How to Set Up a 24 h lasting Minion
Since the lighting of my first briquettes, I must confess my irresistible attraction to the issue of combustion’s length. While striving to be objective with myself and with you, I do not think I can give a real explanation of the reasons that pushed me to expect to exceed the limits achieved on previous time cooking. I believe that the origin of everything is the fact that despite being a lover of the Low & Slow from the first hour, I have stubbornly refused for years to do the “small step” and buy one smoker, trying faithful to squeeze to the last drop the resources of my Performer. Then when I finally decided to bring home a WSM47, the bumb has remained and the taste to let him pass every time the limit was one of many elements that made my (then) frequent Q Sessions so funny.
With the passage of time, test after test, I realized how with a few easy precautions you can take a simple WSM47 (or similar devices) to unexpected performance, without the need for any replacement of the set up. My record is 26 hours of permanence at a temperature of 110° C but without going to such extremes, I can safely say that 20 hours are easily available to everyone. Below I wanted to share what time has taught me, through a few simple general principles:
- The lower fans of a bullet smoker are able to take to the combustion chamber much more air than the amount that the device needs to maintain a Low&Slow temperature range. Consider in this sense, that my typical setup involves the WSM47 an open nozzle, one closed and the last only partially open. Now, you know that ring with pierced sides that is in on the combustion grate by default? It is for ensuring that the air circles around the fuel, favoring a more constant temperature maintenance. If we take for good an excess of available air, it is clear that an accessory which helps to make more air to get to the fuel is an unnecessary contradiction. My opinion is that the bullet smoker is to be used without a ring, further exploiting available space to hold a greater amount of fuel and so make the duration longer. The fear that I know is attacking you, that coal “plug” the air vents is absolutely unfounded, believe me.
- Many do not like to use the briquettes with Minion Method because coal during combustion gives off a much more pleasant aroma, with positive effects at their opinion the final result. I am of the view that the briquettes give a stability and continuity of operation is difficult to compare. My belief is that the best solution is a combination of briquettes and coal. The advantage is surely to take the positive aspects of both fuels but the real goal is another. Follow me well in reasoning: imagine you have three frozen steaks and you want to take them out of freezer. If you put the steaks each on a plate, they thaw earlier than in the case you left tem stacked one above the other, right? It is because the greater the mass and the larger the thermal inertia. Similarly, to maximize the performance of our Smoker, ideal for us would be to have a single block of coal that fills all the spaces of the brazier. The problem is that both the ovoid shape of briquettes that the irregularity of coal do not help in this sense, creating too many interstices between one piece and another. The need of making a virtue of necessity led me in time to take advantage of the typical heterogeneity of low quality coal , using for this purpose the smaller and dusty pieces as a gap between the briquettes, and the larger pieces as a hat.
• The volume of the water pan is definitely overkill if you’re not using it with water. People like me who with 2 kg of salt has all the moisture it needs and maybe even more, they find themself with a lot of unused space. Experience has taught me to exploit by inserting a heat accumulator which ensures stability and performance f the system. In this sense, a brick is perfect.
We proceed now with a practical demonstration in the field using a WSM 47. We will do a “no-load” test or without food inside that absorbs heat energy. This is something that will facilitate our task, so to compensate this, the conditions will be deliberately not the best: we will make a rather windy overnight, in which the temperatures come close to zero, and use very light, common charcoal, no hardwood lump charcoal I normally use.
We proceed with extreme Minion set up: as said, we remove the ring and position a first layer of briquettes on the combustion grate leaving a free space on one side, the size of the diameter of a chimney. We pay attention so that the space is formed next to the nozzle that will leave wide open. Now we take out from the bag the larger pieces of coal and keep them aside, then pour handfuls of smaller ones on the bed of briquettes up to saturate the free spaces. We proceed with a second layer of briquettes and then one of waste coal. Take finally the larger pieces that had kept aside and create one hat layer. If it is necessary, we saturate the free spaces in view with other waste coal. As a final step we light up 3/4 chimney of briquette and pour it into the space that we had created before.
Previously we had covered a foil brick, we had placed it in the water pan and had surrounded with 2 kg of salt. Now we need to position the middle section with the water pan in and the lid on the pot and wait for stabilization. In this specific case I probably waited too long and the temperature has raised to 122 ° C. I was therefore forced to close the slightly more open nozzle to bring the WSM to stabilize at 118 ° C.
It is 18.00 and starts un’overnight in which I will have to necessarily leave the WSM unguarded. The first moment I could go back in direct contact with the smoker is at 9:00 am the following morning finding it at 90° C. After a quick check of the fuel and have found that it is not even halfway through, I open the nozzle close to the start-up coals and within 20 minutes the temperature returns to 115 ° C.
Proceed to repeated periodic checks notincing an extremely stable temperature, anchored to 116° C, up to 14.00, when I decide to partially open the rear fan, left completely closed up to that moment, in order to allow air to more easily reach the brazier area farthest fom the start-up coals, where I presume the combustion is now reached. Immediately the temperature rises to about 120 ° C but with a slight intervention at the air fan it easily arranged, to 118 ° C. We are now to 21 hours continuously and the system is still responding well.
The hours pass without substantial changes, until 19.00 when I should leave the smoker unattended again and when I decided to stop the test believing it enough to prove our theorem. They spent 25 hours the temperature is still firmly settled to 115° C and by a quick inspection of the brazier is clear as still remains fuel for several hours. As I said, in this test the absence of food in the cooking chamber made us easily overcome my record of 26 hours. To do it with a full load of course you should equip with a more suitable coal but in any case, in any condition this system guarantee the continuity of 18-20 hours. Do you want to accept my challenge?