Author Topic: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature  (Read 28656 times)

Offline msfarrel

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Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« on: November 13, 2011, 08:53:08 AM »
I'm having trouble maintaining a temperature over 220 degrees. I would like to cook my ribs at 250 for 4 hours using a aluminum pan filled with apple juice and a rack inside the pan to hold the ribs above the apple juice. Only problem is I can't maintain 250. The Bradley smoker preheats to 250, but takes a while. After I open the smoker and put the pan in with the ribs, the temperature drops to 180-200 and never makes it back to 250. It takes about an hour to get up to 230 but never goes back to 250, even if I max out the temperature setting. My smoker is brand new, used it 4 times. Is this a common issue or is there something wrong with my smoker? Could the pan be affecting the temperature some how? Any help on this issue would be greatly appreciated, its difficult to calculate cooking times without a stable temperature reading!

Thanks...

Offline KyNola

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2011, 08:59:11 AM »
It's not unusual.  Putting cold meat in the smoker drastically reduces the temp and takes a long time to recover.  Also, if you're vent is closed, open it wide.  The pan may or may not be effecting the heat.  Would depend on if it is covering the entire rack thereby impeding heat from rising.

Offline mikecorn.1

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Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2011, 09:05:48 AM »
Don't sweat it. Just don't open the door unless it's absolutely necessary. 220-225' will be ok. It's smoking. It takes time. :D.


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Offline TedEbear

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2011, 09:09:17 AM »
The pan of cold apple juice probably isn't helping with getting it back up to temp.  I also use apple juice but for ribs but I wrap the ribs in foil after the initial 3 hours of smoke bare on the rack and pour 1/2 - 2/3 cup of the juice in the foil and seal it tightly so no steam can escape.  This is called the Texas Crutch.  After that step I return the ribs to the rack bare and let them cook for a final hour to firm up the meat.

I was having trouble with getting the cooking chamber back up to temp after opening the door to add meat.  A popular option is to add a second 500W heating element for a total of 1000W.  My preheat times are now 10 minutes or less and 1/2 that time for heat recovery after I've opened the door.



Offline msfarrel

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2011, 09:52:55 AM »
The meat and apple juice are at room temperature when inserted. I usually have the vent open 1/4 to a 1/2 way open. I'll try it all the way open. I only open the door to insert meat and glaze meat towards the end. Ideally I would like to be able to spritz the meat but that's not an option because of the amount of time it takes to retain the temperature. I'll try a few tweaks today and see what happens.

Thanks for the advice...
« Last Edit: November 13, 2011, 09:57:08 AM by msfarrel »

Offline Quarlow

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2011, 10:55:21 AM »
Your smoker is doing what is supposed to do. Low and slow is what smoking is about. I don't think my smoker has ever gotten to 250f with food in it. So if you are getting up to 230f you are doing well.
 Yes a second element will help greatly but you just need to realize that your smoker only has a 500 watt heating element in it so you know by that that low and slow is the key. Think of it like this. My wifes blow dryer has a 1500 watt heat element in it. One thing you can do is go to the hardware store and get a couple of bricks, or if you have some kicking around that works too. Now wrap them in tinfoil. To use them you can either put them in your house oven and preheat them or like I do just set them on the v-tray while preheating the Bradley. These act as a heat mass so that if you open the door to baste or rotate the racks or whatever the heat from the bricks will help bring your temp back up much like a rocks at the beach that heat up at low tide and then warm the water as the tide comes in.
 You can also use a larger tinpan as your drip pan and put boiling water in this when you load the smoker.
The 3-2-1 method works great for ribs. You don't need to set the ribs on a rack cause the last hour basicly steams off the juice on them. You can also baste the ribs and then throw them on the BBQ for a nice saucy rib. There is certainly nothing wrong with using the rack but it kind of seems like a set that is unneeded.
Opening your vent 3/4 to wide open lets the moisture escape. Moist air is harder to heat than less moist air. If you have too much moisture inside it acts aborb the heat and keep it from warming while it struggles to heat it.
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Offline muebe

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2011, 11:01:09 AM »
And also be aware that there is a Temp Safety Switch that will cut off the power to the element if the cabinet temp get's close to 280F on the OBS. That switch can activate as low as 260F also.
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Offline KyNola

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2011, 05:43:53 PM »
The meat and apple juice are at room temperature when inserted. I usually have the vent open 1/4 to a 1/2 way open. I'll try it all the way open.  Thanks for the advice...
Stick an instant read thermometer in your "room temp" meat and see what it is.  It is still quite cold.  Contrary to what logic will tell you having the vent closed down will not allow the moisture to escape and will effectively hold your tower temps down.  It may also condensate and collect on the inside top of the tower and produce "black rain" that will drip down on your meat and may run out the bottom of your door too.  Trust me. you won't like the black rain.

