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chaliween

Questions from a Newbie

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Hi All!

 

Newest member and first time poster. 

 

I just picked up my Pit Boss 22" from Costco last week, (thanks to my wife OK'n the purchase for Father's day LOL) and cured it as I been reading on the forum. Started at 300, and went up every hour or so by 100 degrees up to 550. Had my first cook on it and smoked some boudin. Just something small so I can play with the heat controls. 

 

So far, I love it! As most of you, I was really surprised with the quality. I have a feeling it'll take at least 3-4 more cooks to get it down, but so far its a great tool to have along side my WSM. 

 

I had a couple of questions that I wasn't able to find in the forums (maybe I don't know how to navigate or I didn't try hard enough). 

 

  1. I came from using the WSM and having a large bowl of liquid to help maintain a moist environment... I read that the Kamado is designed to retain a lot of moisture and doesn't require it... Now I still plan to use a pan to catch drippings... but should I use it as I would the WSM? (I read somewhere someone used a paella pan on top of their deflector, which I think is genius. Any one else try it? Link?) 
  2. My thermometer isn't as bad as I've seen some people's. It's actually pretty accurate until 300. After that its like... maybe 20-30 degrees off. I still plan to upgrade it, but not anytime soon. especially since I have some meters I used with the WSM. I TRIED to build a Heatermeter for my WSM, but I ended up frying the board... I bought a new board and it got stuck on the back burner for a year... Is it worth it to finish it and use it with the Pit Boss?
  3. Modifications! So far I ordered some more gaskets  to fill the gaps in the top and bottom vents... Eventually I want to upgrade the hardware in the nest... Some people have upgraded/swapped their top vent... What modifications have you guys done and are thoroughly satisfied with the results?
  4. Ash: is the best way to handle the ash with a shop vac? manually scoop? Was looking to see if you guys had any ideas that would help keep cleaning up the ash easy. 
  5. Deflector plate: is it a good idea to use that as a pizza stone?

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1) I got a drip pan from Ceramic Grill Store. It is actually a stainless steel serving tray that is the right size and shallow. 

 

2) the thermometers this year seem to be better than last year. Mine was especially bad, but others seem pretty good. I use a HeaterMeter on mine often paired with a rotodamper. It is completely unnecessary, but once you learn how to use it, it makes your grill as easy to dial in as your oven. Actually more accurate and consistent than your oven.  For me the biggest benefit is to be able to set a temp and walk away.  Want to do some wings at 400? Fill with charcoal, light, start the HM and then head inside to do prep. The fan gets it up to temp fast with no worry of overshooting, and I don't need to check on it and make adjustments until dialed in like I would without it.  Alarms, meat probes, graphs, automated temperature changes and all the other stuff is gravy. 

 

3). I have only added felt to the vents and made an attachment for the HM to magnetically attach to. There is nothing wrong with the top vent except rain can get in if you don't have a roof over it. 

 

4) I manually scoop. It's not that hard and you don't need it perfectly clean. 

 

5) can't help, I don't have one. 

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I find that the deflector really does a good job so it takes a long time for it to get hot enough to be used as a pizza stone, so I vote no.

I used my shop vac a few times but the fine ash clogs up the expensive filter after a single use, and I hate the large dust cloud created when I bang it against the fence to clear the clogs..now I use a large soup ladle that gets 90% of the ash and leftover chips so I don't vac any more as a small amount of ash left behind does no harm.

As to hardware I bought a "kick ash basket" and it seems to allow better airflow to the fire and makes knocking ash down into the well much faster and easier which keeps my face out of the dust and my hands out of the black carbon.

In addition I bought a Tip Top Temp controller and have used it several times with mixed results.

At first I was in love with it but later discovered that the diameter of the exhaust opening is too small to allow cook chamber temps much past the mid-300's.

If you want to cook pizza or sear some chicken, you have to use the factory installed exhaust cap.

I experimented with different size drip pans thinking bigger is better but found that you should not exceed the outside diameter of the deflector or heat flowing from the firebox is altered to the extent that temp control can become a problem.

Lastly, I installed 4 temp probes (which drives some folks crazy around here) left over from my multiple stick burner exploits and found that temps at the lower cook grate (at the dome gasket level) are as much as 100 degrees lower compared to up in the dome, depending on how/where you place or orient the deflector.

 

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5 hours ago, chaliween said:

Deflector plate: is it a good idea to use that as a pizza stone?

