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sotv

My ProQ Hints & Tips

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Posted (edited)

A few new posters own Proq models and asked for guidance in other threads.

This is not an official guide, just my experience of using the ProQ Frontier it for the past 3 years and hope it may help?

The ProQ default cooking temp is 225F when the pan is full of water or sand and should easily maintain that for anything from 4-7 hours on a full basket of charcoal depending on weather conditions and charcoal used, I usually need to add water (about 2 litres a full coke bottle ) to the pan every 4-5 hours if I have maintained a 225F temp.You can obtain higher temperatures using an empty water pan, plancha plate or no pan. But then you are not cooking lo&slo and closer to roasting above 275F. There is no default temperature for not using a water pan as a heat deflector with the ProQ without using some form of BBQ controller device. But for guidance I cooked a duck recently using the plancha only, in place of the pan and it maintained 325F for nearly 4 hours (enough time to cook the duck) from the original basket of charcoal. But it is really difficult in my experience to maintain a constant stable temperature above 225F unless you have a temp controller.

To keep the water pan clean longer, it is best to line the pan with foil securing the foil round the edge of the pan. This means the fat after the ProQ has cooled down, will stay in the foil and you can tip the water down the drain and the solidified fat just gather up in the foil and just throw away. Much easier to clean also.

The pan and the grills will go in the dishwasher (not sure about the 2018 versions)  quite happily and 3 years later my grills are as good as new still.

To start the ProQ I find opening 2 vents at the bottom and just close 1 off them off once it has stabilised at 225F  works for me and then re-opening it slightly if the temperature starts  to drop that is enough air for the ProQ to operate at 225F I always leave the top vent fully open

I pre-soak any wood you use before adding it to the Proq. You will develop your own method. I tend to add mine when the charcoal has stabilised at 225F and I put the meat in. This normally starts to produce smoke 30 minutes after adding. Others add it to the basket with the charcoal before lighting it. No right or wrong way, whatever suits you best. The temperature will go well above 225F up to 280F when the charcoal is first lit in the basket, but will drop back to 225F and stabilise to enable you to begin the cook. This usually can take anything between 30-60 minutes before it does in my experience. So unless you use shortcuts expect up to an 1 hours before you start to cook with a stable 225F

My preference is to use restaurant lumpwood charcoal and add a chimney starter of lit charcoal over the top of the unlit coals to start it, but good quality briquettes work just as well using the minion method (instruction on that elsewhere in the forum)

Don't rely on the Proq temp gauge on the lid. Not very accurate, if finances allow invest in a digital thermometer with wifi if poss so you can monitor the pit and food temp from the house and relax a bit when cooking.

I would expect to allow a 2-3 kg piece of pork shoulder to take  12-17 hour to cook with no wrapping (few hours shorter if wrapped during stall)  The stall can take anything between 3-6 hours to get past. Resist the urge to increase the temp or keep lifting the lid to check. It is quite normal for most meats to stall at some stage of the cooking and patience is needed

For Cold smoking I place the generator in the charcoal basket and leave the empty water pan in it with all the vents open top and bottom. But no reason why you cant remove the water pan

Whether using wood chunk, chips or dust if cold smoking. They all impart  different flavour to the finished meat. I find no point in using wood for smoke after what you expect 25% of the cook to take. i.e 8 hours for ribs (so 2 hour smoke max) 16 hour pork shoulder ( 4 hours of smoke). Once a bark forms on the outside of the meat and if I continued smoking, it just make the finished meat taste bitter and the smoke doesn't add anything to the meat within the outer bark, once it has formed

Never needed to do any mods on mine to get it working better, but some people do add stove rope to the doors if they leak a bit. Worth doing a burn of a basket full of charcoal only, when you first get it to season it and if not used for a significant amount of time and it has been stored outside it doesn't hurt to do it then also.

As with anything practice makes perfect and you will soon understand what works best for you and develop your own techniques with it as time goes on.

Plenty of other ProQ users on here so any further questions will get answered.

Edited by sotv
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Yep, Nice write up SOTV.

I have only had my Frontier a few weeks, but it all stacks up with my experiences. 

I use sand in the waterbowl and a Smartfire controller now. With this combination i was recently able to do a 15H overnight (and probably longer, the charcoal wasn't finished) cook at 225F without touching it once. In the graph, the red line is the pit temp, blue and green lines are two probes in different parts of a 5 bone beef rib. The light grey is the fan speed % of the Smartfire.

