Author Topic: Questions for the experts  (Read 6450 times)

Offline Toddler

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Questions for the experts
« on: September 03, 2006, 11:01:20 PM »
Hello, guys.  I've been smoking for a few years using a big offset firebox unit and chunks of wood.  I'm thrilled with the results, but not to thrilled anymore about hours of tending fire.  These days, I'd rather be sitting in my air-conditioned den watching NFL Sunday Ticket while my smoker does the work.  So, I'm researching the options.

After reading pages of forum posts, I've got a few questions for the experts here.

Digital vs. original "slider" model:

- Is the price worth it?  From reading several threads here, it appears that the digital unit uses a pretty unsophisticated method of temperature regulation (element is either fully "on" or "off" with no in-between), and it seems to drop 10 degrees before it kicks in to bring temps back up again.  Is that correct?  If so, it seems I would be better served to get the original model and replace the slider with a $50 control module that I can at least program to get around the 10 degree spread.

It seems like it would be more useful if the digital module regulated the element like a rheastat rather than just a simple "on/off" switch.

- Does it really shut off after 9 hours?

Capacity of all units:

- I have a vertical offset smoker.  When I use it, I typically fill it with about 60 lbs. (last smoke I did was eight pork shoulders, two whole chickens and six quarts of baked beans).  I realize the Bradley won't do that, but what's the most I can really expect to get in the four- or six-shelf units?

And a general question:

What does PID stand for?  I gather it is a homebrew project akin to the digital controller and thus only of benefit on the "slider" model, correct?

Thanks, guys.  I may post more questions as they come to me.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2006, 11:06:43 PM by Toddler »

Offline car54

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2006, 05:35:36 AM »
Welcome Toddler,

I have the standard sized stainless and the most that I have done at 1 time is 4 pork butts from Sam's club which is about 30 lbs. I suppose you could put more in but that would be stretching it.

I have built my own PID which keeps the temperature to +,- 1 degree. It has made it a truly set it and forget it. I could leave for the whole day with out worrying about it. I have even put food in before work and have come home 10 hours later.

There is a little bit of playing with the slider but once the temperature has stabilized you do not have to do anything for the rest of the smoke.

I hope that helps you, Brad

Offline Toddler

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2006, 12:51:53 PM »
Thanks, Brad.  I'm still looking for more specifics on the PID/slider model vs. the new digital model.  It sounds like the PID method gives much more stable temps, correct?  That's a shame, because I'd expect the fancy digital model to be at least as good as whatever you can build on your own for $50 and a project box from RadioShack.

Offline Oldman

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2006, 01:35:51 PM »
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Is the price worth it?....Digital vs. original "slider" model:
Before I answer this question I must state I truely believe for the masses the Digital is the way to go. Now would I own one? NO! I would stay with the standard model. Is the price worth it? Yes for the masses. Most folks that have your current type of smokers see greater temp swings then with the digital.
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What does PID stand for?
PID controller = proportional-integral-derivative controller.
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I gather it is a homebrew project akin to the digital controller and thus only of benefit on the "slider" model, correct?
NO! The digital is not controlled by a PID controller.  It is a simple on / off contact point controller -- like most ovens.
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Does it really shut off after 9 hours?
No. It is reported at 9 hours 40 minutes.
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I'd expect the fancy digital model to be at least as good as whatever you can build on your own for $50 and a project box from RadioShack.
I don't believe you can build one for $50.00. If you have not read how robs built his then go HERE.

For the monies the Bradley is a fine unit. Can you purchase a better unit... Yepper you can.  We have one member here who has the Bradley and also that newer CS unit for $1,400.00. Will it do more? Yepper it is larger. Does it have a PID controller? From what I've read it does.

I hope this has answered some of your questions.

Olds

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Offline Toddler

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 01:48:31 PM »
Thank you very much.  I will study Rob's post in detail.

I understand that the PID is different than a simple on/off relay, but can you explain the difference in more detail?  What does the PID do differently...more like a light dimmer, regulating the current?  Why wouldn't they have made the BS digital the same way?  I assume cost is the reason.

What difference would I experience in the results if I just stuck with the digital BS?

Offline Oldman

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2006, 06:10:28 PM »
Quote
I understand that the PID is different than a simple on/off relay, but can you explain the difference in more detail?
There are a whole host of folks smarter than me concerning this question.  Until they jump in my I suggest you do a "google" on PID controllers.
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What does the PID do differently...more like a light dimmer, regulating the current?
No. In lay terms it is a rapid on / off measured in milliseconds.
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Why wouldn't they have made the BS digital the same way?
You will have to ask Wade Bradley.

If you want my option, purchase a standard unit and build an PID controller for it if temp swing of 10 F + / - is a concern for you. If not then purchase the digital unit.

Do look over robs PID controller. Several here have made them before robs came on board here, but his lay-out is easy to understand and to follow.

Personally I believe the Bradley in any flavor is the most / best refined home unit on the market today. For what anyone gets, no one can complain about the price.

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robs

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2006, 06:13:18 PM »
From what I understand from other users, there is a 10 deg swing with the digital model.

If you want a more constant temperature, a temperature control box using a PID controller may be just right for you.
Using the controller that I built, I am able to maintain temperatures +- 1 deg.

If you have questions regarding how a PID works, Suyi, at Auber Instruments may shed some light for you. http://auberins.com/index.php?main_page=contact_us&zenid=bd22839d7324fb532534941bb7a7f8ff

Basicly, a PID controller learns about your device (smoker) by undershooting and overshooting a set temperature
a few times and recording how your device reacts to this. It will do this using 100% power on the overshoot and
0% on the undershoot.