 

if it's made of ceramic, the material is likley the same as a pizza stone (or very similar). my deflectors get gunk-ed up, while I can high heat clean them, I would rather have a clean surface dedicated to baking.    I recommend you keep the deflector as just that, and get a pizza stone.  When cooking pizza you need a air gap of some sort between the deflector and your pizza stone. set your deflector, add your spacers (inert material - cooper fittings, wadded up aluminum foil...)  Check out your local pottery/ceramics/clay supplier, a kiln shelf makes a GREAT pizza stone (they are pizza stones) and often are much cheaper the buy items labeled as pizza stones.

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@chaliween - welcome to kamado cooking.  I'll answer your questions in order.

 

1. I'm assuming that you'll be doing low-n-slow cooks.  Thus, you need a heat deflector that you place between your fire and your cooking grate.  This means you'll need some means of suspending the heat deflector above your fire.  For drip pans I use heavy aluminum foil steam table pans.  You can source these at any Wal-Mart, Sam's, Costco, etc.  They  are disposable and indispensable.  I set mine on some 1/2" copper tees you can source at any hardware store.  Forget you ever heard of a water pan; they are completely unnecessary in any kamado.

 

2. Forget about your dome thermometer.  It's a bimetallic and those aren't to be trusted.  But a good multi-probe electronic thermometer like a Maverick.  This gives you the ability to accurately monitor grate temps and set high and low temp alarms.  It also allows you to accurately monitor multiple cooks, i.e. multiple pork butts.  In the kamado game you cook to the internal temperature of your meat on the grate.  You don't cook to time on the grate at a specific temp.  And I wouldn't waste my time or money on a on a temp controller.  Kamados are very good at maintaining temps over long periods of time.  For about 3,500 years kamado cooks have been producing wonderful meals without the need for temp controllers.  

 

3.  As for modifications, the very first thing I would do is test your kamado for leaks.  You do this by establishing a good fire in the lump.  Then you toss a good sized piece of smoke wood in the middle of that fire and make certain that smoke is coming out the top vent.  Now shut both your top and bottom vents.  Examine all your kamado seams.  There should be no smoke leaking out of your kamado anywhere.  If you notice some leaks, well, then you know exactly where you need to seal things.  I'd wait until after you have a few cooks where the grease will help seal things up.  Other than that, modifications really aren't necessary.

 

4. As for ash, just keep it simple.  Get an ash tool and just rake the ashes out after a few cooks.  This has been done since time out of mind and it works well.  You might want to give your kamado a thorough cleaning every 3-6 months or so.  For that, you might want to use your shop vac.  But you'll need to get a special dust filter else that ash you're vacuuming up will scatter everywhere after you suck it up.  As for me, I just use a whisk broom and a dust pan. Finally, you'll be using your ash tool for stirring the Lu,p before every cook as a means of knocking the assh off the lump before adding new lump for each cook.

 

5. I never use my deflector plates as pizza stones.  Deflector plates get dirty and you can clean them with a high temp burn.  My pizza stone is only used to bake pizzas, breads, deserts etc.  you'll be using your heat deflectors while baking pizzas, cake, breads, cobblers, etc. Tthus, you need both a heat deflector and a pizza stone.  Deflectors are deflectors and pizza stones are pizza stone and ne'er the twain shall meet.

 

Good luck to you in learning how to use your kamado to produce the very best food you and your family will ever eat.  Take a weekend day and learn how to control the temps in your kamado.  Your bottom vent is used for gross temp control, i.e.200-300, 300-400, and 400-500, and 500+, the top vent is used to fine tune temps, i.e. 225, 250, 275, etc.  this exercise is vitally important to you cooking success.  Let your kamado dwell at temp for at least 30 minutes and notice the response your kamado gives to changes in vent setting.

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5 hours ago, CeramicChef said:

2. Forget about your dome thermometer.  It's a bimetallic and those aren't to be trusted.  But a good multi-probe electronic thermometer like a Maverick.  This gives you the ability to accurately monitor grate temps and set high and low temp alarms.  It also allows you to accurately monitor multiple cooks, i.e. multiple pork butts.  In the kamado game you cook to the internal temperature of your meat on the grate.  You don't cook to time on the grate at a specific temp.  And I wouldn't waste my time or money on a on a temp controller.  Kamados are very good at maintaining temps over long periods of time.  For about 3,500 years kamado cooks have been producing wonderful meals without the need for temp controllers.  

 

 

My replacement dome thermometer is surprisingly accurate and consistent. It is usually within 10 degrees of the grate temp when stabilized. It lags horrible when changing temps though so I only use it when approximate cooking temp is close enough. 

