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My Wichita Experience

PostPosted: February 7th, 2017, 1:35 pm
by ehk
I've had my loaded Wichita for about six months now and I wanted to share my experience with it here. I do a lot of research and reading online, but I am not generally one to post reviews and feedback online. I've seen some negative comments posted about the Wichita, ironically posted on this forum, so I felt the need to share my experience with the hope that it may help others to make a decision about buying a Yoder stick burner or improve the operating experience of a current owner.

This is a somewhat lengthy post, so let me say up front that I love my Wichita. It's a stick burner so it does require some supervision while cooking, but the payoff is well worth the effort. It consistently produces the best BBQ/smoked food I've ever eaten.

When I first got my Wichita, it required a lot more supervision than it does now. I had to tinker with vents, open doors, etc. Honestly, even though I had to pay more attention to it, leave a door cracked, tinker with vents, etc. it never bothered me. As long as the pit temperature is where it needs to be, my feeling is, so what? It's still producing amazing food. Anyway, I can now blame those early experiences on me - the operator and I think there are two primary causes. First, although I had used other lower quality stick burners before, I needed to learn how to operate the Wichita most efficiently. Second, the wood I was using was not as well seasoned as it needed to be. I used to try to start the cooker on a single chimney of lump charcoal. While it worked, I don't think that was enough of a coal bed to run an efficient fire. I then bumped that up to a chimney and a half, and fire management became easier. Recently, I've been starting off with a full two chimneys of lump and that seems to have been a game changer. On top of that, the "seasoned" oak that I purchased when I got the cooker has had an additional 6 months to season. It ignites much more quickly and burns cleanly without any heavy white smoke.

Maybe it's the combination of starting with a larger coal bed and the seasoning of the wood, but I do not have to tinker with open doors and vents much at all. On occasion I do need to leave the firebox door cracked for a few minutes to ensure a new log ignites cleanly, but after that, the door remains closed and I get good clean smoke for a solid 45 minutes before I need to add more fuel. I use oak as my primary wood source to produce good heat. I'll add some flavoring wood to that, but I've found that it's important to use wood that produces good heat to keep that fire running cleanly. I will also add another chimney of lump with every third log or so in order to maintain a good coal base. I have not tinkered with the chimney vent at all. I leave it wide open. My firebox vent usually sits about 3/4 of the way open. My temps vary from side to side by about 75 degrees even with the heat management plate, but I like that. I almost always cook chicken along with ribs or pork butt and higher cooking temperature is ideal for the chicken.

In summary, if you're considering purchasing a Yoder smoker, I highly recommend them. Mine is a thing of beauty and produces outstanding food. If you have a Yoder and are struggling with fire management, try experimenting. Try starting with a larger coal bed. Make sure your wood is well seasoned or try a different variety of wood as your primary fuel and heat source. The Wichita is a great cooker and I suspect the Cheyenne and Kingman are as well.

Happy Smoking.

Re: My Wichita Experience

PostPosted: February 7th, 2017, 1:55 pm
by Yoder_Herb
Great post, thank you!

Re: My Wichita Experience

PostPosted: February 7th, 2017, 9:30 pm
by Jfrederick
Excellent recap! Thanks!

Re: My Wichita Experience

PostPosted: May 8th, 2017, 8:05 am
by DanielS
Good post ehk!

I've had my loaded Wichita only a few weeks and agree about the lump charcoal base. One chimney of unlit gets put on the grate and then I light a chimney of lump while the chimney is sitting on the unlit charcoal. Those are enough to start warming up the smoker. After a the smoker gets up to temperature I'll add a couple of sticks of wood and after they've started burning and the smoke is light I put the meat on the grill.

I also leave the smoke stack vent wide open. I leave the butterfly vent wide open and control things with the door opening. I need to learn more about using the door, the butterfly vent, and the smoke stack vent. The Yoder instruction book says to leave the smoke stack vent half open and the butterfly vent half open with the door closed. I'm probably burning more wood than I need to by leaving things too open. I'm learning.

Last night was the 3rd smoke on the new smoker and I'm as pleased as I can be. Love my loaded Wichita! Thanks Yoder.

Re: My Wichita Experience

PostPosted: September 28th, 2017, 8:20 pm
by patrickd26
Let me start by saying that I do respect the input. However, I've had a different experience with the Wichita. I purchased mine almost 10 years ago. I had things mastered, but always hated the heat differential from the firebox side to the exhaust. Somewhere in there, Yoder developed the heat management plate. I thought that would be my fix and grow my love for the Wichita. While it did bring some temperature leveling, it caused me to have to continuously maintain the fire. Without the plate, I had it mastered where I could come out every 45-60 minutes and add a log. With the plate I was needing to be around the pit at all times; especially if the wind was coming from a different direction.

So, I sort of just chalked it up to "offset smokers" and decided to sell for a YS640 (I was also an owner of a YS480, but that's another story). Anyway, this week I started reading on the forums about offsets (because I was missing that kind of cook) and discovered that I'm not the only one to complain about this issue. I'm not going to go into the details; because a very long thread is already posted out there. But I discovered that there are many folks like myself that know how to run a fire and this thing is NOT efficient with the heat management plate. It was a relief to know that I wasn't the only one having the exact same experience.

Long story short... I called Yoder Customer Service today and confirmed that there are some re-designs that they are testing for this exact issue. While I love Yoder, I beg that you listen to your customers and admit there is an area to improve. Yoder Herb's mic drops in the forums are getting old. Listen and we can help!

Meanwhile, we are heading into fall. I'm going to re-evaluate in the spring. If this known issue isn't resolved I'm going to have to go with a Horizon. Identical smoker, but it's designed to draft. Call me a basher, but I've purchased a brand new Wichita, YS480, and YS640 Comp. So, yeah... I can bit$h a bit!

Anyway, I'm hopefully optimistic that Yoder can figure out how to streamline this unit without trying to tell me that I just need to learn how to use it.

Re: My Wichita Experience

PostPosted: October 5th, 2017, 2:46 pm
by ehk
No disrespect here either. All I know is my Wichita pumped out some of the best ribs I've ever eaten this past weekend. Aside from needing to crack the door for a few minutes when adding a new split to the fire, I didn't need to tinker with the door or vents. On top of that, when I added some of the kiln-dried hickory you can get at the big box stores, I didn't have to crack the door at all. I guess even the oak that's been in my wood shed for a year now still isn't as dry as it could be.

If Yoder can improve upon an already fantastic design and it improves the experience for others,, then that's great. Mine cooks great as is.

Happy smoking to all.