Discuss, share information, ask questions, and show off your expertise on Yoder Stick Burners.

Click the links below to go directly to available resources:
**Backyard** - Cheyenne, Wichita, Loaded Wichita, Kingman, Durango 20", Durango 24", Stockton
**Trailer Mounted** - Santa Fe, Chisholm, Frontiersman
**Competition** - Cimarron, Kingman, Frontiersman
**Custom Trailers, Combinations and Competition Cookers**
July 5th, 2016, 3:48 pm
#1
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: April 26th, 2016, 5:14 pm
  • Posts: 8

OK, after watching the video about managing a proper fire in an offset, I used my new Loaded Wichita this past weekend for the first time. I was able to cook some tasty meats, but had a couple of questions about fire/heat management.

My primary concern is that I had a tough time dampening the fire box. In fact, I could not even partially close the firebox door (even with the butterfly vent wide open) without the fire starting to smolder. I needed to keep the door WIDE OPEN all day in order to get that thin, blue smoke I keep hearing about. I'll provide some info and hopefully someone can tell me what I'm doing wrong.

Charcoal: I started the day with two chimneys of lump charcoal. Dumped them in and tossed 2 splits of maple on the coals.
The firebox door was wide open at this time and within 30 minutes my thermometers were up to 275F. So far so good.

Once I was certain the temps were holding, I went ahead and put meat into the smoking chamber. Salmon on the top shelf furthest from the firebox, (2) racks of spare ribs on the top shelf closer to the firebox and (2) whole chickens on the bottom grates.

Wood: For this entire cook I used well-aged maple that I've had on the property for 3 years. It was very dry, had no bark and was very easy to split.

Once the lump started to run out of juice, things got interesting. I noticed the temps in the cooking chamber were more difficult to keep at my target of 250F or so. Therefore I started adding TWO splits each time the wood burned down and temps started to dip. If I tried to dampen the fire at all, the temps would climb just a little, but the smoke exiting the stack turned thicker and puffy white fairly quickly. As I opened up the firebox door, the fire would pick up (as you'd expect) and the smoke would return to the thin smoke I've heard I I should be shooting for. I did think it was strange that the temps dropped when the fire was given more oxygen. I figured the temps would rise in the cooking chamber.

I pretty much felt tide to the smoker all day. Seemed every time I turned around I had to run over and plunk another split on the fire to keep the temps up. So I feel like I was running through my smoking wood much faster than I should. I was sure burning way more wood than the author in the video. Any words of wisdom would be much appreciated! Planning to give it another go this coming Saturday.

July 6th, 2016, 4:20 pm
#2
ModeratorModerator
  • Joined: May 12th, 2014, 3:35 pm
  • Posts: 53

Couple of questions. What kind of maple tree is it from? Maple is a very good wood but typically is middle of the road for BTU production. This will cause you to need more wood to maintain the fire. The gray smoke is normal if the wood isn't preheated prior to putting it on the fire. I typically will set a few pieces on top of the firepot on the top of the fire box. This will remove the moisture prior to introducing them to the pit. This will prevent the initial dirty smoke that you experienced.
The stack cap should be wide open and the firebox door damper will be about 3/4 or so open. This will allow for a small hot efficient fire. Everything hinges on the wood producing BTU's, when I run peach or cherry on my ribs I typically run three to four logs compared to my two Mulberry or Oak.
The critical thing here is maintaining a good coal base, it could be your wood didn't produce a large enough coal base originally. I would try to preheat the wood and start with a slightly larger fire, try 3 pieces instead of two. It much easier to control a large coal base then it is to control a smaller coal base.

I hope this helps

July 7th, 2016, 1:49 pm
#3
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: April 26th, 2016, 5:14 pm
  • Posts: 8

Thanks Joe. The Maple is Silver Maple (I think). I was in fact preheating the splits but I did notice the logs did not develop as big a pile of coals (and/or not long lasting of a pile) as I would have liked. Sounds like having a more resilent coal bed may me the issue here, correct? The stack damper was also wide open. I'll re read your reply and I'm going at it again on Saturday, so I'll see what I can do with this new info. Thanks very much!

