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March 17th, 2016, 9:55 am
#1
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: March 11th, 2016, 7:02 am
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Would appreciate some advice from the forum. I have already watched the great video on this forum about managing a fire.

The main symptoms that I experience are:

1. I use quite a lot of fuel to even maintain 'low and slow' temps of 250F, ie 2 chimneys full of glowing charcoal and two 4"x12" logs will barely get me 250F which seems like a whole lot of fuel, ie much of the firebox is a burning inferno.

2. I have been unable to achieve a temp of over 280F, even via adding extra fuel so am unable to for example try a Myron Mixon style hot and fast cook. I would like to get the pit up to 350F which seems like it should be doable?


The chimney is 100% open, the firebox damper is 100% open, and to maintain a clean fire I even need to keep the firebox door open around 4 inches.

From watching the 'how to manage a fire' video, it is mentioned that Yoders should be able to run a clean fire with the firebox door closed and even with the dampers partially closed, but I am unable to do that. As soon as I start to close down the firebox door damper, I get thick white smoke from the chimney.

It does seem like a lot of the heat is escaping via the open firebox. When I put a new log in, quite a bit of smoke also comes out of the firebox as well as the chimney. I also have smoke coming out from the main pit door.

I have the heat management plate installed per the photos provided in this forum.

From the 'how to manage a fire' video, it talks about some cheaper pits not drafting properly, and requiring the firebox door to be left open, but I assume that the Wichita shouldn't require this?

Are there any tests that I can do to understand better what is going on?

Advice and past experience from the forum would be greatly appreciated!

March 17th, 2016, 10:02 am
#2
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I would ask what type of wood are you using, and has it been properly seasoned? From your description, it sounds like the wood you are using has not had enough time to season, and still has more moisture content than necessary for proper use in an offset smoker. This is why you are seeing large amounts of white smoke and have to keep the firebox door open. The wood that you use needs to be seasoned to a moisture content of 20% or less. I debark the wood I use as well, but doing so is a personal choice.

Yoder_Herb
March 17th, 2016, 10:07 am
#3
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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Thanks for the very quick advice. I have been told that the wood is perfectly seasoned and bought it from a firewood supply shop that supplies many businesses with firewood. However, I would be happy to do a test to rule out the wood. For example, I could do 1 cook with only charcoal, and see how that goes?

How much charcoal would you expect that the Wichita should need burning at one time to reach a temp of 350F?

March 17th, 2016, 10:32 am
#4
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What species of wood are you using? If you knock two pieces of wood together and you hear a dull thud, the wood is too wet to use. If it sounds like a bat hitting a baseball, it should be good to use. Another sign that wood is close to being right to use is if the bark is loose and is easy to remove.

A lot of competitive pro cooks use charcoal and wood chunks for their cooks.

The Wichita is not designed to be a hot and fast cooker, and functions optimally in the 225 to 275 degree range. It is possible to get it to 350 degrees, but you will need to potentially leave the firebox door open for air flow to achieve the desired temperature. Doing this will also require a large amount of fuel to achieve and maintain this higher temperature.

Yoder_Herb
March 21st, 2016, 3:47 pm
#5
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: August 26th, 2014, 3:15 pm
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  • Location: Eastlake, Ohio

When I first bought my Wichita I had a load of hickory delivered from a landscape company. Though it was seasoned, I had the same problems you had. It took another year of seasoning to burn properly. I used lump charcoal for heat and bought the bags of wood chunks from Lowes to get me through.

Yoder Loaded Wichita, pile of wood, matches.
April 26th, 2016, 7:20 pm
#6
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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I just got my loaded wichita delivered today after quite some time watching videos and doing lots of research. I am having the same issue. I am using the same wood that i have used in my COS and my buddies smoker. In both my COS and my buddies smoker i am able to maintain a constant temp. I am not able to maintain a temp in my new wichita, in fact i am experiencing a 75-100 degree difference from side to side. unless i prop the smoker box door open i cannot even get any fire....just smoldering thick white smoke. what am i doing wrong???? this is VERY frustrating!!

