BRADLEY SMOKER | "Taste the Great Outdoors"

New Members => Introduce Yourself => Topic started by: Broke_smoke on May 10, 2019, 06:22:07 am

Title: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 10, 2019, 06:22:07 am
Hi,
     I have a digital model. It takes a lot longer to make the wood smoke these days, and not as vigorously as before. I have read some of the posts about remedies. I cleaned the contacts on the thermostat wire, took the unit apart and cleaned and tightened what I could. Symptoms were communication errors prior to cleaning or reinserting connectors. Sorry, I don't recall the codes; it was about a year ago. I would like to get this working again but don't want to buy a new generator if the issue could possibly be related to the connections or wires. I removed the generator this a.m. to watch it work. I find it strange that it won't operate at all if not connected to the oven itself. After all, the electric comes into the generator first. I think the error was E1
When the power and thermostat cable were disconnected.
That normal? Thoughts how to proceed?
     By the way; my wood pucks are years old and some sat in the garage for that long. Could the wood be moist or causing this? I have had old wood pucks before, and I can't recall if I religiously stored them indoors. Should I buy new ones to test or is there another method to test if the heating plate is getting hot enough? Meat thermometer? What temp should it reach?
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 10, 2019, 06:42:06 am
I just ran a test with my digital thermometer and it finally after maybe seven or eight minutes, leveled off at about 490 degrees. Seems pretty hot to me, but maybe it's supposed to be hotter? Seems I should buy some new pucks to try.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: manxman on May 10, 2019, 08:00:16 am
It is worth trying some fresh pucks, they do absorb moisture if the packs have been opened and left for any length of time in a dampish environment. Quite often they crumble easily when this happens.

Is the puck burner face plate clean, any residue build up can be cleaned with a fine wire brush otherwise it can reduce burn efficiency. Have you added a longer extension lead or other electrical items to the same circuit both of which can affect overall performance? Finally I think the manual has a method for testing the burn plate with a multimeter if I remember correctly?

Hope you get it sorted quickly and easily.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 10, 2019, 09:49:12 am
I tried to find some locally, but to no avail. I went ahead and threw a rack of buffalo baby backs in there depite the reduced smoke. Hope they come out good. I might use this situation with my wife to try out a pellet smoker. I like the Bradly fine when it's working. My first non-digital lasted many years. This digital one really hasn't had extensive use, so I was disappointed, but given the temperature reading, maybe it is just old wood. I'll buy some new bisquettes. I'm not very good with stuff like multimeters, even though I have one.
     The pellets tend to be in a upper price range so it would seem not directly competing with Bradley, so I hope as I'm asking for pellet suggestions, it's not too tacky. Thanks for your suggestions.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 10, 2019, 10:28:23 am
The unit is not forwarding the pucks onto the burner either.
I'll have to take it apart again in case I reassembled it wrong.
I can hear the mechanism, just no wood coming out.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 10, 2019, 01:50:53 pm
Hi Broke_smoke;

Welcome to the forum.

Your burner plate should be producing a temperature of around 550°F - 555°F. A temperature probe is not the best device to check surface temperature. If you have an infra red thermometer that would be best. When the sensor cord is not connected or bad you will get an E1 error. Its a safety device.

If you mechanism is working properly, check you chute to make sure that it is straight, and not inserted in too far.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 10, 2019, 02:09:57 pm
Hi Broke_smoke;

Welcome to the forum.

Your burner plate should be producing a temperature of around 550°F - 555°F. A temperature probe is not the best device to check surface temperature. If you have an infra red thermometer that would be best. When the sensor cord is not connected or bad you will get an E1 error. Its a safety device.

If you mechanism is working properly, check you chute to make sure that it is straight, and not inserted in too far.
What if it is indeed not putting out over 500? It is a pretty good thermometer, a DOT. What is the most common reason for not putting out enough heat? I will check alignment as it seemed when it was sending a puck in, it kind of bumped on the way in like it was trying to get over the lower edge.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 11, 2019, 02:31:25 am
After reading your post a second time; 7 - 8 minutes is not enough time for the burner to get to maximum heat. Do the test again, but wait at least 15 minutes for the burner to heat up.

Though it is a Dot, a penetration probe thermometer is not as accurate as a infra red for measuring surface temperatures. I believe that information is somewhere on the ThermoWorks site. They even mention that it is not the best thermometer for air temperature. For that you should get the high temperature air probe. How much of a discrepancy between using the Dot with a penetration probe verses an infra red I couldn't tell you. I may test that today using my Chef's Alarm and an infra red. 

