Obsessing over pit temps?
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Thread: Obsessing over pit temps?

  1. #1
    Administrator Big Poppa's Avatar
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    Obsessing over pit temps?

    OK one of the first things that happens to a pellet cooker is that they become temp freaks. Obsessed with pit temp. Unlike the old days of smoking where there wasn't even a temp dial we now have digital readouts, secondary digital pit probes with remotes,Taylor oven thermometers to give a third opinion... at that point and only at that point can they possibly cook good bbq. It's so hard to explain that the readouts on most pellet cookers use an algorithm to give you an average or monitor one spot of the pit and report that.

    That being said they have lived their life with an oven at home that has swings that are crazy.... They just never knew it because Mom or whomever cooked was busy with food and not thermometers. It is the nature of heating a small box to sometimes ten times the outdoor ambient temp...even with insulation the heat has to drop to bring the temp up....Think about it...if you set your oven to 325 and added heat you would be hotter than 325. Heat is as hot as the source...your oven doesn't make 325 degree heat. The temp has to drop to kick in the new heat. Now lets take a smoker....you have add fuel to create smoke...either by adding pellets or controlling your draft and constantly burning a larger fuel source (logs, charcoal, and all that stuff)

    Many of you either started on Traegers or still cook on them. Their temp swings are legendary. They still turn out great food though. MAK and Memphis and others have much, much smaller temp swings but they are a fact of heating a small box. Also remember to make smoke you have to make fire. This isn't a cop out...read the article below.

    The moral to the story.... The most important temp is the temp of your product on the smoker/grill. As long as during a long cook you are averaging your desired cooking temp. The great cooks feel the food...smell, look, touch, sound...this is also why I always suggest to know your pit. The biscuit test is the best still. If you are still unsure please use a thermometer for the food...that is the only one you should be concerned with...I can cook without a thermometer in the food but I always use one...why not follow what your food is doing and take the guess work out of it?

    Tom Colicchio the great chef in his first book explains cooking on a stove top with a skillet that one should listen to his/her pan... generally speaking it shouldn't be whispering...nor yelling. That was the best advice I ever learned after 25 years of cooking. Obviously a simmer is a whisper, frying is yelling.

    I found this article on Slate....it explains it brilliantly
    Bake at 350 degrees? Oven temperature is uncontrollable, and we should stop trying to micromanage it. - Slate Magazine

  2. #2
    Senior Member SmokinSteiny's Avatar
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    SO......... I shouldn't look at buying a MAK 2 Star General from BPS to replace my Traeger Deluxe BBQ 300, I should just suck it up and accept the 20-30 degree temp swings??????????
    MAK 2 Star General #1169
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  3. #3
    Administrator Big Poppa's Avatar
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    not at all...Just once and for all explaining ovens and smokers! The mak and memphis swings are much less than a traeger and they get hotter!

  4. #4

    Temp Swings

    Check the swings here


    These are from a Viking oven set at 250
    MAK Grills ,BPS Drum Smoker, Ole Hickory Pits Ace BP, Hasty Bake Legacy KCBS CBJ

  5. #5
    Senior Member SmokinSteiny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Poppa View Post
    not at all...Just once and for all explaining ovens and smokers! The mak and memphis swings are much less than a traeger and they get hotter!
    Alrighty then! Just checking I figured that's what you'd say! lol
    MAK 2 Star General #1169
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    *Upper Half Grate x2
    *Sear Grate
    Uuni Pellet Pizza Oven, coming soon!
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  6. #6
    Senior Member muebe's Avatar
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    I work with ovens everyday. It is part of my job and what I have been trained for. So I have a bit of knowledge on this subject.

    Most of your ovens around today use on/off thermostats and rely on "average" temps. If you take the highest and lowest swing in temp then add those two numbers together and divide by two that will give you your "average" temp. If you were to sit and watch a fluke reading the temp changes in your oven you would think there is something wrong. But this is normal and how they work. I have customers who will put a oven thermometer in there and then complain it is not accurate.

    The older ovens with a constant pilot used a modulating thermostat like I have in my gas smoker. These ovens can keep a constant temp. The capillary tube is filled with fluid that expands when heated. As the oven gets closer to your set temperature the modulating thermostat will continue to reduce the size of the flame until it reaches the set temp. These thermostats are also used in many commercial ovens for restaurants because they offer very even temps and consistent cooking results.

    When electronic ignition came into play and there were no longer standing pilots the modulating thermostats went bye-bye.

    Electric ovens also have swings because of the slow cooling and heating of the electric element. Electric ovens that have a PID controller can keep temps with 1 degree because the thermostat is "smart" and knows how fast the element can heat the cabinet and will throttle power to the element to keep a constant temp. However those are usually specialized ovens(I have a PID on my Bradley) in manufacturing where very accurate temps are critical.

    And it is very important to pre-heat newer ovens...

    I had a customer that complained her new oven needs to be calibrated because she has burned several trays of brownies. I asked her did she wait until the oven was pre-heated before putting the brownies into the oven and she said yes. So I placed the thermocouple from the fluke meter on the rack and started the oven. After 12 minutes the oven ramped up to 485F and then to my surprise the oven controller beeped indicating the oven was pre-heated. The digital display on the oven showed it was at 350F but that was not the true temp. It took another 15 minutes for the oven to finally level off to reach an average of 349F. So the lady was placing a tray of brownies in a 485F oven and that explained why her brownies were burned. It was not out of calibration just the way the oven operated.

    So the old saying "know your pit" can also apply to your home oven.
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  7. #7
    Administrator Big Poppa's Avatar
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    Muebe thanks so much very informative!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Trooper's Avatar
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    Thanks for the writing BP.
    In the past I have found myself being too much of a "temp/freak"
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  9. #9
    I'm absolutely ADD and obsessive compulsive so count me in as a temp watcher.
    So hard not to foil the inside to keep it clean but I'm resisting Big Poppa!
    I know I'm wigging about the temps as well but as an engineer I do understand it.
    I think when they give you the ability to have a roaming probe it will ease people who are temp watchers

    I also heard a Mak rep say that the new cover plate design does run hotter in the middle of the unit than the other design. He was also working on a 1 piece large cover plate.
    Only question is if you really want to keep it around a certain temp like 225 where do you set it?
    Mine seems real stable with fluctuations no greater than 5degrees but runs about 35 degrees hotter on the upper grill according to the readi check when set at 200, the mak grill temp is very close 195~200. I did clean off the probe as well.
    So for 225 I set it to 200 and it seems pretty solid around 235. This should be fine for my 6 hour baby back ribs, yes wife insists on fall off the bone ! So I'm thinking this is pretty normal? 4 hours to go!
    Last edited by BigSuhr; 09-30-2012 at 01:44 PM.

  10. #10
    Administrator Big Poppa's Avatar
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    yes John....you will be fine. WE have a long theromouple for comp and put it exatly below the fook we are cooking and I still sometime omonitor it with a maverick and ride the thermostat.

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