April 26th, 2016, 7:28 pm
#7
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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i should clarify, i am able to get my temp up to about 275 on the firebox side but have not yet been able to get the temp on the smokestack side up to 225 even. I am not even trying to do a "hot and fast" smoke. just seasoning the pit.

April 26th, 2016, 8:42 pm
#8
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Do you have the heat management plate?

Have you seen this video: viewtopic.php?f=49&t=132

Or this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS1veMrDOC4

Yoder_Herb
April 26th, 2016, 8:48 pm
#9
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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yes i do have the heat management plate.

April 26th, 2016, 8:51 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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i've watched all the fire management videos, not just the ones from the forum, but also the ones on youtube. I fired up my "el cheap" smoker along side my new loaded wichita tonight and was able to maintain temp. I must be doing something wrong with the loaded wichita...

April 26th, 2016, 8:53 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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thank you for the quick response BTW!

September 21st, 2016, 8:29 pm
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I see these same complaints about the Wichita repeatedly, and my experience isn't any different. I have a Yoder Loaded Wichita and I can tell you it doesn't draft very well, which is why you have to leave the damper door open most of the time. I haven't figured out a good way to keep the fire going with the door closed. I plan to do some tests with an IR thermometer to compare the amount of heat that blows out the fire door compared to the heat that actually flows through the cooker.

I realize the biggest challenge with a traditional offset design is that you are literally trying to move air sideways without fans, and that isn't easy. Consider a kettle design, for example. The air enters at a very low point to feed the fire, which heats the air and forces it out the top. I have used a Big Green Egg on very windy days, and it has never flowed backwards. The force of the heated air is always sufficient to keep it flowing without any help from me (and it burns even if the damper is almost completely closed).

Image

That said, if you want a horizontal smoker to flow well you have to take advantage of the rising hot air to help move the flow towards the smoke stack, and you do that by making the path to the smoke stack the path of least resistance. In my opinion, the problem with the Yoder design is the firebox is mounted too high on the barrel, the deflector and heat management plate create added resistance to flow, the damper is too small, the upper damper opening is too high on the door, and the door is too tall. Even the slightest amount of wind in the wrong direction causes this smoker to flow backwards. The "experts" even recommend turning the smoker around so it is facing the wind. That's pretty ridiculous for a premium-priced smoker.

High temperature heat from a fire will rise at a pretty significant pressure. But as you can see in this image from the Yoder specification, the heat from the fire runs into a deflector and the heat management plate on left side, and is actually forced to go downwards, while the open door on the right side becomes the path of least resistance and allows much of the heat to escape there. Even with the door closed, the upper damper opening becomes the path of least resistance, and air flows outward instead of inward.
Image

If the smoker was redesigned with the firebox mounted much lower (like almost every cheap offset smoker out there) and the damper mounted lower on the door, I believe it would flow naturally and not require the kind of constant attention we are having to give it today.
Image

The Yoder folks tout a design that "hasn't changed in years" as proof of its pedigree, but when you see new owner after new owner having the same flow issues, then maybe it's time to listen to the customers.

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
September 22nd, 2016, 11:36 am
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There are a couple of things I want to address about the design of the pit and the placement of a few of the components. The placement of the firebox is a inch above the center line of the diameter at the center radius. This placement allows for the largest opening into the cooking chamber and has always provide the best combination of air flow and heat generation during the cooking process. I have extensively tested this relationship over many configuration of firebox placements up down over the last 20 years and this placement has proven to be optimum overall.
The deflector that is in place is there to mitigate the ash that enters the cooking chamber and keep it knocked down. It also holds a bank of heat in the top of the firebox that the upper portion of the rear damper can move into the cooking chamber, this is really a secondary function. We have cooked hundreds, if not thousands of hours on this configuration with very predicable behavior. This relationship is basically true over every model we build in a typical low and slow configuration.
In a pit that is not forced air or vertical air flow (wind) direction is critical in the way the pit will perform.
At times a strong head wind can and will back flow the pit slightly, this can be controlled by reducing the amount of air you allow into the stack. If the pressure is greater at the exit point than the entry point the air will move in the path of least resistance. In this case I generally allow more air into the entry point and less out to counter act this effect. Occasionally I find it easier to turn the pit as opposed to make air flow adjustments to compensate. This is generally a faster solution if you don't have a lot of cooking time on your pit and know it well.

