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Water bowl deflecting too much heat


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Hi

Really struggling. Had the frontier about a month and on third cook. Can't get temp above about 180 after all vents open for several hours.

Using the proq briquettes and minion method plus kettle boiled water in the pan. When intake the pan out, temp rises to 250 quickly and would probably get higher but I've shut some vents to keep at 250 without the pan.

Must be doing at least one thing wrong but don't know what.....

 

All advice greatly received.

Thanks

John

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Hi John

You have already identified the problem I think. 

A couple of things to bear in mind

- The bullet smokers have a large surface area and so lose heat quite quickly - especially on cold or windy days. This is not a problem but something to remember.

- Water will absorb a lot of energy (heat) as it turns from a liquid to a gas (steam). This heat is being produced by your burning coals but is being absorbed by the water in your pan.

Maintaining the required temperature is a balancing act between controlling the amount of heat that your coals are producing whilst managing the amount of heat lost through your top vent, the side walls and through the water pan. It is important to keep the top vents fully open so you therefore need to control using the other variables. The prime one being the bottom vents.

On cool or windy days ensure that your smoker is out of any wind. Wind is one of the main losses of heat from a bullet smoker. The opposite is true on sunny summer days - strong sun will have a significant affect on the internal temperature, especially if it is going in and out behind clouds.

Do not put water in your water pan as for most smokes it isn't needed. The pan is there to help even out heat spikes from the coals before it reaches the meat. Either leave it empty or, better still, half fill it with clean playpit sand. This will then act like a storage heater, giving you much smoother heat profiles.

Control the heat through the bottom vent. You have already found that you could reach the higher temperatures by removing the water from the pan and that to keep it down you needed to close the bottom vents. This is exactly what you need to do. Depending on your heat source you may even find that they will be almost completely closed to maintain the desired temperature. You said that you were using the Minion method - which is good. Start with mostly unlit coals and then add a relatively small amount of fully lit coals. Start with the bottom vents fully open. Monitor the cooking temperature as it rises and when it reaches two thirds of the desired temperature start to close down the bottom vents in stages. You should find that as they are closed the rate of temperature increase will slow. You will reach a point where the temperature stops increasing at the desired cooking temperature. Barring external influences (or the coals running out) the temperature should then remain stable for many hours - with just the occasional tweak being required. Remember that if you allow the temperature to overshoot it is often harder to then bring it down. The secret is patience.

I hope this helps

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That's a very comprehensive response. Thanks for the great advice. I will get some sand and then try again over the Easter weekend.

The comment about wind was really interesting as it's a variable I'd never considered. I thought it meant more airflow so greater temperature but it's the opposite cooling the surface and eating more heat.

So thanks for the reply and I'll post again once I've tried again.

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Same problem as you JP, either settling at 90 or when the pan runs out it’s north of 150. I wasn’t convinced that external air temp or wind would have such an effect on the Frontier with hot coals in, but Wade argues a good case. I’ve bought sand, but I’ve not had the chance to give it a dry run. IceFever recommends you dry the sand out before first use or it’ll add an hour to your cook. I’m hoping that if I try a few cooks with varying amounts of sand I’ll nail a steady 105 for hours. One can dream. Also, cover the sand with foil to aid clean up. 

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We are here to help wherever we can. We all had to start out at one time and had exactly the same challenges.

1 hour ago, JPS21 said:

The comment about wind was really interesting as it's a variable I'd never considered. I thought it meant more airflow so greater temperature but it's the opposite cooling the surface and eating more heat.

This is always an unpredictable balance. Whatever the direction of the wind it will cause heat loss through the smoker walls. On cold days with chill winds the heat loss will be greatest. Yes, if the wind is blowing in the right direction to hit a bottom vent straight on then it can cause that side of the charcoal to burn hotter. This will be intermittent though as the wind speed varies. Also the bottom vents are angled so any wind will also be hitting them at a tangent.

Keep it out of the wind whenever you can. If it isn't possible then try to shield it from direct wind with something.
Another good alternative is to drape an old fire blanket over the top of the smoker to act as insulation. If you do this though don't forget to cut a hole for the top air vent.

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21 minutes ago, rawce said:

I wasn’t convinced that external air temp or wind would have such an effect on the Frontier with hot coals in, but Wade argues a good case. 

The scale of the effect is variable depending on how effective your coals are being as a heat source. If you have ample heat and the vents are closed to slits then light winds can be compensated for by opening the vents a little wider. If the wind is gusty though the temperature will not remain stable. If the coals are already struggling to maintain temperature (i.e. with the water pan full of water) then the effect of the wind will be magnified.

Unfortunately I don't have a temperature log that shows the effect of the wind on internal smoker temperature however I do have one that shows the effect of the sun. This log was taken using a twin probe data logger over the course of the day. One probe was inside the smoker and the other was measuring the outside air temperature. This log was taken a few years ago from 7am to 6pm over the course of a day in April. There was no fire in the basket as I just wanted to see the effect of the weather on the inside smoker temperature.

1145983202_SuneffectonSmokerIT.thumb.PNG.ecf9986a21cfaa478949cfecc88b3146.PNG

You will see that from about 8am the internal temperature (orange) began to rise a few degrees above the outside air temperature (black). At about 3pm the general air temperature began to drop, however the clouds parted and the sun came out. While the sun was out you will see that the internal temperature of the smoker increased significantly.

This log was taken on a cool day in April, where the morning temperatures was only about 7C and the spring sun strength was still quite low. The effects are more significant in the summer when the power of the sun is a lot greater.

Another weather event that has a dramatic effect on the temperature is rain. Even a light shower can cause the internal temperature to drop significantly. Whilst logging long cooks during showery days you can tell from the temperature profile when there were showers of rain.

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Fascinating stuff, thanks for sharing Wade. That’s a hell of a lot of solar gain. When I get 5mins to completely redo the back garden, I’ll have to put a protective enclosure in to take the rain and wind factors out. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have also purchased a frontier recently and had similar issues. On my first smoke (with water in the pan) I could get the temp to about 200 but not much higher.

 

I replaced the water with sand and it seems a lot easier to control the temps now. Can get temps a lot higher (I had upto 290F) and it seems fairly easy to maintain 225-250 using the bottom vents.

 

I have seen a few people using deflector plates (not sure if that's the correct name, basically a round piece of steel cut to the diameter of the smoker, with some holes drilled into it to allow heat through) directly above the charcoal, i might look into getting one made and do some testing with it. Does anyone have any experience with these on a Pro Q?

 

Another option could be to purchase the Pro Q Plancha and use that instead of the pan.

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