CharGriller Problems, part deux

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CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Mon Apr 19, 2010 11:31 am

I had posted this in another thread, but thought that maybe breaking it out into its own topic would garner some helpful feedback? Apologies for the repost if it offends...

=======================================

And, the frustration continues... If it was simple, everyone would be doing it, right?

I finally had some time last night and built a fire in my CG to test my SFB charcoal basket mods (see previous post for pics). Since this was a test run only, I got a big chub of bologna, some hot links, and some sausages ready for the cook.

Pretty simple dry run:

1. Filled Weber Chimney with Kingsford Briquettes, lit with newspaper.
2. Inferno-status in 15 minutes, and dumped the whole thing in my charcoal basket.
3. Stack vent and air intakes = wide open.
4. Walked away for 20 minutes to prep meats
5. Checked temp on both grate mounted thermos - an even 200 degrees on both. I expected higher temps.
6. Opened SFB to check the fire, and it was full-on blazing - every coal was glowing red.
7. Added a stick of pecan off to the side, closed SFB lid, and walked away again for 20 minutes.
8. Plenty of smoke, and what appeared to be plenty of fire - temps still at 200 degrees.
9. Checked ash pan - some small accumulations by this point, but nothing that is blocking air flow or impeding combustion.
10. Added meats, and nursed them through a longer than expected cook.
11. Head banging ensued...

It was rainy and cool - around 60-65 degrees when I started. I had what appeared to be a blazing charcoal fire, and I even added the remains of a bag of lump charcoal to it mid-burn - the temps never went above 200 degrees. Just for grins, I even found some old garage towels and laid 3 or 4 of them on top of my smoke chamber just to see if a little external insulation would raise the temps - no luck. There was a light breeze blowing, and I turned the air vent into the wind as well - so air flow and oxygen should be sufficient. During the cook, there is some smoke observed coming out from under the lid in back, and a little on the sides, but it doesn't appear to be a massive leak - the vent stack is the preferred exit for the smoke.

Is my charcoal basket not big/tall enough? It held a full Weber chimney of lit coals, plus a full stick of pecan - surely fuel volume is not the problem?

In my first cook on this after the tuning plate, baffle, and vent mods - using the old SFB grate - I got higher temps than this - why?

The thermometers were calibrated prior to install - I'm confident they are correct.

Yes, I'd prefer cooking on a Lang or a BigHat - but I choose my battles wisely with the Mrs., and this is a skirmish best left for much later... much later. Swittner can attest to that fact! :mrgreen:

As always, comments and suggestions are very much appreciated. I'm anxious to smoke a pork butt and/or a brisket on my highly modified yet still under performing CG.

thanks in advance,
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby swittner » Mon Apr 19, 2010 12:50 pm

Take this for what it is worth - not much since I am new to this whole smoking thing!

What about moving your extended vent so you are more reverse flow? From the pics it "looks" like you might be moving most of your heat below your tuning plates and then it exits right where the tuning plates end.

Just a thought - I'm sure someone here has more experience and can help with your temp problems.
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby CJATE » Mon Apr 19, 2010 3:00 pm

I had one, and never a problem (we never a problem getting hot, but struggled holding temp)

just build a bigger fire. if you can't open the air anymore, the only solution is to add heat.

I'd take off some of your mods, perhaps one at a time.... but it sounds like it's drafting if the fire is still going good after 20 min.

I more or less ran mine wide open and just controlled heat with fire management. more wood then Coal, but coal is critical to hold temps. also might take more then 20min to get up to temp. but add fuel and see what happens.
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:14 pm

CJATE wrote:I had one, and never a problem (we never a problem getting hot, but struggled holding temp)

just build a bigger fire. if you can't open the air anymore, the only solution is to add heat.

I'd take off some of your mods, perhaps one at a time.... but it sounds like it's drafting if the fire is still going good after 20 min.

I more or less ran mine wide open and just controlled heat with fire management. more wood then Coal, but coal is critical to hold temps. also might take more then 20min to get up to temp. but add fuel and see what happens.


Thanks for the suggestions CJATE! Appreciate the reply.

I'm going to tweak my mods first and see if that helps: move the vent stack mod over to other side of smoke chamber, ala reverse flow theory; redo/fix my baffle mod and add another tuning plate;

Then, I'll build the biggest dang fire I can build - and see what happens? :D
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby tex_toby » Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:41 pm

Do you have a pic of the tuning plates somewhere? I have a suspicion that is where your problem is.
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:53 pm

tex_toby wrote:Do you have a pic of the tuning plates somewhere? I have a suspicion that is where your problem is.

Try this link: http://picasaweb.google.com/jrichv/Smok ... directlink
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby tex_toby » Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:22 pm

ironhead wrote:
tex_toby wrote:Do you have a pic of the tuning plates somewhere? I have a suspicion that is where your problem is.