Vertically this is never a issue because the heating of the air molecules cause thermally indirect circulation there is less volume of air in in the given cubic space. If the damper of a vertical unit is facing into a strong head wind you will need to close the damper down to slow the air flow to maintain a given temperature. Otherwise the speed of the air molecules in truly vertical column are simply faster so there for backwards or restrictive flow is pretty tough to accomplish. Without making a adjustment you would see a increase in temperature and accelerated fuel consumption. In most vertical cookers you are burning charcoal instead of wood. Charcoal can be up to 60% more dense than wood and in most cases is less than 1% moisture. This fuel type simply produces more BTU's of heat versus the average chunk of smoking wood.

For those experiencing issues my recommendation is start using the pit and learning its behavior with out the heat management plate installed. The heat management plate restricts the air and creates radiant heat on the right and release the air flow as you move to the left. This air restriction by design interfere with the air flow through the pit and will cause more fire management until you get accustomed to the pits behavior and fire management. The key to running this pit is maintaining a adequate coal base for heat generation and adding wood for flavor. If a coal base isn't established then maintaining a consistent air flow and temperature is a pretty tough battle. I tend to run 2-4 pounds of charcoal in the initial start up phases of getting the pit to temperature, I want to get the steel hot and create a good coal base to burn wood for the first 5-6 hours of my cook. I then move over to wood and run the next 4-8 hours on wood only providing that the wood provides me a continual small hot coal base. If I find the wood isn't producing a adequate coal base I will add some charcoal along the way to keep this hot base going. Once you get accustom to controlling the fire by adjusting the air flow without the heat management plate. I would then install the heat management plate and make finite adjustments to the fire management and air flow.
It is our goal to deliver the best and most versatile product we can, this is how we arrived at our decisions. It is never our goal to deliver an issue to a customer. This style of pit there is a learning curve and it takes some cooks under the belt to be able to master the cooking device. We are always open to input and new ways to make the product better that is what we believe in and will always try to improve. I haven't cooked on a Wichita personally in a while, I generally cook on a Kingman. I will fire a production Wichita up over the next few days and make some notes and share them here.

September 23rd, 2016, 7:09 pm
* Wichita ** Wichita *
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I noticed when I was studying the different smoker designs that the vast majority of fireboxes had their vents mounted as low as possible, and some are far below the bottom of the cooker body. Like the one below, which has obviously seen a good amount of usage, and yet there is no evidence that heat or smoke is constantly escaping through the vents (also note the door can stay closed):
Image

The Yoder vents are so high on the firebox they very quickly show scorch marks above the upper opening due to the escaping heat. This Yoder doesn't even look like it's broken in yet (very new):
Image

I was told to watch one of T-ROY COOKS fire management videos as a training tool, but even T-ROY talks about leaving the fire door open a lot of the time, and when he does close it in the video you can still see smoke coming from the upper vent. In the photo below taken from his video, you can see the same scorching pattern above the upper vent, and the soot and scorching above the door due to leaving it open so much. His Wichita is only 6 months old in the photo (received April, 2014, shot training video October, 2014).
Image

I'd be curious to see if this kind of door would be an improvement without changing anything else. I've seen some smokers with this kind of venting, where there is a lower part that hinges up. I think you'd have to install some kind of lip along the bottom of the firebox though to prevent embers from accidentally falling out. Maybe I can cut a piece of sheet metal to size for a simple experiment.
Image

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
September 28th, 2016, 8:07 pm
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My Loaded Wichita has the same "signature" scorching on the firebox end already, and I haven't done that much cooking on it yet. This is after 3 brisket cooks, 2 chicken cooks, 1 pork butt cook, 2 rib cooks, and a reverse-sear on some beef tenderloins.

I've tried to keep the door closed as much as possible, but as you can see by the black scorching above the door I'm letting a lot of heat and smoke escape on this end of the cooker, which I feel is a waste of good firewood because the heat isn't moving in the direction of the food!

