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Need an Akorn Smoker "Heat Control Analyst." Can you help?


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I Need An Analyst!
 
Hello. New member, and I have told a lot about myself in the new member intro section. I'm a well weathered smoker with specialty in pork shoulder, brisket, chicken, and turkey (20++ years). Until a year or so ago I developed my skills in Memphis first with a metal trashcan mod and then with a rinky dinky Brinkman horizontal smoker with chimney and firebox.
 
I did extremely well with those pieces of crap over the years.The beautiful wife bought me an Akorn for our anniversary, and this is my second season trying to master it for low and slow. I LOVE it, but can't CONTROL it very well (wife says the same think about me :-o ).
 
Until last weekend, I was never able to keep a steady temp between 200F and 300F for longer than 4 hours. Sometimes I would then relight the fire once or twice and/or finish it in the oven. ARGH!
 
Then I read through key discussions here at the Guru, especially the excellent Can't Control Temps On Akorn discussion from 2013. Following that discussion, I was able to pull 9 hours of 200F to 300F before it started to peter out. Fortunately, this was a test run - no meat.
 
I took a PHOTO LOG of my entire experience and condensed it down to the attached PDF with enough text to explain things.
 
Who will look at that for me and provide insights as to how I can do better? I'm supposed to serve up some pulled pork and brisket for company June 26.
 
I would GREATLY appreciate it!

 

SmokyButt

Smoker Picture Timeline.pdf

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Next time try more charcoal and less wood, I always fill mine up to the bottom of the plate holders and only use 5 or 6 chunks of wood. Your vent settings look fairly good. On my Akorn, after establishing stabilization, I have to set the bottom vent almost closed and the top vent at about 1/2 the small circle to hold 225°-250°. At these settings it will run for at least 16 hrs, that's has been my longest cook. 

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Initial thoughts:

 

Use more charcoal and less wood.

Do not close down your vents until you are ~75 below desired temp. After my starter has burned out, I assemble the Akorn for the cook-close the top but I leave the top and bottom vents wide open. When I get within 75 degrees I close the top vent to the half moon but leave the bottom wide open. Then I walk away to let the temps stabilize. From there it is only a matter of tweaking.

 

Good luck.

 

Edit: as you can see there is more than one way to run your pit. Find what works for you and stick with it.

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Retfr8flyr, SmoovD, and @Grill_Boy - Thanks for this. I'm not surprised that I added too much wood, though I tried to model it off of an Akorn video I saw.

 

Before the Akorn, I always smoked with straight Hickory logs, so it's an adjustment for me to use charcoal and wood chunks.

 

I did wonder if I had way too much fuel. With the primary oxygen coming from the bottom, would having too much charcoal and wood make it more difficult for the air to reach the top fire? Could that be the reason for my temp control challenges? I especially wondered this after seeing that so little of my fuel burnt after 9 hours of good temp.

 

Separate question: When do you add your meat? If I've got a good temp, I'm reluctant to open the top and let heat escape. Do you put it in when you first close the lid?

 

SmokyButt ("JB")

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As far as charcoal goes, fill 'er up. You will only burn what you need. Unless you have a bunch of ask and even more small pieces of lump the fire will get plenty of air.

 

I put the load the cooker with meat after my temps have stabilized, or close enough to stable. Sure you lose the heat but if your temps are stable the heat will build back up shortly. Just don't keep the top open too long or you can run the risk of too much oxygen and a fire that gets too hot. 

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I Need An Analyst!

Hello. New member, and I have told a lot about myself in the new member intro section. I'm a well weathered smoker with specialty in pork shoulder, brisket, chicken, and turkey (20++ years). Until a year or so ago I developed my skills in Memphis first with a metal trashcan mod and then with a rinky dinky Brinkman horizontal smoker with chimney and firebox.

I did extremely well with those pieces of crap over the years.The beautiful wife bought me an Akorn for our anniversary, and this is my second season trying to master it for low and slow. I LOVE it, but can't CONTROL it very well (wife says the same think about me :-o ).

Until last weekend, I was never able to keep a steady temp between 200F and 300F for longer than 4 hours. Sometimes I would then relight the fire once or twice and/or finish it in the oven. ARGH!

Then I read through key discussions here at the Guru, especially the excellent Can't Control Temps On Akorn discussion from 2013. Following that discussion, I was able to pull 9 hours of 200F to 300F before it started to peter out. Fortunately, this was a test run - no meat.

I took a PHOTO LOG of my entire experience and condensed it down to the attached PDF with enough text to explain things.

Who will look at that for me and provide insights as to how I can do better? I'm supposed to serve up some pulled pork and brisket for company June 26.

I would GREATLY appreciate it!