I wouldn't be all that concerned that you can't reach 250.  Smoking is all about low and slow.   

Offline Habanero Smoker

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2011, 02:06:46 AM »
I still adjust my vent according to what is in the smoker. Low moisture foods, you can keep your vent around 1/2 to 3/4, and from my experience helps maintain the heat. That is enough for excess moisture to escape, and to prevent heat from escaping. You added a pan of apple juice, that exposes a large surface of moisture. That will add to the moisture in your cabinet, so you should use a wider setting. If at wide open you don't see improvement, try turning it back to 3/4 open.


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Offline car54

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2011, 02:41:21 AM »
When ever I add liquid, I preheat it in the microwave.

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Offline msfarrel

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2011, 05:18:26 AM »
One thing you can do is go to the hardware store and get a couple of bricks

Is there a name for these bricks so I know what to look for?

squirtthecat

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2011, 05:21:26 AM »
One thing you can do is go to the hardware store and get a couple of bricks

Is there a name for these bricks so I know what to look for?

I use firebricks..   They are denser than regular 'red' bricks.      I also replaced my water pan with a small lodge cast iron skillet. (I pop a foil pan inside of it to hold the water)


Offline Caneyscud

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2011, 07:14:09 AM »
Rest easy, it's doing what it is supposed to do.  And more than likely when you see the temperature down, the meat is probably cooking right along.  I'm one of those )gasp!( moppers.  Even with mopping my times are not all that much different than many others.  and I don't use bricks or a big water bowl either - but logic and physics say they should work.  And I'd think twice about having that pan of apple juice beneath your ribs.  Anything than you put in an oven (a Bradley is an oven with a smoke generator) will be heated up.  Heat being what it is, will go to the easiest and closest to heat up.  That pan of apple juice could easily get heated up before the heat starts working on your ribs.  If you use the pan of apple juice- I'd put the pan of apple juice in during the pre-heat.   

Here is an excerpt from a recent post about the "dreaded" Bradley temp. swings.

I'm not privy to the original design parameters of the Bradley, but I bet it went something like this - "a smoking device that will produce excellent low and slow barbecue and other smoked goods that is dependable, safe, and is simple enough to be operated by anyone. "  The Bradley does just that.  You feed it some pucks, turn it on, put water in the bowl, put your meat in, set it and then set back and monitor it.  Then that little sheet metal box chugs away until some hours later, you pull out great smoked goodies.  Other than the obvious differences in size, type of fuel, electronics, etc... there is one other big difference between a Bradley and a big stickburner.  That is heat storage mass.  A thousand pounds of 1/4" steel holds a lot more heat that a couple of pounds of thin sheet metal.  Both smokers work more or less as a convection oven - cooking with hot air.  Not by the the radiant heat of a heat source or by conduction like your stovetop.  When you open either, they will dump their hot air out into the atmosphere - with or without a PID.    When the stickburner dumps its hot air, it has not only the heat source but the stored heat in the steel to quickly heat up the air again.  The Bradley only has the element to heat the air back up.   Plus the 500W element will not produce as much heat as the typical fire in a stickburner.  The Bradley is slower to recover - but it will - with or without a PID.  Same thing happens in your kitchen oven, but it recovers much faster because of the typical 3000w+ element in it.  The Bradley, doesn't get much over 260 to 275.  It is not designed to.  It is not needed.  First might be cost, but more likely because any higher is not needed.  Remember this is low and slow cooking for a reason - low and slow is what makes barbecue flavorful AND tender.   But also remember one of the other design parameters is for it to be safe and another is that it be easy enough to be used by anybody.  They could have put in a 3000w element, but I'm sure that brings in a lot of other changes to the design that I'm sure brings in much more cost.  PLUS, the ease of correct use.  I've never burned anything in the Bradley.  Why not - the 500w element moderates that.  If they had put in a much bigger element, then burning would be a much bigger problem as many would probably try to always cook on high and might produce sub-par barbecue.  They could also have put in a wingding, high falutten temp controller to control the temps to +/- 1/2 a degree.  But again, that would likely to raise the cost considerably.  And for what reason?  That butt/brisket/ribs/etc... doesn't care much if there is a temperature range.  Read this forum, no read any forum and/or study how some of the pros do a butt.  Some cook at 180, some cook at 200, some cook at 225, some cook at 250, some cook at 350, even some may start out a brisket at 450 or higher.  They all produce passable, if not very good barbecue.  So what did I just describe?  I just described a temperature range.  If a butt can be cooked at any of those temps successfully, do you think it matters if during a cook the cabinet temperature ranges between 180 and 230?  Where it does make a difference is with some more tempermental and/or sensitive goodies like, sausage, fish, cheese, lox, etc....  Temperature control also makes a difference with time of cook.  If the temp ranges from 180 to 230 constantly rather than being on 230 constantly the cook time could be longer.  However, there are many more things that affect the length of cook time other than temps.

