Smoker Temperature Problems

Jackson Ortega-Scheiner Misc. Leave a Comment

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Dear Dr. BBQ

I have a smoker that is similar to the 55-gallon drum, with a fire-box off to the side. I bought it at Home Depot. I’ve been using charcoal, with some wood chips for flavor. I’m having a few problems. After about an hour or so, the temperature dips pretty low, and I can’t get it back up. I’ve got the air vents all the way open, but it won’t get back to 225+. Maybe I’ve added too much charcoal; is it possible to add too much after it’s already going? Also, I’m using Kingsford, and it’s not lasting too long. How much should I be using for, say, two beer-can chickens? Also, the ash falls down through the grate in the firebox, do I need to get that out of there? Is it choking the fire? I want to cook a brisket, but need to be able to better control the temperature. Thanks,


Hi Pat,

Not all cookers are created equal, and what you bought is an economical imitation of the big fancy offset cookers. You can cook good barbecue on it, you”re just going to have to work a little harder. I think charcoal with wood for flavor is a good choice, but you”re probably always going to have to tend to it regularly. You should be able to come up with an amount of fuel you need to add every hour or two to keep the temp relatively even. Ash buildup is probably a big issue, so figure out a way to make some more room under the fire, and devise a way to clean it out as you go. I assume there is a grate for the charcoal, if there is, try adding a piece of expanded metal on top of it to keep the small pieces from falling through, and if there is no grate, you need to get one. Any fire needs to breathe. Last but not least, you may want to cook a few pork butts to practice before you try a brisket. The butts are always pretty good, but a bad brisket can be a disaster.


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