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  1. Don't worry too much about vacuums or positive pressure or whatever; first just hold a smoking temp without the fire going out for many hours. The rest should follow naturally. It took me a week to be able to do this consistently because of the gravel-sized charcoal problem, which is why I recognized your issue.
  2. If your problem is lots of gravel-sized charcoal the only thing a wider-spaced grate will do is let more of it fall into the ash pan, which I guess partially solves the problem but is probably not a definitive solution. Here's what I would do: Stir up the leftover charcoal a lot to knock the ash and gravel through the grate. Push what's left out to the sides of the firebox. (If there are some big pieces reserve them for the next step.) Place some fist-sized wood chunks and big pieces of charcoal (probably from a new bag that's not smashed to bits) in the center, leaving a space in the middle and with breathing room around the chunks/pieces. Lay on more charcoal on top of this structure. You can get a little carefree here but leave the central pocket so you can see all the way down to the grate. Block it off with a can if you want (as long as you remember to pull it out). Now light it as normal. For me this means putting one 91% alcohol-soaked cotton ball into the well in the middle, lighting it, laying a couple of this pieces of charcoal over the well, and shutting the lid after a couple of minutes. However I use an Akorn and those things heat up crazy fast, so your method may differ. The important thing is to have open air channels from the lighting area through the ashpan to the lower intake so you can maintain oxygen flow, even the tiny amount a kamado needs. After the cook or test burn, stir up the remains like before and repeat. Clean out the ashes when you need to. Once you get this working you can proceed to learn more about how your kamado works. The only other thing I'd mention for airflow is that I like to keep the open surface area at the top more open than the bottom intake to maintain a vacuum effect in the cook chamber. I find this important to prevent fire snuffing and maintaining clean smoke.
  3. This all sounds very much like an early thread I posted. TLDR nothing worked until I got all the crumbs and tiny cloggy bits out of the firebox so I could lay a proper fire with wood chunks/big charcoal pieces on the bottom. If your RO from Walmart is nothing but pebbles, stop buying it there. I had the same problem with big RO bags from Home Depot. Something in how they transport or manhandle their charcoal out of warehouses and trucks just pulverizes it and you'll never get a good bag. I switched to RO small green bags from Menards and stopped having problems, then I picked up a couple bags of Big Block at the last KJ Roadshow at Costco and never looked back.
  4. There are a few articles on the forum about smoke quality. There's another piece by CeramicChef somewhere specifically about using a smoke pot like a retort to force the wood smoke directly into the coal bed. I personally like putting my wood chunks on the bottom of a volcano/Minion fire lay. I find this helps air intake consistency and also forces the wood smoke up through an ignited coal bed. I haven't been able to prove it (except anecdotally) but putting smoldering chunks beneath a coal bed forces the smoke through the charcoal surface heat zone which kills the heavier smoke components that I don't like while leaving the lighter ones I do as it rises. That's how an offset produces vast quantities of quality smoke: with a small, hot fire that gets fed all night when you'd rather be sleeping and burns clean at a higher temperature. I still miss the smoke profile of an offset, but not the babysitting. I'm interested in a Tip Top Temp, but I'm also leery of it for just what you mention. I absolutely hate the smoke produced by a smothered fire. I'd think an iKamand or similar bellows mechanism wouldn't be as bad since there's always a little air leak at the bottom intake.
  5. As long as it wasn't dry this sounds like a great first cook on a new tool. From the sounds of things I'd guess it might have overcooked due to carryover heat in the cooler. I like to let my product get down to around 170F internal before holding to prevent that from happening, but it's not the worst thing in the world. Next time I'd try doing the same thing as much as possible but wait a bit before wrapping and holding. If you only change one thing at a time it's much easier to track your changes from cook to cook.
  6. The stall is whenever the temp levels off or dips due to evaporative cooling. It can be hard to tell; if your temp is high enough you might not even notice it, sometimes it happens at different temps just because of variability in the meat, and sometimes I've had two stalls. That's why I wrap based on whether or not the bark is formed rather than where I think the stall is. If you're set on using the stall as a wrap time guide, watch for whenever the internal temp of the meat stops rising for an extended period. If it doesn't rise for an hour, chances are good you're in the stall.
