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Talon65

Can’t get KJ II to cook low n slow

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I’ve tried numerous times to keep my KJ II at 225* with no luck. It will hold the temp just fine, however it just smolders with billowing white smoke. I’ve used different brands of lump, starting methods and with/without Thermoworks Billows attached. Same thing every time. I can get it to stabilize all day at 350* and above (with steady tinkering of the top vent) with proper smoke but not below. 

I'm beginning to think that the hinge issue I’ve reported to KJ is the culprit since smoke just pours out from the gasket when the billows is attached. Logical thinking tells me it can’t be if there’s an issue with air leaking into the gasket it should make it hard to maintain consistent temps. Or is the fact that I continually have to adjust top vent because of the leaking seal?

My lid sits about a 1/4 to the left and the gasket is mashed flat on the side. I have tried everything KJ has instructed to get it flush to the bottom. They last said they were sending me a new hinge (mid March) and still haven’t seen. Hence why I’m not the biggest fan of their CS presently. 
I have watched numerous videos on how to correctly light and close it down to keep temp. That’s not the problem, the billowing white smoke instead of thin blue or invisible is. On a side note, I don’t have any trouble keeping my BGE Mini Max at low temps with perfect smoke, it’s just not big enough for some cooks. Granted it’s much smaller but same principle. 
Any help or ideas I may not have tried would definitely be appreciated. 
 

Thanks,

Paul

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Hello Paul ~ I know that your post is asking a question, but it offers me an answer.  I inherited an old Imperial Kamado that has no gasket left at all. It too is totally impossible to keep at a low temp. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a gasket because there is none - not even a remnant.  Smoke billows out from between the lid and the base.  I think you might be on to a resolution here. 

I'm in the process of a re-do for it and a gasket will now be added to the project. I did read that some folks who added a set of gaskets top and bottom have had gapping issues.  There is an old Imperial for sale on eBay that has photos of the bottom gasket and it is extremely thin; however,  I think that I will start with adding a top gasket and see what I get. Replacement gaskets seem to be much thicker. 

If you get resolution, please post it.

Jana

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Could you post a photo of what's going on with the smoke leaking at the gasket?  That is normal to a small degree when you are starting up with a fan.  When the fan is running hard (the billows has the most powerful fan on the market) but it will stop when the fan slows down.

 

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The leaky gasket could be the problem, at 350 and above you have air coming in the bottom vent and through the gasket, but when you run at 250 the heat rising in the grill goes out the top and because of the air leak your not getting the same draft as at 350 through the coals so the coals struggle for air and just smolders, hence the smoke. My gasket leaks a few whisps of smoke  nothing major .Now this is all just a guess.But please keep us updated.

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Sorry, I’ve been swamp lately. I’ll get some pics tomorrow as I plan on using it all weekend. 
 

Paul

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Ok so here are a couple pictures. 
First pic shows smoke escaping from the right side as usual. Temp was 275* and rising. Bottom vent about a 1/2” open an top nearly closed completely. 

Second one is at 340* and settled with same vent settings as first picture. Notice the smoke discoloration on the bottom band. Get that every time after I wipe it clean and then start cooking. 
Last one is Of the right side at same time, temp and setting of first picture. No smoke, no smoke discoloring on band. Notice how bad the dome is not lining up with base. I’ve done everything KJ has suggested to no avail. 
 

So today I tried something, went and bought a generic lid gasket and laid it on top of the existing gasket. Sealed up nicely and didn’t leak. Holds temp at 225 and 250. Only issue now is that the smoke is staying white like it’s starving for air. I’ve tried bottom vent open, top vent closed down to just a slight hole, bottom vent shut down to 1/8” and top fully open (and partial open). I could get to and maintain 250 (what I was shooting for) but still thick white smoke. Decided to fire up BGE Mini Max (have never tried low temps on it) and starting fire as normal with 3 wood chunks. Within 20 minutes it was at 250 and holding with TBS as it should be. 
@John Setzler I didn’t hook the Billows to it in these pics but did after a little while (actually forgot about it). You right that it has some airflow cause smoke was POURING out of left side and trickling out of the right. I’m clueless as to what to do now. Glad I still have my Rec Tec and wish the BGE was big enough to smoke brisket etc on. SMH

 

Thanks,

Paul

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Sounds like you are straving it for air. With the bottom open 1/2 inch and the top nearly closed you forcing the air flow through the coals and out the Leakey gasket. With the second gasket laid in place you are now using the vents as intended. What sized fire are you building? What I would suggest is fill up the firebowl, If using fire starter cube use 1,place in middle of pile light and let burn with bottom vent full open and lid open for about 20-25 min. Close lid I keep top vent full open till about 180-190 degrees. Close bottom vent to about 2 fingers wide top to about 1 inch. At 220 close bottom to one finger and top to 1/2 inch as it hits 22tt close top to 1/4 if needed to slow rise. This will take time and start with a small fire.

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On 5/10/2020 at 5:14 PM, Talon65 said:

... It will hold the temp just fine, however it just smolders with billowing white smoke.

