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July 5th, 2016, 3:48 pm
* 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
  • 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
* 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 7th, 2016, 11:06 am
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  • Joined: April 18th, 2014, 3:12 pm
  • Posts: 2151

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.

April 30th, 2017, 8:07 pm
* 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).


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.

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