Author Topic: A different firebox for the #3.  (Read 837 times)

wehill

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A different firebox for the #3.
« on: February 23, 2017, 02:28:58 PM »
Ok, this is coming from a new guy, so just take this as perhaps ignorance or lack of experience.

These Smoke-It smokers are advertised as super efficient in the utilization of wood in creating sufficient smoke for a great tasting piece of smoked meat.  You limit the amount of wood to go in the firebox to "no more than 8 ounces of wood".   You suggest that 4 to 5 ounces is enough wood to smoke your meat. 

Then you put in a firebox that is 4" wide and about 19" long with about 16 3/8" or 1/2" holes on the sides and 16 more holes in the bottom of the fire box.  So, as a new owner, I have to valuable time figureing out how to limit the amount of oxygen available in the firebox to promote "smouldering wood" instead of "burning wood"  To this point, I have covered the bottom of the firebox and poked tiny holes in about 1/2 of the holes in the bottom of the firebox in order to control the "smouldering" of the wood.  In addition, I've done things like build little foil tents over the wood to add more control of the oxygen that enters the firebox.  I have spent at least 15 hours [three hours a test smoke] trying to get to the point where I "smoulder" wood, rather than "burn" wood.

Why such a huge firebox when something much smaller would fit the bill?

Why not try to develop a firebox with a damper to limit the oxygen getting to the wood?

Ok, I have that off my chest.  ;)

I thought I had it solved as the last two test runs I made whereI had smoke to three hours by using  the techniques in an empty box and still chunks weighing as much as 1.5 ounces of wood left.

Then I throw in a couple of racks of babyback ribs in and viola no smoke after about and hour and 15 minutes.  So, all the tenting and poking holes didn't quite solve the problem.

I'm open to suggestions, but I am not sure making foil tents for your wood is very professional for a smoker that cost $700 plus change to get it to OKC.

Walt
http://cwuap.com/gallery-15.htm
Claire and Walt's Underwater Adventures and Photography.
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Glock_21

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 02:53:01 PM »

Embrace the "Lazy Q" philosophy.  Early on, I too fretted about several things with these smokers.  I have figured out to just let the box do its job.  Weigh and add some Smokinlicious wood, foil the bottom and the top of the firebox, add a loaf pan of water, prep and load the meat, latch the door and turn it on.  Monitor the meat probe from the couch and pull when it's done.

That's my process.  Set it and forget it.  No one has ever turned down, thrown away, or refused anything that I have ever smoked with the #3.  There are always some smokes that are better than others, but nothing has ever been ruined.  I stopped worrying about cook times, box temperature, and ash remains a long time ago.  The end product has never been bad, even when I was using bone dry, bagged wood that would "belch". 
That's my philosophy, keep it simple.

Just my opinion, YMMV.

Travis from North Central Oklahoma
SI #3, Traeger Texas Grill, gas grill, Classic Weber kettle, Anova WiFi 900 watt

wehill

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2017, 03:03:04 PM »
So, this "suggestion" forum isn't for suggestions?  :D

Walt
http://cwuap.com/gallery-15.htm
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TmanEater

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2017, 04:42:35 PM »
So, this "suggestion" forum isn't for suggestions?  :D

Suggest away. I wonder about your scientific methods supporting your suggestion though. :-)  I used to spend time trying to perfect everything too but found it's overkill and I just do the basics anymore. I'm a model 2 owner but I believe the drip port and the exhaust ports between the models are sized for the unit or all sized the same. This should limit the amount of airflow in the box so you really don't need to worry about smoulder vs burn. The only times I've think I've had the "burn" occur were because I either opened the door and let in tons of oxygen or I had extremely dry wood which triggered a belch during temperature initial ramp up.

So, I'd suggest back that you buy better (more moist) wood, use chunks in cooler spots of the box for longer smoke output, and put chips or small chunks in the hot spots to get the initial early smoke going before the chunks activate. Meat stops accepting smoke around 140 degrees so smoking beyond that point is really unnecessary. If you're doing cold smokes (i.e. cheese, salmon, etc...) then I follow completely different advice like buying a cold plate, doing ramp up and cut off sessions, consider other devices like a-maze-n.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 04:50:30 PM by TmanEater »
Smokin Newbie starting Dec. 2014... Learning Lazy-Q As Fast as I can!
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JustChillin

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2017, 06:42:23 PM »
I have foiled my wood, lightly soaked some and just used whatever I had on hand. The only thing that I can count on is everyone has enjoyed the meat that came off of the smoker. I think that we sometimes try to hard. Just the opinion of a lazy smoker. When people said that smoking was an addiction I don't think they were referring to the cooking process. Smoke your meat and enjoy life.
My tools currently include the SI #2 with an Auber, Grill Dome, Solaire 27", Holland Grill (Companion) & Weber (Smokey Joe). The Companion & SJ are primarily used for tailgating. David from Roswell,GA -Happy smoking!

