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Tips on getting a good fire/temp going for a long smoking session

Hey all,

I've been working with my BGE for about a year or so now and I love it. My favorite thing to do on the BGE is a long, slow smoke of some delicious pork. I've made about 5 or so attempts now, each with varying success. The problem I seem to consistently run into though, is getting my fire and temp to run consistently over the entire duration of the smoking process. 

My current process is to get a pretty hot fire going (upwards of 700 degrees on the thermometer) and let it sit there for a few minutes to make sure the coals are all lit and ready to go, and then I try to kick it back down to around 200 or so. However, a few hours in my coals almost die out and I've got to try and relight them by completely opening all air flow into the egg. 

It's never seemed to affect the outcome of the pork itself but it is annoying and i'm just curious if anyone out there has a tried and true method where they can get a good smoke going and have it last consistently or if maybe I'm on some sort of fools errand even attempting to do so.

Additional notes, I use an electric iron starter and I'm also in Denver. Not sure if being at altitude is just making things more difficult for me.

Comments

  • RRPRRP Posts: 12,066
    Are you just using wood and no lump charcoal?

  • whoa nelly! It's not the altitude. I guess everyone has their own way but I think I can help. Assuming you have a fairly clean egg and a fairly new lump bed: I light my fire in the middle and let it go until there is about a softball sized fire burning (never close the dome). Once I have that going, I put my chunks/chips in, shut the dome and close the draft door to 1/4" or so and shut the daisy down to where you think it needs to be to hit 250 or so. This keeps the ceramics from getting heated during the warm up so you will have much more control in getting to your desired temp. Getting the dome to 700 and trying to choke that back down to the 200's makes for a very stressful cook.

  • CPARKTXCPARKTX Posts: 645
    I haven't cooked at altitude, but for slow cooks I make sure I clean out ash, fill up with fresh lump, light in two places, and close dome to intercept the target temperature on the way up. If I want a lot of smoke a mix in big wood chunks (not chips) so that they are spread around on top and mixed in with the lump. Thar generates smoke throughout the cook.
    LBGE & SBGE.  Central Texas.  
  • First thing I would do is not let the egg get up to 700. If your smoking at 250, I let mine get up to about 300 with the plate setter in and then close down the vents to about the 250 mark. Let it sit and stabilize for about an hour, then put on the chips, meat and forget about it until morning. So far I have had great success with only 1 fire out in about 30 butts.
    NW Iowa
  • HoovHoov Posts: 220
    I don't have tons of experience, as I'm only about 5 months in to this, but I've done at least 15 successful low and slows. Before a low and slow I usually clean out the ashes really well with a shop vac, then load the firebox with fresh lump. I light with a weed burner regardless of the temperature I'm shooting for, as I like the way it gets a nice large area of lump going. However, I won't hold the torch over the lump for as long as I might when setting up for a 600+ pizza cook. This gets the fire going quickly, then I keep the vents wide open and have a beverage while I watch the temp rise. When it gets to 235 or so, I put the DFMT on and close the petals halfway and shut the lower vent to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch. Then my egg seems to always settle in right at 250 on the dome thermometer. I've never had a fire go out this way! I think the key is cleaning out ashes and removing small bits of lump from the firebox holes before a long cook, where airflow is at a minimum. Good luck, hope this helps!
    - Proud owner of a Large BGE
    - Norman, OK
  • I live in Colorado Springs and I can tell a difference from Missouri to Coloardo. I cheat and use a bbq guru for my long cooks such as brisket and pulled pork. I have to take the meat off and shut down the egg about 10:00 PM because of bears. Then I finish the cook the next day. 225 degrees on the temperature is not the same as at a lowler altitude, so I think it take longer to get the meat up to the final temp. But also the temp goes up faster because the fire does not have to heat the moisture in the air because we do not have any moisture. I agree to clean out all ash and use new lump. You will have to play with the daisy wheel and the lower vent. The bbq guru makes the cook so much easier. 
  • There is a long and detailed low & slow method for pork butt on nakedwhiz.com, attributed to Elder Ward.  I have followed his fire laying method for my overnight cooks with great success, even at temps (200 deg dome) where lots have had trouble keeping the fire going.


    Having said that, I have also discovered that Turbo works great and allows me better sleep.  Not sure I will do another overnight cook.  

    For what it is worth, no matter what temp I am cooking at, I have also found it easier to come up to temp than to come down to temp.  Once a large fire is going it takes a long time to get it down to smoking temp, especially if the egg has preheated.  
    XLBGE, Homebrew and Guitars
    Rochester, NY
  • KennyLeeKennyLee Posts: 421

    As others have said, I think working up to temp works better than working down.....especially 400-500 degrees down.  Done quite a few low and slows and always get everything cleaned out with fresh lump and whatever wood chunks I'm using interspersed.  Get the fire lit (I use a torch in four spots around the perimeter for 30-45 seconds each) with the top off and bottom vent wide open.  As the temp approaches the targeted temp or slightly higher (maybe 300-325' for a 250* cook), I'll put the daisy wheel on and choke down the airflow both from the top and bottom.  You'll have to play with it a bit, but usually doesn't take too long for the temp to "settle in," for lack of a better term, to the desired cook temp area.  Never had a fire go out.

