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Stacking charcaol for a slow smoke

oneputtbbqoneputtbbq Posts: 1
edited 6:55AM in EggHead Forum
What's the best way to stack your charcoal when doing a slow smoke?

I currently fill it up and the top layer is level. I layer my smoke chips on the top layer and a few inches under the top layer as well. however, it seems the charcoal often burns straight down and not out ward as it burns and doesnt hit all of the smoke chips.

Any help is appreciated...


  • FlaPoolmanFlaPoolman Posts: 11,670
    Light it in 3 different places around the outside
  • Google Elder Ward, I used his method and went over 9 hours with a slow smoke even though I didn't fill the fire box (I thought it would be a 5 hour smoke!). I had at least a third of the lump leftover. I now prepapre all my slow smokes with his method.

  • As Pat said, light in 3-4 spots around the edge to avoid the vertical burn you are experiencing. Additionally...

    1) Clean out all the ash from under your firebox before doing a low and slow cook

    2) Start with fresh lump. Small pieces and ash left over from previous cooks, even if you stir them, can settle toward the bottom and block airflow. If you have decent pieces in there, save them to use on a future hot cook.

    3) As Thailand said, following the Elder Ward method will help maintain airflow. Basically, once you've emptied out your firebox and cleaned out the ash under it, don't just dump the new lump in. Start by filling in the bottom with the largest pieces in the bag, then medium sized ones over those. This helps keep the air holes open. I don't get ridiculous with this, and once I have the bottom couple of layers in, I just pour the rest of the bag over that, filling halfway up the fire ring. You can mix your smoking wood into the lump, or just lay it on top. Try both ways and see what works better for you. This setup should burn for 24 hours plus. I've gotten over 40 from my large at 225 this way.

  • Here's the Elder Ward method:
    This part seems simple but it is the key to successful long term cooking. Like tying on a fish hook, the details really do matter. Clean out your egg. Dismantle it and vacuum or sweep it clean. Reassemble fire box and fire ring make sure the hole in the fire box is squared with the bottom vent. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use anything but lump charcoal. NO fast start and NO briquettes.

    Now you're going to think I lost it here, but open your bag of LUMP and separate the coals into three (3) piles. 1) large pieces 2) medium pieces 3) shake & dust. This last is usually left in the bottom of the bag of even the best lump.

    In your sparkling clean fire box arrange the largest chunk dead center. This will be the last piece to burn up and, since it can't clog the bottom holes, it will allow the air circulation to remain at a relatively even rate during the entire cooking time. Place remaining large pieces like a jigsaw puzzle until it appears as even as you can make it with the large pieces. Next, fill in as many holes and cracks with medium pieces until it looks as even as you can make it. Then, using the smallest pieces, fill in more of the area. Last, take all that dust, for lack of a better term, and level out your bed of coals. (do not make a mound, just like I said LEVEL). Fill to the top of the fire box, but not above.

    DO NOT LIGHT YOUR FIRE NOW. That will be the last thing we do prior to cooking and I will address that in great detail later.

    We feel this method will start easily and burn at a controlled rate, and as the finer stuff on top turns to ash, most will remain where it was placed. It will be hard, if not impossible, to clog your air holes until the last of your fuel is gone. This gives us maximum cooking time and the hottest fire early when we need the unit to reach temperature soonest.

    O.K. gang that is all for now stay tuned,
    Elder Ward
  • BacchusBacchus Posts: 6,019
    Dump it in, filling to the top of fire ring. Then light it.
  • JeffersonianJeffersonian Posts: 4,244
    I tend to agree now that I've got a lot of long cooks under my belt. I've done it both ways and have gotten good and bad results both ways. Since I got my Guru, though, I haven't had a single fire drift or go out on me until the lump was gone.
  • OK i am confused........I am reading to use the Elder Ward method for stacking the lump but hearing to light it in 3 or 4 places.......he recommends one starter cube on top........What am i gaining or losing from each of those methods? wont lighting 3 or 4 spots give me too much heat? Thanks guys
  • tnelstnels Posts: 75
    I use the Elder Ward method and use a chimney starter, usually filled halfway or so. I dump in at 12, 4 and 8 o'clock and like the multiple locations(haven't tried it any other way for low temp cooks). You'll have no trouble reaching the desired temperature in short order.
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