Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

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Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  podmeister on Sun May 13, 2012 8:04 pm

Hi there

Firstly I've just received my excel 20 last weekend. I gave it it's first firing to burn off any nasties on Friday night, I ran at 300F for a solid 2hrs min... Then I stopped looking. I had loaded it with some part burnt briquettes and a chimney load of lit briquettes. The briquettes I'm using are coconut shell briquettes, I believe shipped by macs BBQ.

So I've got to my first cook tonight. I loaded my coal basket 3/4 full with the coco shell briquettes, and then added a fully lit chimney over the top. I then sealed everything up and watched the temp rise to about 150f... At this point I filled the water pan 3/4 full with hot water. I then waited to watch them temp rise which it duly did. It held at 220f. I knew this was low, but still hot enough to get cooking. So I loaded on a large chicken to the first grill, with some sweet potatoes. I then put a small chicken on the top shelf with some sausages.

Once all this was done I left alone! Then as a curious and eager smoker, I went back to check temp... 200F.

This had me wondering what could be wrong. So I've done some searching on here and found a few solutions... Possibly.

I foiled the water pan by joining two sheets of foil... Apparently this could be wrong. I've listened to the bbq, but can't hear any water boiling over and dousing the fire.

Water pan 3/4 full. I've been over to empty some water, when I got there the pan was at 1/2 full... So maybe there has been boiling over? Anyway I emptied some more to bring it down to 1/4 full.

I also threw on some extra briquettes... However, I put the top back on and now I assume the food may have an acrid taste as I got the plumes of black smoke rising out... Oh well, lesson learned.

However,the heat had still not risen over 200F.

I'm currently running it in my greenhouse as its quite windy outside, so the unit is sheltered. All vents are wide open.

I did a quick probe check at 2 hrs and the small chicken is at 69C.

I checked the accuracy of the lid thermometer on friday and it matched the grate thermometer I'm running.

Can anyone shed any light? I'm eager to learn... Fast as I've a BBQ party planned in July and I want to get some practice in.

Thanks in advance.


***EDIT - The morning after... ***

So I bottled out at 10pm and grabbed the chickens and slammed them in the oven... finished in 30 mins tops. They still taste great, but I feel quite the cheat, even though a 5 hour cook on chickens does seem a little excessive, especially when I read in books and online 2.5 - 3hrs depending on bird size.

So at about 9.30 the water pan had boiled dry - either through steam, or maybe it was boiling over the sides? The temp was rising up to 250F and beyond. So I grabbed the watering can and put some hot water in and filled the water pan 1/4 full. The temp dropped back down to 200F, but slowly rose to 220F. Then about before I new it 10.00 had arrived and I removed the birds, I kept an eye on the lid thermometer by 11.00pm the thing was holding a steady 300F.

So, I feel it may be something to do with either letting the fire set in and not having waited long enough - how long does everyone else wait after scattering on the hot coals?

Or it could be the water pan - next time I'm going to get some turkey foil for the pan. Alternatively I have read about using clean sand, where do you get "clean" sand? Is it the children's sand pit stuff?

Again thanks in advance for any advice to this low and slow newb Very Happy [img][/img]


Last edited by podmeister on Mon May 14, 2012 8:05 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Information update and spelling)

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Re: Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  podmeister on Wed Jun 06, 2012 4:03 pm

No takers?

Okay, I've had some advancements - though I'm refusing to post pics until I'm satisfied I'm managing the cook on the excel properly and making something worthy of posting in front of all the widened Q'ers on here. So onto the questions...

I've so far stuck to using water in the pan, though less of it and I'm also not putting foil in it (nightmare to clean up) as I can't find any big enough. I've tried Bacofoil turkey foil... but that's not big enough. What brand does everyone else in the UK use?

I've also had better success with temperatures, but wonder if I'm doing it right still. When I run a single tier on the excel20 I can run the smoker at a steady 250F with no blips (Except when the pan started running low or when the briquettes were getting ash'd up).

However, I ran the smoker this weekend. I ran it single tier for 3 hrs with 3 racks of ribs on. It held at 250F perfectly!. I then added the second tier with 2 chickens halved on it and I struggled to get the temp up to 225F, it did get there eventually, but it took awhile. I was in no danger of getting to 250F. I then removed the water pan to crisp up the chicken skin it rocketed up to 350F.

Out of interest is it unrealistic to expect to achieve 250F with two tiers? I've also noticed that I get some smoke leakage from the joins on the tiers. Is this normal?

I really hope someone can help as I'm enjoying using the beast, but feel I'm not doing it justice at the moment.

Also would going with the sand of terracotta clay saucer help me achieve 250F?

If I need to except it running at 225F rather than 250F? how much should I alter cooking times by? if at all.

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Re: Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  podmeister on Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:10 pm

Still no takers...

Well to continue with my "forum blog", I will offer an update.

I ordered a maverick ET732 and used this weekend. Great stuff. I just need to de-crimp the wires a little to get through the eyelets on the excel 20.

I trialled on Sunday with a boned and rolled supermarket pork shoulder. Everything worked a treat this time round... now wish I'd taken pictures. Next time I will for sure!

I set the excel up with a foiled terracotta saucer inside a foiled water pan. The unit held a relatively steady 250˚F the whole day. I continued using the CPL cocoshell briquettes. I ordered 50kg of the briquettes from coals2u and some hickory chunks from cookequip. Both places offered fantastic service and a very prompt delivery.

The meat went onto the top shelf of the excel (two stacks to avoid bending down) at 8.30am and cooked it's way until 7.10pm. The meat hit the plateau and struggled to go past. It finally did, but I removed the meat at 187˚F less than I wanted it to get to but I had a wife to feed.