    One thing to keep in mind......when you get your fire so hot that the temp in the Egg reaches 700*, you're burning a lot of fuel in the process too.  That could be part of the issue with the fire going out later.   

    LBGE

    Cedar table w/granite top

    Ceramic Grillworks two-tier swing rack

    Perpetual cooler of ice-cold beer

  • RRPRRP Posts: 12,066
    edited November 2013
    You have received some conventional BGE user advice, but I still think that, you, as a first time poster here tonight might be using all wood and no lump charcoal in an attempt to use your earlier experience with offset smokers, using nothing but wood fired up and then brought down to coals. Am I right or wrong? Please reply as we are all trying to help you.

  • CanuggheadCanugghead Posts: 3,265
    edited November 2013
    TheJables said:
    ...
    My current process is to get a pretty hot fire going (upwards of 700 degrees on the thermometer) and let it sit there for a few minutes to make sure the coals are all lit and ready to go, and then I try to kick it back down to around 200 or so. However, a few hours in my coals almost die out and I've got to try and relight them by completely opening all air flow into the egg. 
    ...
    @RRP - no offense Ron. I reread the 2nd paragraph above. My interpretation is he's using coals (lump) ... if he started with wood, it would take more than few minutes to turn to coal, unless he's using the term coals loosely. Would be interesting to see his reply.

    Gary
    Vaughan, ON, Canada
  • RRPRRP Posts: 12,066
    Gary, you may be right...I just know of a couple similar cases that smacked of similarity and with him being a newbie here tonight I wondered out loud. Oh well he may just be a trolll laughing his butt off now.

  • RRP said:
    Gary, you may be right...I just know of a couple similar cases that smacked of similarity and with him being a newbie here tonight I wondered out loud. Oh well he may just be a trolll laughing his butt off now.

    or he may just be sober and have a legitimate question. Doubt it though. that would be weird.

  • TheJablesTheJables Posts: 3
    edited November 2013

    RRP said:
    Are you just using wood and no lump charcoal?
    I'm using the BGE brand lump charcoal with some water soaked smoking chips.

    Also, thank you all for the suggestions and tips. One of my friends instructed me to do the flare up to 700 and kick it back down, but yes as you've all noted, it's a long difficult process. I spend upwards of 1-1 1/2 hours just getting my fire and temp where I want it. I'll have to try just getting it to around 300 or so. 

    I always clean mine out and go with a fresh bed of lump charcoal before I start. Last time I actually got a good fire going with a small amount of charcoal and then added some on top, filling it about half way up to the bottom ceramic lip (I have a Large BGE). Not sure if that's a common practice or not.
  • RRPRRP Posts: 12,066
    TheJables said:
    RRP said:
    Are you just using wood and no lump charcoal?
    I'm using the BGE brand lump charcoal with some water soaked smoking chips.

    Welcome back! You have already received several good hints. Two things jump out though...if you are using chips and then running up to 700 dome and then letting it coast back down then your chips are already history at that point.

  • RRP said:
    TheJables said:
    RRP said:
    Are you just using wood and no lump charcoal?
    I'm using the BGE brand lump charcoal with some water soaked smoking chips.

    Welcome back! You have already received several good hints. Two things jump out though...if you are using chips and then running up to 700 dome and then letting it coast back down then your chips are already history at that point.
    I generally don't add the chips until I get back down to the 200's or so, but I think you're absolutely right. The advice seems to be consistent against doing a flare up. I guess my concern was that the rest of the lump charcoal wouldn't catch properly if I was sitting at around 200 only for several hours. I think this might be where I try to mix things up.
  • Long cooks are really the only time that I pay close attention to the lump size. I always make sure to have some larger pieces on the bottom so that the air flow is not restricted.

    I also use chunks (mixed in with the lump) instead of chips. It seems to take the chunks longer to burn down than the chips.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Well, "spa-Peggy" is kind of like spaghetti. I'm not sure what Peggy does different, if anything. But it's the one dish she's kind of made her own.
    ____________________
    Aurora, Ontario, Canada
  • GriffinGriffin Posts: 5,684

    Well you've gotten pretty good advice so far from plenty of others. I'll say again, start a small fire and stop the rising temp before it hits 250.

    The only other thing I would like to add is that there is no reason to soak wood chips or chunks with an Egg like you would in a stick burner. Less airflow prevents them from bursting into flame.

    Richardson, Texas

    Griffin's Grub or you can find me on Facebook

     

  • Thanks for all the good advice guys
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