August 6th, 2016, 12:17 pm
#4
* Wichita ** Wichita *
User avatar
  • Joined: July 18th, 2016, 8:42 pm
  • Posts: 110
  • Location: Houston, TX

My LW acts the same way and I have to leave the firebox open pretty much all the time, which in turn forces me to use more wood than necessary (there is a LOT of heat coming out of the end of the firebox when that door is open). My observation though, is that the expanded metal grate has such large openings that all the embers fall through to the bottom of the chamber and I end up with a huge bed of coals, but they are not on top of the grate where they would keep the logs burning.

I'm currently trying to find another grate to use in conjunction with the included grate to see if I can keep more coals up near the wood. On my initial seasoning session, I used some Kingsford briquettes I was trying to get rid of just to get things going, and after getting them started in a chimney I poured them on the grate, and literally half of the batch fell through the grate right out of chimney. After that I'm thinking, "OK, I guess I need to use lump because the pieces are larger." Well, that's good in theory, but I buy all kinds of different lump for my BGE, and lately it's been a crap shoot whether or not I get good sized pieces or a full bag of little pieces and powder, so lump hasn't really helped me to keep the coals from falling through either.

One thing I'll say that has already been mentioned elsewhere is that the smoker might need to be repositioned to get better air flow according to the current wind direction. I planted my pit in a sort of permanent position because I didn't anticipate having to compensate for wind direction, but maybe I need to move it and see if that finds the sweet spot. At one point, I contemplated bringing a fan outside to blow air through the damper - now that's just getting silly.

I'm using 2-year old oak heartwood with no bark, so I'm still surprised I can't keep it burning with the door closed, even with the damper wide open. My Yoder doors leak so badly though, I can hardly stand in front of the smoker without getting a face full of smoke. I don't know if that impedes airflow to the smoke stack or not, but the Yoder support folks are trying to convince me that the cooker doors need to breathe, and that I should not be worried about 1/8" gaps at the top of the cooker door. I can fit 3-5 credit cards under the upper edge of my cooker door, but support told me that is within tolerance for a Yoder.

Image

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
August 7th, 2016, 3:14 am
#5
* Wichita ** Wichita *
User avatar
  • Joined: July 18th, 2016, 8:42 pm
  • Posts: 110
  • Location: Houston, TX

I wonder if the heat management plate is having a negative effect on air flow. It forces the air downward, and heat wants to rise. Maybe I'll do some tests with the heat management plate taken out to see if I get enough air flow to shut the firebox door and throttle the damper.

I don't think the reverse flow cookers like Lang have to overcome a downward baffle like the one on the Yoder. All the cross sections I've seen look horizontal. I'm also not sure the holes in the heat management plate allow for adequate air flow through the main cooking chamber like you'd have with the plate removed.

When I open my lid while a fresh stick of wood is still smoking pretty good, it looks like all the air is coming out from under the end of the plate, and then going right out the chimney. With no heat management plate, the air would go through the upper part of the chamber to the smoke stack, right over the food. I read somewhere that the heat management plate produces more radiant heat than you'd have without it, so cooking with or without the heat management plate could require different cooking strategies and produce different results. That's my theory anyway.

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
August 7th, 2016, 11:06 am
#6
Site AdminSite Admin
User avatar
  • Joined: April 18th, 2014, 3:12 pm
  • Posts: 1891

All Yoder cookers cook from the bottom up. The diffuser pate is designed to allow the air and heat to flow under it, with the holes allowing the heat to incrementally enter the cooking chamber. Without the plate, the heat is very intense on the firebox side to approximately the center of the cooker, with the chimney end being much cooler on the lower grate.

Are you preheating your wood. From your description of smoldering wood after putting it on the fire, it sounds as though you are putting cold wood on the fire, which will smolder and create thick(ish) white smoke. Either build a smaller fire to one side of the firebox, and place a split on the other side to preheat, or place the wood on top of the firebox to preheat.

Yoder_Herb
August 10th, 2016, 5:16 pm
#7
* Wichita ** Wichita *
User avatar
  • Joined: July 18th, 2016, 8:42 pm
  • Posts: 110
  • Location: Houston, TX

This is a terribly low quality photo, but you can almost see how all my coals were below the expanded metal grate at this point in the cook and were piling up directly on the floor of the firebox. I still had to leave the door open to prevent smoldering, probably because there's normally supposed to be room for air to flow below the grate, and it was blocked off by the coals.

I think my main problem was disturbing the coal bed too much when I was adding wood. I need to be less OCD and just lay them on top and leave them alone! I'll give it another shot this weekend.

