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About brute_strength

  • Birthday 01/29/1987

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    Strongman and strong foods!
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  1. TL:DR - Smoked some ribs and overcooked them, but they had the best taste of anything I've smoked on this grill so far. So I had my first smoke cook yesterday since my successful test. I smoked a few racks of spare ribs. It was not a resounding success, but I think it's produced the best results so far. Temps got away from me a bit. Not a lot, but I think enough to affect these ribs. I have a couple thoughts on this: I was using the KJ big block lump for the first time. I didn't really know what to expect, and actually had to pause and stoke it up at the beginning because I think it was on its way to going out. The chunks were huge! I replaced my charcoal grate with the one I linked to earlier in this thread. I noticed a marked improvement in airflow when I grilled some flanken ribs earlier in the week. So those two factors, I would think, contributed to my expectations not completely lining up with the behavior I got. Additionally, the ribs were not the highest quality. I typically buy from Sam's or Costco, and they are usually a lot meatier than what I brought home from a regular grocer for this cook. I think this, plus the higher temps (300+ when I was looking to be more in the 275-280 neighborhood) contributed to the overcooked racks that I ended up with. A rookie mistake was not realizing just how much hotter the bottom grate would be compared to the top. That resulted in one rib wafer that I had to throw out, lol. The other two were on the top grate. They cooked past bite-through and past fall-off-the-bone, I think, because they started drying out. There were a few juicy parts, though. But much of the "bark" was just crunchy, top layer meat. One of the reasons I let them keep cooking (I did check them every hour or so) was the crust wasn't "setting". I was able to rub the seasoning off with my finger even when I thought they were getting a little far along. Coloration at the end was almost black. Forgot to take pics. Taste was a lot closer to what I have been chasing. I think the dryness did something to amp up the salt in the flavoring, but it was much more edible than the pork shoulder I made a couple weeks back. Smoke profile was much more agreeable to my palate, and I still got a nice smoke ring (on the meat that was still thick enough for me to see it). I technically used two chunks of hickory, but I'm only counting one. The first I had buried in my lump, and I think it burned up before I got my temps where I wanted them (to start). I added another chunk and let it start putting out thin smoke before I added the meat. I may try only doing that on my next cook and see how I like the results. I now have some cheap welding gloves that I can use to (briefly) handle the hot grill elements to add wood.
  2. Hey, guys. Well, I'm a much happier camper today. When I got home yesterday (around 5:00) my fire had pretty much died and was reading about 170 on my digital thermometer. I was not discouraged, though, as I hadn't done much in the way of refueling. I stirred the ash and added bunch more lump, more than I think I've used in any test so far. Got the fire going and it was sitting at 281 at around 6 or 6:30. 3 hours later, the temp had hardly budged, with all rises and drops firmly in the 280-288 range. I let it keep rolling because at this point I wanted to see how long we could maintain the temp. At around 11:30 it fell to 260ish, so I adjusted the top vent from the 1.5 it had been sitting at to almost 2. 30 minutes later I was just over 300 degrees, so I dialed back a bit and gave it another 30. It was back to the 280s, at which point I went to sleep. Woke up around 2:30 and decided to give it a check. 280s again. Back to sleep. 4:30ish (not a great night for sleep) it had fallen to 240, I think. I adjusted the top vent wider and fell asleep again. When I finally got up at 7am temp was reading 190, so I figured that was it for the fuel and shut her down. I'm incredibly relieved, which anyone who has followed this thread can appreciate. I think I have a baseline of settings to work with now. I can finally start smoking with a modicum of understanding and confidence. Still plan to try the Big Block lump and see if that gets me an even longer burn, but I'm starting to get my excitement back. Thanks to the support of the community, as I don't think I'd have hung in there without it, lol. Especially @Ogopogo who stayed engaged and offered tips after each update. Almost all of my tests have been without food, @Tarnation , but I did manage to ruin a chuck roast and half pork shoulder (stone was covered, though). They both had really strong, almost acrid smoke profiles. Not sure if it was because I hadn't mastered the fire or I used too many hickory chunks. Going to try a single rack of spare ribs with one chunk of hickory and see what happens.
