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Help Controlling Fire/Charcoal Burn


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HELLO! :)

 

I am brand new to this forum... Just found this awesome place about 5 mins ago. 

 

I am having a problem with my cooking consistency of fire control.

 

My most recent example is from yesterday. I was experimenting with double indirect and I was going to finish off with direct heat.

 

These were chicken wings. 

 

So, I put in my slow roller and on top of that I had the heat deflectors. 

 

I built my charcoal up and put some wood underneath on the outsides of the stack of coal.

 

I used 1 fire starter on top of the pile to get it going. 

 

I have experimented with leaving the lid open here and closed... This time I let it get going and when the started went out I closed the lid a little and then put all my set up on it.

 

I got the temp up to about 300 f and put my chicken on. 

 

I closed the vent to about 1 finger at the bottom and left the top all the way open and it was stabilized. 

 

I assumed based on this it would take the chicken 30-40 mins to cook...

 

I checked it maybe 15 mins (not exactly sure) and it was getting really close to temp.

 

So, I decided to pull my stuff out to try to get some direct heat.

 

Almost all the charcoal was white and appeared burned up (which isn't what I expected)

 

I feel like a lot of this is caused by the wood catching fire? But I didn't see any spikes in temp that I noticed.

 

I believe my thermometer in the dome could be way off so I do need to check that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, on a side note... how do you shut down and clean up?

 

Once I got mildew/mold in the Joe when I left the coals in. 

 

I am paranoid now and waste so much charcoal burning everything off when I am done. 

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Welcome WarEagle.... first off, Go Vols.

 

I can walk through the process that I use for lighting my fire.  First, I add charcoal and dig a little hole in the middle and insert a fire starter.  Light the first starter and cover with a few pieces of charcoal.  I let that go for 15 minutes with the lid open and nothing in the Kamado.  Once the fire is going pretty well, I then add in my deflectors and close the lid, but I keep the top completely open.  I leave that there until I get near the temp I am looking for before closing down the vents to where I typically keep them for the desired temp.  It takes some trial and error to get to the point where you know your settings, but once you get them, they stay pretty consistent.  It's crazy how every cooker will ride at different temps at the same exact settings, so hard to tell someone without them just getting a feel for their own.  

 

I hope this makes sense, but one thing I always try to do is get a solid foundation of fire before adding deflectors or closing the lid.  

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as for shutting it down, I just literally shut both the top and bottom vents.  I've never had mildew grow in mine.

 

also, head over to the intro page and introduce yourself when you get the opportunity!  glad to have you

 

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I have a different grill than you, but when I leave my top damper all the way open and bottom damper open about 1 finger,  I can get 500+ degrees. It could be that your dome thermometer isn't calibrated or is defective. I'd invest in an ambient thermometer.

The deflectors actually do a great job insulating food from a roaring fire. It could be that the dome temp rose a lot more slowly than the temp near the heat deflectors. Was your firebox white (after having been black with soot and grease) when the coals cooled down? If so, you probably had a fire at 800+ degrees beneath the deflectors.

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Two idle comments:

 

(1) The only thing that I rely upon for temperature monitoring is a (wireless!) external-reading thermometer which I bought for about $35 at Home Depot.  It separately tells me the temperature in the firepot and the temperature in the food ... even from several hundred feet away and with the dome lid closed.  It sounds like the oven and/or the food temperature wasn't what you "expected" and that you had no reliable way to "measure" it in real time.  A device like this will do that.  (The built-in dome thermometer on my unit has never been accurate, either.) Nothing beats having data.

 

(2) I don't use a Joe, but I religiously clean my grill after every cook, and store it in such a way that moisture cannot become trapped anywhere.  (Charcoal and ash can both absorb and retain moisture, and, given the chance, mold will grow on almost anything.)  Next morning, leftover charcoal goes back in the bag, the ashes are dumped, the grill grates are cleaned, and the interior and exterior are wiped down.  Every time.  Takes about five minutes.

 

If you allow grease and other residues to "bake on" and don't clean them off, in a sufficiently hot fire (which you apparently had, without knowing it), these residues can catch fire and add to the fire, making a bad situation quickly worse.  I had a friend whose ceramic kamado was permanently damaged by such an event ... akin to a "chimney fire" in a fireplace.

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2 hours ago, WarEagle2334 said:

Also, on a side note... how do you shut down and clean up?

 

Once I got mildew/mold in the Joe when I left the coals in. 

 

I am paranoid now and waste so much charcoal burning everything off when I am done. 

Wcome @WarEagle2334. I'm with @Bgosnell151 on shutdown, close the air off when the meat comes off.  If I've done a few greasy cooks (chicken, pork, etc) lately, I make sure I don't need to do a cleaning burn before my cook.  If I do, I'll run one while the grill is hot, just open it up more.  Haven't had mold issues yet, with that regime.  But the grill gets used regularly, so that inhibits mold also.

 

Again, glad to have you here

 

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3 hours ago, WarEagle2334 said:

So, I put in my slow roller and on top of that I had the heat deflectors. 

@Smokingdadbbq has a video on a double indirect method and I believe he does the opposite - SloRoller on top of heat deflectors. I don’t know that it matters - just an observation. But in regards to your coals being burned up, using a double indirect method will require more fuel to reach your temp because you have 2 sets of deflectors blocking the heat. In the aforementioned video, that was the intent - hotter cleaner fire while still protecting the food.

 

3 hours ago, WarEagle2334 said:

I got the temp up to about 300 f and put my chicken on. 

 

I closed the vent to about 1 finger at the bottom and left the top all the way open and it was stabilized. 