SmokyButt

You're using WAAAAAAAY too much wood man. Less wood, more coal. Oh, and less adjustments.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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SmokyButt - how can having a full fire bowl of lump make controlling temps difficult? That's like saying a full gasoline tank makes controlling the speed of you car difficult. That's sheer nonsense for both the car and the kamado. Forget that crap. Fill your fire bowl with lump, not smoke wood. Smoke wood is an adjunct, not the major player.

Your problem is othing more than not knowing your Akorn. You need to spend time with your Akorn and figure out what's going on with the vent settings. You're chasing temps by constantly fiddling with your vents. Stop it!

Controlling temps is strictly about comtrolling air flow into amd out of your kamado. Period. Nothing else. Understand that your bottom vent is used to control temps in broad ranges. Your top vent is used to fine tune temps within a specific range. So, to hit temps within a range of 200-300F your bottom vent is set at one specific setting. You hit 225, or 250, or 275 or 300 by adjusting ONLY the top vent.

To hit temps between 300-400, you open your bottom vent more and crank down on your top vent. Again, the top vent is used to fine tune temps to something like 325, 350, 375. Get the picture? The same thing for temps in the range of 400-500 and then again for temps 500+.

I've written here in the Akorn section how to determine vent settings and how your kamado will respond to changes in vent setting. You need to find those posts, read them, and spend a day with your Akorn, a cooler full of beer, your favorite tunes, and a chaise lounge and all y'all on that patio get acquainted.

Don't worry, this isn't rocket science. We've all been where you are ... chasing temps. It's a rookie mistake that we've all made. You're looking for a quick fix and there isn't one. You just need to invest the time to get to know your kamado. If you do you'll put some great food on your family's table and they will love you for it.

Finally as for adding meat to the grate, if understand what was written above, you'll know it doesn't matter one dadgummed bit when you add the meat. Temps will always fall when you add the meat and temps will always recover when you shut the lid. Don't mess with the bent settings and your temps will stabilize is very short order.

Good luck and enjoy!

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KISS is the best way to go, keep it simple s..... Start with a very small fire (for low temps) enjoy a beverage of choice as it slowly heats up. Let it settle between 225 and 275, and cook away once it is happy. Let it cook in its happy spot and enjoy more beverage of choice.

Last time I cooked I did two pork butts over 13 or 14 hours, then a few days later did some chicken. All on one load of lump, when I was done I still had like half a bowl full of lump.

I have to say once I gave up on trying to get the temp to exactly 225 or 250, for example, cooking has been much simpler and more enjoyable.

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk

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I agree with the above pretty much. That said I also just a Tip Top Temp for low and slows on my Akorn. It sure makes life easy just dialing in the temp I want and closing my bottom vent to the screw between closed and the 1 setting. I can fine adjust if necessary by tweaking the TTT but find once I get to temp it is usually not necessary. I have also gotten away from a 225 setting and gone to 275/300 range for faster cooking times and avoiding the stall especially when doing pork butts. It also makes it easier to avid snuffing out the fire as a fringe benefit (never had it happen though). The only times I now use 225 is for overnight cooks.

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I Need An Analyst!

...

Who will look at that for me and provide insights as to how I can do better? I'm supposed to serve up some pulled pork and brisket for company June 26.

 

+1 get a TipTopTemp for $30 and suffer no more.  

 

If you insist on self-flagellation via manual vent control, then you may want to tighten up your Akorn with felt gaskets and hi-temp RTV like UltraCopper, and an expanded-metal fire-basket could make your burn a little more consistent.

 

I have a $100 active/electric intake vent controller that I still like. But I now use the $30 TTT that I looovve.  Control is not super-tight but so elegant.  Let it rain or snow, it will work without power.   I wish I'd invented it but I was too lazy.

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You guys are smokin'! I appreciate all the insights. I'll be trying again this weekend, though we've got a heat index of a humid 104F.

 

TOO MUCH WOOD

@Retfr8flyr, @SmoovD, @Grill_Boy, and @ninjatoon are all in agreement that I used too many woof chunks. I’ll eliminate them completely next time and maybe add them back in in the future.

 

NOT TOO MUCH FUEL?

@CeramicChef - You asked “how can having a full fire bowl of lump make controlling temps difficult? That's like saying a full gasoline tank makes controlling the speed of you car difficult. That's sheer nonsense for both the car and the kamado. Forget that crap.”

 

Well, I’m not so sure that’s a reasonable comparison. As you wrote in your second paragraph, “Controlling temps is strictly about controlling air flow into and out of your kamado.” My reason for asking the question was that a bowl full of charcoal could restrict (NOT prevent) the airflow from the bottom of the bowl to the top of the bowl where the fire is. That could deprive the fire of oxygen, which itself is part of the fuel. Obviously closing the bottom vent can shut down the burn. Filling the bowl too full could create a similar effect. Just a question, and I’m not sure it’s an unreasonable one even though it might not be accurate. Thanks for your link, BTW. Excellent, well thought out, detailed instructions.