If the thermometer is accurate, a common reason that the burner is not reaching at least 550°F was covered in Manxman's post. Such as have you added any appliances on that same circuit, that may be drawing more current? Also the build up of residue. But it may be as simple of too much moisture in the bisquettes. I realize you said you are using bisquettes that you had in storage for a long time, but another cause may be how the bisquette was manufactured, and/or the type of wood. There was a time (I don't know if they still do it from time to time) they increased the amount of compression during manufacturing of the bisquette, to slow the burn rate. These bisquettes would only burn halfway through. As to the different types of wood, I find that my apple, and maple bisquettes seem to burn much faster than oak, and hickory.

Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 03:50:33 am
I'm interested to hear the results of the probe test.
Regarding the time it took; maybe it would have gone up a little more, but I waited a minute or so. It had hit 501 and dropped to about 485 and then fluctuated between about 490 and 500. I had scraped the pad with a razor blade, so I don't thing gunk buildup was an issue. I'll order some more wood today and I think I'll take it apart again and see if I can fix the feeding mechanism. I don't remember there being any way to put it together that would make it feed cockeyed, so I'll have to more carefully examine it. I also don't recall ever reading that there were any special "gotchas" about putting the screws back in.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: manxman on May 11, 2019, 04:40:43 am
In respect of not delivering the pucks to the burner the fact you can hear the mechanism suggests that the circular motor which drives it is working, a good number of years ago there was quite a high failure rate of these motors which no doubt has been addressed.

It is also possible the two part pivoted arm that drives the push assembly is not seated correctly or damaged, I had this from new on my first ever generator and there was a discernible metallic clunk as it tried deliver a puck which isn’t there normally. Maybe try the puck advance button with the generator side plate off to observe taking care to keep fingers clear!  ;)
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 06:17:40 am
In respect of not delivering the pucks to the burner the fact you can hear the mechanism suggests that the circular motor which drives it is working, a good number of years ago there was quite a high failure rate of these motors which no doubt has been addressed.

It is also possible the two part pivoted arm that drives the push assembly is not seated correctly or damaged, I had this from new on my first ever generator and there was a discernible metallic clunk as it tried deliver a puck which isn’t there normally. Maybe try the puck advance button with the generator side plate off to observe taking care to keep fingers clear!  ;)

I just fixed the puck delivery. I'm not sure why I needed to fix it, but the fix is simple and fast. I hope short videos can be uploaded. Hmmm, even under "Attachments and other options" there's no option to attach anything. I'll check on my computer vs phone. Sometimes menus show up differently.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 06:21:57 am
I'm on my desktop and there's no attachment option.
No visuals on this web site?
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: TedEbear on May 11, 2019, 08:44:28 am
Host them on YouTube and post the URL link.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 09:27:10 am
How about just a still?
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 10:23:50 am
Ok, here's the before and after youtube videos.

Here's the problem -  https://youtu.be/0YRy_TwoPak     

Here's problem fixed  -  https://youtu.be/l0y1Ydpgjck     

Look closely and you should be able to tell what fixed it.
The puck stop is a 90 degree sheet metal bend. I took off that piece,
laid it on the garage floor and pounded it flat with a hand sledge so that the 90 degree piece
that made up the puck stop became flat, making the puck stop stick out about
1/8" further so that the puck would drop sooner. Seems to work fine.
Hope this all makes sense.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: manxman on May 11, 2019, 10:29:54 am
At least one part of the problem sorted, nicely done! Good videos as well.  :)
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 11, 2019, 01:21:33 pm
Stills also need to be hosted by a third party, such as Photobucket, but find a host that does it for free. I understand what the problem was, but can't tell from watching the video which part was bent and needed straightening. Glad you resolved the problem.

I was working on my lawn tractor, so I didn't get a chance to run the test. When I did this test with my infra red, I did it indoors so that wind wouldn't be a factor. I may get a chance to do so tomorrow.

The feeder tube (the cylinder that holds the bisquettes) is what I was referring to that can be inserted wrong.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 03:34:45 pm
There was no part that was bent and needed straightening.
I bent a piece to fix the problem. If I get time, I'll post the zoomed in photo that I took. I can understand not supporting videos on this website, but not allowing small photos seems fairly backward. But, I don't have to pay for the servers, so it is what it is.
Thank you.

Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 11, 2019, 04:43:32 pm
Ok, here's a link to the photo with explanation.

