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February 7th, 2017, 1:35 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: February 7th, 2017, 9:44 am
  • Posts: 2

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.

February 7th, 2017, 1:55 pm
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  • Joined: April 18th, 2014, 3:12 pm
  • Posts: 2408

Great post, thank you!

February 7th, 2017, 9:30 pm
* Wichita ** Wichita *
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  • Joined: December 20th, 2015, 4:30 pm
  • Posts: 171
  • Location: Wichita, KS

Excellent recap! Thanks!

Wichita, KS!
New to pellet grilling/smoking

May 8th, 2017, 8:05 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: March 15th, 2017, 11:00 am
  • Posts: 9

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.

September 28th, 2017, 8:20 pm
* Cheyenne ** Cheyenne *
  • Joined: May 18th, 2015, 9:25 pm
  • Posts: 62

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.

October 5th, 2017, 2:46 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: February 7th, 2017, 9:44 am
  • Posts: 2

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.

November 6th, 2018, 6:56 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: November 5th, 2018, 9:31 am
  • Posts: 1
  • Location: North Bergen,New Jersey

thanks for this information!

My new article: https://bestoutdooritems.com/best-smoker-grill-combo/
June 8th, 2019, 11:53 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: June 1st, 2019, 8:32 pm
  • Posts: 10

Yoder_Herb wrote:Great post, thank you!

So here is my first big post/ comment.
I just fired my new Witchita Loaded yesterday. I have a good amount, probably 3/4 cord of white oak and hickory that's been in my woodshed for 6 years.

I seasoned it with about a 4 hour burn after washing the grates and oiling them. I talked with Joey in customer support regarding finer points of operation, pointing out that I had read a number or conflicting viewpoints regarding fire management and start up. He assured me that this Witchita, produced in June 2018 met Yoder specs regarding updates that had been implemented, past the years mentioned in forum posts.

There certainly is a learning curve with any new woodturner, be it an outdoor boiler, (I have a downdraft unit that requires maintaining a good coal bed for smokeless operation) or a Morso stove that I just used this past winter for the second season of a Wisconsin winter.

Here are my novice observations after operating for 2 days:

1.) good, dry modest splits preferentially without bark, (acrid burn initially).

2.) Good advice he gave me was to start with lump dumped close to the pit on the right hand side, followed by 1 stick hardwood. Key is hot and small. (same advice Morso gave with their stove, that is: Small fire, small heat; big fire big heat. The point being-- one can't load it big and then expect to choke it down and not get a smoldering mess or white smoke.

3.) Misconception seems to be that the fire base needs to be centered in the fire box. His advise, that I observed to be accurate, that a well tended fire with a steady feed of reasonably small splits heeding the maintenance of a coal bed can go a long way in keeping a steady temp and efficient use of wood. I played using both the fire door damper and the stack damper, a duet of adjustment, and found it quite easy to hold a 250-300 degree steady state, and sometimes no more than a 30 degree difference on the 2 thermometers.

3.) My largest hurdle is overestimating the time interval for adding a stick. I lost the coal bed 4 times during the last two days, and found that I had to add lump for the rescue... but when I had a good wood base fire going, and raised temp to 350 on the right, playing with the dampers at both ends, I actually saw only a 20 degree difference between temps.
4.) Patience and fighting firebox fidgeting pays off. The unit sheer mass aids in forgiveness of operator malfeasance! And yes, I am aware of the all the opinions regarding heat management plate, and always will respect the advice and opinions of others. (Aren't forums for sharing and discussions of experiences however subjective?) Which leads me to my final point: Variability

5.) The wind, the wood, the weather, the temperature, my own patience or lack thereof--but you know, yesterdays 9 pounds of baby backs were awesome enough on my first cook that I shared with a neighbor, and todays chicken quarters and whole chicken were good with the magic smoke ring, but I probably overdid them by my own standard - I wasn't't looking for fall off the bone pulled chicken,LOL, but I chose a stick burner over a pellet with all the perfect temp control,(and associated convenience), because I want to be more observant and live more deliberately. Henry Thoreau found a pond, I found a Yoder Witchita Loaded.

And like Robert Frost who saw two roads that diverged into a woods, (pun intended)- stick burner people live in a technological fast life, fast paced world and choose in a way a road "less traveled"-- but then find we are not so alone, but on a pilgrimage to rediscover what the magic of wood and fire brought to cavemen, what someone's grandma could do with a wood stove IN THE HOUSE(!), and live time a bit longer and with more detail, with ever more pursuit of perfection, focused, resolved to do better, and a way to share it here, with fellow and separate sojourners able to leave behind Facebook and the depression that comes with all THAT news, and 'friends' who you see living THERE, but seldom in person (lol)... Ah but I digress-- perhaps it's those beers --nice cold beers I had while tending watch, a luxury not so easily had by ancient fire watchers...
Regards to all, I look forward to the quest and the journey.

June 11th, 2019, 10:21 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: June 7th, 2019, 3:42 am
  • Posts: 1

I can't relate to the bad experiences with Witchita, but I can certainly understand your pain.

July 30th, 2019, 10:04 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: June 1st, 2019, 8:32 pm
  • Posts: 10

It's been weeks now, and I have done a number of cooks, including beef short ribs with great results.

I have a good idea of temp zones on the main level, but have never even tried adding the "upper story" grates to my Wichita Loaded.
Can any kind soul discuss, or give a description of the upper story heat zones, what it's good to place there and on which end, and what to be cooking on the main grate at the same time?

I'm intimidated to throw so many $$ of meat in at one time, without understanding more about level and side to side zoning.

September 6th, 2019, 10:31 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: July 21st, 2019, 5:49 pm
  • Posts: 4

If you don't have multiple thermometers, or probes to check for heat zones, I suggest that you look up "the biscuit test" on You Tube.

It's a method where packaged biscuits are placed in various areas of the grates (top and bottom) and baked in the smoker.

By periodically checking the doneness, the pit master can gain an idea of where the hot and cool spots are in the cooking chamber.

April 1st, 2020, 4:45 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: March 24th, 2020, 4:03 am
  • Posts: 2

Misconception seems to be that the hearth base wishes to be focused in the fire box. His recommend, that I found to be correct, that a nicely tended fire with a steady feed of moderately small splits heeding the preservation of a coal bed can pass a protracted way in retaining a steady temp and green use of wooden. I performed the use of the analog electric smoker each the hearth door damper and the stack damper, a duet of adjustment, and found it pretty clean to keep a 250-300 diploma consistent kingdom, and from time to time no greater than a 30 degree difference on the two thermometers.

April 15th, 2020, 10:48 am
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: June 1st, 2019, 8:32 pm
  • Posts: 10

Just an update: Used the loaded Wichita all through the winter. Have easily preserved the black smooth finish, especially on the back side of the firebox, by wiping the outside with grape seed oil after each use. The wiping removes the flaking original finish, and the oil prevents rusting and conditions almost as cast iron cookware. I also added the charcoal basket for occasional easier long cooks, and found it can perform well.

I love the Wichita Loaded!

February 5th, 2021, 1:24 pm
* Abilene ** Abilene *
  • Joined: September 5th, 2020, 5:20 pm
  • Posts: 3
  • Location: Caledon, Ontario, Canada

having played with maple syrup evaporators for about 10 seasons I found the height of the smoke stack made a significant difference on the draw and the temperature in the firebox. I have been tempted to put an extension on the stack of the Wichita. Has anyone tried this or have thoughts on it.

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