When I do manage to get the wood burning with the door closed, I still get heat and smoke blowing out of the top vent unless the wind happens to be blowing hard enough to force it back the other direction.

The unit has very predictable behavior though. I can get a pretty good bed of coals going and then drop a small piece of wood or two on the coals, watch the wood ignite quickly and start to burn flames all the way to the top of the firebox, but when I close the door with the vent wide open I can see the flames instantly starve for oxygen and die down to a smolder. I play the game of opening and closing the door constantly to prevent the heavy smoke from permeating my food.

My expectation was that I would be able to close the door with the vent open for a normal burn, but then use the vent to throttle down the air to lower the temperature after the wood is sufficiently lit. So far the vent has not even played a role in my cooking: I just leave it wide open and use the door for flame control.

Image

Another thing that I have changed since I started using this cooker is I now cut my oak splits in half with a chainsaw, and then split them a little thinner so I can generate coals faster. The first couple of times I cooked with full oak splits I could not keep a coal bed without resorting to adding charcoal throughout the cook.

The wood I used in the photo below is split pretty thin to get the initial coal bed going, but later on I was able to put larger pieces in the fire. Whenever I notice my coals are getting a little sparse, I'll throw in more of these smaller pieces to build up the coals more quickly.

Image

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
September 28th, 2016, 8:36 pm
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When you look at this photo you can see the top of the firebox is much higher (not even visible at this angle) than the opening into the cooking chamber. The heat management plate forms a passageway much like you'd find in a reverse-flow smoker, but every reverse-flow smoker I've seen has the top of the firebox mounted at the same height as the top of the passageway, which provides an efficient path for the rising heat to flow upward with no resistance.

Image

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
September 29th, 2016, 12:27 am
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You will have much more success with using lump charcoal as the coal bed prior to putting any wood on the fire. Put a chimney full of charcoal on the fire grate, then light a second chimney of lump, and when it is burning well, dump it on top of the charcoal on the grate. Once it all start burning well, put 2 larger splits on the fire. This will get the process going and heat up the metal mass of the cooker.

It is important to adapt to the environment. Moving the cooker to compensate for the environment is key. I never have a static position for a stick burner, and always move the cooker to match the environment. If moving the cooker is not an option, you will end up fighting the fire management process forever. The best option in this case is to purchase a fan operated system to manage the air intake and manage the fire and heat.

Yoder_Herb
January 1st, 2017, 7:43 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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I agree that there is a design issue around how the heat moves through the pit. There are way too many of us having a hard time cooking a clean fire on a Wichita with the door closed for us all to be wrong.

It is also obvious that one of the most critical issues that requires re-design are the vents in the firebox door.

Every Wichita I have seen including mine has the burn marks above the top vent where the heat flows out the wrong way from the cooker. Look at the firebox vents for many other cookers and you won't see these burn marks. Moving your heavy cooker around each time the wind changes isn't a reasonable solution, and I am sure the owners of the other brands who have burn free paint surfaces on their firebox doors above the vents aren't spending all their time to do this.

If the firebox needs to be at its current height in relation to the cook chamber, then it certainly needs a different design of vent that is far lower on the face of the firebox door.

SLAMKEYS - In the meantime I would be interested in how the pit performs if you simply block the top vent on the standard door with some metal plate, leave the bottom vent open, and the door closed how the pit performs. If you get time would be great if you can try this and let us know, and I will try it myself the next time I fire up the pit.

January 1st, 2017, 10:01 pm
* Wichita ** Wichita *
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smoke_it_I_will wrote:SLAMKEYS - In the meantime I would be interested in how the pit performs if you simply block the top vent on the standard door with some metal plate, leave the bottom vent open, and the door closed how the pit performs. If you get time would be great if you can try this and let us know, and I will try it myself the next time I fire up the pit.


I've posted numerous test results on different forums. My most recent effort involved calculating the actual intake area required to supply fresh air to a firebox 20" round and 22" long. Feldon's BBQ Pit Builder calculator says 20.73 square inches, and based on the openings in my Wichita there is slightly less than 20 square inches available when you add the area from both openings. However, when the upper vent is flowing outward, you lose a significant amount of the available area, hence the need to open the door. Blocking the upper vent completely would make things even worse.