Sounds as if you had your food on before stabilizing your KJ. I’ve found that getting the grill stabilized and vents set prior to putting on the food is the most effective way to cook on the KJ. That includes letting the dome get heat soaked at your desired 

temperature. For example, I’ll slowly start shutting vents down when I’m about 50° from my target. Once I hit the target and have my vents set, I’ll still wait at least 10 minutes before putting the meat on just to make sure I’m truly holding that temp. And I’ll hand test the dome to make sure it’s plenty hot.

 

3 hours ago, WarEagle2334 said:

I built my charcoal up and put some wood underneath on the outsides of the stack of coal.

 

I used 1 fire starter on top of the pile to get it going. 


As someone else stated above, I also form a “well” in the center of my charcoal and place the fire starter in the well, usually at the bottom of the charcoal basket. Once lit, I’ll place pieces of charcoal over the fire, making sure to leave plenty of space for oxygen. I leave the lid and bottom vent open and when there’s about a softball sized amount of charcoal glowing orange, I’ll stir it all up to spread the fire out evenly. I then close the lid, but swing the control tower (top vent) wide open, while also leaving the bottom vent open. I’ll slowly start closing vents down as I start to near my temp. I don’t add wood until the fire is going strong and I wait until the wood is burning cleanly before putting the meat on.
 

In regards to shutting down, I just close top and bottom vents tightly. I leave unused charcoal in the basket for the next cook. I’ll clean everything out every 2-3 cooks. I don’t have a shop vac, so I do the opposite - I use a leaf blower and blow in the bottom vent. I’ll remove the charcoal basket and push all ash out by hand before doing that. I’ve only had to do a high heat burn off once or twice.

 

Hope all this helps! Welcome to the forum!

 

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Unless you are going to use your grill soon I suggest opening the vents the next day. I will even crack the lid on mine to prevent mold. 

Of course the best thing is to use it often enough that mold does not have a chance to grow. 

I don't clean my grill often but I attribute the mold to our high humidity. 

Good Luck! 

If your fire doesn't extinguish quickly you may need to modify the vents to seal better. It was necessary on my KJ II. 

Be sure to flesh out your kamado guru profile. 

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Welcome to Kamado grilling :)

 

As a new kamado owner, my best advice is to keep things simple until you are 100% comfortable with controlling your grill.  The 'double indirect method,' in my humble opinion, doesn't make any significant difference in anything.  I have experimented with it myself just to see if I could tell any difference and I just can't.  That being said, it IS all about doing whatever makes you happiest along the way.  But in the beginning, I firmly believe that leaving out complex setups like that (even though it's not really complex.... just different) is the best bet.  Once you know and understand your grill's personality, THEN start experimenting with things that may or may not change the way your grill performs.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, John Setzler said:

Once you know and understand your grill's personality, THEN start experimenting with things that may or may not change the way your grill performs.

I concur. Patience and practice are key.  You may read some posts here or elsewhere describing personal techniques but bear in mind those posting have learned their grill and perfected techniques beforehand. Use information for your own program development and improvements.

 

 

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22 minutes ago, mike echo said:

I concur. Patience and practice are key.  You may read some posts here or elsewhere describing personal techniques but bear in mind those posting have learned their grill and perfected techniques beforehand. Use information for your own program development and improvements.

 

 

to that point, I actually kept a log of my cooks for the first 2-3 months.  I kept desired temps, actual temps, initial settings, any adjustments to settings I needed, and length of cook.... probably a little over the top, but I think it helped me learn my cooker.  

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WarEagle

I concur with John above go with just the basics till you learn the grill. Keep in mind what we tell you what to do works on OUR grills and might not work 100% with yours but will get you in the ballpark. Now for my $0.02 worth when I got my grill I lit the grill following the advice here and also Johns book, make sure you have a free day to do this, position the grill so you can watch it from a comfortable chair with   refreshing beverage, fill the fire box and lite 2 starters ( I use wax ones but used to use alcohol balls) bottom vent full open and lid open. When fire starters go out add grates and close lid open top vent full open (I take mine off) when about 40-50 Degrees from the temp wanted close the bottom to  about 1/2 inch and 3/4 for the top. Give it about 1/2 hour or so to stabilize. If the temp is rising too fast close the top slightly. Once it's running at a constant temp for 1/2 hour or so play with the vents one at a time noting what each one does but wait at least 1/2 hour to see how it effects the grill temp, spend an afternoon learning your grill, as a bonus you can put a slab of ribs on during testing.  Keep a note book on the settings and what your cooking. These grills aren't hard to learn to manage but they can be frustrating in the beginning. Especially if your new to charcoal. 

 When the cook is done I open the bottom and top to bring it up to 500-600% to clean it  for about 30 min or until the smoke clears while we eat. Then close all vents after its cool I open top vent 1 inch and cover. 

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On 6/14/2022 at 8:22 AM, Bgosnell151 said:

to that point, I actually kept a log of my cooks for the first 2-3 months.  I kept desired temps, actual temps, initial settings, any adjustments to settings I needed, and length of cook.... probably a little over the top, but I think it helped me learn my cooker.  

I did this for over a year, and I still do it when I try a new technique or cook an item I've never cooked before. I save them in a note-taking app on my phone so they can be searched for future reference.

 

I also spent a day learning the grill settings, as @len440 suggests. And for the first month or so, whenever my temps stabilized, I took a photo the bottom vent, top vent and dome thermometer so the next time I wanted to set up for that particular temp I'd have a visual reference of more or less where I needed to set my vents.

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In my case (and with my non-ceramic steel grill ...) I shut all the vents after the cook to force the fire to immediately go out.  Next day, I discard the ash, store the inevitably left-over charcoal, and then scrub the whole thing down.  Remove all burned-on residue from the grates, remove any "hidden" ash, and wipe down the inside and outside before storing it in a way that allows free air circulation throughout.

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