old sarge

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2017, 08:12:56 PM »
Walt, There are several reasons for the long woodbox: 1) it shields the heating element from dripping meat juices and grease; 2)  you don't have to be too picky about where you place the wood (unless your element has a cool spot) and 3)  should you be fortunate enough to be in an area with an abundance of hardwood and fruit trees, you can smoke using a length of seasoned branch. As for choking down the airflow or air reaching the wood, I am going to say experiment just like you have been until you get that sweet spot.  Really, the only air getting in is through the small drip hole in the bottom of the smoker, so tinkering with the woodbox is really your only option of choking, except for wrapping the wood in foil.  Regarding the amount of smoke time empty versus with ribs, I can only speculate that it was the wood (long smoke good moisture, short smoke less moisture), and/or where it was placed.
I sometimes get nothing but a lump of pure ash and at other times just a tiny piece of charcoal left over. Hope this helps.
David from Arizona
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LarryD

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2017, 09:59:01 PM »
Tell us about the wood you are using...  what kind, what size, some sense of moisture, etc.

I personally think your ideas on the wood box are interesting...  The length I get as it needs to protect the element and one may wish to use sticks, etc. in it.  A built-in damper of some kind might be really nice though.  Of course, I'd curse it the first time I forget to set it or bumped it and changed it and then did a smoke.  ;) 

I am generally an advocate of don't over-think it, but if you're finding ashes most of the time suggesting your wood is combusting then you're probably not getting the results you want.

Another thing you could do is get a large washer to lay on the smoke exit hole that slightly reduces the size of the hole... don't go crazy; just a slight reduction will have a big effect.  I'm kind of curious why you're getting the results you are.  It makes me wonder if your rheostat is set high and so you're getting a higher temperature than you're asking for.  I think I've only had a single chunk of wood combust as long as I keep the temp set to 225 or under.
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NDKoze

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2017, 11:30:43 AM »
Have you tried the "Ramp-Up" method?

This is my preferred method and eliminates the hassle of foiling your wood or smoke box.

I do not foil my wood or the inside of my smoke box. I just set the smoker to 150 for 45 minutes and after 45 minutes, bump it up to my desired smoking temp. You can play with the initial 45-minute setting as it is just an estimate. If I have time, what I really try to do is to bump my temp midway through the second element on/off cycle since I am using an analog #3. If I remember correctly, you are using an analog #3 too right?

So, the reasoning behind this is that the combustion is caused by the constant full power heat provided by the element for the 15-25 minutes or so that it takes to get your smoker to your desired temp without any breaks in the heat until it hits your desired smoking temp. This is just too much straight-on heat without a break and the wood (if too dry) will combust.

I do not remember the numbers very well, so try to imagine the concept versus the actual numbers in the following scenario:

1. Foil the bottom of your smoker, top of your smoke box, add cold prepared meat as you normally would, smoking wood, etc.
2. Start smoker and set to 150 degrees.
3. If you have time and really want to find the optimum time to increase the temperature, note the rises and falls of the first on/off cycle. So, if the smoker reaches 150 degrees or maybe even overshoots to 160-165 after 13 minutes and starts to fall down to let's say 135 before the element kicks on again. In this example, the median of the cycle is probably right around that 150-degree mark.
4. So, on the second heating cycle, let the smoker hit the high point and then as soon as the temp drops to close to the low point in the heating cycle bump the temp up to 225 or whatever smoking temp you are going to use for the smoke.

I sometimes take the time to try to bump the temp at the optimum time, but typically I just bump it up after 45-minutes since it seems to be the sweet spot for most of my smokes.

This ramp-up process basically gives the wood a break from the constant full blast heat midway through the rise to the eventual smoking temp.

I think using high-quality smoking wood really makes a difference too, but I haven't brought this up yet because I am pretty sure you mentioned that you had purchased wood from Smokinlicious.

For most people, neither the ramp-up nor the foiling of the wood is really necessary with the Smokinlicious wood. But for some reason, you are still seeing the issues.

I think someone may have mentioned it, but it is possible that you may have to calibrate your controller knob if you temps are not lining up with your settings. There is a PDF file called "Heat controller troubleshooting / Adjustment Instructions" that is available from the following page on the Smokin-It website:

http://www.smokin-it.com/Articles.asp?ID=251

I continue to use my ramp-up method because I got my Smokinlicious wood probably close to a year ago and I still have a pretty full box, so I am assuming my wood has lost a good deal of its moisture (I don't have a tester yet). But, the ramp-up has just become part of my routine, so is not a big deal to me. So, I continue to do it.

Lastly, I see you have been doing some tests with an empty smoker. Testing with an empty smoker is highly unreliable because you are going to see even larger temp swings and uncommon element usage when there is no heat sink in the smoker to replicate what happens in a live smoke.

I am sorry for the ramblings, but I just kept on writing down thoughts that could help you.

Hopefully something here helps you resolve your issue. Otherwise, please tell us what happens when you try some of these suggestions.

