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Hello from Worcestershire


Carlos
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Hi Carl and welcome to the forum. What do you enjoy doing - hot smoking, cold smoking, grilling? We have members here with a wide range of equipment types - what have you been using? It is always good to hear other peoples experiences and learn from them, and it will be good to find what has, and has not, worked for you :thumb1:

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Hi Wade,

 

I’ve been playing for some time at hot smoking and straight grilling. I’ve got a el cheapo 57cm kettle of no brand I’ve had for years. I’ve drilled out the bottom vent holes to allow more air flow and added a lid thermometer. One thing I’ve always struggled with is getting good temps and holding them. I’ve convinced myself it the cheap kettle, made with thin steel and just painted or v.thin enamel not holding the heat well. 

Along side this I have a gas kettle which is great for a quick steak in the week. It’s an https://www.wayfair.co.uk/Symple-Stuff--39.5cm-420-Gas-Barbecue-29.238.94-L6173-K~OUCH1026.html?refid=GX200082348655-OUCH1026&device=m&ptid=325087524464&targetid=pla-325087524464&network=g&ireid=134667675&device=m&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhMz-2vHc7gIVBu3tCh3nEAt-EAQYAiABEgK3ePD_BwE I picked up of Facebook market for £25.

Im looking at getting a mini kamado for smoking small joints of meat. Like the cheap one Lidl sell in the spring 

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There is nothing wrong with a cheap kettle BBQ. @valve90210 brought his along to several smoking weekends and smoked some serious BBQ. He would probably say that you were overcharged as I think he paid £10 for his 😎

A lot of us started using kettles. I smoked on Weber 57cm for many years (before they were readily available in the UK) and once you have mastered the charcoal layout and temperature control they are good almost every type of cook. Their limitations tend to be the amount of attention needed to maintain a steady cooking temperature and the limited space.

There are several additional challenges you often find with the generic (no-name) kettles that you don't find with the Webers - the height of the lid (the Weber domes are usually higher), the bottom air vents (there is often little, or no, control with the no-name), and the height of the cooking grate.

It looks as if you are no stranger to "modding" your BBQ and so you will not have any problems. A couple of questions/suggestions - and I am sorry if I am teaching you to suck eggs...

  • Are you using the charcoal snake method to help give steady temperatures over those long cooks. Using this method a single charge of charcoal can give you 6-8 hours of cooking time at ~120 C
  • Instead of simply drilling holes for your air intake, have you tried using an air vent damper? https://www.gsproducts.co.uk/stainless-steel-lockable-round-vents/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgomBBhDXARIsAFNyUqMcAxPuKWWuOuCAActZMULvUkZ0TTUhJj32K3iygg3RsqAkJMr1-t4aAtrrEALw_wcB. This will really help you with your fine temperature control.
  • Are you using good quality briquettes as your fire base. The quality of briquette can make a big difference to the stability of the smoke.
  • The use of foil within the smoker (especially directly over the snake) to help control the air flow within the kettle smoking chamber will really help when you are trying to maintain steady low temperatures
  • Always cook with the top vents fully open. In most cases your temperature control should be only through using the bottom vents.

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210610963_Ribswithfoil.thumb.jpg.9f6a0ab55ce9859429c780d8111c45a0.jpg

 

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That good to hear and reassuring. I think my main problem has been attempted cooks with low air temps, both the last 2 have been less than 5°. 
 


 

Big K briquettes? These are easy to get from a local supplier that stocks them all year round. 
 

The bottom vent holes on my kettle don’t have a damper. I enlarged to holes in an effort to increase air flow as I though this was my main issue. I have a damper on the top vent but normally run it wide open. 
 

I have been using the snake method the last one lit at both ends and struggled to to keep a temp above 120-130°c

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You could get a "tip top temp" pro smoke have write ups and review so of this. You  fit that to top vent.and close any bottom vents...air temp outside is not an issue, people around the world do same in some very in-climate places with lower air temp that that. It will be airflow .

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Do they really work that well? Not sure who I would block the bottom holes though....

I had assumed air flow was my biggest problem. Which I why I drilled out the bottom vents and added a couple of new holes. With the though that I could control temp with the top vent. 

The only way I have had good temps (150°c and above) is to dump in 1-1.5 chimney of roaring briquettes in. Pile the either side (a bit like using baskets). The temp runs away and I can’t really control it. Shutting the top vent in the beginning and opening it as the temp starts to drop helps some what but it’s not great. I have found this the best way to cook a Kelly bab, without a rotisserie, just lay the meat on the grate  

I tried a bag of heat beads last year with similar results. Thinking the Big K coals were the problem. 

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Hi Carlos. Could you upload a couple of photos of your kettle that show the top and bottom vents as well as the whole BBQ.

I suspect that this is could still be an air flow problem but without seeing the photos it is hard to be certain. There was a similar problem with the original Callow smoker as that was difficult to get much above 100 C. I worked closely with Callow to help them overcome their initial design problems and, following the testing of a series of replacement modified parts, the current design was finalised  - which now has good all-round temperature control.

To cut a long redesign story short, several changes were made, including a complete fire bowl redesign and the re-location of the bottom vents. Even by adding a 4th bottom vent it was still a problem getting the unit up to the higher temperatures - but the breakthrough came when we added a second top vent. Suddenly the high temperature heat problems disappeared. 

I suspect that your top vent/s could be too small and that is restricting the air flow through the cooking chamber, and therefore over the coals. As you know the temperature is regulated by the amount of oxygen passing over the coals and this will be depleted during the burn. The low oxygen air then dramatically increases in volume as it us heated and passes through the cooking chamber and tries to exit through the top vent. It is a bit like the principle of a jet engine and it can sometimes be seen as smoke exiting the top vent as a jet - like steam coming out of a boiling kettle. If the hot exhaust air cannot get out fast enough then the low oxygen, higher pressure air backs up to the coals and lowers the amount of new oxygen rich air from entering through the bottom vents. It is the equivalent of effectively shutting down the intake vents. Eventually an equilibrium will be reached where the coals are burning all the restricted amount of oxygen that is reaching them.

One of the things I would try is to make your existing top vents bigger. Try to enlarge the existing ones first and remove any top control. If you need to drill another hole do this beside the existing vent (rather than on the other side of the lid) as keeping the exhaust vents together allows you to control the direction of air flow through the cooking chamber by the orientation of the lid.

I think that once you have the air flow volume sorted you are going to need the bottom vent controller to help keep the cooking temperatures down.

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Thanks for the photos - they make things easier to visualise. 

The first think I would try is to drill the top vent holes  a little larger. You can do this with the vent cover in place - just drill through both the cover and the lid together. Increasing each hole diameter by just a couple of millimetres will significantly increase the total area of the vent holes.

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So I’ve got the top vent holes drilled out. They were 16mm now 20mm. 

I had planned reverse seared steaks for tonight’s dinner on the charcoal grill. The weather and a couple of other things have meant I’m cooking them on the gas kettle. 

Ill have to wait a little to test the enlarged holes mod. 

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  • 1 month later...

hi carlos , how did you get on with your temp ?

I have been struggling too keep a temp above 350f  i was planning on doing some wings and was a bit worried that the temp wouldnt keep high enough

my grill has decent vents at the bottom but after reading thru this post, i think that i maybe have too follow @Wadeadvice he gave you and drill my vents a bit wider781748488_bbqvent.thumb.jpg.556b5df881eff40a7d9d304d69e7546a.jpg

bbq botom vent.jpg

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