Here's the problem - https://youtu.be/0YRy_TwoPak

Here's the fix -         https://www.dropbox.com/s/09o2shxbhg8ob2b/The_Fix1.jpg?dl=0              <<<  the photo

Here's how it works after the fix -  https://youtu.be/l0y1Ydpgjck

Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 12, 2019, 03:11:04 am
Thanks for taking the time to do the videos and photo, and providing the links.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 12, 2019, 08:31:01 am
You're welcome. I wanted to share that very fast and simple fix in case it happens to others.
The symptoms, aside from the obvious that pucks don't feed, are that the puck feeder for some reason doesn't move far enough to the left to allow the pucks to drop completely.
I noticed that when the puck pusher reached its farthest point to the left, I could move it a little further with my finger, so I'm guessing that when it was new, it used to go a little farther. The mechanism has a lot of play in it which is probably a good thing normally, but I also noticed that a couple of the drilled holes in the connecting parts were not dead-on, symmetrically drilled. So a slight manufacturing error may have finally manifested itself after wear and tear, dirt and grime. Keep this one in your bag if tricks for this problem as it took about ten minutes to fix. I tested it out with smoked turkey breasts yesterday. There was enough smoke produced to taste good and no jambing whatsoever.
      These Bradley smokers are wonderfully convenient and they are fairly reliable. I wish I could buy bisquettes locally though.



Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 14, 2019, 01:44:41 pm
There was finally a break in weather and I was able to get to the generator, and test the temperature of the bisquette burner. I have to do this test again, since the temperature was fluctuating as much as 20 degrees when it reached it maximum temperature. In the past when I tested the burner, I recorded a maximum temperature of 556°F and a minimum temperature of 550°F. I may have had the infra red  thermometer at a slight angle when I took those readings.

At seven minutes the infra red recorded 506°F. At 10 minutes the recording was 546°F; at 25 minutes the recording was 574°F.

The testing was done indoors. Today I was getting a maximum temperature of 574°F and a minimum 554°F; once it reached the maximum temperature. When I get a chance I will plug it into another circuit to see if I get those same fluctuations. I replaced the batteries, and got the same results; with the exception of a spike to 590°F. When I recorded the maximum temperature of 574°F, the ChefAlarm maximum temperature reached 496°F, using a penetration probe. I had to monitor this closely since the probe is rated for a maximum temperature of 572°F.

Right now I'm inclined to say that the bisquette burner should be heating to a temperature between 550°F - 600°F. I'm not sure if the wide fluctuations are caused by voltage drop in my current or if it is just the way the burner is designed.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 14, 2019, 06:20:40 pm
Great info. Based on your figures, I'm wondering if my thermometer would have recorded higher temps if I checked for as long as you did. I might try again just for kicks.
Thanks for taking the time to do the tests.  :-)
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 15, 2019, 03:08:25 am
My ChefAlarm would not record over 496°F, but I was only measuring using the tip of the probe. Maybe if it was flat against the burner, I may have got higher readings. Since I recorded temperatures as high as 590°F with the infra red be careful using your Dot probe. The probe is rated as 572°F as a maximum temperature.

Right now I'm doing my annual deep cleaning of the generator. I plan to repeat the test in a few days.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 16, 2019, 03:10:23 am
I'll take that advice. If it hits 550, I'll stop there and call it a win. The new bisquites are on their way. So, I'll be able to run that most important test.
I'll see if I can make time for a second probe test today.
Thx
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 16, 2019, 07:41:20 am
Ok, now this is interesting. I also cleaned the heating pad with
a brillow pad pretty well before this test. I took your advice and stopped it at
552 degrees. I had let it preheat for 20 minutes. It was still going up too, so who
knows where it would have stopped. I'm guessing my issue was mostly old, moisture
soaked bisquittes. But that's a guess. I had taken the generator apart and sometimes
just jossling things around can help...as I've read. And of course the cleaning...
But, it does sort of disprove the theory about all probe-type temperature gauges being inadequate.   ;)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/a65k5v5fegbs3an/Bradley_temp_reading_DOT.jpg?dl=0
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 16, 2019, 02:00:18 pm
I should have laid my probe flat like you did, and probably would have gotten a higher reading on my ChefAlarm. With the reading that you are getting, your burner appears to be functioning as it should.