Related topic: viewtopic.php?f=35&t=1160

Wichita Vent Area:
wichita-intake-vents.gif
wichita-intake-vents.gif (6.72 KiB) Viewed 2969 times

Yoder Loaded Wichita 2016
Large Big Green Egg 2014
June 14th, 2017, 7:46 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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Yoder Joe - I recall above in post 13 you mentioned you would fire up a Wichita and share your thoughts on what its like to manage a fire on it.


Also in a different similar thread on this forum you posted:

"We have made the commitment to evaluate this section of our product line and see if we can improve the overall experience. We are currently doing this............ The customer experience dictates that we need to have a look at the product and see what if anything can or should be done. If we have given the impression we are not listening that certainly isn't the case. These kind of changes can be complicated and we need to be sure that we aren't going cause another issue down the line."




I would still be interested to hear your thoughts when you have time on your experience having another cook on the Wichita yourself, as well as the result of your review of whether any changes are warranted to improve the customer experience of the Yoder Wichita.

Some of us have spent quite a bit of time attempting to articulate difficulties that we have with this pit and would be nice to know that it resulted in some kind of design improvement.

Thank you.

June 14th, 2017, 8:59 am
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June 14th, 2017, 3:45 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
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Sir, with respect the two items that I mentioned to Yoder Joe in my post above are a reminder to:

1. Follow up on his commitment to personally use the Wichita again and share his thoughts on this forum

2. An update on what resulted from the review that he committed to do into the Wichita product to see whether Yoder agrees that product improvements are required.

Neither of these 2 items are covered by the video you posted.

Thanks in advance.

June 14th, 2017, 3:52 pm
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Joe was intimately involved with the production of the video,, and even though he was not on camera, he scripted and had complete oversight.

There are not any impending design changes needed. As the video clearly illustrates, the cooker works as designed.

Yoder_Herb
October 10th, 2017, 4:16 pm
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I wish I had got the Gator Pit now.

October 10th, 2017, 7:36 pm
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Sorry for being slow responding to this thread. I have run the Wichita as I promised. I have tested several configurations in a attempt to replicate what some of our consumers have experienced. There are a couple of things that I see are potential problems and have been a repeatable problem that I can create at will. The first thing to note is a fire that is too large and placed to left of the firebox and closer to centered will smolder more than I would prefer. If the fire is built small and hot and toward the rear of the pit to the right it burns really well and is very predictable. The other thing I noticed if the coal base (with wood) is maintained it is easy to run and controllable, If timing was is too early or late managing the fire the experience can be improved upon. If everything is running well and the timing is good I'm pretty happy. I'm not the final say, the customer is.
We have a made a switch in current production models to lower the damper slightly and enlarge it to help improve the experience. I have run it and the experience is good, It isn't as particular in the placement and the size of the fire. Over all I find I run the new and old pretty similar to net the same results. This seems to be what is working and should be a shorter learning curve for the user base. The goal is to deliver a product people can enjoy.
I have also created a damper to retro fit to the older pits in the market that helps with some of fire management issues. It works well if the fire is built and maintained correctly. It isn't perfect if fire isn't managed. I think for some it will be really good answer and will help their performance.
I will be shooting some video next week on the old original pit, a modified damper and a new door set up. I find that I run them all pretty similar to get the results the same.
For me a really small hot burning fire controls really well in all three designs. I've publically said this numerous times and want to be sure I say it again, we are here and listening. Our failure to educate and respond isn't because we aren't listening. We have been building the same basic cooker for more than a decade, we have delivered 1000's of them through out the world. This design has won on the biggest stages in the world and made lots of happy faces at gatherings in the backyards everywhere. Through the years if a customer was having a problem I would talk to them and get the cooker to run to their satisfaction through education and let them know how it worked and what I have experienced with them. That doesn't make the product perfect or infallible or advice or input ignored. We have grown to the point that more people are struggling than should be and there are lots of outlets of communication. There also isn't enough good information out there from us to make this a easy thing. So we want to make the right choices and do the best possible thing we can do for our current and future customers.

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