  3. So, I opened up the cooker this AM to have a look. Turns out my diffuser (a pizza stone) had broken into several pieces and fallen into the fire box. I was surprised, as I did not expect it to be so fragile (have only used it a handful of times, with temps only getting as high as 390ish once). I have to assume this had some kind of adverse affect on my test burn. I stirred the leftover charcoal, which there was plenty of, and lit it again. This time I'm using a 14inch cast iron griddle that I cut the handles from. I expect it will hold up a lot better... I had originally bought it for that purpose, but I liked the size of the pizza stone better. Oh well... I did take a look at how the fuel burned, and it seems to have mostly burned from the middle out to the lower left third of the bowl. Not sure if the debris caused this, maybe. Anyway, this morning I mimicked yesterday's settings, but took the top vent to 2 and left the bottom vent sitting next to the indented #1. This was at about 250 degrees. The grill settled in at 261 and hardly budged for an hour. I left it alone for another 30 minutes or so and it stayed right there. I bumped it up to 2.5 to see what happened. It rose to about 284 and sat there for a bit, maybe 20 minutes. I left for work, asking my wife to keep an eye on it for me. The last update I got, about an hour ago, showed the grill at 297. I will see how she looks when I get home in a couple of hours. I appreciate the encouragement. Trying to stay positive and hold off on selling impulses for now, lol. I seem to keep hitting weird setbacks that throw off my tests. Feeling positive after this morning, though. Will update later on.
  4. I'm getting ready to throw in the towel, guys, lol... I emptied all the ashes (of which there was a surprising mound under the charcoal grate) and handpicked a number of large and medium sized lumps. I used a can to keep an empty spot in the center, where I used a cotton ball to light. I left vents wide open until 220, then closed the bottom to right next to the #1 on the perforated plate, and opened the top to 1.5. The temps climbed to 270 and then settled at 250 for almost 2 hours. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement, lol. Thinking I had finally figured out a baseline, I opened the top to 2 to see where that would take me. After an hour my temps had dropped to 224 and we're still dropping. Disgusted, I shut it down. I'll have a look at the burn pattern once it cools. The grill seems fine, so that leaves me as the weak link. But I can't believe it could be this hard, lol. I'm very close to listing it for sale. It's been great for grilling, but it seems a waste if that's all I can manage.
  5. Thanks, @Ogopogo. I'll give it at try. Maybe I'll handpick the pieces for my next test, see if it makes a difference. I'll also see about keeping the bottom vent fairly tight and try having the top vent a bit more open to compensate. Maybe along with possible clogs my vents just aren't fostering enough of a vacuum while I'm trying to maintain lower temps.
  6. @Ogopogo thanks a lot for the insight. I'll see if I can get my hands on some Big Block for comparison. Alternatively, do you think a more "breathable" charcoal grate would do the same thing? Something like this, maybe: https://amzn.to/3bQwBSS
  7. Another test burn, another frustrating chapter. I tried closing the top and bottom as directed by @landscaper once I was up to about 205. Was aiming to settle between 275 and 300. The temp in my grill started to drop. It fell to about 195. I gave it another 20 minutes or so and it crawled up to 204. Frustrated, I bumped the top up to 1.5. Temp rose up to about 289 and stayed there for close to an hour. I left it alone for another hour and it had climbed up to 335. This time I left the top alone and closed the bottom to about a half inch or a little less. Over the hour that followed, temps dropped back into my target range and then further into the low 270s. I decided to leave it alone for another 30 minutes. When I checked again, I was heading into the 230s. At this point I was done being disappointed for the day, and decided to open her up and get a look at the coals. The coals were not really burning much at that point, which probably accounted for temp drop. There was still plenty of fuel, but for whatever reason it hadn't caught to keep things going. I am open to the possibility that ash/small lump could have clogged airflow somehow, but I have already cleaned the thing out several times since I got it. I'm still on the same 30lb bag of Royal Oak lump, about halfway through, and my understanding is that efficiency + lump = less ash. So I don't know. Hoping someone has more light to shed. Otherwise I guess I'll just keep making progress reports, ha...
  8. Just getting back to these replies. Thank you for the tip, @landscaper . I already have a pork butt on (.99/lb!) but my next dry run I'll try the settings you mentioned and see where I end up after an hour. Right now, my bottom vent is at 1 and my top is also at 1. My top settings have varied from 1 to 1.5. Been trying to stay in the 275-300 range, but she seems to not be happy unless she's burning north of that, 310 to 315. Adjustments (that I thought were minor) sent me down into the low 260s. I guess @Akorn Rand is right in that these grills are very sensitive. I have read time and again that kamados in general are really good at maintaining temps for long periods, with many claiming to cook overnight without worry. I would certainly NOT trust my grill that much right now, lol. I'm anxious to learn this grill and compare its results to my other cooker (a pellet rig), I guess I just didn't expect to have such a hard time with the learning curve. Thanks again for the help. I'll keep at it.
  9. A small update. I epoxy'ed the bearings to the sliding door. It fits EXTREMELY tight now, lol... I'm doing a test burn right now. Even with the top and bottom vents both at 1, we are hovering around 300* (just tipped 309, to be exact). Is that kind of high? Or is it just me? Airflow does seem a bit more regulated, but I feel like temps are still too inconsistent and high. Should I try resealing the whole housing using the Permatex?