Given my novice level of skills, this was an awesome result.

Phil.

BeefRibs19April.jpg

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Still waiting for Macsbbq to get the Smartfire in stock, meant to be yesterday, but still no sign on their website.

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26 minutes ago, Smokin Monkey said:

The Smartfire are a great bit of Kit.

Your initial positive review and some great advice using it with my ProQ from @Phlashster convinced me to get one, once they come in stock at Macsbbq rather than the Kamado 400 I was originally considering. They have increased in price from when you got them so not much in price difference from Australia direct anymore.

I don't do a great deal of overnight cooks, but now I know how good goat tastes in the smoker and they take 10-12 hours of lo&slo  along with more winter cooking I did this year. i think i will get some use out of it. I do still tend to hover with the shorter cooks even with the maverick, hopefully will be able to chill a bit more with one of these.

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And remember, you can go out shopping or whatever and keep an eye or tweak things remotely from your phone. That 15h cook was my second use of the Smartfire. Once I was sure things were working as planned, I went to bed for the night!

If anything went too high or low, it would alarm and wake me anyway. 

Enjoy when you get it. 

Phil

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Excellent advice, thank you, everyone.

What are the benefits (and drawbacks) of using sand in the waterpan as opposed to water?

I thought that a full water pan helps to regulate temperature - does it also keep the meat moist?

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Hi Sub333

The water acts as a heat sink regulating temps and can keep the food moist too. 

It can stop the smoker temp going too high unintentionally. By using some sand, you can more easily go to higher temps, but retain some of the stability. If you really want hotter temps, you can run the water pan empty too. 

The benefit of not using water is on the longer cooks. The pan needs topping up every 3-4 hours to maintain that stability. On the 15hr cook I showed above, I would have had to get up in the night to refill the bowl. This would've slowed everything down too because of the heat loss in the chamber.

I personally think using water uses more fuel too. You are having to keep heating/boiling off that water and the energy absorbed by it isnt going into your food. 

Phil.

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2 hours ago, Phlashster said:

Hi Sub333

The water acts as a heat sink regulating temps and can keep the food moist too. 

It can stop the smoker temp going too high unintentionally. By using some sand, you can more easily go to higher temps, but retain some of the stability. If you really want hotter temps, you can run the water pan empty too. 

The benefit of not using water is on the longer cooks. The pan needs topping up every 3-4 hours to maintain that stability. On the 15hr cook I showed above, I would have had to get up in the night to refill the bowl. This would've slowed everything down too because of the heat loss in the chamber.

I personally think using water uses more fuel too. You are having to keep heating/boiling off that water and the energy absorbed by it isnt going into your food. 

Phil.

Thanks, Phil.

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Posted (edited)

As phlashter said,

I always use water personally, but that is just my preference as I prefer the humidity the waterpan produces within the smoker and I believe that helps the meat from drying out during the cook, when cooking lo&slo (especially the longer cooks). When adding water to the pan or to start it off. I use hot water from the tap, it gets it up to the 212F that the water in the pan gets to quicker.

You can also add vegetables, bouquet garni's, flavourings etc to the water which will impart some sort of flavour to the finished meat as well. 

I remember reading somewhere the condensation the water in the pan is supposed to produce within the smoker helps the smoke stick to the meat better. But I have no proof either way it does.

You will discover which method suits you best in the coming cooks, experimenting & practising different methods is all part of the fun.

Edited by sotv
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Posted (edited)

@sotv,

How do you get on when using the plancha as a heat deflector? If I prefer to cook without water, is this worth considering?

Got to admit, a smash burger or two sounds awesome too. 

Thanks, Phil.

Edited by Phlashster

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Phlashster said:

@sotv,

How do you get on when using the plancha as a heat deflector? If I prefer to cook without water, is this worth considering?

Got to admit, a smash burger or two sounds awesome too. 

Thanks, Phil.

It works really well for me if looking to grill/roast meat rather than lo&slo as it cooks around 100F higher than with the water pan with water in. I cooked this duck the first time and have since cooked a whole chicken and a salmon cut piece of beef and done a couple of sea bass on it putting them in fish baskets and placing them on the plancha then finishing them over the coals to crisp  the skin All the meats and fish tasted good and cooked through properly. The plancha has enabled me to cook on it around 325-340 F depending on outside conditions and fuel used. I haven't tried to get the temperature any lower or higher than this with it.. As it has always settled around this sort of temp with it.

