Bradley Smokers > The Digital Smokers (BTDS76P & BTDS108P)

Digital Smoker challenged to reach 220 degrees when all 4 racks full

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BBQ Bart:
Hi Bradley Smoker folks,

I've had my Digital 4 rack smoker for along time (over a decade I believe). I've also got the Auber Pid that I love. Most of the time when I'm making baby backs, I get 1 package from Costco that contains 3 racks of ribs. To get them to fit well onto the Bradley wire racks, I typically cut the racks of ribs in half, and so I can fit 3 half racks of ribs on one wire rack. This works well as long as I only use 2 wire racks (and 3 racks of ribs) at a time. However, as I've discovered, if I load up my smoker with 6 full racks of ribs (12 half racks), my smoker cannot get up to full temp of 220. degrees. It maxes out at about 170 degrees. FYI, I mount my temp probes (I have one for the Auber and one for the Maverick) hanging in between the middle racks. I'm curious if others have had similar experiences and how do you resolve this?

Smoker Bart

Several different ways to approach this issue. It’s not uncommon for the 500 watt element to struggle with that amount of meat and bone.
Best option is to install a second element and thus problem will be gone.
Are you allowing the racks to come up to ambient temperature on the counter before putting in the smoker? Doing so can help with reaching desired cook temp. You can also put boiling water in your bowl which doesn’t hurt getting temp.
You could preheat the ribs in your oven . All that bone will take a long time to heat with 500 watts.
Your element could be getting old and simply not heating like it should. A resistance check using an Ohmmeter will give you an idea of its condition. I believe you’re looking for about 32 ohms.

The real fix is a second element which isn’t hard to do and you’ll never look back.

Habanero Smoker:
Costco does sell good quality ribs. But getting to your question  - Yes, I've had similar experiences! With a 500 watt element that isn't efficient to bring the cabinet temperature up fast.

The location of your probes is important. If they are in between racks, and/or very near the meat they are going to give off  lower reading than other areas of the cabinet. That is because moisture evaporating from the meat will drop the air temperature near the meat.

Some additional information. Larger loads take longer recovery times, and produces a lot more moisture. Make sure your vent is open 3/4 - fully open, at least during the first half of the cook.

Very interesting points guys, I was just wondering where would be the best place to put my temperature probe? I have a PID and my probe is located between the bottom 2 racks towards the rear of my digital 6 rack smoker. I seldom use the bottom rack and leave it empty, but when I do use it I adjust my probe below the bottom rack just above the v-rack. I've noticed that the PID temperature reading and the temperature on the Smoke Generator don't always jive and use the PID temperature as the true reading.

Habanero Smoker:
My pit probes have alligator clips, so I fasten a probe on the bottom railing towards the front of the cabinet. If I am using the bottom rack, I will attach it to the rack towards the front of the rack and as far away from the meat as possible. That is where the highest temperature will be, and it helps prevent me from over cooking the bottom rack (though I do rotate when I have multiple racks). But you can use what placement works best for you, just keep in mind the bottom rack will be receiving the most heat. For example BBQ Bart was getting a reading of 170°F between rack, but it may have been 200°F or higher if the probe was placed below the bottom rack.

BBQ Bart;
With the PID probe in between racks, try placing the Maverick probe below the bottom rack and compare the two readings.


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