"But, it does sort of disprove the theory about all probe-type temperature gauges being inadequate."
This statement you will need to debate with ThermoWorks. ;D
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 17, 2019, 04:25:49 am
So my smoke generator is working pretty well. I got the new bisquittes in the mail
Yesterday and smoked a thick ham slice. There was the usual amount of smoke and the ham slice was tasty despite using alder. I usually use alder for foul and then hickory or pecan for pig,
But I see that I've been missing that alder is quite good with ham too.
     The remaining things I'm concerned about are that I have to push some of the buttons like the on/off multiple tines til it takes. Is there maybe smoke residue ir sonething behind the external plastic membrane? Can anything be done to fix that problem? Lastly, after all the error codes and beeps, and even though I cleaned the connectors and hot it working again, I don't have that feeling of reliability that I did with the analog model. I guess that's the price of the extra convenience of digital.
      No need for debate with Thermoworks. The probe detected temps just fine, albeit maybe infrared is a little more accurate; no idea.. By the way, I didn't lay it completely flat. I put the tip on an angle to the surface. Still only a tiny part was touching. Thanks again for all the assistance. If there's any fix for those membrane button contacts, I'd love to hear.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 17, 2019, 04:55:05 pm
I recall when the first release of the digitals, many members where having problems operating the buttons; especially if they had large fingers. The solution to that was to make sure the user pushed the buttons dead center. If that doesn't work, and you are still under warranty give Bradley a call.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 18, 2019, 12:37:08 pm
I got regular fingers from the Sears catalog.
The buttons used to be more responsive, so I don't think it's how I'm hitting them. I'll just have to hope it doesn't get any worse, as it's certainly not under warranty.
Thx for responding.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Edward176 on May 21, 2019, 10:24:24 am
After reading all these posts on Bisquette Burner temperatures and smoking issues (or lack of smoke) I decided to dig up my Infrared thermometer and give mine a test (Bradley 6 rack digital). Needless to say I was surprised as to the results. After 5 minutes I had 245°f, 10 minutes 327°f, 20 minutes 335°f and after 60 minutes I had only 350°f. I ran only my bisquette burner and not the heating elements and the door was closed the whole time. So I tried it again today and ran the bisquette burner for 45 minutes and only achieved a temperature of 380°F, nowhere near the 500-550°F that is suggested. My bisquette burner is cleaned after every use so that isn't an issue. I suppose the logical solution here is to replace the bisquette burner, even though my pucks are almost entirely blackened after use. I've pulled them out of the water pan and break them open and just the top middle isn't burnt. Maybe that's why?
Any suggestions of input welcome.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Orion on May 21, 2019, 10:28:02 am
If it’s not broken don’t fix it. Burnt is burnt. My pucks are usually unburnt a tiny bit at top centre too. I smoked some ribs the other day when it was a good warm day and had good combustion so I think it varies between winter and summer temps.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Habanero Smoker on May 21, 2019, 01:55:38 pm
If it is working correctly, and you are getting sufficient smoke; I wouldn't change the burner. I tested my indoors - less interference from sunlight, and possibly wind. I had a difference in my testing from the first time, to the one I recently tested. With my infra red (Thermoworks IR-GUN-S); I need to keep the sensor perpendicular to the surface I am measuring to get the most accurate reading.