Meat was wrapped in foil and an old towel and placed in a cool box and left for an hour (again less than I wanted to) and it pulled fine at 8.00pm.

Whilst the pork was resting I tried the roast potatoes in the water pan trick I saw on YouTube and possibly involved Mack if I recall correctly. Rather than beef or pork "lard" I used some goose fat I had in the fridge. Parboiled spuds, along with parboiled parsnips and some raw small turnips. These all cooked for 40 mins with a toss at the halfway stage.

So I had what I would describe as my first successful cook on the Excel 20 and it was great. So what have I learnt?

My temp gauge on the lid reads slightly hot by about 10˚F so I'll be looking to adjust it.
The terracotta saucer worked, but it did provide a very dry environment for the pork - I applied a wash made from some apple juice, cider vinegar and the rub I'd applied earlier to try and offer some moisture to the meat.

I will try the water pan with water again now that I have the et732 and see how things run.

So my theme has been for questions... so I better finish on one.

Where do people source their foil in the UK from to cover the water pan without having to join two sheets. The Bacofoil wide turkey foil wasn't wide enough to cover the water pan in one sheet.

Thanks for reading... Pictures next time!

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Re: Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  Mack on Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:58 pm

Sorry for the lack of responses, I don't know how I missed your previous posts... Been rather hectic, but you seem to have worked it all out by trial and error, which is usually the best.

Never foiled a water pan, so the only advice I can offer is that if you don't foil, clean the pan as soon after you've finished smoking... the longer you leave it the harder (and stinkier) it is to do.
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Re: Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  ant_in_wales on Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:59 pm

Hello Everyone

Thought I'd reply here, as I've had a similar experience today with my first go on the Frontier.

I used the blue bag "Restaurant Quality Lumpwood Charcoal" off Amazon (seems OK, good range of sizes).
And my chimney is from B&Q - maybe a bit small.

Charcoal lit really well in the chimney, but never really got going in the ProQ.
Used a probe at the top eyelet, and never really got above 210 for long. (Gauge in the lid was always about 30F lower - are they any use, or do you need to learn you gap & compensate?)
Putting in a fresh chimney load got it up to 230 for a bit, but it kept slipping back down to 200-210.

Any ideas how to get the temperature up, and the wood to burn better? (All vents were open.)

I did chicken in the lower stacker, and after 4+ hours it wasn't cooked.
Ribs in the top stacker were fine.

I removed the stackers to finish the ribs & chicken. Briefly went up to 300F before going down to 200F after 15 minutes.
When I finished, there was still lots of unburned, whitened charcoal.

I've seen the Minion Method - would I be better doing that? Using the chimney as a starter?
I think the B&Q chimney is smaller than the Weber one, so do I need a second one?

The chicken & ribs tasted great - I over-smoked, but we liked it.
In fact, when I added the second chimney, I added a bit much wood too, and there was smoke coming out of the joint between the stackers. Is this a hint about my problems, or did I just not get it hot enough in the beginning.

How can I get it above 250F?

Regards, and thanks

Tony

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Re: Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  podmeister on Mon Apr 27, 2015 9:47 am

Hi Tony

I use the same lumped and it's going to be changed... I've always had issues with temp when using it. Instead I'm finding the Big K restaurant quality lumped is better and gets to temperature easier.

Secondly, I've never been able to get the Excel 20 running properly with just the water in the pan, Instead, I found a terracotta plant pot saucer the right size to act as my heat sink. I foil the water pan and the terracotta pot and that's all - It also saves getting up in the middle of the night to top the water.

My chimney is a landman starter which is also smaller then the weber and tbh it works fine. I use the minion method (or it's a derivative) for getting mine running. The routine I follow is fill the starter, light 2 weber fire lighters underneath the starter and set a timer for 20 minutes. during those 20 minutes i prep my charcoal basket, by filling it to the top with lump wood. Once I know I have that much in, I then rearrange the lumped to leave a hole in the middle that is roughly the size of the starter. I also intersperse some smaller pieces of smoking chunks throughout the lump wood. finally wash hands of all the lumpwood dust.

Once 20 minutes are up, make sure ALL vents are fully open and tip the starter into the hole you made in the lump wood. Put your stack straight on (foiled water pan/terracotta saucer combo must be in the stack), close all the latches and watch the temp soar on your remote monitor. Once you are above 250˚C go and brush the grates and oil them and pop your meat on the grill. insert probe and close it up - speed is of the essence. The longer it's open the more heat you loose.

Once the meat is on and your back to the temperature you want to run at, start to balance the vents. Starting with the bottom ones first! Try leave the top one open, but obviously start closing down if the bottom vents are nearly closed. They key is all the vents need to be open in some form or another.

I hope this helps you to get a grip of your smoker. They really are the best ones going once your learn how to, but it is a learning curve. You will get it eventually, but practice is the key.

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Re: Temp troubles - sticking at 190F - 200F

Post  ant_in_wales on Tue Apr 28, 2015 1:21 pm

Thank you Podmeister!

I too wonder if that charcoal isn't very good as it ran very badly in the ProQ.
Yet it worked fine in the chimney, even lit with newspaper.
Trub is, the Mr K is harder to get hold of - where are you getting the Restaurant grade stuff?

Can I check - you're not putting water in at all!!!! (gasp!)
You're using a terracotta plant pot of a similar size??!!

I wonder - if I'm not getting up to temperature, whether I might as well just use the pan empty (except for the foil to protect it).
If I do get up above 250F then I could add some water. The water doesn't do anything for the cooking, does it?

The smoked chicken and ribs came out divine - the chicken was particularly potent the next day.
I'm very pleased with the food, but am still a bit sceptical about how well the ProQ runs.

Thanks again for your reply

Tony

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