Smoker Not Hot Enough? Read these tests I did for some tips

Started by Wyatt, August 02, 2014, 01:24:00 PM

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In answer to those struggling with getting their smoker up to temperature, here are some of my findings.
I too have had difficulty in getting my digital Bradley smoker up to temperature, but my findings point more to user technique and the amount of food being smoked at one time than whether or not an extension cords was used or the heating element is insufficient.
It was 70 degrees out when I began this series of tests and after four hours it had dropped to 60. There was no wind.
Test #1
I set the smoker up with no water bowl, V tray, racks or food it in for the first test. I did not turn-on the smoking element—just the heating element.
I set the smoker to 280 degrees. I used two independent and highly accurate Maverick ET 732 model probes and dropped them down through the upper vent, then I closed the vent around the probes. One probe (#1) was located near where the top rack would be and the other probe (#2) where the second to the lowest rack would be.
Set temperature was 280. One hour later the smoker's digital readout said it was 268 degrees inside.  Probe #1 read 262 and probe #2 read 264—closer to the heating element. Close, but still shy of the 280 mark.
Test #2
I raised the digital control to 300 degrees. After the next hour the smoker's readout said it was 272 degrees. Probe #1 read 268 and probe #2 273. Still off the mark.
Test #3
I installed the V tray, water bowl 1/3 full of water and started the smoke using oak Bisquettes.
I increase the digital temperature to the maximum 320 degrees and opened the upper vent half way
One hour later (now the smokier has been running for three hours), the smoker's readout said 284, probe #1 read 282 and probe #2 read 275. Even with smoke the temperature did not reach the set point yet, but was well within range for smoking cuts of meat such as ribs.
Test #4
For the final hour I closed the vent again most of the way and finally the smoker's readout hit 318, while probe #1 read 313 and probe #2 read 318.
That said, I now get better results by pre-heating (without smoke) for over an hour before I begin in order to hit my set temperature, which is typically 225. Not overloading the smoker with ice cold ribs or shoulder is a good idea as well as these meats should be put in the smoker closer to room temperature anyway, which will help prevent the smoker temperature from dropping dramatically with the addition of too much cold food. My advice, pull your meat out of the refrigerator while your smoker is getting up to temperature.
If you are familiar with evaporative cooling (like when your own sweat helps keep your skin cool), meat with a lot of moisture-especially brined meats—will hold the internal smoker temperature down as well as the food which will tend to stall at around 170 degrees (Google Texas Crutch for more information on this phenomenon).
Now I also have a huge reverse flow smoker I use for large gatherings where I can cook 8 butts and two briskets at one time. Even with my offset box full of hickory logs burning at 1500 degrees and full of hot coals my smoker's internal temperature will stall due to the volume of cold food and moisture.
This leads me to believe that the heating element is not the main issue when obtaining the right smoke temperature but rather technique, and some patience in letting the smoker reach temp before the addition of your food, as well as not overloading the smoker with too many cuts of cold meat.


Welcome to the forum and thanks for the tips.  I've had my Bradley since December but have probably logged hundreds of hours in it already.  To be honest, it has performed flawlessly for me so far.  Yes, you need to give it time to preheat when it's colder and it takes longer to regain temp when it's windy but that hasn't been an issue for me.  Love this thing.