I've been using a chimney starter exclusively for almost a year now, and it has 100% eliminated the billowing white smoke of a too-cool fire. Did a complex cook yesterday. I divided the fire bowl so I had hot and cool sides. Started low-n-slow at 225F for a couple hours smoking ribs and a culotte on the cool side, 40 minutes of corn-in-husk on the hot side. Direct heat did the high-temp work. Then I cranked up the fire and dropped the grate to the lower position to sear the beef , then raised the grates to top level and set the vents for 250F to smoke some jerky... after a couple hours to cool down. 

 

On 5/15/2020 at 10:10 AM, CoyoteCook said:

I'm in the process of a re-do for it and a gasket will now be added to the project. ... Replacement gaskets seem to be much thicker. ...

The above cook is the first on a new fiber gasket on a BJ I, not the new gas hinge gasket. Yes, a new fiber is much thicker, so plan to adjust the lid the first time you close it. I loosened the tension bolt, closed until top and bottom just made contact, and continued loosening the bolt until the lid came down easily, without compressing the gasket nearest the hinge. Then make sure everything's tight and  re-tighten the tension bolt. 

 

Stay well,

Frank

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@len440 Thanks for the response. The way you explained it is for the most part how I do it. I use the “half” method of shutting it down. Start fully open, then down to half, half again until I get it to target temp. I cooked short ribs this morning and to get 250* consistently I the bottom vent was approximately 1/4” and top vent at a the first white mark (toward closed) on Kontrol Tower. I absolutely loaded the firebox and added way more wood chunks than normal. Didn’t smoke like I had intended or used to on other smokers but cooked very well. Damn shame I have to rig a $1000 grill to get it to work properly!!
 

Paul

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@fbov Thanks for the response. I’ve used a chimney a couple times on the KJ but not for low n slow. I always use it on my Mini Max as that is my searing machine. I’ll give the chimney a shot as you indicated on my next low n slow. 
 

Paul

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37 minutes ago, Talon65 said:

I’ve used a chimney a couple times on the KJ but not for low n slow.

The only trick is to skip any "warm-up" vent setting and go right to your proven low-n-slow vent settings. You have all the burning wood you need; no need to grow the fire! It leads to slow warm-up, but avoids overtemps. This is especially important in the 18" models. I have a 24" Big Joe which is bigger so it heats more slowly. Cold deflectors, grates and food are effective, too. 

 

Stay well,

Frank

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Talon65

So you cooked short ribs and it held 250 so i guess you have the vent settings correct and didn't have the white smoke problem. Guess the gasket was part of the problem. Kamado Joe should work with you on the hinge problem once the lid fits properly you should be good to go. You referred several times to your bge mini-max heating up in 20 minutes. The classic is larger and has more thermal mass to heat up, and will take longer to stabilize. Each one of these grills have a learning curve, my classic doesn't smoke like my gas or stick offset smoker. don't be discouraged, 

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@len440 Yes it’s much smaller and I realize the time difference. I was just saying it worked perfectly for low n slow, guess I should’ve left the time off and worded it differently. 
 

As for the ribs, it did take some work to get the KJ to stop billowing white smoke. I started my fire and let burn for 10 or so minutes. I verified nice embers in the spot I started. Added the divide n conquer with deflectors in lowest position (so I could use drip pan in middle). Immediately started thick white smoke. I let it get for a bit seeing if it would push through or not but it wouldn’t so I moved the deflectors to the middle. I noticed I still had embers glowing so I’m confused about the white smoke. I did notice that the inside of the grill was sweating profusely at this point which is beyond my realm of grill knowledge, unless it’s because the fire was starving (but still maintaining a temp of about 250). Anyhow, after about 20-25 minutes in the new position it quit smoking and got down to business so I cooked my ribs. 
 

I guess I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t put the sort of smoke and bark on meats as my pellet grill. I was thinking it would based off of all the research and videos I’ve seen. I know you can’t necessarily go by seeing TBS but as much pecan I had on it today I figured I’d see some but nope. Also didn’t have that signature smokey taste or smell, basically tasted grilled, was excellent but not exactly what I was shooting for. If it can, I’ll figure it eventually.
 

Thanks for the input. 
 

@fbov Thanks, I’ll try just that and let you know my results. 
 

Paul

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dirty deflectors

18 hours ago, Talon65 said:

I still had embers glowing so I’m confused about the white smoke

How did it smell? 

 

Part of grilling is understanding that the fire is in control, not the cook. You thought you had a mature fire but recognized when the fire told you otherwise. Good move. 

 

I suspect you had a mature fire in a small area, so as it spread, it regressed and started smoking. I did this many times, usually with smoking wood on the fire to muddle the situation. That's how I learned to use my nose... and now a chimney.

 

A chimney full of fuel with flames licking out the top allows me to start with a mature fire over a large area, so there is no lateral spread, and no white smoke anymore... until I add the smoking wood. I'll note that I prepare a bed of cold fuel to accept the chimney, a wide bowl so the burning fuel concentrates in the center and forms the classic volcano fire lay. 

 

Stay well,

Frank

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Talon 65 

2 questions what brand of charcoal are you using? Also what do you mean by sweating? Fbov was correct in you corrected your problem all it took was time

 

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