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brute_strength

Used Vision Owner, Struggling w/ Temps

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I'm getting ready to throw in the towel, guys, lol... I emptied all the ashes (of which there was a surprising mound under the charcoal grate) and handpicked a number of large and medium sized lumps. I used a can to keep an empty spot in the center, where I used a cotton ball to light. I left vents wide open until 220, then closed the bottom to right next to the #1 on the perforated plate, and opened the top to 1.5.  The temps climbed to 270 and then settled at 250 for almost 2 hours. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement, lol. Thinking I had finally figured out a baseline, I opened the top to 2 to see where that would take me. After an hour my temps had dropped to 224 and we're still dropping. Disgusted, I shut it down. I'll have a look at the burn pattern once it cools.

 

The grill seems fine, so that leaves me as the weak link. But I can't believe it could be this hard, lol. I'm very close to listing it for sale. It's been great for grilling, but it seems a waste if that's all I can manage.

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Sounds like you should just go ahead and buy a temp controller. I had the PartyQ for a long while and it worked fine. Replacing batteries was annoying though. I was gifted the Signals with Billows and that set up holds temps great and eliminates operator error on my part. 

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Refer to this: 

 

 

Holding 250 for 2 hours is a step in the right direction. Dropping after 2 hours points either to not enough fuel so the fire didn't catch new pieces or choking due to excessive ash/small bits. You're getting there.

 

 

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So, I opened up the cooker this AM to have a look.  Turns out my diffuser (a pizza stone) had broken into several pieces and fallen into the fire box.  I was surprised, as I did not expect it to be so fragile (have only used it a handful of times, with temps only getting as high as 390ish once).  I have to assume this had some kind of adverse affect on my test burn.  I stirred the leftover charcoal, which there was plenty of, and lit it again.  This time I'm using a 14inch cast iron griddle that I cut the handles from.  I expect it will hold up a lot better...  I had originally bought it for that purpose, but I liked the size of the pizza stone better.  Oh well...

 

I did take a look at how the fuel burned, and it seems to have mostly burned from the middle out to the lower left third of the bowl.  Not sure if the debris caused this, maybe.

 

Anyway, this morning I mimicked yesterday's settings, but took the top vent to 2 and left the bottom vent sitting next to the indented #1.  This was at about 250 degrees.  The grill settled in at 261 and hardly budged for an hour.  I left it alone for another 30 minutes or so and it stayed right there.  I bumped it up to 2.5 to see what happened.  It rose to about 284 and sat there for a bit, maybe 20 minutes.  I left for work, asking my wife to keep an eye on it for me.  The last update I got, about an hour ago, showed the grill at 297.  I will see how she looks when I get home in a couple of hours.

 

I appreciate the encouragement.  Trying to stay positive and hold off on selling impulses for now, lol.  I seem to keep hitting weird setbacks that throw off my tests.  Feeling positive after this morning, though.  Will update later on.

 

 

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That was unexpected but explains the temp drop after 2 hours. I think you've got things about dialed in now.

 

FWIW I've broken a pizza stone and a foiled clay flowerpot base, but they were sitting on top of a grate so they didn't kill my fire the same way. I switched to metal deflectors and haven't destroyed one yet and haven't seen much difference in the cook.

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18 hours ago, brute_strength said:

Turns out my diffuser (a pizza stone) had broken into several pieces and fallen into the fire box. 

Was your food dripping directly on it?  My Akorn's stone developed some hairline cracks when I didn't put a drip pan on it during a turkey cook right before Thanksgiving. *Knock on wood* I have been better about that lately and it hasn't gotten worse and doesn't go all the way through.  I've heard not to use the Pampered chef stones as they are thin and split easier.  Might want to get some thing that is at leas 1/2" thick, the Akorn stone is at least that if not 3/4".

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Hey, guys.  Well, I'm a much happier camper today.  When I got home yesterday (around 5:00) my fire had pretty much died and was reading about 170 on my digital thermometer.  I was not discouraged, though, as I hadn't done much in the way of refueling.  I stirred the ash and added bunch more lump, more than I think I've used in any test so far.  Got the fire going and it was sitting at 281 at around 6 or 6:30.  3 hours later, the temp had hardly budged, with all rises and drops firmly in the 280-288 range.  I let it keep rolling because at this point I wanted to see how long we could maintain the temp.  At around 11:30 it fell to 260ish, so I adjusted the top vent from the 1.5 it had been sitting at to almost 2.  30 minutes later I was just over 300 degrees, so I dialed back a bit and gave it another 30.  It was back to the 280s, at which point I went to sleep.  Woke up around 2:30 and decided to give it a check. 280s again.  Back to sleep.  4:30ish (not a great night for sleep) it had fallen to 240, I think.  I adjusted the top vent wider and fell asleep again.  When I finally got up at 7am temp was reading 190, so I figured that was it for the fuel and shut her down.

