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Adding fuel during cook, lit or unlit?

 
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rjmontana
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Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Posts: 99

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 2:33 am    Post subject: Adding fuel during cook, lit or unlit? Reply with quote

If I wind up with my cook taking longer than expected or like yesterdays first cook on my new "Frontier" where our outside air temps were cold & windy and I had to run the unit full bore on intake to try to make enough heat and still couldn't hold it up where I wanted (225-250) so the whole cook took a few more hours than I intended and therefore I wound up having to add coal in midstream, when I do have to add fuel should I start it in a chimney and dump it in hot or add unlit fuel right into the pan? I don't think I did my ribs/butt any favors by doing the latter as it seemed to take a lot of energy out of what fire was still burning to get the unlit fuel up and running not to mention the excessive smoke/smouldering that went on until things were burning clean again.. If or when you have to feed the fire during mid cook, do you add lit or unlit fuel? thanks, RJ
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SloppyGroove
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Joined: 19 Jan 2008
Posts: 140
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rj,
You could start some coals in the chimney. But if you have a nice hot bed of coals it really doesn't affect it to much. It usually lights up fairly quickly for me. I'll add fuel in and wait about 15 minutes to see how the temp is balancing out before adding more. Other thing to consider do you have a rock grate? You have to have some air flow under your fuel to keep it going. Also, how is your fuel stored? is it kept in a dry place? If you have moisture in your wood or whatever you are using the fuel source will need to dry out in your box before you start catching the heat you want. I'm sure others here have some good suggestions as well.

Ps. Have you looked into the Minion method?
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SoEzzy
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Joined: 13 Oct 2006
Posts: 13183
Location: SLC, UT

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What fuel are you using?

Lump or Natural (organic) briquettes I would add a few at a time unlit, Kingsford briquettes I'd light a chimney full and add them lit to the firebox one at a time.
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rjmontana
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Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Posts: 99

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 3:43 am    Post subject: fuel mix in Reply with quote

I did a kind of minion method lighting. The coal basket on the Frontier is only about 14" dia. and has about 3" sidewalls (made out of light expanded sides and a grill/grate bottom) so its in my opinion kind of small volume. I filled 1/2 the basket with unlit and then dumped about 1/2 of a chimney of hot coals into the other 1/2 and that was pretty much a load. I had planned on dumping the hot coals into the middle of a ring of unlit but when I eyed the dia. of the chimney to the dia. of the fire basket, there was only about 2"-3" of space around the outside of my weber chimney so I didn't think I would get much of an unlit ring around this load of lit coals. I just split it in half and started it that way with the hot to the air intake side pushing the fire out towards the unlit. It did burn all through but didn't give me enough time to finish the food. As you pointed out as well, I did get excessive ash build up under the basket and had to actually dump that when I reloaded so it could breath well til the end. I need to try to find a way to raise the basket up an extra inch or two more if I can figure a way as it fits against the sides of the bottom bowl and has only 3"-4" clearance from the belly of the bowl and seems to have trouble breathing well after a full basket has burned mostly down. I did make sure the intake vent holes were not blocked by ash as the cook went on but still felt it necessary to clean out most of the ash from first basket before reloading. I learned a lot during this first cook and feel that once I learn how to get the most out of this unit and the amount of fuel I can get in it it will do nothing but get better. It has a huge water pan and I think I would have been better off filling it 1/2 full and adding to it once during the cook rather than filling it t begin with as I think it absorbed a lot of the heat and made it harder to get good temps and keep them there. I had seasoned it dry the day before and it ran 280*-300* well at both cook grates but with water pan mostly full (approx. 2 gal.) and meat on both racks, I really struggled to get into that 210*+ range. It ran at 200-205 well and did spike up to 230* for a short while before losing momentum then fell back down to 200-210 again. I will learn as I go and I'm sure this cooker will do me well over time. Probably the biggest draw back I found was the cook rack size. I had 2 racks of spares to do and wound up cutting them into halves even with a rib rack to get them on 1 cook rack. I had a 7# butt on the lower rack. As I said, I just wasn't sure if I waited too long to replenish with unlit fuel or if I would have been better to dump in a chimney of hot coals to not interrupt the momentum my fire had. It also seemed to smoke hard while the new coals were firing up and probably didn't help the flavor of finished product. Thanks for the help, RJ in Montana..
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jess
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Joined: 26 Sep 2007
Posts: 1831
Location: Fl.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another option is when you add charcoal first put a few" small" pcs. of wood on the old coals. They will fire quickly & help offset the energy loss from adding fresh charcoal. I use some oak slivers 1/16" to 1/8" left over from my table saw..
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Doc1680
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Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 2609
Location: Indianapolis

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 5:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rj

Your problem was water in the water pan. The first time I used my frontier I used water. HATED IT! Evil or Very Mad I experienced the same problems you did. IMO all water does in a cooker as small as a frontier or WSM is keep you from being able to get your cooker up much past the boiling point of water (212*). This is why you keep burning (read: wasting) fuel trying to achieve higher temps. I use sand in the pan filled about 1/2 to 3/4 full and covered with a double layer of HD foil. Sand is a better option because not only will it act as a heat diffuser, it allows the cooker temp to get where most of us like to cook (225-250*) and it will hold heat better than water so opening the smoker is not a problem. The temp will shoot back up once it is closed.

Give it a try on your next cook. You will have much better results.

Also, you don't need much lit coal to get it going. I have a chimney that isn't a big as a weber and all I use is half the chimney full of lit coals and it's good to go.

Good luck
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rjmontana
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Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Posts: 99

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 7:14 am    Post subject: adding fuel Reply with quote

Wow, thanks for the tips Doc.. I will definitely try the sand next time. Are you saying that you dump sand directly into the water pan then foil over the top of the sand or do you foil the pan and then dump in the sand?? Just want to make sure I followed you..I read it that you did the former, sand with foil over the top of it? If so, why foil over the sand? Clean up or does it help with the heat retention of the sand..Thanks for the advice..I am kind of stuck burning briquettes for now as the only lump I can find in town is Cowboy and it doesn't seem to have too strong of a following. Do you burn lump or briquettes in your Frontier? After the first basket I burned down yesterday the area under the fire basket was pretty darn full of ashes and I felt hindering the efficiency of my fire, do you think it would hurt anything if I put a round grate under the basket that fit the bowl a bit higher and created a bit more room down there for ash?? Just thinking of raising it 1"-2" tops..Thanks for all your help, RJ in Montana..
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Doc1680
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Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 2609
Location: Indianapolis

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04 08 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, I put sand directly in the pan and covered the whole pan with foil. This is for easy clean up. The sand will hold heat on it's own.

I burn rancher briquettes. For now. They burn hotter and with less ash than kingsford, but kingsford is fine. I burn lump when doing short cooks like chicken. For longer cooks I like the even burning of briquettes. I wouldn't worry about the ash either. Once you get it to where you're not adding alot of extra coals you shouldn't have to worry about cloging up the bottom. I'm guessing you added them through the door?? That would explain the restricted air flow. All of the coal you added was burning up and falling right by the intake vent. During a normal cook the ash will be more spread over the entire bottom.

Keep on cookin' rj. The frontier is a great smoker. Once you get the hang of it you'll love it.
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