Try this link: http://picasaweb.google.com/jrichv/Smok ... directlink" target="_blank" target="_blank


I think that is your issue. Have you tried spreading them out any or using less of them? As mentioned above, I think your heat is all going under the plates and straight up the exhaust. I would start with only using the one next to the firebox and then add more if needed. A lot of people who own chargrillers swear by turning the charcoal grate upside down and using it like a baffle. When I tried it, I could never get it hot enough in there. Start there and see what happens.

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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby Bluz » Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:48 pm

I think one part of your issues is the thin exterior of the pit in 60-65 degree temps may be giving up a bit of that heat from the fire, but in know means do I feel that is the main culprit. I think I would do similar to what Toby said to open those plates a bit, and try and take the last plate and put it directly under the exhaust opening to make the heat and smoke stay in the main a little longer. It will find its draft once the main has heated up to temp and may allow it to gain some temps being in it longer.
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby Kenny 13 » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:55 pm

I think Tex and Bluz give some solid advice here. I haven't cooked on my CG in ages, but I used to do like Tex says - flipping the charcoal tray and using it as a baffle. I found that worked perfect for me in that it wouldn't let the temperature in the main chamber climb over the 230-235° range under just about any circumstances. That worked fine for me because I always wanted to keep it in the 220-230° range for smoking. However, if I wanted to cook at a higher temperature, say for smoke roasting a chicken or turkey, I had to abandon that method altogether as it was impossible to achieve the temperatures I wanted.
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:09 pm

tex_toby wrote:
ironhead wrote:
tex_toby wrote:Do you have a pic of the tuning plates somewhere? I have a suspicion that is where your problem is.

Try this link: http://picasaweb.google.com/jrichv/Smok ... directlink" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank


I think that is your issue. Have you tried spreading them out any or using less of them? As mentioned above, I think your heat is all going under the plates and straight up the exhaust. I would start with only using the one next to the firebox and then add more if needed. A lot of people who own chargrillers swear by turning the charcoal grate upside down and using it like a baffle. When I tried it, I could never get it hot enough in there. Start there and see what happens.
tex :texas:


tex - I am aiming towards another "test-burn-smoke" at the end of this week - hopefully Friday evening. I agree with your thoughts on smoke/heat getting under the plates and exiting too easily out the exhaust - that's the theory driving my possible reverse-flow mod attempt. I think I will try another run before making the reverse-flow mod, and just start moving the plates and see what that does to my temps. Thank you for the help!!!

Bluz wrote:I think one part of your issues is the thin exterior of the pit in 60-65 degree temps may be giving up a bit of that heat from the fire, but in know means do I feel that is the main culprit. I think I would do similar to what Toby said to open those plates a bit, and try and take the last plate and put it directly under the exhaust opening to make the heat and smoke stay in the main a little longer. It will find its draft once the main has heated up to temp and may allow it to gain some temps being in it longer.


Bluz - my hope is that with a big/huge fire, I could overcome the thin exterior thickness and just overwhelm the limitations with the amount of BTU's I'm pouring into the smoke chamber and (so far unsuccessfully) redirecting it to make it usable. My upcoming weekend tests should provide feedback one way or the other. Thanks for your help!!!

Kenny 13 wrote:I think Tex and Bluz give some solid advice here. I haven't cooked on my CG in ages, but I used to do like Tex says - flipping the charcoal tray and using it as a baffle. I found that worked perfect for me in that it wouldn't let the temperature in the main chamber climb over the 230-235° range under just about any circumstances. That worked fine for me because I always wanted to keep it in the 220-230° range for smoking. However, if I wanted to cook at a higher temperature, say for smoke roasting a chicken or turkey, I had to abandon that method altogether as it was impossible to achieve the temperatures I wanted.


Kenny 13 - that point you made on flipping your tray to use as a baffle should not be tossed aside - that could come in handy in the future if it performs the same way on my CG. I will incorporate that into my testing. The last part of your comments sum up my whole experience and frustration: "it was impossible to achieve the temperatures I wanted"
Thanks for your help also!

All the comments, feedback and suggestions are VERY much appreciated guys. While I have been frustrated, this thing has not gotten the best of me yet.

I am armed with tools, time and desire - and will NOT let this thing beat me! Game on, CharGriller!!!

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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Fri Apr 23, 2010 10:15 pm

Where do I begin???

Here's a link to tonight's efforts: http://picasaweb.google.com/jrichv/Mods ... directlink" target="_blank" target="_blank

I began with making an attempt at turning my CharGriller into a reverse flow smoker: new longer vent tube repositioned, more tuning plates and a better (smoke/fire tight) baffle, and then a test burn/smoke with no meat involved - just me tending the fire.

It did not go as hoped...