Good luck!

Koze
Gregg - Fargo, ND
Smokin-It #3 that has now replaced the Masterbuilt XL and 10+ Year-Old Big Chief. I also have a Weber Genesis Gas Grill, Weber Little Smokey at home and a Chargriller Deluxe (stick burner) and Camp Chef Three Burner Stove with Grill/Griddle out at the lake place.

wehill

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2017, 01:16:12 PM »
Ok, just comment/note on a couple of things.  On the "Lazy Q" issue, I'm not a lazy smoker and when I don't get the king of finished product out of the box I'm using I try to fix it so that I get what I want.  So, the idea of just throwing something into the box, turning it on and being satisfied with a poor finished meat, is a non-starter for me. 

Since my original post, I have "cooked" ribs [three separate three rack batches] and haven't gotten anything from the "cooked" ribs that has a hint of smoked flavor in them.  Also, "cooked" a 10 pound brisket with zero hint of smoked flavor.  Now, in these four efforts the meat comes out to my desire in terms of being done.  That is due to decades of smoking meat and I know how long it takes at 225 degrees F to get ribs and brisket to where I like it. 

On the wood, I bought a box of the Smokelicious hickory wood.  It arrived at 32% moisture.  So, that is what I have used in this Smoke-It #3 smoker.  Besides, I don't think that the moisture content of the wood has anything to do with "smoking meat" with a real smoked meat flavor.  The organics that give smoked meats the flavor are still there regardless of the moisture content of the wood.

I have come to the conclusion that this Smoke-It smoker isn't a box that I am ever going to get a good hickory smoked flavor out of.  At least, as it was delivered to me.  I think it is a very good "outdoor cooker" but in my opinion it is not a good box for achieving real hickory smoked ribs, brisket and other meats.

That doesn't mean that I am going to give up on it.  I am in the process of making an insert I can use inside the factory issued Smoke-It firebox.  I get the need for the "long" firebox to cover the heating element.  That isn't the issue.  The issue is the Mickey Mouse idea of using foil to make tents to cover your wood to keep it from burning instead of smouldering.   

I do think the idea of "Ramping up the temperature" and think it has some merit.  I may give it a try. 
My guess is to do that one would have to start the temperature at 250 degrees until you got good smoke coming from the box and then turn the temperature down to the 100 to 150 degree setting.  Don't know if that would work or not.  The other way might be to initiate the wood smouldering before you put the firebox in the box.  If, I can't fix the problem with the insert I am going to make, then I have another idea that might allow me to get the kind of hickory smoked flavored meat that I want out of this #3.
Walt
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old sarge

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 10:13:44 PM »
Hello Walt - I am not sure why you are not getting good smoke flavor. I've not had that problem. If I have smoke coming out the top and meat in the smoker, I get good flavor. The wood I use is typically 11% to 15% moisture and unless it is a chunk of very dense heartwood, I get ash.  I don't foil or ramp.  But some do and like it; whatever works for them is all good. Sometimes my very visible thin smoke will go for a couple of hours or longer, sometime less, and I attribute that to the wood be it moisture or density or a little of both. I use a very simple rub so as to not interfere in the meat taking on the flavor of the smoke - salt, pepper, garlic powder and brown sugar. I like my smoke flavor on the meat, not the rub.

I see that you reported smoke for 4 1/2 hours back on 19 FEB, with ash and on 22 FEB 3 hours of smoke and charred wood leftovers. One would think that the meat would have soaked up plenty of flavor with that length of active smoke.  I am not sure why you are not getting the flavor you are looking for.  If it is a stronger flavor, more wood might be the answer.  But I did that once with a butt using a total of 12 ounces of wood, 4 ounces at a time throughout the smoke. I had a lump of creosote when it reached an IT or 195.  Way too bitter.  Threw it out. Since then, I have experimented till I got the flavor the family likes. It is all a matter of personal taste.  And with the smoke you are getting and your earlier posts on the ribs, I am thinking your smoker is working well.

Just out of curiosity, how is your project coming along on your wood box mod?

David

David from Arizona
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JustChillin

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Re: A different firebox for the #3.
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2017, 07:58:59 AM »
I concur with Dave regarding the smoke. While I prefer smoking baby backs, butts and salmon, I also do briskets, chicken and canadian bacon at times. I like a good smoke flavor but am also of the opinion that meat can become over smoked and bitter. I typically use between 4-7 ounces of wood depending on what I am smoking and the wood that I am using. I have a pile of cherry wood under my porch that is completely dry and needs to be foiled but it still provides a great flavor to salmon or mixed with some hickory for ribs. My SI provides a great smoke flavor and a moist meat. Just my opinion and I know that qwe all differ in what we like and prefer. Good luck with your modifications.
My tools currently include the SI #2 with an Auber, Grill Dome, Solaire 27", Holland Grill (Companion) & Weber (Smokey Joe). The Companion & SJ are primarily used for tailgating. David from Roswell,GA -Happy smoking!