 

I'm incredibly relieved, which anyone who has followed this thread can appreciate.  I think I have a baseline of settings to work with now.  I can finally start smoking with a modicum of understanding and confidence.  Still plan to try the Big Block lump and see if that gets me an even longer burn, but I'm starting to get my excitement back.  Thanks to the support of the community, as I don't think I'd have hung in there without it, lol.  Especially @Ogopogo who stayed engaged and offered tips after each update.

 

Almost all of my tests have been without food, @Tarnation , but I did manage to ruin a chuck roast and half pork shoulder (stone was covered, though).  They both had really strong, almost acrid smoke profiles.  Not sure if it was because I hadn't mastered the fire or I used too many hickory chunks.  Going to try a single rack of spare ribs with one chunk of hickory and see what happens.

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Acrid flavor is either too much wood, creosote dripping on the food from the inside lid, (rarely) a grease fire, or putting the food on too early before the smoke has a chance to clear. Usually it's too much wood or, more commonly, that last one. There are lots of videos and articles about this, but when I hit my target temperature I hold it there until (A) the smoke stops being thick and billowy and takes on a bluish or clear color, and (2) if I hold my hand in the smoke and smell it (safer than just sticking my head in a smoke cloud), it smells good. Like something you want to eat, not a burning tire.

 

One chunk of hickory with pork is a good place to start.

 

Sounds like things are going well now. I think if you fill up the firebox you could take a slow burn test very long in that cooker.

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TL:DR - Smoked some ribs and overcooked them, but they had the best taste of anything I've smoked on this grill so far.

 

So I had my first smoke cook yesterday since my successful test.  I smoked a few racks of spare ribs.  It was not a resounding success, but I think it's produced the best results so far.  Temps got away from me a bit.  Not a lot, but I think enough to affect these ribs.  I have a couple thoughts on this:

  1. I was using the KJ big block lump for the first time.  I didn't really know what to expect, and actually had to pause and stoke it up at the beginning because I think it was on its way to going out.  The chunks were huge!
  2. I replaced my charcoal grate with the one I linked to earlier in this thread.  I noticed a marked improvement in airflow when I grilled some flanken ribs earlier in the week.

So those two factors, I would think, contributed to my expectations not completely lining up with the behavior I got.

 

Additionally, the ribs were not the highest quality.  I typically buy from Sam's or Costco, and they are usually a lot meatier than what I brought home from a regular grocer for this cook.  I think this, plus the higher temps (300+ when I was looking to be more in the 275-280 neighborhood) contributed to the overcooked racks that I ended up with.

 

A rookie mistake was not realizing just how much hotter the bottom grate would be compared to the top.  That resulted in one rib wafer that I had to throw out, lol.  The other two were on the top grate.  They cooked past bite-through and past fall-off-the-bone, I think, because they started drying out.  There were a few juicy parts, though.  But much of the "bark" was just crunchy, top layer meat.  One of the reasons I let them keep cooking (I did check them every hour or so) was the crust wasn't "setting".  I was able to rub the seasoning off with my finger even when I thought they were getting a little far along.  Coloration at the end was almost black.  Forgot to take pics.

 

Taste was a lot closer to what I have been chasing.  I think the dryness did something to amp up the salt in the flavoring, but it was much more edible than the pork shoulder I made a couple weeks back.  Smoke profile was much more agreeable to my palate, and I still got a nice smoke ring (on the meat that was still thick enough for me to see it).  I technically used two chunks of hickory, but I'm only counting one.  The first I had buried in my lump, and I think it burned up before I got my temps where I wanted them (to start).  I added another chunk and let it start putting out thin smoke before I added the meat.  I may try only doing that on my next cook and see how I like the results.  I now have some cheap welding gloves that I can use to (briefly) handle the hot grill elements to add wood.

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