After the controller has learned about your smoker, it should be able to control the temp fairly accurately. If the
results are not acceptable, you can fine tune it yourself fairly easy.

The output from a PID controller is not just on/off. It's output is 0-100%. So say you have your temp set at 200 deg. and
the current box temp is 195. The output % will likely be at 100% and as the temp approaches 200 deg, the output % will decrease.
Maybe at 199 deg. the output will be 8% or something. It may switch from 0% up to 100% 10-20 times a minutes, depending
on environment variables.

Whether you get the digital or the regular one, I'm sure you'll be happy.

I would say that a very small percentage of people here with the regular model actualy have PID controllers. It just depends on
the person and how much they smoke. I found myself using my smoker 30+ hours per week so I decided a PID was right for me.

Good luck whichever route you take. Make sure to ask alot of questions here.

rob

Offline nodak

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2006, 06:54:33 PM »
my two cents isn't worth much, but what the hey.

Build a PID, best thing I ever did.  Tried a guru, but sent it back as it also had 20 degree temp swings for me.

Four things to make your smoker more enjoyable and top three a must in my book and will be doing the 4th this winter, cuz I'm lazy.

1. buy remote thermometer
2. build PID, also put a on/off switch on your biscuit advance to save wear.
3. Buy aluminum foil cake pan to replace the small water bowl, so you don't have to worry about replacing water.
4.Fan, this is my winter project, not necessary, but convenient.

PS. I forgot the most important come to this site or http://susan.rminor.com for the best advice.  Without everyone's help I would have threw in the towel a long time ago,  truly some great expertise here.

Thanks again everyone for the help,  after all none of the above our my originals just what I picked up here.

Offline Toddler

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2006, 07:04:17 PM »
Thanks, WCK.  I do like to do a lot of 'que at a time, so for those big events I guess I will hang on to my woodburning rig.

It seems that the Bradley method is really only a smoker for 2-3 hours and from then on it's simply an outdoor oven.  Has anyone removed the meat after the smoke phase and finished it in a conventional oven?  That may just be the simplest way to go about it.

robs

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2006, 07:11:24 PM »
Thanks, WCK.  I do like to do a lot of 'que at a time, so for those big events I guess I will hang on to my woodburning rig.

It seems that the Bradley method is really only a smoker for 2-3 hours and from then on it's simply an outdoor oven.  Has anyone removed the meat after the smoke phase and finished it in a conventional oven?  That may just be the simplest way to go about it.

I don't think this is just the Bradley method, but isn't this how all smokers work? No matter what type of smoker used,
a brisket or pork shoulder only has smoke applied for the first few hours.

I've finished pork shoulders and brisket in the oven.



Offline Toddler

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2006, 07:25:31 PM »
Well I am used to cooking entirely with wood, which obviously produces thin, blue smoke the entire time.  The meat absorbs most of the smoke while it is still cold, but the bark turns out pretty smoky.  Although the Bradley makes it a much less labor-intensive process, it will take a bit of adjustment for me to get comfortable with it, if I go that route.

robs

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2006, 07:36:07 PM »
Well I am used to cooking entirely with wood, which obviously produces thin, blue smoke the entire time.  The meat absorbs most of the smoke while it is still cold, but the bark turns out pretty smoky.  Although the Bradley makes it a much less labor-intensive process, it will take a bit of adjustment for me to get comfortable with it, if I go that route.

Good point. Yeah, I bet it would be quite the adjustment. I have trouble getting a great smoke flavor - I seem to be the only one though. Maybe I should try the old school stuff, that sounds more up my alley.

Good luck.

Offline asa

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2006, 05:44:43 PM »
Has anyone removed the meat after the smoke phase and finished it in a conventional oven? 

Yes, and it works great! Smoke some shoulders for 4 hours in the evening, put everything in the oven where the temp is accurately controlled, clean up, go to bed, and wake up to a wonderful fragrance of BBQ. I've posted previously on this if you want to do a search. More recently, I've been cooking all the way in the BS, to try the way most do it here. But next time with shoulders and ribs, I think I'll go back to the oven finish. Seems to work very well. I'll probably keep experimenting though - can't help it.
Enjoy good Southern-style smoked barbecue -- it's not just for breakfast anymore!
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Offline West Coast Kansan

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2006, 07:49:11 PM »
a second thought that occurs to me now is the plus up associated with low hastle smoking with the bradley - as opposed to the chunk wood approach.  I actually smoke more often now.  Not a big deal because your not commiting a long weekend to the process. You dont feel like you have to do enormous loads while you have the smoker going. Quick and easy to do a brisket, butt or some chicken - so you dont need to do so much at one time. In the day, you would feel bad burning wood for 12 -15 hours if you didnt maximize the load. 

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Offline Toddler

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Re: Questions for the experts
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2006, 08:46:11 AM »
a second thought that occurs to me now is the plus up associated with low hastle smoking with the bradley - as opposed to the chunk wood approach.  I actually smoke more often now.  Not a big deal because your not commiting a long weekend to the process. You dont feel like you have to do enormous loads while you have the smoker going. Quick and easy to do a brisket, butt or some chicken - so you dont need to do so much at one time. In the day, you would feel bad burning wood for 12 -15 hours if you didnt maximize the load. 
You really hit it on the head as far as the effort required to do a chunk wood smoke.  I think that's the main reason I do such large loads when I smoke.  So your point makes a lot of sense.