A few questions regarding 4 rack

Started by Jackall87, January 12, 2016, 07:33:19 PM

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Hey everyone,

I have been looking at the forum for some time now and wanted to register to ask a few questions.

I got a 4 rack digital smoker back in August and I really enjoy it. I have done a few pork shoulders, a turkey, wings, and ribs.

All turned out great, however I have run into some issues with the smoker and wanted to get as many opinions as possible.

My first issue with the device is temperature. I understand it goes to 320, however mine has never come close to that temperature, I can get to 280 (with nothing inside) at best and when there is food inside I'm lucky to see 230 max during the entire cook (I'll usually achieve 220)
This is fine for when I'm doing a Boston Butt or a picnic shoulder, however the temp has to be pegged at 320 in order to keep that 220 temp. This seems odd to me, I am well aware of adding meats the temp will drop but I would think it would eventually recover and come back up to my desired temps. I usually have to plan my cook times longer than normal to factor in the temperature issue. Last week I did a 8lb shoulder that took 14 hours @ IT of 200. The smoker was/has been up to temp and I tossed in 7 lbs of chicken wings, thinking it would have took 2 1/2 hours max(this is after the shoulder was removed), it didn't, the temp dropped very low and did not rise to 200 after 2 hours and had to finish in the oven to get a full cook as well as a crispy skin.
I am a bit worried to smoke poultry with my smoker because of staying in the danger zone for longer than I should.

Here's my questions I guess I am looking to get and stay at a consistent temperature, since the unit is only 5 months old I do not want to modify it (yet), I am considering adding bricks or lava rocks at the bottom tray (wrap in foil so I don't start a grease fire) and see how that goes.

Second question is, for those long smokes, for example the last one I did, I started at 1:45AM and had to wake up every 2 hours to empty the bowl, can I use a large pan to accommodate more used bisquettes or is that not a good idea? I'm not looking to sleep through the entire smoke, I'd be OK with every 4 or5 hour disposal rather than 2.

Third, Is it normal for my smoker to only get to the temperatures I've described? If I can get a temp of 300 or even 280 I would feel more confident to do poultry. It hasn't been extremely cold yet (until this week) the smoker temps have been the same for my summer/fall/and winter thus far (i'm in Pennsylvania so the weather has been on the warmer side)

Fourth issue is my temperature is off by -/+ 20 degrees, I found this out by running 2 separate thermometers, I guess this is the norm because I've heard people mention this before, it just seems to be a huge jump.

Just as an FYI I ruled out the obvious, The smoker is protected, meaning little to no wind gets to it to cause any issues with the temp fluctuation, I've made sure all connections are solid and have the same results plugging the unit into the outlet and running an extension cord (does not make a difference), I make sure the door is completely closed and regularly clean the seal on the door to prevent any heat loss. I'm just at a loss right now and I'm not sure what to do. 

On a side note I wanted to pick up a 6 rack to go along with my 4 rack, but I heard it uses the same 500W element, and I can only imagine the temp issues I'm seeing being worse with the larger unit? Does Bradley have any intentions of releasing a more powerful heating element as I would gladly upgrade., or is there something wrong with mine?

If this post comes off as me being unhappy with the unit, I can assure you that it's the complete opposite. It's my first electric smoker and I've been very happy with it and the food that comes out is absolutely amazing. I just want to get all of your opinions on what I need to do.


I don;t have a digital but I can answer some of your questions:

1) using a larger pan --I use a large baking pan instead of the bowl that came with the bradley

2) Temp swing - it is like your oven. The bradley works on what I call an on/off method. If you set it for 240, then it kicks on until the temp reaches 240 then it kicks off. The element is still hot so the temp overshoots. When it cools down below 240 it kicks on again. But before it gets hot the temp goes down below 240. So you get a 10-20 degree swing. Measure the temps in your oven and you will see the same type of swing. Such a swing doesn't matter unless you are making sausage which needs tight temps.
"It ain't worth missing someone from your past- there is a reason they didn't make it to your future."

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Habanero Smoker

Hi Jackall87;

Welcome to the forum.

Seven pounds of wings is a huge load for the Bradley. After I smoke/cooked 5 pounds at one time, prior to adding a second element, I modified my cooking habits. When I smoke/cook wings I will not cook more than 3 pounds at a time. Chicken with skin quickly releases a lot of moisture, and that takes a lot of energy. The Bradley only puts out 500 watts from the element and about an additional 125 watts from the bisquette burner. It will come back up to temperature, but the wattage is very low, and as you observed it will take much longer. Try air drying the wings, or any poultry with skin, in the refrigerator prior to smoking. This will dry out the skin somewhat, less moisture will be released, and it help with crispiness. Also this is one of the few times I will suggest you use a fully opened vent, at least during the early stages of the smoke.

As mentioned you can use a larger pan, but I don't. I empty, and refresh my bowl about every four hours. Sometimes during when I'm burning the bisquettes and using 4 hours of smoke I may empty the bowl a little earlier. The bisquettes in the bowl have a tendency to act like a wick, and cause the water to evaporate much faster. After that I find 4 hours is good enough, even when smoking/cooking cuts like shoulder and brisket. If you replace the bowl with a larger pan, you are adding a huge surface of water, that will evaporate and add more moisture to your cabinet. So you may want to consider that.

Your overall temperatures are good for a stock Bradley. It looks like you are taking the proper precautions to protect the smoker from the elements. In addition to using bricks as a heat sink, preheat the Bradley much higher than you plan to cook at. That way when you load the cabinet, and loose some heat, you are still starting at a higher temperature point. Many refill the bowl with hot water.

The below link includes several tips:
Bradley FAQ's



Thanks for the replies! I reviewed a lot on that FAQ page that helped clarify most of my questions. I have decided to go with the larger pan only because if I let it go past the 2 hour mark the wood will start to pile on top of each other, which is no good. Like I stated before, getting the thing up to temp without anything inside is not an issue, it's just the recovery time takes way too long. We'll see how next smoke goes and I'll keep tinkering.

Thanks again for the helpful info!