  7. If the Akorn is pretty free of rust, getting a full sized Akorn with stone and cover for $100 is a steal. You're going to need a cover and some sort of heat deflector regardless of which one you pick, though AFAIK the Kamander sometimes comes with a cover and you can always use a $4-6 pizza pan as a deflector. FWIW the Akorn doesn't always need mods to work, as the only thing I've done on mine is replace the top O-ring when it snapped earlier this year, causing an air leak. Weighing $70 off vs. the warranty time/starting out with less wear makes this kind of a toss up. Also I've sometimes seen the Kamander on sale at Aldi's around $125 on clearance, so depending on how long you can wait you can do some bargain shopping. The only other thing I'd consider is the relative popularity of each. Being more popular doesn't mean it's better, but a larger user base means it's going to be easier to get DIY support, third party stuff if you want, etc.
  8. It's up to you. I know 3 ways: the Texas style where you leave the point, flat, and fat deckle together and slice against the point grain, the burnt ends style where you separate the point muscle and cube/sauce to make burnt ends obviously, and the way I do it where I separate the point but just so I can slice it separately since I just don't like slicing with the flat grain underneath the point. Here's a good video on slicing Texas style which is what I think you want:
  9. Food safety. 41-139 is the zone you don't want to hold meats for an extended period of time due to bacterial growth.
  10. Spritzing is optional in a kamado because the environment is so moist. If you want to, go ahead, but minimize the time the lid is open. Wrapping time ehhhh people have different opinions on it. I do a scratch test: if the bark is formed enough so I can't easily push it away with a fingernail, it's wrappable. Some people go for deep mahogany color to know when it's time. You want a formed bark that's not going to get steamed away. The color will darken in the wrap. You can definitely rest longer if you keep it wrapped in some foil + towel, or foil + towel + cooler, or a warmer if you're lucky enough to have one. Long as it stays over 140F you can hold it for hours. I try to let the product get down to around 175F internal before stowing it to prevent overcooking with carryover heat, and I've held it in foil/towel/cooler for 6 hours, taken it out, and it was still a tad hot to handle.
  11. Maybe was a fluke... went today, prime packers $3.99, choice flats $5.29. Of course the only "beef rib" available was choice "boneless chuck ribs..." $9.99!
  12. I've done this with allspice berries as a cheaper substitute for outrageously expensive allspice wood, and in the past with some pulled pork experiments. IMO it works but not as well as just adding the ingredient to the product in most cases, though it does seem to work better the more minty/menthol-y the herb. Rosemary cutting smoke on chicken sounds great. Edit: IIRC I soaked allspice berries and bay leaves in foil packets to make smoke for jerk chicken. Smelled great, but not much impact to the final product flavor.
  13. Difficulty in terms of skill during the cook: brisket. Prep difficulty: Argentinian matambre. Both super rewarding if done right.
  14. Saw these the last time I was in Costco. I've been recovering from surgery so I haven't make a packer in a while but I'm curious if anyone has tried the choice packers. Before they only stocked prime packers and choice flats (which were way more expensive); I've only ever cooked prime in my Akorn. IIRC the primes were $3.99/lb and the choice was somewhere around $2.79/lb or so.
  15. I had similar problems. Some quick pointers which got me over the hump: Temperature. Akorns are generally a bit finicky about staying at 225, but mine has been quite happy at 250 and I think I get a better product out of it. Akorns are steel and thus reflective instead of a giant heat sink like a ceramic, which makes them crazy efficient but also makes them harder to maintain at super low temps. Don't worry so much about 225. I've done 225 for a long time but tbh it wasn't worth the trouble. Nowadays I look for clear smoke and aim for 230-250 and I don't care if it fluctuates up to 280. Fire building: Lay out the bottom of the firepit with large chunks first. I use a mix of big chunks of charcoal and wood, since I subscribe to the "wood on the bottom" school. This helps you maintain clear air channels throughout the cook, which prevents the fire going out. Mine went out for almost a week before I started doing this. Put your little pieces on top of your large chunk bed without choking it off. Alcohol starters: Use 91% alcohol minimum, as 70% tends to put itself out. Use ONE for starting a low/slow, right down in the middle of the pile with access to that air channel you built before. Akorns are too efficient, so you want to have a very small surface area fire or else it'll run out of control and you'll never calm it down. Pans: Don't use a water pan for humidity as you won't need it. I will often put in an empty pan on top of my deflector just to prevent burning fat screwing up my smoke profile, but a water pan just messed up my chamber temperatures and could actually make the product soggy. Kamados maintain high humidity by themselves. Spritzing: Minimize any time the lid is open, so only do this if you absolutely must and don't keep the lid open. Since Akorns are over-efficient, every time you open the lid the extra oxygen has a disproportionate effect on your fire. This is what I dislike most about the Akorn, which I like a lot otherwise. If you insist on spritzing and such, then you probably want to shoot for 220 instead of 250 as your control temperature or baby your vents before and after opening, although babying your vents leads to neuroses.
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