FUEL TO USE
Straight charcoal briquettes and or charcoal briquettes mixed with wood chunks up to a ratio of 80% charcoal 20% wood chunks (small fist size pieces work best evenly distributed throughout the charcoal for even smoke throughout the burn). We recommend regular charcoal. You can use lump charcoal, however, it burns faster and hotter than regular charcoal. Also, using more than 20% wood will burn faster than the charcoal and yield inconsistent temps and inconsistent smoke flavor throughout the cook.
BEST WOODS TO SMOKE WITH
You can use Hickory, Oak, Apple, Cherry, Pecan, Peach, remember use small chunks, logs will burn unevenly and can over smoke your meat.
Before and after each use it is beneficial to spray the inside of the cabinet, fire box area, under side and inside of the water pan, and any racks that you’re using with a light coat of cooking oil. This will protect from rusting and create a non-stick surface on your cooking racks.
SEASONING YOUR NEW SMOKER
Once you receive your new smoker, it is important to season it before use. You can use any type of cooking oil, lard or cooking fat (Pam is the simplest way to do this since it comes in a spray can). Simply wipe or spray the entire inside or your new smoker, coating everything on the inside (including the inside of the fire box area and the door gasket seals). Start a small fire as described below and do not exceed 250-275 degrees on your temp gauge during the seasoning process for at least 3-6 hours. More than this is okay as well, if you’re trying to learn the controls on the smoker before you actually cook on it.
START UP PROCEDURE
- Close water valve
- If you're cooking with water, add 1 gallon to the water pan to start. You will add the rest through the water fill port once the pit has come up to temp, your food has been added, and you have dialed in your final set point (this avoids adding unnecessary time during the initial start up).
Note: you do not need to have water in the pan to use the smoker, however, without water you will have trouble keeping the temp below 225. On the flip side, we find that the maximum temp you're able to run the smoker with water in the water pan is between 250-275 degrees. Water boils at 212 degrees and attempting to heat the pit with water in the water pan beyond the 250-275 mark creates way too much steam, uses way too much water, and consumes way too much fuel. You can also add apple juice, apple cider vinegar, beer, etc. to the water pan to add flavor while smoking.
- Load 1 charcoal lighting chimney with charcoal to the top and light. DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID and make sure to set the chimney on a fire proof surface before lighting. While you’re waiting on your charcoal starter to completely light, you can load your fire box with the unlighted fuel mixture of your liking (ratios and types of fuel described above). The amount of charcoal needed is going to depend on the cook time. 20lbs of charcoal can last ~16-18+ hours at 225 degrees, so it is not necessary to completely fill the fire box with fuel. Regardless of how much fuel you choose to use, make sure to stack it close together and as deep as the fire box sides (opposed to spreading a thin layer across the bottom). This may mean you have it banked up against one or more sides to ensure it's stacked as high as the fire box sides: 4"-5".
- When all the coals are completely lit in your charcoal starter, pour chimney contents onto the top of the unlighted coals in one corner of the fire box. The lit coals will burn from the top down and from one side to the other gradually throughout the cook.
- Open the 2" air valve and the smoke stack completely while the pit is coming up to temp. As you come up to temp, the following will act as a guide on how to adjust the smoke stack damper towards your desired set point. Adjust top smoke damper accordingly:
- 225-250 degrees damper should be 1/3 of the way open (give or take)
- 250-300 degrees damper should be 2/3 of the way open (give or take)
- 300 and up damper should be wide open
- Safe operating temperature range is between 180-400 degrees
- When using the BBQ Guru or Fireboard, you can set your temp, adjust the smoke stack, and let the fan take over. With the BBQ Guru, we recommend using the 25cfm fan. The Fireboard is a variable speed fan. Although they are much larger than what is actually needed, they will bring your pit to temp faster.
- Once your pit reaches the desired temp:
- Guru Fan: close down the damper to the same setting as the smoke stack damper, depending on the desired cooking temp. Adjust the small slide damper to the same "open setting" as your smoke stack for your desired set point temp.
- Fireboard: close down the ball valve to the same percentage as you set the top damper
- If you are using the ball valve to maintain your pit temp then you will want to close down the ball valve and smoke stack approximately 50 degrees of your desired set point.
- Ex: If cooking at 225, as your pit temp is climbing, you want to start closing down the valve way before you reach that temp. So, at around 175 you will want to close the valve down to about 1/4 of the way open. As the pit hits 200 degrees, close it down by half (approximately 1/8 of the way open). You will need further fine tuning as you hit your set point.
- When using the valve as an air control, it is possible to dial it in and hold at your set point without much adjustment throughout the cook, but it should never be considered as stable as it would be with the Automatic Temperature Control Device. With the ATC, your fan will adjust to drops in temp from adding food, opening doors, saucing meat, etc. With the ball valve, you will see slower recover times from doing the above mentioned tasks, but the temp should recover back to your set point without adjusting the valve. As you start to run low on fuel, the ATC will adjust the air input automatically. With the valve, you will need to manually increase air intake once you start to run low on fuel and your temp starts to drop.
- When using water in the pan, it is not only possible to add water during the cook without opening the doors, but it is also possible to tell when it needs water without opening the door. Once water drops to approximately the half-full point, a small amount of smoke will come from the water fill location. You can add 2-3 pitchers of water and it will be back to near-full without ever opening the doors to see what’s going on inside.
"If you’re looking, you’re not cooking” – trust your gauge, cook times, and meat probes. The more you’re opening and closing the doors, the more temperature fluctuation you will get.
- As your food is done, pull meat off and let rest for at least 10 minutes. The larger the cut of meat, the more time it will need to rest (we let pork butts and briskets rest for at least 2 and up to 4 hours inside a cooler to keep hot).
- Once all food has been removed, open the 1 1/4" drain valve and drain off water from water pan into a 5 gallon bucket.
- Leave your temp setting (ball valve and smoke stack or electronic fan) at the same setting you were cooking at for 30-60 minutes so the heat evaporates any remaining water and fat from pan. Any residual crust can be scraped out with a putty knife.
- After the 30-60 minutes, you can shut down the intake and exhaust to extinguish the coals (if you are not cooking with water, you can shut down the smoker as soon as you are done).
- It is necessary to remove the excess water from the pan in order to prevent molding inside the cooking chamber. If you forget and do get some mold, that's no problem. Simply remove your cooking grates, clean with water (no soap), re-oil, and put them back in.
- Once the pit has cooled down, remove ashes from ash tray.
- After each use, clean cooking grates of any larger stuck-on food particles or excessive grease. DO NOT clean interior of cooking chamber with soaps or harsh non-food safe chemicals.
- Once clean, you can lightly re-coat interior surfaces with cooking oil spray, paying particular attention to the bottom side of the fire box. For the fire box, ash pan, and water pan, we recommend re-coating with cooking oil after each use in order to keep it from rusting (similar to caring for a cast iron skillet).