one end. So you want to allow it a little space. You're always going to cook, typically you're going to cook the hottest at the stack, so if you have a second shelf the upper left is going to tend to run 15 or 20 degrees hotter.

The beautiful thing about an offset wood pit is every piece of meat is a little different, so you've got one brisket that's going to finish in 10 hours, the next one's not going to finish until 11 1/2.

T-Roy Cooks: It happens to everybody, yeah.

Joe Phillips: Your wife puts cake in the oven, right? Sets it at 350 degrees and sets a timer. She's going to walk to that cake with a toothpick and check it; it's what's going to happen. Well cooking a piece of meat's kind of the same way. That oven's going to have variance in it. That's why you're checking. Well a wood pit's going to be the same way: you've got a fire that you're controlling so your ability to efficiently burn fire and provide it predictable fuel is really important.

We see a lot of guys who will go buy some wood to start with, and then they'll go to the neighbors and find an old tree that they're going to give to them, well that kiln-dried wood they bought, and that old tree laying on the ground aren't going to burn the same. They're going to be a little different. So the ability to manage that air flow through the pit - you can take any of our pits and make them do whatever you want.

A good base, you've gotta have a coal base, that's where the heat comes from. Maintain that coal base. If you lose it, then you begin to create separation from right to left, and always going to happen. Maintain your coal base, understand your pit and it's air flow, and then use the dampers. It's why we put them there. Play with that a little bit. You know, I don't ever run a damper more than about 1/3 shut on the stack, but at times I'll run my firebox damper almost all the way closed if I want to be 200 degrees.

T-Roy Cooks: See, I usually just run my stack all the way open and strictly adjust the heat within the pit by the intake on my firebox.

Joe Phillips: You can certainly do that.

T-Roy Cooks: I do get, I guess, less smoke flavor because there's more air flow, OK? So if I want more smoke flavor - slow that air down.

Joe Phillips: Slow that air flow down. Hold it in that chamber a little longer. Perfect example is a pellet grill. The reason a pellet grill smokes is because you're dropping raw fuel on a fire. It'll smoke for a little bit and it'll quit. So the ability to heat pellets predictably causes that smoke profile to happen. The exact same thing exists in a wood pit. The bigger the coal base, the hotter the coal base, the less smoke you're going to produce. The more air you're moving through it, the chemical process in the meat, in the cooking, in the salts, will cause the smoke flavor to happen. But if you want big, heavy smoke, slow the air down. Slow that cook down.

T-Roy Cooks: Let the smoke linger on the meat.

Joe Phillips: Let it linger there. if you want to cook a little hotter and faster, open it up, let things move through it. Um, It's kind of like driving a car and pulling up to a stop light, right? You ease into the throttle. Well running the wood pit's the exact same way: you want to ease into that throttle and set your cruise control where you want it. The cruise control is the entry point and the exit point.

T-Roy Cooks: Very interesting. And the heat management plate itself, should it be all the way against the inside wall of the fire box, or does it even matter how far it is?

Joe Phillips: Yeah, it does.

T-Roy Cooks: And also, it's got a lip on one end, should that lip be within the firebox?

Joe Phillips: The lip should curl under the ash seal. In every pit there's a rectangular piece of plate welded against the firebox wall, at about a 15 degree angle. That is there, as the air moves up it's going to want to rise. It's there to catch the ash, and stop the ash from getting on the top of your meat.

T-Roy Cooks: Oh, that's good - I didn't ever know that.

Joe Phillips: That's what it's there for. Heat should lip under it. That'll give you a predictable radiant spot of about 20 degrees hotter on the right, and then progressively going to get cooler to the left. So what I'm doing there is choking that air flow down. I'm causing it to starve itself just a little bit so it produces the smoke more.

I'll take my Kingman at times, and I'll slide my plate 3 or 4 inches away from there. I'll leave a little bit of gap. Let's say I've got chicken on the upper right hand side. I want that heat to come up and escape because I want a 350 degree zone on the upper right, while I want my brisket over here at 250.

So the versatility and the ability to play with that is really neat. The good thing about our pits, is it's capable of any of it.

T-Roy Cooks: I've got mine like 1 inch or so, maybe an inch and a half away from the wall, or away from that ash-catch thing you were talking about, and that's how I get my even 50 degree variance. But depending on what you're cooking and how you want to cook, you could move the heat management plate, adjust the intake and the outtake, you know the smokestack and the firebox, uh, learn your pit (points finger at you).

Joe Phillips: Learn your pit - very important (nods head).
T-Roy Cooks: Does it matter whether you're doing the Cheyenne, or the Kingman, or my Wichita, as far as what you just described? Is there very much variance? I would think not.

Joe Phillips: There's a little bit of variance just because as the tube gets bigger, the air's going to flow slightly slower. So in a Cheyenne you have a little tube, everything is sized for that body, it's proportioned intake to outtake. But naturally the air's going to move through it faster because there's less cubic volume to fill, so it's going to be quicker to react than say a Kingman. A Kingman's going to be a little slower to react than a Wichita.

Fundamentally they're all the same. The reaction time changes in between certain pits.

T-Roy Cooks: It's about the size of the volume of the air going ...

Joe Phillips: It's the cubic volume inside the body.

T-Roy Cooks: That really makes a lot of sense. I can't thank you enough for explaining that.


YouTube interview (13:23):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAkL3JSz-r4&feature=youtu.be&t=803
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby BurningStick » Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:16 am

I enjoy reading your posts, I'm a new owner of a loaded Wichita, and I'm considering a BBQ GURU to fix the problems you've managed to address. I've even spoke to someone that use to work for Yoder and recommended the GURU. What are your thoughts? Thanks for all your posts and pics of your mods. I live in between where Yoders are built and sold, lucky me.
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Re: Just Bought A Yoder Loaded Wichita

Postby freddie987 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:53 am

No way you want to use a guru to limit airflow to a stickburner because when the fan cycles off you are starving your fire of oxygen and will either put out the fire or cover your food with soot

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