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Don in Pittsburgh

New at this - temperature not rising?

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Am brand new at this. Read up as best I could here, viewed the great videos. Using KJ charcoal. Followed instructions, lit starters and eventually part of the charcoal got red-hot but the temperature never seemed to rise above 250. I waited for quite a while, at least an hour. What could I be doing wrong? Not enough charcoal? Is there such a thing as too much charcoal? Thanks in advance for your advice on this.

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If your vents are wide open, and you have sufficient amounts of small and large lump pieces you should be able to go nuclear in about 30-40 minutes. Fill that beast up.   I find the key is fewer gaps in your lump without suffocating the air with NO gaps.  But then that's just MHO.  Others may disagree.  I've only been using lump for the last 20 years.

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Not sure which KJ you have but I have the Classic II. If you have the original iron bottom grate in the firebox above the ash catcher and below the charcoal make sure the holes aren't plugged with charcoal or ash. One of the first accessories I purchased was the Kick Ash basket to replace the iron grate and that definitely helped with airflow. I experience what BURGER MEISTER said - nuclear (700+ degrees) in about 30-40 minutes with a full load of lump and both vents wide open. 

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+1 to lots of fuel and patience. I did a 700 F pizza cook this weekend. It took 2:00 hrs to get hot, lots of fuel left when I shut down at 2:30. Three pizzas doesn't take long at 700 F. 

Frank 

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Woody, Burger Meister, #6, fbov & Chris - thank you all for your responses. Today I viewed the video at home in front of the KJ and followed along to make sure I was doing things correctly. The first thing that struck me was that when Lowes delivered the KJ, they delivered XL Lump Charcoal, I never realized that there was another size until I saw it in the video and that wasn't even a choice when ordering.  I have to think that part of my problem is that I don't have any smaller pieces to add to the pile. I did make sure to empty the ashes (which were very few) and make sure the air holes in the grate were clear.

 

With the grate fully open and the top swung open, I did get the KJ up to 425 after 45 minutes at which time I closed the grate to halfway and closed the top altogether but left the holes open and the temperature eventually fell to about 325. Opened the holes a bit more and got 350 and which temperature I roasted a chicken using the basic recipe in the small instruction book. Added asparagus later - both came out wonderfully. I just don't see it getting any hotter doing what I'm doing without leaving everything wide open which I know isn't the plan. 

 

Woody, I believe that answers your question. 

 

Burger, your comment about small and large pieces might well be on point here. Can I assume that I need the small pieces to accomplish what needs to be done? If so, that's an easy fix.

 

#6, I admit to being confused about what unit I have. After a while, they all seemed the same to me but since I paid so little for it at Lowes I have to figure it's the more basic unit, the Classic? It seems to have everything I thought I needed to start out. The product number ended in a "C", that I recall. Is there a Kick Ash Basket for that unit? And is the top supposed to be spring-loaded to ease the downward speed? I really don't need that feature but there are two large springs at the back of the top, perhaps I'm supposed to adjust those? 

 

fbov, I'm looking forward to making pizza. First I have to learn the basics . . . like, am I supposed to clean the stainless steel after using it? Or can I let it go forever? And of course, getting the temp up to where it needs to go.

 

Chris, yes it does. 

 

Again, to all of you, thanks for your responses. They are really helping. 

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21 hours ago, Don in Pittsburgh said:

...they delivered XL Lump...

That's the "problem." Wonderful stuff, but it's just plain too big. 

 

When using it (or any other too-big fuel) I use the ash tool like a splitting mall to crack it into smaller pieces. Fist-size is too big. Conversely, fingernail chips have their place. 

 

And my pizza fires also put the heat deflector on the X-rack, so there's more room for fuel. Play with it, have some fun.

 

Frank

Edited by fbov

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How many starters did you use?  For a low and slow (<275) you only need one, but it will take a little time to get there.  Also you want you grill sitting at your cook temp for 30-60 minutes so that the ceramic is heat-soaked when you put the meat on.   For cooks 300-400 i generally use 2 starters so the fire starts in multiple spots, for a hot (450+) cook like burgers or pizza I will use 3 starters to light even more spots and spread the fire.  John gives great tips in this video Lighting the Kamado Joe Grill for High Heat Cooks

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Check out the lump comparison thread by @ckreef (a seasoned professional) in the product reviews section. KJ big block took almost an hour to get up to 500*F where RO took about half the time. If you’re looking to go hot, e.g., a pizza cook, you may want to try a different lump. 

 

I came from an Akorn to a KJ Classic I (which sounds like what you have). The design of the fire grate is much different. In the Akorn, the fire grate is just a small grill grate. You know what the KJ fire grate looks like. As a noob with the KJ, it took me some time to adjust to the cast iron KJ fire grate; I had trouble getting past about 400, kinda where you are. I took a crutch approach, and threw in a grate like the Akorn’s and had no trouble reaching higher temps. “Aha,” I needed to LEARN a little, did some sleuthing here, went back to the stock fire grate, and am now conscious of keeping the air holes clear of smalls, stones, and such.

 

Keep at it, and Kamado onward!

 

 

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@Chris Topher made a great point.  I often have a bag of Royal Oak that I use for hot/fast cooks.  I save my KJ Big Block for the low and slow.  My experience is for the hot/fast cooks, you just need something that creates the heat and don't have to worry about the smoke.  Seared tuna at 500 degrees is on the grill for 2-4 minutes.  Not going to soak up much smoke.

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I agree with the others on lump - I save the KJ big block for low and slow or roasting and use whatever cheaper lump I can find for high temp pizza cooks. Currently I have Royal Oak and the pieces are on the smaller side.

 

As to the model you have, here is a link to the Classic II - http://www.kamadojoe.com/grills/classic-18/

Compare your top vent, firebox, hinge and gasket. If they look different you probably have the older Classic. Either way the Kick Ash basket part # KAB-CJ-SS will work. There is also a similar basket from Kamado Joe with a comparison thread here a while back: 

 

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Number6 - thanks for the tip, ordered the basket and the flame-thrower they sell, was looking for something like that. And yes, I have the older Classic and I suspected that it was an older model at that price point but I knew I wanted the KJ and with Lowes setting it up and delivering it, it was a great deal. 

 

Team PCBeach  - thanks for the suggestion but the best suggestion was the tuna. I was wondering what I could cook for six people that would fit on the half-moon cast iron plate I got and tuna steaks are probably the answer. Now I have to go out and research the smaller lumps - that thread just keeps going and going, I might just settle for Royal Oak.

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The cast iron is perfect for tuna.   Get your grill to 500 deg and toss the tuna on.  Give it a quarter turn at 1 minute and flip at two minutes.  Repeat quarter turn after flipping.  Gives great grill marks and comes out med rare.  Times may slightly vary depending on your tuna thickness.

tuna.thumb.jpg.a3c273cef9596a2e0f3fa8612c9db233.jpg 

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