Continued from page 2
Over time, the fire grate will become weak and unable to support the weight of the wood/charcoal. It is then time to have it replaced for effective use. Don't forget the top of the firebox - Lid Closed Position ... It is an excellent location for a pot of beans, coffee pot or any other item needing to be heated or cooked while at the same time remaining smoke-free. Exercise care however . . . . . . you will find the temperature is extremely hot at this location.
The Cooking Chamber
The cooking chamber is the closed body of the smoker where the heat is presented to the meat! It is here that you will be doing your cooking. There is a door for easy access and inside a cooking grate for the meat. The meat is placed on the cooking grate which is usually located vertically in the middle of the chamber. Most cooks will place the meat on the grate at the far end from the fire so as to maximize the indirect cooking effect. It also helps when the temperature varies due to adding more coals/charcoal. The temperatures at the far end are more even.
The cooking chamber receives heat and smoke from the firebox just after the baffle. It allows the smoke to be circulated over, under and around the meat thus introducing a smoky flavor to the meat being barbecued.
Make sure there is sufficient clearance for the heat/smoke to circulate around the meat. There should be at least 2 inches of clearance between the meat and the inside wall of the cooking chamber. Having such distance allows for even air flow and prevents excess radiant heat from the surface of the cooking chamber.
The cooking chamber thermometer should be situated in the lid or attached to the chamber at a vertical location equal to the cooking grate. It should not be 6 plus inches above the cooking grate. Heat rises, that's a given. If the thermometer is greater than just a couple of inches, then it will be indicating a chamber temperature HIGHER than that where the meat is actually being cooked. The variation can range in excess of 50 degrees.
A key factor is that the cooking chamber should be large enough to handle all of the barbecuing necessary for a large party. What would be a large party? While everything is relative, 2 turkeys, 3 to 4 briskets and/or 10 to 15 chickens would certainly qualify. You know better the qualifications.
Unless you are using a small smoker, the cooking chamber generally has 2 cooking surfaces. The main surface is located in the middle [from top to bottom], at the widest portion of the cooking chamber. It is here, in this lower portion of the cooking chamber, that most of the cooking is accomplished.
There is usually a second cooking level located above the main surface which is ideal for potatoes or bread, etc. The temperature at this second, or upper, level will be about 50 to 70 degrees HOTTER that at the primary level.
Some smokers will utilizing a water system, the bottom of the cooking chamber [below the main cooking surface] is filled with water. The introduction of water to the cooking chamber provides a "water smoker effect" which is discussed on the "Let's Get Started Page".
Continued on page 4