Not as ideal as a Wood pellet or Kamado type of grill for cooking at higher temps. But as good as i have personally managed with a Proq, I am sure there are other ways of cooking at more than 225F with it, I just haven't discovered them yet, that give me a stable temp as I find an empty water pan the temp can fluctuate quite a bit over several hours..

Using it as what it meant for, I have done a couple of lovely breakfasts including pancakes on it. Very heavy bit of kit, cleans up easily enough after use as well. Would recommend a drip tray on it, if using as a heat deflector as I found out with the duck, the fat finds every place it can to seep out of the ProQ itself, if not. 😁

Edited by sotv

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Thanks @sotv, useful info. That duck looked awesome.

I might give Pro Q a call to find out if using the plancha makes it more difficult at lower temps. One of the reasons I am interested, would be to allow more space above the charcoal basket for fuel. But since i got the Smartfire, I find i am using less anyway. So this is probably not even an issue. Or ever was. So, mostly smash burgers it is! :)

I have also been assuming that the plancha is sized to replace the water bowl and not the top steel grill?

Any idea if you could do pizza on the plancha?

Phil.

 

 

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37 minutes ago, Phlashster said:

Thanks @sotv, useful info. That duck looked awesome.

I might give Pro Q a call to find out if using the plancha makes it more difficult at lower temps. One of the reasons I am interested, would be to allow more space above the charcoal basket for fuel. But since i got the Smartfire, I find i am using less anyway. So this is probably not even an issue. Or ever was. So, mostly smash burgers it is! :)

I have also been assuming that the plancha is sized to replace the water bowl and not the top steel grill?

Any idea if you could do pizza on the plancha?

Phil.

 

 

With regards contacting ProQ I have contacted them direct via their Australian website a few times and they have always got back to me and very helpful and knowledgeable with their answers.

It maybe possible to do the things with the plancha you mention, although I haven't managed it and if it is I would be interested in how to do it also, if you find out

With regards Pizza, I think it is unlikely unless you can get 450-500F with it and once again i personally haven't managed to get above 350F with the plancha as it is a big old lump of cast iron to heat up.

They do make a dedicated pizza stone for the ProQ, which I have that I got up to 400F but still not quite hot enough to cook the base properly, (maybe the smartfire will help with that)? but like the plancha have only sat it on the level of the water pan to use it, maybe sitting it directly over the charcoal basket would do it better, always worried it would crack it being so near to the coals, though, so haven't risked it.

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Quote

I might give Pro Q a call to find out if using the plancha makes it more difficult at lower temps. 

Just to close this out, I called MacsBBQ today to ask about this.

Using the plancha as a heat deflector rather than the water bowl will not stop the Frontier sitting down at 225F. All three bottom vents open should be give a temp of around 350F and with just half of one open around 225F. I spoke to Ty, so if anyone knows it will be him!

 And if using the Smartfire, even easier. 😁 

Ty also confirmed that spares for Smartfire (probes etc) will be available from them in the fullness of time. Great news. 

Thanks, Phil.

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Nice to know it will obtain and keep 225F as well as 350F

If placing the plancha on the level where the water pan would be. You would lose a grill level for cooking (as from my experience the fat from the meats will just run down outside the Proq) unless you placed the step up grill over the drip tray sat on the plancha iyswim i would also try to source a large circular drip tray, or even sit the water pan on it (if only using the top level to cook on)

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1 hour ago, sotv said:

Nice to know it will obtain and keep 225F as well as 350F

If placing the plancha on the level where the water pan would be. You would lose a grill level for cooking (as from my experience the fat from the meats will just run down outside the Proq) unless you placed the step up grill over the drip tray sat on the plancha iyswim i would also try to source a large circular drip tray, or even sit the water pan on it (if only using the top level to cook on)

Ah, I see what you are saying. Yes, fat dripping down the edge of the plancha into the firebox would be bad and messy to clean up after.

Less of an issue on short hot cooks on the plancha, but some low slow cooks kick out a lot of fat.

There is not much clearance between the plancha top and the grill to put something to catch it. Maybe a pizza tray sat on the plancha?  

Might take a look into this a little more before I take the plunge. After all, the Smartfire gives me so much cook time already.

Thanks Steve, little nuggets of experience really make a difference. 👍

Phil.

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