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Trouble Taming Big Joe


wallawu
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Let me start by saying that I love the Big Joe for low and slows.  I got it a year ago this month, and I've been pleased with the results when smoking anything.  FYI, I always keep the grates level with the opening unless I'm searing steaks, which I have no problems with.  I also have the extender.

 

My issue comes from "everyday" cooking -- chicken thighs, pork chops, and ESPECIALLY burgers.  Really just things you have to flip.  If I divide it, I end up with a flaming inferno on one side when the grease hits, and the other side doesn't seem hot enough when I transfer over.  I grilled burgers on it probably for the last time the other day.  I had to move all of the burgers to one grate cracking the thing open about two inches, then slowly opened it to a roar of flames that caught the drip pan on fire (every time) and I removed the grate that had them all on there.  They were fine, but the hair on my arms was gone.  With both of the stones in, even when my grate temp reads 475+, I don't get the grill marks and sear that I'd like, and the temp seems to be more sensitive when adding food, usually dropping 75-100 degrees.  It's more baking/broiling than it is grilling.  Things that I grill between 400-550 turned out better on the Akorn, which has me contemplating buying another one, or at least a new bottom and ash pan (few months ago I moved it and didn't have the lid latched. Top stayed with me, bottom crashed to the ground and got bent.  Seal is very compromised)  I could also have my mom's Weber spirit that she never uses, but I don't think I want to go back to propane, even with how convenient it is.

 

I've been patient, usually letting it heat soak for 45-60 mins before using.  Am I wrong to assume that it can handle these types of cooks?  Maybe not in the same way the Akorn did?  I'm thinking about getting another Akorn to cut down on charcoal use anyway, and I like having it for tailgates/traveling.  Maybe I can haggle with Walmart.

 

Thanks for the words of wisdom in advance!

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I am trying to understand your post. Are you doing high temp grilling with the diffuser plates, you said stones, installed and a drip pan? I grill about everything on my Big Joe and have never had any problems. I also have and Akorn and both will grill excellently. I like to do grilling with the grates on the lower level, closer to the fire. For me, it's hard to get meat finished with a nice crusty sear, without overcooking things, when I use the top level.

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42 minutes ago, retfr8flyr said:

I am trying to understand your post. Are you doing high temp grilling with the diffuser plates, you said stones, installed and a drip pan? I grill about everything on my Big Joe and have never had any problems. I also have and Akorn and both will grill excellently. I like to do grilling with the grates on the lower level, closer to the fire. For me, it's hard to get meat finished with a nice crusty sear, without overcooking things, when I use the top level.

 

I usually grill chicken and pork chops around 425, and put burgers on around 500 knowing that the temp is going to drop a little.  I've been trying to do half and half to get a nice char on things and let them cook the rest of the way on the diffused side, and it just hasn't turned out as well.  Burgers are just a no-go.  I try to use drip pans whenever I can so I don't have to cook everything off the stones/diffusers as often.

 

Do you put them on the lower level with the diffusers in?  Or are you doing no diffusers at all?  Maybe my problem is too much charcoal?  I'm loadin that dude up most of the time, as I did the Akorn with great success.

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When I say "hasn't turned out as well", I mean it's more inconsistent.  Admittedly, I haven't cooked on it near as much as I did the first year with the Akorn.  Getting married and moving in a 6 month span has a lot to do with that.

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I think you are saying you have the firebox divider in and a half moon diffuser on the indirect side with a drip pan on it, maybe? Doing like a reverse sear....correct?  Then the flame is igniting the drip pan?  Wow. Never experienced that. Maybe you using a very shallow drip pan?

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12 minutes ago, prowe said:

I think you are saying you have the firebox divider in and a half moon diffuser on the indirect side with a drip pan on it, maybe? Doing like a reverse sear....correct?  Then the flame is igniting the drip pan?  Wow. Never experienced that. Maybe you using a very shallow drip pan?

 

Firebox is full, not divided.  One diffuser in on one side with a drip pan sitting on top of it, the other no diffuser.  Both grates level with the opening.  The diffused side usually isn't as hot as I like it, while the direct side is just right or too hot.  If I have both diffusers in, I can't get grill marks it seems no matter how hot I get it, but I haven't tried the lower grate level with diffusers in.

 

The pans I use are the high-sided lasagna pans or the oval turkey pans.  It's very frustrating.  Haha.  I think a difference may be that the Akorn stone has larger gaps for heat to come through under the grate, while the Big Joe does a better job of circulating.  I'll give KJ major credit, hot spots don't seem to be an issue when both diffusers are in.  It cooks everything evenly.  I'm sure it's operator error, I just want to figure out where the error is.

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3 hours ago, wallawu said:

 

I usually grill chicken and pork chops around 425, and put burgers on around 500 knowing that the temp is going to drop a little.  I've been trying to do half and half to get a nice char on things and let them cook the rest of the way on the diffused side, and it just hasn't turned out as well.  Burgers are just a no-go.  I try to use drip pans whenever I can so I don't have to cook everything off the stones/diffusers as often.