I will occasionally have bisquettes that are not burnt in the middle. This generally happens with my smoker when I am cold smoking, or applying smoke at a temperature below 180°, or the first couple of bisquettes that hit the burner.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Edward176 on May 21, 2019, 03:06:56 pm
Thank you for your input guys, after reading your replies I'm inclined to agree and not replace my burner, since it is making smoke and burning the bisquettes, why replace it if its doing the job.
Thank You
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 22, 2019, 04:40:42 am
I'm thinking the temperature reading was probably not accurate since you have burned busquitte and smoke and several hundred degrees different reading. If you do also have a probe type, you might turn the burner on for 20 minutes then lay the point at a 45 degree angle. It was easier to do all that with the smoke generator removed from the unit. The oven heat was not affecting my readings. I am in Florida though and it was probably about 75 in the shade that day. I agree with everybody though; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Edward176 on May 22, 2019, 02:09:52 pm
I did my testing in the garage with all doors closed with an ambient temperature of 67°F. So there wasn't any outside influences (wind/sunlight/temperature extremes) just me and my Infrared Thermometer. I'll probably test the Bisquette Burner again with my meat thermometer and Infrared thermometer just to see how close the readings are. I seem to have amply smoke as I see it raising out my chimney every smoke. I've just compensated by manually resetting the bisquette timer after 5 minutes on the first bisquette to make sure its smoking plenty. In the past the first bisquette was only half burnt up, but now they are all pretty burnt up. I can understand why they aren't completely burnt since I normally smoke at 130-150°F and seldom get to 190°F. All in all  my Bradley is performing well and its the best hobby I've got :)   
Thanks for everyone's input.. Always a pleasure knowing help and advise is close at hand.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Gafala on May 22, 2019, 04:10:06 pm
As for  bisquette  not burning all the way through it could be moisture in the  bisquette . Just a thought. I had that happen to me once and I found out it was a minor moisture problem put them in a oven on low heat to dry them out.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on May 22, 2019, 08:24:23 pm
I have also gotten the partial first bisquette thingy when
I just turn on the smoker and start the first puck with no preheating. The rest are good because the burner's nice and warmed up.
Title: Re: Smoke generator not smoking as much
Post by: Broke_smoke on June 19, 2019, 06:57:56 am
Reporting back on progress.
The fix to the puck feeder is still working fine, however I wanted to
do a quick one puck smoke of some salmon burgers last night and that failed.
   I put in one bisquette that was from the new pack bought about a month
ago and stored indoors. I preheated the burner for about five minutes,
but the puck never took off smoking. It produced very little smoke. I was
busy and didn't take a temperature reading on the burner plate. But this seems to
prove an intermittent problem that is not necessarily related to old bisquettes.
Please don't anyone suggest that I needed to preheat longer. I've been using a Bradley
for seven or eight years and I know when they're working as they should.
    I had thought this unit was dead when I opened this post, so I did order a pellet
smoker as I was curious to try one. So I have backup smoker. But, I just wanted to mention
some pros and cons if that is legal here. Actually my comparison is very positive toward the
Bradley, despite my current dilemma. When the Bradley is working correctly and in
the past that has been most of the time....  The Bradley has these pros -
* Much easier to clean up than pellet.
* Much less wood weight to deal with. Since the wood pellets are also producing the heat,
   a big ten pound bag doesn't go very far in comparison to a box full of bisquettes.
* More smoke from the Bradley, especially if using high heat in the pellet smoker which
   tends to reduce the smoke.
* Faster startup
* Probably safer. I still use my Bradley on the screen porch. I am well aware that
   the danger is a grease fire. However the grease dripping is more self contained in
   the Bradley and as long as I have a clean drip plate and not smoking a long, giant fatty
   cut of meat, then I don't worry much about fire. I would not trust a pellet smoker
   on my porch as there's real, smoldering embers there and the entire inside of the grill
   tends to get a coating of flammable fat on it. Cleanup is much more labor intensive
   with the pellet grill to remove all that grease.
*  Thus far the pellet grill I bought seems to get a coating of sawdust all over everything.
    I asked the manufacturer about it and they said that happens some when it's new. I don't
   know why new would be different than any other time. It does not seem to affect the food.

Pros for pellet - and I have not used it that much yet, but so far and the model is Camp Chef Smokepro SG.
* Can reach temps of 500 degrees. I often wished the Bradley could go higher in temp.
* You get some smoke ring, but not as much as pure wood fire.... if that's important to anyone.
   It doesn't seem to affect flavor, but looks pretty.
* Flavor...this question is still up in the air. I haven't used it enough yet.
* This unit has a sort of searing capability, but it's sort of meah. There's a rod that you
  pull that moves a flareup guard out of the way of the pellet burner. So, theoretically if
  you have food directly above it, you might get some searing. I have not used it much yet,
   so I'll reserve final conclusions, but thus far it didn't do much for a steak for the extra $150 that feature
   cost me over the base model. They do have a model that has an actual separate searing burner
  on the side that runs off propane. But, I have an outdoor hotplate that we use for lots of cooking
   that could sear just as well and not require an extra source of energy. Imagine, electric, wood and
  propane required to run one grill. Pretty strange. I do want to highly recommend the Duxtop 9100mc
  Induction Cooktop Expert though. I have it sitting right next to my Bradley. I did a lot of research before buying
  that cooktop several years back. It supports wide pans and gets very hot with the correct type of pan.
  We use it for searing but really more for outdoor stinky, smokey cooking that would normally stink up
  the house or inevitably get grease all over the stove.
* Pellets are readily and locally available. I don't like that I cannot get Bradley bisquettes locally and
   quickly if I did not prepare properly in advance. That's not often and not terrible, but it has happened.

That's it for now. I don't know what to do about my failing puck burner...replace the burner or whole
smoke generator? I guess the burner first, but I don't really know without getting into electrical testing
which I'm not very good at.