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Questions from a newbie with one cook completed


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Hi all, got a Joe Jr last week and had my first cook last night. I'm going to run through the whole process to hopefully avoid missing anything:

 

Lit the charcoal, lid open for 10 minutes or so. Shut the lid for a LONG time (cant remember exact time here) with the vents fully open. Came back to it, outside of the dome was too hot to touch and the temperature gauge was maxed out. I realise now i should have dialled in the temp way before this and then let the dome get heat soaked. I put in the heat deflector (is it bad to put it in a hot dome or is this the right way? should it be heated with the dome?) and again left it for 10 minutes or so and the heat dropped right down, to where i wanted it. Once it was at a steady temperature i put a spatchcock chicken in and shut the lid. Obviously i lost a lot of heat with the lid open but i didnt play with the vents as i didnt want to be chasing the heat. After 10-15 minutes the temp had not returned to it's pre chicken status and i did end up having to open the vents to bring it up.  In the end the chicken cooked fine and i did manage to find the right vent configuration to maintain the heat i  wanted but i have a few concerns after the cook:

 

If the dome had got THAT hot that i couldn't even touch it, how come it came down so quickly when i added the chicken/deflector? I was under the impression that i'd pretty much ruined the cook by letting it get too hot as it wouldn't come down again due to the wonderful insulation of the dome. Is my dome not retaining heat? The dome was clearly hot as it was hot on the outside...

 

Is it normal for temps to rise/fall so easily with vent manipulation? Shutting the vents so daisy was open and the bottom had maybe an inch would bring the temp right down to 150c and opening the top about halfway it would go straight back up at a relatively quick pace, i was able to do this a couple of times with the same results. Again, is heat not being retained or is this normal?

 

Thanks in advance, looking forward to my next cook!

 

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I do the same as Golf. Be very careful when you have both vents wide open, they can go nuclear very easy. Don't have any experience with JR cooling down it could be due to lack of thermal mass that the jr's bigger brothers ( sisters?) have. We'll have to wait for the Jr owners to respond. Glad it turned out ok for you. Keep a log book of your cooks and settings and comments till you get used to the grill. Have you read this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello. In my limited experience with Joe Jr's, the amount of mass (chicken) you put on the grill is the equivalent of dropping a couple of briskets on my Big Joe. Fifteen minutes in that case is not sufficient time for the grill to restabilize. The lower temp you are cooking at the longer it takes for the grill to recover. If the grill is actually stable before putting the protein on, it will– in time– recover without adjusting vents.

 

That said, it does not seem to me that the grill was stable. You mention bringing the grill right down to 150°C but, not from what temp or how "quickly" the grill was responding to the vent changes. On all of my grills, quick jumps in temp upon opening the vents indicates an unstable fire. Usually indicating I've lit the coals in two many places or allowed to much of the coal bed to ignite before trying to stablize the temps.

 

Also, hopefully you are not touching the actual dome. Under no circumstances have I ever attempted to touch the dome during a cook, particularly during a high temp cook and wouldn't recommend it. At higher temps (350°), I also do not physically touch the top vent itself. I am normally retasking the end of a spatula, using a glove or other tool.

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@CentralTexBBQthanks for the response. If it takes longer than 15 minutes to come back up to temp but i wanted to cook the chicken for, say,  40 minutes at 200°C. How do i account for that? Do i still just leave it 40 minutes or do i account for the loss of heat in my timings? I've got a meat thermometer but it's less about getting the chicken hot when it comes to this question and more about making sure i don't overcook it and dry it out. 

 

The grill was coming down from around 210°C to 150c with vent manipulation. It just seemed a little quick is all. How can i tell if it's stable? I had it sitting at a steady 210 for several minutes and the heat wasn't fluctuating at all, until of course I opened the dome, played with vents, etc. Could you expand on what you mean by lighting the coals in too many places or allowing the coal bed to ignite too much please? I think you're probably right about this but is there a way to actively avoid this or is it a matter of "once it's there it's already too late"? 

 

I was touching the dome, I was basing this whole cook on one that "Smoking Dad BBQ" did on youtube and in it he touches the dome to check how hot it is in order to tell if his temp gauge is accurate so I figured i'd do the same. I did use a glove when adjusting the daisy wheel though.

 

One final question off the back of another cook yesterday, I got the right temp in the dome, it was all fine. I had a skillet with some potatoes in the dome for about 40 minutes and the temp was fine and steady (again around 205-210) and then in the final 20 minutes or so i added in some chicken breasts. At this point the temp dropped to around 150c and with vents fully open would not come back up. I thought i may not have enough coal but then after 20 minutes i removed the skillet with the potatoes and the temp came right up with just the chicken in the grill. Is it normal for a full grill to struggle with temps? Can i avoid this by using more coal? 

 

Thanks again for the response and sorry for all the follow up questions, I'm sure you all get this a lot on these forums but it's a daunting process to start out!

 

@len440 thanks for the link. I read the guide last week and will be going through it again several times i assume. 