Maybe I added too many variables? I tried Cowboy Lump charcoal from Lowes - (absolutely zero Kingsford briquettes) and a few lumps of hickory (just for smoke) - in addition to the reverse flow mods? It's been hot today, but is comfortable tonight. No cold weather or crazy winds affecting the smoke chamber and temps.

It started out very promising - I even hit 300 at one point! - but it was a short-lived victory. When the temps dropped (yet again) back to hovering around 200 degrees, I have tried (so far) to add more lump, stir the coals, make sure ash isn't blocking air flow, opening the SFB ash plate for more airflow, etc.

I'm just over 2 hours into the test burn, and back at square one - help!!! Just checked again - temps are 210 across the grate. Dangit!!! :angry5:

Should I have laid my minion bed with true charcoal (Kingsford blue bag or other?) and stuck to the stick burning instead of the hickory chunks? Should I ditch the lump (hot but fast and not lasting long fire) and go with my old method - build a bed of burning Kingsford, and then get a raging fire with sticks of pecan and hickory - ala a "bonfire" of sorts, burning just sticks?

I'm running out of options and ideas here - any and all help would be greatly appreciated. The frustration grows, and I'm beginning to think it will only be solved by the purchase of a "real" smoker. And I can't get the wife to buy off on that yet... :cry:

Thanks in advance,
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby OSD » Sat Apr 24, 2010 5:52 am

My thoughts are if you want a reverse flow smoker you need to install another stack on that end of the smoker. That long tube extension is most likely a lot of the problem. It is too long and has too many 90° bends in it, and that will restrict air flow. When you figure the air flow, ( volume and pressure to move the air through a length of pipe ) a 90° bend in a pipe is equal to about 15ft. of straight pipe on that size of pipe. So, you would need a bigger dia pipe made like yours to get the right air flow. Plus that much pipe running along the top-inside of the cook chamber is getting hot causing an almost vapor-lok effect on the hot expanding air in the small hot exhaust tube. In short the exhaust needs to get out of the pit faster to create a good air flow.

I would just extend the exhaust straight down to the grate level and use less of the tuning plates with spaces between them for temp control.

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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby CliffCarter » Sat Apr 24, 2010 9:59 am

2 observations-
1. I cook on the same cooker in the winter when the outside temps are 10-20 above zero, other than using more fuel I have no problems maintaining temps. 65F
sounds like beautiful BBQ weather to me.
2. I agree with tex toby you need to either put some gaps between your tuning plates or lose them all together. Remember that you are also heating any mass that you put in the pit, ergo you are heating the mass of all that metal you are using for tuning plates. IMHO I would start by removing all plates except the one closest to the SFB and see how the pit temps react.

You also may have to redo the exhaust to its original configuration. JM2C. Good Luck
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:20 am

OSD wrote:My thoughts are if you want a reverse flow smoker you need to install another stack on that end of the smoker. That long tube extension is most likely a lot of the problem. It is too long and has too many 90° bends in it, and that will restrict air flow. When you figure the air flow, ( volume and pressure to move the air through a length of pipe ) a 90° bend in a pipe is equal to about 15ft. of straight pipe on that size of pipe. So, you would need a bigger dia pipe made like yours to get the right air flow. Plus that much pipe running along the top-inside of the cook chamber is getting hot causing an almost vapor-lok effect on the hot expanding air in the small hot exhaust tube. In short the exhaust needs to get out of the pit faster to create a good air flow.

I would just extend the exhaust straight down to the grate level and use less of the tuning plates with spaces between them for temp control.

JWWFM-YMMV


Thanks OSD - I like the physics behind your line of thinking, however I have never heard of vapor-lok affecting smoke - only liquids? Going to have to google that one - but I have learned that anything is possible.

I am going to take your suggestion and move the stack back to the opposite end of the SFB and see what it changes.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Re: CharGriller Problems, part deux

Postby ironhead » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:24 am

CliffCarter wrote:2 observations-
1. I cook on the same cooker in the winter when the outside temps are 10-20 above zero, other than using more fuel I have no problems maintaining temps. 65F
sounds like beautiful BBQ weather to me.
2. I agree with tex toby you need to either put some gaps between your tuning plates or lose them all together. Remember that you are also heating any mass that you put in the pit, ergo you are heating the mass of all that metal you are using for tuning plates. IMHO I would start by removing all plates except the one closest to the SFB and see how the pit temps react.

You also may have to redo the exhaust to its original configuration. JM2C. Good Luck


CliffCarter - the tuning plates I'm using are 22gauge steel - about twice as thick as a beverage can - so, not a lot of mass there to heat up. In addition to OSD's suggestion on the vent stack above, and your (and tex_toby) suggestion on the tuning plate movement/removal, I'm going to fire up another test burn today, going back to charcoal (Kingsford blue) and pecan sticks.

thanks for the feedback!
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