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Regulating hot smoker

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:05 pm
by onewheeler
Mrs Onewheeler, a lovely lady, bought me a ProQ Elite hot smoker for my birthday. I tried it yesterday with some brisket and some salmon fillet very successfully (the brisket got about 4 hours and was finished wrapped in foil overnight in the simmering oven, the salmon had about 90 minutes and both were perfect).

I was however having problems keeping the temperature stable and keeping the smoke going and am looking for tips...

On loading charcoal initially I think I'd not added enough - a chimney-starter full of it. Temperature went up to about 90 C, and then slowly dropped. I restarted the fire with another starter load of charcoal, and got the temperature up to the target 110 C, and kept it there for an hour or so but only with frequent fiddling with the vents: I'd thought that once set they could be left for at least an hour or so. Then the temperature started dropping again so I put more charcoal on the embers through one of the doors. Then the temperature shot up to 150 C even with the dampers closed before dropping steadily to the point where I gave up for the day.

What's the best way of keeping the temperature stable? Should I have loaded much more charcoal in at the outset? The charcoal was lumpwood, expensive but I was slightly dissapointed that a lot of it was in small fragments (which fell through the grate).

More on smoke in a separate post...

Thoughts welcomed...


Re: Regulating hot smoker

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:27 pm
by NCPaul
I use a Weber Smokey Mountian (WSM) which I think is similar. I use charcoal brickets and usually start with a chimney full unlit spread across the bottom. I add three chunks of wood about half the size of my fist. I open the top vent all the way. The three bottom vents are opened about one third of the way. I then light a half chimney of charcoals and spread these over the un lit ones (Minion method) and put the top part of the smoker on. To regulate the temperature I may have to open the bottom vents up to half by the end of the smoke. I never close the top vent; I always use the bottom vents to control things. Belated Happy Birthday to you. :D

Re: Regulating hot smoker

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:09 pm
by kil2k
Different smokers require varying degrees of attention to maintain a steady temp. The WSM 57cm is one of the best at maintaining the perfect temp, which is why I went for it. If I've got the bowl filled with water it'll hold very steady at 225-250°F, depending on how much lit fuel I've got going. If I want higher temps I don't use water and play around with the bottom vents instead.

Remember that when you add the meat to the smoker, the temp will drop then slowly rise again. Don't panic and add more coals until the temp has settled, otherwise you risk making the smoker far too hot.

If you want an easy way of regulating the temp while you're away from the smoker, grab yourself a PartyQ [battery powered], or DigiQ + Pit Viper fan [mains powered]. You can find them >here< under the "Pit Controllers" and "Power Draft Fan" sections. If you get a PartyQ, you won't need a separate fan.

When using one of those pit controllers you won't need to constantly check the smoker temp as the controller will do all the work for you. You'll need to block off all the other [lower] vents with tinfoil, or something similar, open up the top vent all the way, set the temp on the pit controller then relax with a cold beer [essential part of the process].

Another recommendation for steady temps is the ProQ Cocoshell briquettes. They can be a bugger to get started - even in a chimney - but you need very few of them, and they hold the temperature very, very steady at around 225-250°F. I usually put a few standard briquettes under the Cocoshell ones when first lighting them, then stack up a load of unlit ones in the smoker.

As for the smoke, I use chips that have soaked for an absolute minimum of 30 mins. These I add fairly regularly by hand. If you don't want to attend the smoker that often, get bigger lumps of wood instead. They don't need to be soaked, can be spread out over the unlit coals, and will smoke for longer.

Mostly though, it's all about getting to know your smoker. The more you use it, the better the results will be 8)

Re: Regulating hot smoker

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:52 pm
by onewheeler
Thanks for the replies so far. I think I had three issues: not enough fuel to start with, the water bowl ran dry (probably at the point where the temperature shot up) and I didn't soak the wood chips for long enough. I need more charcoal so will hunt for some briquettes - will see if Bookers have anything useful in stock, and our local garden centre.

It will be time for a second try next week, I finished the brisket for breakfast :drool:


Re: Regulating hot smoker

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:38 pm
by Dave Smith
I dont use anything in the water pan now on my proQ, just foil it for easy clean. Put a wine bottle in the centre of your fire box and stack the briquettes around it. Light about a dozen in a chimney and, after removing the wine bottle add to the unlit fuel. I get a good 8 - 10 hours like this using heat beads.
HTH Dave