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No Idea what Im doing...


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Hello All,

Im new to Kamado cooking (and the site). I am struggling with maintaining my fire. I can get the grill up to temp, but as I am backing the vents down I think I am choking out the fire. Around 50* before target temp I close the bottom vent to about 2 inches. At 10 before target I close the top vent and adjust the daisy wheel to about 1/4 open. Temp seems like it is stable around my target temp for about 30 min with a warm dome. When I add the meat, temp does the normal drop and recover, but after recovery the temp gradually drops and continues until I have to try to fix it. I can only get temp back up with a heat gun. Then its rinse and repeat. It doesn't seem to matter if I fill the basket or half full of lump I have the same problem over and over again.

 

Im using a kamado joe classic, with a daisy wheel and kick ash basket (which I thought would fix it but did not). Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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You don’t say what temperature you are trying to hit.  Where to set the vents depends on what temperature you want.  If you can provide a little more info, I am sure someone can help. 

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Maybe you’re starting to close airflow down before coals are fully engaged? I realized I was doing that early on. I’ve found the best fire starting technique for me is to light the coals in the middle (I use a KJ fire starter), leaving the dome and bottom vent open until coals are glowing with a nice flame. I then stir the coals to make sure I get an even fire and leave everything open until fire is lit beyond just the center. This entire process only takes about 15 minutes. I’ll then close the dome, let it come to temp, and adjust vents to target. This is working well for me using large lump charcoal (Jealous Devil), which promotes good airflow.

 

I also found the video below before I even had my KJ. It defines helped shorten the learning curve.  Happy cooking!
 

 

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KJH,

target temp I’m looking for is 250 right now, I figure that’s good middle ground for smoking. I’m also using a heat gun to get the fire going, I usually try to get about a softball size of red coals before I turn it off. Maybe I’m leaving that on too long too. Is it possible to have the fire too big before closing down the vents?  Thanks for the advice. 

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Haven't used a heat gun as a starter, but my thought is that your hot coal is all on the top of the bed.  Once those coals have burned out, there's nothing else behind it.  

 

Suggestion - make a depression in the center of the bed and start the fire on that.  When you turn off the heat gun, fill that depression in with some additional lump, so the fire is more in the middle of the bed, rather than the top.

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2 hours ago, holmes8251 said:

Is it possible to have the fire too big before closing down the vents?

It can certainly make it harder to lower your temp if you overshoot it, but usually not if you catch it early. I had that happen to me over the weekend. I walked away for longer than anticipated, and returned to an 800° dome, but I slammed the vents shut and had it under control for a 275° cook fairly quickly.

 

However, your issue above centers on temp dropping vs rising, so that would point to the fire not burning hot enough, either through lack of oxygen, too small of a fire, etc. Since this occurs early in your cook, it’s unlikely that you’ve lit such a large fire that you burned through the coals. It doesn’t take very many to hit and maintain 250°. A softball size bed of lit coals sounds perfect.

 

I’d first look to the bottom vent, but you say you have it about 2” open, which to me sounds like overkill, as I only need about 1/2” at the bottom for a 250° cook. I have the Control Tower and not the Daisy Wheel, so I don’t know the difference in settings between them, but for 250°, my top vent is also about 1/4” open.

 

I wonder if there is anything else that might be constricting airflow? I’d think the vent settings you describe above would achieve temps well over 250°.

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Thank you all for the advice. I think based on what you all are saying I've been building my fire incorrectly. I'm going to smoke a small roast on Monday (cheap practice).  I will be going with more smaller pieces of lump, after loading the larger stuff. I have been neglecting the small stuff. Im also going to try the well in the center, instead of the doing a pyramid. Ill let you guys know how it goes. Aside from a great roast, Im trying to get a constant temp that needs little attention. 

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I use a chimney starter to start my fire, then pour it into the firebox – sometimes on top of a bed of charcoal if I'm planning a very long smoke. (But I almost never do that ...)

 

I then have found that it's best to keep both the top and the bottom vents (of my steel Kamado, Jr ...) much(!) more closed than I would ever have thought possible.  I rely completely upon the readings provided by my food/oven thermometer, and I am always surprised. "How could a fire possibly be surviving in there?"  And yet it does.

 

If the thermometer seems to be suggesting an adjustment, I always do an extremely slight one, then re-evaluate in 15 or 30 minutes. Usually involving the lower vent (the oxygen intake) rather than the top one. "It is quite counter-intuitive ...!"

 

The external-reading thermometer is always the authority: "especially, the food."  Best $35 I ever spent (wireless!) at Home Depot.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 2/7/2022 at 9:22 PM, holmes8251 said:

At 10 before target I close the top vent

The fire needs airflow from the bottom and out of the top. It should struggle if you completely close the top vent. 

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Personally, I always start with my bottom vent wherever I'm going to keep it for the entire cook.  Then I just start tweaking the top vent as I start approaching my target.

 

350+ I leave the bottom vent wide open.  Below 300 - 350 I set it at about 50% open.  225 I'll set it at about 20% open.

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 My usual start up is to load the grill to the top of the fire bowl then make a depression in the middle, insert an alcohol soaked cotton ball with the top and bottom vent wide open.  Once the cotton ball burns out  (about 5-8 minutes) I put the deflector and grill grates in and leave the vents wide open until I reach about 200 or so then close the bottom vent to 1/2-1” and close the top vent to about a 1/4” crack with the daisy wheel open. When I reach my target temp (usually 275 or so for just about everything but chicken and roast) then I shut the top vent and leave the daisy wheel open. I adjust temp by the daisy wheel thereafter. Usually takes about 1/2 hour. Don’t sweat temp swings of 30-50 degrees. That wil just speed up your cook. 

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