 

TOP OR BOTTOM VENT FOR TWEAKING TEMP?

That post raises another question both for CeramicChef and the group. Fine tune temps with the top vent or the bottom vent? I reasoned that since heat rises the top vent lets heat out and opening it would therefore be a better way to drop the temp, while the bottom vent flows additional oxygen and opening it would therefore be a better way to raise the temp. That doesn’t match up with CeramicChef’s instructions though. What’s wrong with my logic there?

 

MY BOWL FULL OF LUMP AFTER COOK

@bigdl made me feel better about the remaining, unburnt coals after my 11 hour experiment. This is again a mental adjustment for me to make from using logs or wood in a horizontal smoker. Those are normally completely consumed, so it was surprising to me to see almost as much remaining as what I started with. I like it!

 

USE TIP TOP TEMP?

@Robertb and @ero4444 – I have read some on the TTT and am not beyond getting a little mechanical help regulating the temp. It actually seems like something for a future version of Akorn – CG should consider using those instead of the current vent from what I’ve seen online. I haven’t found a decent video that shows me exactly how you go about setting and adjusting your temp with it. I’ve looked a lot of places and everyone loves it. I’ve also learned many ways to attach it to the Akrorn.  My favorite is drilling 2 holes in the TTT that correspond to the holes that currently are used to attache the top vent, remove the top vent, and replace it with the TTT using wingnuts.

http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/20996-another-tip-top-temp-mount/

 

But this detail about setting temps with it intrigues me.

 

jb

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You guys are smokin'! I appreciate all the insights. I'll be trying again this weekend, though we've got a heat index of a humid 104F.

 

TOO MUCH WOOD

@Retfr8flyr, @SmoovD, @Grill_Boy, and @ninjatoon are all in agreement that I used too many woof chunks. I’ll eliminate them completely next time and maybe add them back in in the future.

 

NOT TOO MUCH FUEL?

@CeramicChef - You asked “how can having a full fire bowl of lump make controlling temps difficult? That's like saying a full gasoline tank makes controlling the speed of you car difficult. That's sheer nonsense for both the car and the kamado. Forget that crap.”

 

Well, I’m not so sure that’s a reasonable comparison. As you wrote in your second paragraph, “Controlling temps is strictly about controlling air flow into and out of your kamado.” My reason for asking the question was that a bowl full of charcoal could restrict (NOT prevent) the airflow from the bottom of the bowl to the top of the bowl where the fire is. That could deprive the fire of oxygen, which itself is part of the fuel. Obviously closing the bottom vent can shut down the burn. Filling the bowl too full could create a similar effect. Just a question, and I’m not sure it’s an unreasonable one even though it might not be accurate. Thanks for your link, BTW. Excellent, well thought out, detailed instructions.

 

TOP OR BOTTOM VENT FOR TWEAKING TEMP?

That post raises another question both for CeramicChef and the group. Fine tune temps with the top vent or the bottom vent? I reasoned that since heat rises the top vent lets heat out and opening it would therefore be a better way to drop the temp, while the bottom vent flows additional oxygen and opening it would therefore be a better way to raise the temp. That doesn’t match up with CeramicChef’s instructions though.

 

 

@SmokyButt - First off , fuel is fuel.  Period.  End of that conversation.  You can like my analogy or not.  The simple thing is most people find it very instructive.  A well built lump pile lets air flow through it.  Your OP begged for help in trying to control temps.  If your logic was correct, you'd have no problems controlling your temps, right?  So one of two things is going on here.  1) I'm wrong or 2) you're wrong because you can't control temps.  So which do you think is more plausible?  Those detailed instructions you like have worked for me for over 20+ years of kamado cooking on 7 different kamados.  You're new to the Kamado experience, you can't hold temps because of your logic, and you tell me you know better.  Okay, I understand that hubris knows no bounds and that your logic is unassailable.  You seem to know it all through your logic, so I'll just sit down and shut up. But one quick question:  if your logic is too good why is your ability to control temps so bad and why are you asking us for help?  Can't you just logic your way through this quandary? 

 

Oh, and by the way, the top vent has been used by kamado users for centuries to control temp since it is the vent that creates draw from the bottom vent to the top vent.  The more draw, the more oxygen is introduced into the system and the more the fire will burn. But then, what do I know?  You're the logician.  So tell me what you've deduced from all your logic and experience where I'm wrong.   I wish you well in your kamado cooking experiences and logically deducing how to control temps.  

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