4 rack digital heating problems

Started by Jackwraith, December 29, 2017, 12:26:38 PM

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I'm using the smoker for the first time and haven't been able to get it above 203 degrees. I have a couple racks of ribs that I was intending to smoke for 6 hours at 250, but haven't been able to do that. One problem might be the outside temperature, which is only 20 degrees (I'm in Michigan) but it strikes me as odd that I can't even get the bottom temperature past 200 and, of course, the top rack temp is about 20 degrees cooler than that (using a digital thermometer to test.)

The power cords are all seated properly and seem to be functioning normally. When I look at the element itself, the middle 3/5 is a muted red and the 1/5 at either end are gray. Does that sound like an element that's working correctly? I have the temp turned all the way up to 320, but still can't get past ~200.

Thanks for any input.


some thoughts:
1) Is your vent open or closed? It may seem counterproductive but I keep mine wide open. Otherwise moisture can build up.
2) Is your Bradley protected from the wind?
3) Do you pre-heat before you put the meat in?
4) Do you start with hot/boiling water in the water bowl ?

The above helps get to temp and to stay there.
"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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Jack, your heating element is working correctly. Your description matches how mine operates.

The temp variation between the bottom and top of the smoker that you observed is normal.

The Bradley is designed as a low and slow smoker.  As such, the max temp is about 275F or so.  The actual max temp appears to vary from smoker to smoker.  But, the temp limiting devices seem to prevent most smokers from going above 300F.  I find I do most of my smoking between 225F and 250F.  What doesn't get smoked in this range is smoked at lower temps (think cheese).

Gus' suggestions are on point.  The only thing I can add for a quick fix is to insulate the smoker a bit.  When in your situation, I have had good luck using a cardboard box to wrap three sides of the smoker.  A couple of layers should help significantly.

Since I live on the edge of the Sierra Mountains, I often smoke in low temperatures.  Add a Tim Taylor personality, and you know I have done things to make cold weather smoking less challenging.  The first was a smoker shed to house my smoker.  I did this to get the smoker out of the garage and to keep the smoker set up and in ready to use condition.  But, it also protects the smoker from our near constant breezes.  Being impatient, I added a second heating element and a PID.  The heating element to improve heat recovery and the PID to handle the extra power draw and to provide  tight temp control for smoking fish and sausage.

Keep at it.  As you gain experience, you're going to become the neighborhood Smokehouse Hero.


Thanks, both of you.

Gus, my vent was wide open, as I'd read about it improving the humidity in the smoker and avoiding ending up with the smoke adding too much bitterness to the food. I did pre-heat the oven (again, it never got to the temperature I was seeking) but the water was room temperature and I didn't have any wind protection, so I'll give those a try next time. We didn't have much wind that day and it was sitting in the sun, which I'd hoped might ease the ambient temperature effects, but apparently not.

Thanks for the insulation suggestions, tskeeter. I think I'll save the cardboard from the box it came in and see if I can put together a three-faced "slip" of sorts that I can put around it when it's in use.

As the happy ending to the story, even though the oven never got to temperature, the ribs actually turned out well after six hours. They had decent bark on the them and were still moist, even though I stopped mopping in an effort to maintain temperature. Since they were cooking at such a low temp, I think it saved them from the drying effect that a higher temp would have generated. So the three other consumers in my house raved about them. Stumbled into success? I'll keep working with it. A shoulder is the next planned attempt, which will definitely need a higher temp, so I'll see if the insulation will get me there. Thanks, again.


Quote from: Jackwraith on December 31, 2017, 10:44:03 AMA shoulder is the next planned attempt, which will definitely need a higher temp, so I'll see if the insulation will get me there. Thanks, again.

You said that yours would go above 200.  I smoke shoulders at 210, used to do them at 225.  They seem to be more tender when I cook them at the lower temp.

Anyhow, on the insulation, some people have modified a water heater blanket and attached it to the sides of their Bradley.  They said it helped.

Habanero Smoker

It is correct that too much moisture build up within the cabinet can bring your temperatures down, but if you vent is wide open you may be at a point where you are letting too much heat escape; which is also counterproductive. If the cabinet is struggling to produce heat, you have to find the "sweet spot", where enough moisture is escaping to prevent condensation (moisture buildup) inside the smoker, and you are not allowing too much heat to escape.

If you haven't modified your Bradley, and you are still running with one element - try playing with your vent opening. It's easy to do, and you will see the results of the adjustment within minutes. Start with it fully open, then in slow increment; such as 1/8 of a turn each time. Then watch if you cabinet temperature is either going up or down. According to what the temperature response it, set you vent accordingly.