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Need Help Firing Up my KJ


dbh21
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I'm new to charcoal cooking. I've cooked on my KJ maybe 6 or 7 times now. Nearly each time, it takes forever to light and get to temp. I've watched a couple of videos to see what I am doing wrong - and I am still not sure.

 

Basically what I have done is top off the KJ with more charcoal. I was told more is better so you don't run out, so I usually add enough so its an inch lower than the diffuser plates. I usually then bury two fire starters in the charcoal and light. When they light and burn out (and the coals surrounding them are going) I put in the rack with diffuser, close the lid and open the vents (top and bottom) fully. The videos say after 15 mins it should be roaring, but It seems to take 45 minutes for me to bring it up to 400F or so.

 

Today I got the electric starter, The product and videos claim you bury it in the charcoal, start it, and after 8 mins, you are lit. But it took 16-20 minutes before I saw the coal lit with a small flame.

 

Clearly I'm not doing something right. No one in my family cooks with charcoal so I'm approaching this pretty green. I'm using the lump KJ charcoal if that makes a difference. And its not very windy where my KJ is placed.

 

Any advice?

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What I do is shake my kick-ash basket and shop vac out the ash left in Kamado and then place KickAsh basket back in and top with fresh charcoal. Prior to getting kick-ash basket I would use ash tool to stir charcoal to get ash to fall down and the remove ash, the I would top with lump charcoal to about 1" above vent holes in fire box. Then have top vent and bottom vent fully open. I no longer use electric start, I use starter square and bury in middle, I light it and leave Kamado open for 10 minutes. Then I close lid and once the Kamado is within 75 to 100 F of my desired temperature I would adjust bottom vent and top vent for my final setting. Whole process takes about 30 to 45 minutes for my Vision Classic B, my Joe Jr takes only about 30 minutes. Lump charcoal is what you want to be using. I spent one weekend temperature mapping both my kamados. On lazy days I after closing lid I would adjust vent to final settings. If I do this it takes a litlle longer to reach desired temperature.

Good advice from ceramicchef at following link.

http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/28148-first-round-in-the-fire-box-for-a-new-kjc…/?hl=%2Bspend+%2Btime+%2Bknow+%2Btemperature#entry377544

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I've been cooking on charcoal for years (previously a good ol' Weber) but I'm still fairly new to the kamado game.  I had similar trouble on my first few cooks and I think it was simply air flow.  In my Weber I would remove all the old charcoal before each cook and place it in my charcoal chimney. I'd top off my charcoal chimney as necessary, light it up, and go.  My first few cooks with the KJ I didn't do that, I'd stir things up a bit, add new charcoal and light it with a starter.  It worked, but it took a long while just like you're describing.  After I figured things out, I started using my charcoal chimney in the KJ: removing all the charcoal, used a chimney to light it and then topped off.  That really solved the problem.  Point being, if you're leaving old, smaller charcoal at the bottom of the pile, it will slow your air flow significantly.  It was a bit of a hassle reaching way down into the fire box to clear out all the old stuff so I've since upgraded to a Kick Ash basket and I've had zero problems since.  They aren't real cheap, but they do work.  If it's in your budget to get one, I'd say go for it.

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sounds like airflow is the culprit. Are your agitating the old charcoal good and ,asking sure that no small pieces are blocking the air holes in the bottom plate?

I use the same method as you to light.

agitate out old ash and ensure air holes are open:

post-2109-0-74846200-1469919579_thumb.jp

dump more lump from bag and put in lit cube:

post-2109-0-64288900-1469919634_thumb.jp

bottom vent and lid open until cube burns out (10 minutes or so)

post-2109-0-80083600-1469919734_thumb.jp

and viola! you do not "need" a kick ash basket for simple kamado lighting or grilling unless you want to spend your money and try one out for personal preference.

Kamado Joes work awesome without any aftermarket modification of any kind.

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I am agitating the coal and trying to get the ash through the vents before I dump them. I am not removing it all and shop-vac'ing like i've seen suggested. But the charcoal I have left is nugget sized. Not a lot of large pieces like you have in the picture.

 

I will removing the charcoal the next time and making sure large pieces are over the vents.

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I am agitating the coal and trying to get the ash through the vents before I dump them. I am not removing it all and shop-vac'ing like i've seen suggested. But the charcoal I have left is nugget sized. Not a lot of large pieces like you have in the picture.

 

I will removing the charcoal the next time and making sure large pieces are over the vents.

Shop vac? You lost me.

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I am agitating the coal and trying to get the ash through the vents before I dump them. I am not removing it all and shop-vac'ing like i've seen suggested. But the charcoal I have left is nugget sized. Not a lot of large pieces like you have in the picture.

 

I will removing the charcoal the next time and making sure large pieces are over the vents.

Shop vac? You lost me.

 

 

I read a few people shop vac out the ashes. Seems overkill to me. I want a relatively low-effort cook.

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I am agitating the coal and trying to get the ash through the vents before I dump them. I am not removing it all and shop-vac'ing like i've seen suggested. But the charcoal I have left is nugget sized. Not a lot of large pieces like you have in the picture.

 

I will removing the charcoal the next time and making sure large pieces are over the vents.

Shop vac? You lost me.

I think he is referring to those that mention removing all the coals and using a shop vac to vacuum out ash.

You may want to try removing the leftover charcoal adding new charcoal on bottom and then leftover on top.

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you do not "need" a kick ash basket for simple kamado lighting or grilling unless you want to spend your money and try one out for personal preference.

Kamado Joes work awesome without any aftermarket modification of any kind.

This is very true. I should clarify my Kick Ash comment: the basket allows me to clean out the fire box with speed and ease. If cleaning is a chore that you'd rather not have to spend time on, a basket is a nice addition. It's certainly not a requirement, but I do find it easier than not having one.

Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk

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I should clarify my shop vac comment. Niether of my Kamado's have an ash tray if they did I wouldn't shop vac, I would just pull ash tray and dump the ashes. Both kamados I have the KickAsh basket which allows me to shake all ash lose inside Kamado then I lift the KickAsh basket containing remaining in basket outside the Kamado. I used to sweep out the ashes but since I already owned a shop vac that I was using for vacuuming out my car, I just went the extra step to use it to vacuum out the ashes rather than using ash tool or sweeping out. Then I place basket back inside and top up with lump charcoal.

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^^^^  Bingo.  Do not try to run the grill with the heat deflectors in the lower position.  It takes forever and risks damage to the grill.  

I do not have an ash tray, mine is old.  The little ash removal tool is plenty, I do not need to shop vac things clean.  You say that you stir up the old lump.  When I do that, it breaks into small Captn Crunch size pieces.  This is not the best for airflow.  So, I push it to the sides of the grill and make sure the fresh lump goes in the center.  I have found this to help airflow a bit.

 

However, I have never gotten to 400 in 15 minutes.  That is really short.  If I needed to do that,  would consider a 3rd lighter cube.

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I agree with most of the previous posts. Airflow is king.

When I want a quick heat up I will leave the dome open longer and light in more spots.

When cleaning up old lump I use the ash tool to take it over the charcoal grate. This gets rid of the ash and fines. Then I push all the old lump to the sides and put new lump the center over the holes.

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