 

The HeaterMeter @chaliween already owns (but needs to assemble) is one of the most capable multi-probe thermometers you can buy. It can monitor up to four probes and can use Maverick probes, the superior thermoworks probes, or a few others.  It has all sorts of configurable alarm options and can notify you with a beep, SMS (text) message, push notifications, and I think email. If the HM is connected to wifi, you can monitor it and change alarms from anywhere you have Internet connectivity.  It graphs the cook and also monitors the rate of change for each probe to help predict when you will hit your target temp. 

 

It also is a great temp controller when paired with a fan and or damper.  People have cooked for 10,000+ years without thermostats in their ovens too, but few people who have experience with a modern oven would give up temperature control.  Sure you can fire up a kamado, watch it preheat, cut back before it overshoots, adjust as it heat saturates and stabilizes and then walk away, why not let a controller do all the work while you focus on food prep? 

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the best advice you can take away is play, experiment and then share. Use the mistakes of others but if you have different ideas please try and share. I too have wondered about deflector as stone. Early days i tried just pans, just stone, pan and stone etc. Prefer stone but i would not have known without trying. 

 

Since my curiosity is once again peaking i will try direct on deflector and report back in the near future. Yes the deflector is a cruddy dirty mess but since i prefer to cook on parchment paper the crude is moot. 

 

Enjoy the journey..........

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17 minutes ago, ifican said:

the best advice you can take away is play, experiment and then share. Use the mistakes of others but if you have different ideas please try and share. I too have wondered about deflector as stone. Early days i tried just pans, just stone, pan and stone etc. Prefer stone but i would not have known without trying. 

 

Since my curiosity is once again peaking i will try direct on deflector and report back in the near future. Yes the deflector is a cruddy dirty mess but since i prefer to cook on parchment paper the crude is moot. 

 

Enjoy the journey..........

Welcome, please stop by and introduce yourself. 

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On 6/26/2017 at 4:42 PM, ifican said:

the best advice you can take away is play, experiment and then share. Use the mistakes of others but if you have different ideas please try and share. I too have wondered about deflector as stone. Early days i tried just pans, just stone, pan and stone etc. Prefer stone but i would not have known without trying. 

 

Since my curiosity is once again peaking i will try direct on deflector and report back in the near future. Yes the deflector is a cruddy dirty mess but since i prefer to cook on parchment paper the crude is moot. 

 

Enjoy the journey..........

Good point!

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Reporting back:

 

Walked away after hitting 250. dropped my vents to 25%.. came back 45 mins later and my grill was at 450!! I had to choke the grill... and waited 2 hours for it to drop. WOW. what an adventure. 

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Try this..after lighting the coals, wait 15 minutes leaving the top open, then place the diffuser and cook grates, drip pan etc and close lid.

Set the top vent to half of the first graduation marking and set the lower vent at 1 row of holes open.

You can place the meat 1 hour after you first started the fire , don't touch the settings just let it run and see what happens.

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8 hours ago, chaliween said:

Reporting back:

 

Walked away after hitting 250. dropped my vents to 25%.. came back 45 mins later and my grill was at 450!! I had to choke the grill... and waited 2 hours for it to drop. WOW. what an adventure. 

 

25% is about right for 450. Try closing the top vent about 95% and leave the bottom open about 1/8", maybe less. 

 

One thing you you cannot do while learning how your Kamado responds is walk away for 45 minutes before it has fully stabilized.  I can light my Pit Boss and have it go from cold to 450 in 8 minutes if I want to cook hot, but once there it will take hours to get back to 250.  5  minutes at the wrong air setting is enough to ruin your day.   You need to light it and watch. When a bimetallic dome thermometer gets to 250, the temp at the grates is probably already over 300.  If you can watch with a digital thermometer, let it get to 200-225 and then clamp down the air hard. Just a sliver open for both vents. Watch for a few minutes and if the temps drop, open (very) slightly more and watch for 5-10 minutes to see where it settles. If temps keep rising, shut down further when it gets to 250 or whatever your target.  If relying on the dome thermometer, start to clamp down by 175 (assuming 250-275 target) and keep in mind there is a long lag before the thermometer will catch up. 

 

To learn your grill, try to stabilize it at 225-250 for 45-60 minutes (Ceramic needs to heat soak) and remember the amount of vent opening you have. Then bring it up to 350, get it stable for 30+ minutes and note the amount of air needed. Bring it up to 450 and do the same. That should give you a good idea what ball park you will need to be in for future cooks. With experience you will not need to hover over it at startup. Once you get the air right and the grill comes up to temp, it becomes stable and you can walk away. 

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I leave my vents wide open until I'm within 75 degrees of my target temp, at which time I begin choking it down. On my grill, the advice above, top vent closed about 95% and intake open about 1/8" is about right for low and slow.

 

Startup is not the time to walk away for 45 minutes.  As you now know, that can cost you hours...

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