 

Do you put them on the lower level with the diffusers in?  Or are you doing no diffusers at all?  Maybe my problem is too much charcoal?  I'm loadin that dude up most of the time, as I did the Akorn with great success.

I never use my diffuser plates doing direct grilling. I also never use a drip pan when doing direct grilling. The only time I would use them the way you are describing is when doing a reverse sear. I do not bring my temps up until I remove the diffuser plates. I actually stopped bringing the BJ up to temp for reverse sears and  I just use my Akorn for the sear portion. It uses less lump and it's much faster to just have the Akorn ready when the meat reaches the desired internal temp. I will put them on the top grate when I am doing high temp pizza but that's about it.

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12 hours ago, retfr8flyr said:

I never use my diffuser plates doing direct grilling. I also never use a drip pan when doing direct grilling. The only time I would use them the way you are describing is when doing a reverse sear. I do not bring my temps up until I remove the diffuser plates. I actually stopped bringing the BJ up to temp for reverse sears and  I just use my Akorn for the sear portion. It uses less lump and it's much faster to just have the Akorn ready when the meat reaches the desired internal temp. I will put them on the top grate when I am doing high temp pizza but that's about it.

 

I'll try that.  I think maybe I'm overloading the firebox, so the coals are closer to the meat and flames are more likely to swallow what I'm cooking.  I'm going to fiddle with it.

 

I also decided to get another Akorn after I saw this deal online at Walmart.  Brought the price of the regular down by about $40, but the colors are usually more expensive.  I'm sure its a discontinued color.

 

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Char-Griller-Akorn-Kamado-Charcoal-Kooker-Sapphire-Blue/826335647

 

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After reading your posts, I think you are lighting too much charcoal.  Instead, try lowering your grill surface closer to the fire.  Less charcoal is easier to control with cooks that require opening the lid often, like burgers.  Try that and see what you get.  Post pictures of your setup if that doesn't work. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Very interesting topic, I am trying to make sense of small cooks on the Joe Big. 

 

Seems there is a balance of how much charcoal you use and wether the deflectors are partially used or not. Trying get my head around if the Joe Big is practical when using for a small cooks for two people. 

 

If I am reading it right don’t use the charcoal divider and deflectors, be modest with the  charcoal load and set the grill grates closer to the charcoal.

 

How long does it take to get the Joe Big charcoal without the divider up to temp and cooking?

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On 4/26/2018 at 7:14 AM, Fleetz said:

be modest with the  charcoal load

 

This is what I learned today.  I smoked a beef roast and when I put my rack in with the diffusers in place, one of them sat higher and there was a gap.  Realized I put to much charcoal in the firebox.  I pulled a little out so they would sit level, but I think I am using to much charcoal when I am cooking.  Even with longer smokes, I still have a lot left over when I am done.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On ‎4‎/‎26‎/‎2018 at 6:14 AM, Fleetz said:

Very interesting topic, I am trying to make sense of small cooks on the Joe Big. 

 

Seems there is a balance of how much charcoal you use and wether the deflectors are partially used or not. Trying get my head around if the Joe Big is practical when using for a small cooks for two people. 

 

If I am reading it right don’t use the charcoal divider and deflectors, be modest with the  charcoal load and set the grill grates closer to the charcoal.

 

How long does it take to get the Joe Big charcoal without the divider up to temp and cooking?

 

On ‎4‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 5:52 PM, Treblig said:

This is what I learned today.  I smoked a beef roast and when I put my rack in with the diffusers in place, one of them sat higher and there was a gap.  Realized I put to much charcoal in the firebox.  I pulled a little out so they would sit level, but I think I am using to much charcoal when I am cooking.  Even with longer smokes, I still have a lot left over when I am done.

 

Learning on the Akorn with a smaller firebox, I'm used to filling it to a certain level.  I was basically filling the Big Joe to the same proportions.  This is way too much charcoal.  I think I was being too impatient and wanted to get the Big Joe up to temp faster, and that was lighting way too much at once.  I may buy one of the charcoal chimneys or a torch lighter to get a smaller amount of coal lit faster.  I've always used the cotton ball alcohol method, but with less charcoal in the Big Joe it doesn't seem to light as easily.  I did some chicken thighs and pork chops completely direct and they all turned out great using a lot less charcoal.  I'm still probably going to use the blue Akorn for burgers because they just turn out too great not to.  Thanks for the help everyone!

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Just did burgers on the Big Joe today. Divided fire box, filled level with the holes, both grates on the fire side, no deflectors. Lit it big (3 spots, fully engaged). 

 

I cooked corn-in-husk first (~350-400F) on the upper level for 20 min, then another 20 down in the empty side of the firebox. Removed the upper grate and did the burgers on the lower one. About 10 min. for just medium, with a very nice sear on the outside. No issues with grease. Done in an hour; not much different from the Akorn!

 

I hope your next burger cook turns out similarly. 

Frank

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