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I owed a jr. for about 3 years and never cooked on it. I sold it to my cousin and then did a couple of cooks on it to teach her how to use it. I can't say that I fully understand what was going on in your case because if you are cooking around 400°F, temps drops are far less likely and sunstantial. When I have experienced something similar, I discovered the cause was my protein was actually touching the tip of the temp guage and throwing off my readings. I would check if that's not what you were experiencing.

 

5 hours ago, Adamon said:

Could you expand on what you mean by lighting the coals in too many places or allowing the coal bed to ignite too much please? I think you're probably right about this but is there a way to actively avoid this or is it a matter of "once it's there it's already too late"? 

 

 

Not really relevant in higher temps cooks like you were doing. It applies more to maintaining stable temps during low and slows. If too much of the lump bed is ignited initially in a low and slow cook, or if the fire is allowed to build for too long a period before dialing in the temp, it results in a fire that needs to be choked in order to maintain low temps. In those cases when the dome is opened, it results in quick rises in temps. In a well managed fire, I can open my dome for several minutes without significant spikes in temp.

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Welcome Adamon.  My first cook went kind of the same way, left the vents open while I was preparing and ended up with a nuclear cooker at about 900 degrees!! As far as the charcoal thing if you are coming from a briquette coal cooker, Weber or whatever, this is a bit different deal. You do not want the whole bed ablaze before you start usually.  Check out this thread from John...  LOTs of good info on getting started. 

I normally plan on about 45 minutes to an hour to get my KJ up to temp and stabilized  before I put on my food, then when I put my food on I dont mess with the settings and just let the cooker come back up to temp. Any time you add meat or whatever its going to cool the cooker down and you just have to let it do its thing and get up to temp again... then if you have to tweek it by all means do so, a very little at a time.

 

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If you're coming from a "traditional charcoal grill" experience, Kamado takes a little getting used to, because this thing is really a "charcoal-fired convection oven."  And it might also be your very first experience with "convection oven" cooking!

 

The food is actually cooked more by recirculating hot air – which cycles around the inner liner – than by direct radiant heat from the fire or even the [ceramic?] pot.

 

The best way to approach this is to bring the oven up to temperature gradually.  It's much easier to get it up to the desired temperature than to bring it down.  Also, once you do get it to the desired temperature, it will tend to stay there.

 

An absolutely-essential cooking tool is a remote-reading thermometer with "food temperature" and "oven temperature" sensors which can be read without opening the lid.  I bought a very fine unit – wireless, even – for about $35 at Home Depot.  This will give you everything that you need to carry out your cook with confidence and precision.

 

Take the meat off the fire when it's 10ºF below the target temperature, then "tent" it in aluminum foil.  Your thermometer will show you that the meat will "coast up" to the target on its own.

 

Incidentally: if you want "sear," here's how I do it ... in a cast-iron skillet on my kitchen stove, using heat-tolerant oils such as coconut oil.  (No, your meat won't taste like coconuts ...)  Sear it before or after the cook.  Put the hot skillet in a cold oven to cool naturally.

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Thanks all for the great responses. I have been trying to use the Joe Jr as much as possible in order to get the "feel" for it. Made some wings on Thursday and got my temp much more successfully stable (250f for an hour and then 400f for a quick sear) and did an 8 hour short rib cook on Saturday which went well (temp ended up a little low but that was entirely my own fault, it went up to about 275f with a target of 250f and i thought  "i'll just adjust it down a little bit" and then didn't check on it for a few hours and came back to a steady 200f) the beef ended up great though and i got rave reviews so all in all a success.

 

All of your responses and the reading/videos have been incredibly useful. So excited to keep trying new things and learning more.  

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23 hours ago, CentralTexBBQ said:

 

Yikes, I've been doing this all wrong for the past 30+ years... :-D

I've been doing it wrong too, although I do use a remote thermometer for low and slow cooks to give me an idea of when the meat is getting close to being done. I think that the remote thermometers for the grate temperature are trying to apply a digital solution to an analog source. Also, where does the thermometers in an oven measure the temperature? Could a thermometer in a different place give a different reading?

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I'm in now way anti-tech. I am anti-tech for me when it comes to cooking. I have an instant read I was gifted on my birthday two years ago and I use it for curiosity sake after I've made a determination that the meat is done. I don't want that to lose that skill by relying on tech the same same I can't remember street names for relying on maps saying, "turn here".

 

If I was just starting out, it'd be no issue for me to use it.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Golf Griller said:

Also, where does the thermometers in an oven measure the temperature? Could a thermometer in a different place give a different reading?

 

The same issues apply to ovens, they also have hot spots, cool spots. Bakers recommend the biscuit test to find out where they are.

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I can only say what works excellently for me.  I start the charcoal in a chimney starter and then dump it into the firepot, sometimes onto a small layer of unburned charcoal.  I bring the temperature up to where I want it to be with slight adjustments, usually to the bottom (inlet ...) vents, as it begins to get close.  I don't want it to go substantially "over." 

 

And, I really don't attempt any "high temperature" cooks: I basically use it like a smoky convection oven.  Where my practices differ substantially from yours, I have no experience and no comment.

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