Image

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
August 15th, 2016, 1:57 pm
#8
* Wichita ** Wichita *
User avatar
  • Joined: July 18th, 2016, 8:42 pm
  • Posts: 110
  • Location: Houston, TX

I had a better time managing the fire in my Wichita this past weekend. Notable changes:

1. I added a secondary log grate below the expanded metal grate (experimental) to prevent small coals from falling through.
2. I cut my oak splits in half because they were a little long for this firebox.
3. I put my splits on the hot plate to pre-heat before adding to the fire.
4. I used my propane burner to create coals from firewood instead of charcoal. It didn't take much longer than lighting charcoal.
5. I installed black Nomex gaskets on the doors. I had no door leakage that I could tell after installing the gaskets.
6. The wind direction was coming from the north instead of the south due to a storm front, and seemed to help the cooker pressurize towards the smoke stack.

With the changes, I was able to keep the firebox door closed with the damper open or partially open, and the cooker at around 225 consistently. It wasn't a long cook, but it was fun. I reverse-seared some thick USDA Choice beef tenderloins for "National Filet Mignon Day." I also grilled zucchini slices with Dizzy Pig's Pineapple Head seasoning. No leftovers.

The neighbor did pop out and ask what I was cooking when she smelled the smoke. :)

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
April 30th, 2017, 8:07 pm
#9
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: January 6th, 2015, 8:15 pm
  • Posts: 12

Hey All-

A couple of thoughts, especially on the size of the fire grate. I took some 1/4" chicken wire that I had laying around and wrapped my fire grate in that (also wrapped the charcoal grate for the pit in it). I've found this helps considerably in keeping my coals where I want them. After a year or so, some of the chicken wire is falling apart, so I'm sure I'll have to replace it eventually, but it helped a lot.

Also, I found in my last smoke (brisket with some 1/2 chickens on the upper level for fun), I simply wasn't burning enough wood to get my temps up, which left me leaving the airflow wide open, which made my wood burn faster, which completed the vicious cycle. Added more logs and things evened out.

I suppose if I wanted it to be easy I'd pick up a YS640, but I figure if you have to plug it in, it isn't really a smoker :). (with no disrespect to the beauty that is a 640 or it's kin).

WIsmoker

May 9th, 2017, 7:48 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: March 15th, 2017, 11:00 am
  • Posts: 9

Here's what I'm aiming for with my recently acquired Wichita.

I'm making the assumption that Yoder knows what they're doing and I don't know what I'm doing YET. The smoker doesn't need any modifications.

I've been watching as many fire management videos on youtube as I can find.

Make a small hot fire and keep some larger coals on the grate. Shoot for keeping the chimney damper half way closed and the butterfly halfway closed. (I'm still at the point of keeping them full open but I'm beginning to get the hang of things.) Only open the door when adding another stick of wood to get it flaming, if I don't see flames coming off the wood, or if I start seeing white smoke.

I begin my fire with a chimney starter of unlit lump charcoal on the grate and by lighting a chimney starter of lump charcoal while it's sitting on the unlit charcoal. This brings the smoker up to temp after I empty the chimney starter. Add 2 sticks of wood the first time and 1 stick every time after that.

When you poke the fire make sure to poke the coals and ashes that have fallen through the grate. There's still a lot of heat coming off those hot coals and you want them to burn cleanly.

Two days ago I smoked 2 spatchcock'd chickens in my Wichita. I didn't prompt any comments but that day, yesterday, and today my family has made comments about how that is the best chicken they've ever had. My son worked for a grocery store and he was on their crew that smoked chickens (and other meats) there on a regular basis. He said those chickens I smoked are the best chicken he's ever had.

August 31st, 2017, 2:23 pm
* Wichita ** Wichita *
User avatar
  • Joined: July 18th, 2016, 8:42 pm
  • Posts: 110
  • Location: Houston, TX

DanielS wrote:I'm making the assumption that Yoder knows what they're doing and I don't know what I'm doing YET. The smoker doesn't need any modifications.

And yet, modifications are forthcoming:

http://community.yodersmokers.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=1595
http://community.yodersmokers.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=1598

We still don't have any explanations, but Joe Phillips did reply to earlier complaints by saying he heard us, and would be looking into the matter.

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014

Return to Stick Burners