  10. Hello, all. Thank you very much for the suggestions. I apologize if I gave the impression that I was aiming for 175. That was the temp where I dialed back my vents and started trying to settle in somewhere between 225 and 250. With no adjustments, the grill continued to crawl for another 30-40 minutes. It was in the 380s before I finally decided to shut it down. I had been filling the firebox to just under the line of holes (per the instructions, I think) and just lighting things up in the very middle with a torch (or some alcohol-y cotton balls if I was feeling easy about time). Once I had some licking flames, I installed the pizza stone I'm using as a deflector (in a DIY crossmember beneath the first grate) and both grates. My probe was sitting on the second grate, near the middle. Despite the fact that there aren't any discernible leaks when I close it up at the end of a cook, there MUST be extra oxygen getting in from somewhere. I noticed that there is considerable play between the bottom vent sliders when they are not closed. I'm going to go ahead and try the ball-bearing fix and see if that solves my problem. I have a tube of Permatex on standby in case problems persist to try achieving a better seal over the stock gasket. Beyond that, I'm out of ideas.
  11. Hello, all! So last time I posted, I was trying to decide between an Akorn and a Kamander, but I was fortunate enough to get a gently used Vision Classic B series instead (the one sold at Costco once upon a time). It's an excellent grill, and I've had some successful high-temp cooks as I'm learning the ins and outs of Kamado cooking. My frustration, though, is coming from trying to maintain temps for a smoke. I have been scouring this forum for hints and tips, but so far nothing has worked. There aren't any discernible leaks that I can see. When I shut the top and bottom vents, the fire snuffs out pretty fast, and I don't see smoke escaping from anywhere. Could there be someplace air is sneaking in, but not necessarily out? I've spent the last few days frustratingly trying to get it to maintain temp. Yesterday I tried the method described by Nunyabiz in an old, related thread (leaving bottom vent wide open, and controlling temp from the top) and that didn't seem to work. Today I lit my lump (couple of hickory chunks buried just so it's a true practice) and once I had some flames licking, I put in my DIY crossmember and diffuser. I installed the grates, closed the lid (grill probe inside) and left both vents wide open until I hit 175 (took 2 or 3 minutes) at which point I closed the vents down to about 2 on the bottom and .75 on top. The temperature started to drop pretty quickly and I was at 164 before I adjusted the top vent to 1. It was still struggling to get back to 175 after about 10 minutes, so I opened up to 1.5 on top. It's been close to 90 minutes and the temp just keeps rising, albeit slowly. I'm at about 324 and still gradually climbing. I was hoping to hit a "ceiling" temperature that these settings would maintain and give me an idea of where to go from here, but so far there does not seem to be an end in sight. I saw in another thread that a user had success removing the shock-absorbing tower from the front of his grill, but am hesitant to try this. I really, REALLY want to learn this grill and start doing some serious slowish cooks (brisket, pork butt, etc) but I am feeling a bit discouraged. As I understood it, the previous owner used this exclusively for burger/steak type cooks. No low and slow. Using Royal Oak lump from Walmart, if it matters. Thanks so much, guys. Just writing it all out has made me feel a bit better, lol... Let me know if more info is needed.
  12. Thanks again for the input, guys. I scored this pretty little number for the aforementioned $200.
  13. Thanks so much for your input, guys! As it happens, I missed out on both deals. But it's looking like I may have a shot at a used Vision kamado (silver top vent) for $200. I think this is preferable.
  14. Hello, all. Newbie here. Jumped the gun a bit, and posted non-intro thread asking for some advice about purchasing my first grill. Have been lurking for the past week or so and am excited to see what I can produce with one of the steel-body breed of grill. I look forward to lurking some more and contributing if/when I can. Thanks.
  15. Hello, all. Newbie here. I skipped over the intro post, as I 1) don't yet own a kamado and 2) am trying to make a decision quickly. I'm very interested in getting into one of these cookers. I really appreciate the versatility, and I only hear great things about the food coming off these grills. I found out pretty quickly that the insulated steel-body kamados are the most reasonable way to enter the fray. I took that a step further, and have made arrangements to pick up a used one on Wednesday. It seems in fairly good condition from the pictures and the owner is throwing in the stone diffuser and a cover, all for $100. I have also, however, come across information on the Komander. Although similar, most of the reviews I've read imply (or outright state) superior build-quality over the Akorn, and that it handles the high temps better. I also like the unique bottom vent design. I found a deal online that would let me order a new one for about $170, with free shipping. If it helps, I plan to do a fair amount of both smoking-type cooks and high-temp sears. I've been searching the net in general (and this forum in particular) for comparisons and suggestions, but have come up pretty dry. I'm hoping putting the question to the community directly works better. As a side note, the money I'd save with the Akorn I had planned to invest in some GrillGrates as I really like the pronounced sear marks. My budget for grills is pretty much non-existent, which is why I want to try and make the best decision. I'll have to live with it for a few years at the very least, lol. Thanks so much in advance for your advice. Let me know if I need to shed anymore light.
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