I preheat my Bradley before a smoke to 260 or above.  Not too sure what all that does with a stock DBS like mine, but it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.  Remember when you open that door all that 260 deg air will dump out.  Now if you had some more heat mass in the cabinet, then the 260 preheat is worthwhile - then you have several pounds of 260 deg bricks to help recover faster.  The larger water bowl will also do the same.  But remember you will also be heating the water up also - so put in as hot of water as you can.   I've been lazy and never put in the bricks, I just wait a little longer for my barbecue - and that's ok with me - I've rushed around and stressed out over lots of things in my life - barbecue is not going to be one of those things.


As with Habs, I am also assuming you have an OBS.  And you mentioned having something on the bottom rack.  Nothing particularly wrong with having something on the bottom rack, but doing so can affect the temp for the rest of the racks.  A good visual of what happens is the 'Mother lode of Butt" recently posted by I think STC or maybe it was CRG - my skull covering is white so I have an excuse!  But in his photos you can see that the bottom racks cook faster and he had to rotate the location of the racks.  When you have something on the bottom rack two things can happen especially if there is a big chunk of meat on the bottom rack.  One is that it can literally physically block the heated air from rising up in the cabinet.  But perhaps even more important will be that that big butt is hogging (no pun intended) all or rather much of the heat from the element.  Heat travels to the place with less resistance.  And that cold hunk of meat is acting like a scantily clad street-walking hussy - it will attract that heat much better than the air.  That is the radiant heat produced by the element (which is considerable - just hold your hand close to it) is being absorbed by the butt - and will continue until the heat of the meat approaches the temperature of the air - then more will go into heating something else.  Its physics!
« Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 07:18:35 AM by Caneyscud »
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Offline cajunboudreaux

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2011, 02:53:47 PM »
I personally have never had my OBS to 250. I do my ribs and such at 190 to 220. Yes it might take longer but in my opinion that is what slow and low is all about. Even with a 9"x13" waterpan with goodies in it my OBS gets to 200 with no problem. To maintain temp would keep the vent all the way open and leave the door SHUT! Only open the door if you absolutley have too. Your smoker is fine and is doing its thing.. The only time you should be worried if your temp drops below 150(generator only thing heating smoker), then i would check things such as your element and plug connections. If you Bradley temp is climbing it is cooking... Good luck with your new purchase
The best thing about this forum is not one person is the same and we all have our own ideas, quirks and helpful hints on how things should be done. you will learn something here everyday and there is always someone willing to help out.
 
Just a note but for over 15 years i smoked everything but the kitchen sink in my OBS with the vent partially closed except when doing poultry. After reading results and a few old timers leading me in the right direction my vent is removed and all the way open. It has made a big difference in my smoking.
Laissez les bon temps rouler

Offline JZ

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Re: Can't Maintain 250 degree temperature
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2011, 08:33:32 AM »
Your comment about using the Bradley for over 15 years with the vent partially open and having recently removed it, to achieve better results, makes it crystal clear that the best vent position is wide open.

Thanks for the post.