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Old 06-16-2006, 05:08 PM   #1
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The Stoker: first impressions

I got my Stoker today, and haven't yet installed it on my WSM, but I thought I'd post some "first impressions". The Naked Whiz did such a great job on the review of this unit that I don't think I could add much, if anything, to what is posted on his site.

The only difference between my Stoker and the one TNW reviewed is that mine came with the adaptor for a WSM. The best description I can give you is that it looks like a small stainless steel doggie water bowl.

The blower is mounted to the bottom, and the open "top" end sits against the body of the WSM. It is held on by a mounting bolt that goes into one of the three holes in the WSM vent. I haven't tried it to see how well it fits, and I wonder whether a gasket might be needed to prevent air leaks. Probably not, as the whole setup appears well thought-out, and if a gasket was needed, I'm sure there would be one.

As The Whiz noted, you have to mount the blower with the cable side up, so that the small, gravity operated damper can close when the blower isn't running.

The Stoker came with two short pieces of copper (or brass?) tubing that are designed to replace two of the WSM's grate mounting bolts, a la the Guru's "eyelets", so that you can run the probe wires into the WSM instead of routing them under the lid. Each piece of tubing is flared on one end, and comes with two stainless steel collars that attach to it via set-screws (one collar inside the WSM, and the other outside).

The Guru eyelet, in my opinion, is a more elegant approach, but the Stoker's gadget can easily be removed at any time, just by using an Allen wrench (which they thoughtfully provide). Since I've already installed two Guru eyelets in my WSM, I won't need to install the Stoker ones.

As you can see from The Whiz's photo of the temperature probes,

the "fire probe" is attached to a metal clip. You have to detach the clip from the probe, and remove the silicone sleeve, to route the probe through the eyelet; this is easy to do. NOTE: the silicone sleeve that covers the attachment between the probe and its cable DOES NOT appear to be removable. Because of this sleeve, I could only get one probe through each Guru eyelet. Since there are two eyelets, and two probes, that isn't a problem. If I decide to add more probes later on, I still have the Stoker eyelets in reserve.

Setting up the unit isn't really difficult, but it did take some time to get used to moving through the menus. The Whiz mentions that the temperature probes are calibrated at the factory, which is true. But as far as I could tell, the controller does not automatically "read" the calibration data for the probe - that is one of the entries you make when you set up the unit. The unique ID numbers for the two probes were listed in the back of my user's manual, along with the calibration value (which happened to be 38 for both probes). I had to change the value in the controller (which was 37) manually.

I'm looking forward to using the Stoker - probably for my first overnight cook - in the next week or so. :happyd:
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Old 06-16-2006, 05:18 PM   #2
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Good report. I read somewhere else about the one probe per eyelet too. Too bad about that. I can get 2 Nu-Temp probes through one eyelet and if I insert one of the Guru's probes 1st, I can get 3. Can't wait to see the pics!
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:42 PM   #3
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First cook underway.

I cooked 4 beer-butt chickens on the WSM this morning. I set the Stoker for a cook temp of 275, but it never got much above 250 - probably due to the way I fired the WSM up (one el-cheapo chimney of lit lump on top of a full ring of lump). I think if I had put the lit lump in first, then poured unlit on top, the fire could have progressed more quickly and evenly. I'll do it that way next time.

The Stoker seemed to work perfectly, except that the alarm kept going off - I assumed it was the "low temp" alarm which I originally had set to 250. I reset it to 230, but even though the temp was well above 230, the alarm still went off. I finally chose "No Alarm" - I'll have to reread the instructions and play with the controller some more to be sure I'm doing it right.

When the blower is running, the WSM puts out quite a bit of smoke:

Because there's a chance of rain today, and the Stoker is not waterproof, I used aluminum foil to make a "tent" over the blower (being careful not to interfere with the air flow). I may make something a little more substantial for future use.

One mod I am trying for the first time: I took the WSM water pan and attached it on top of my ECB charcoal/water pan, with a gap of about 1" around the perimeter between the two pans. Both are empty - and apparently this is working, because there's no greasy smoke from burning chicken fat. When the birds were done and I opened the WSM, the grease in the pan was sizzling, but not burning. This arrangement apparently keeps the WSM pan cool enough to collect the drippings without any flareups. This may come in handy when cooking pork butts (of which I bought 4 yesterday at 99 cents per pound); I've seen several competition cooks who mix some drippings back into the pork after it's pulled.

Here are the finished chickens - they look pretty good to me. I'll know more after I've sampled one... the others will be quartered, vacuum sealed, and frozen for later.
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:48 PM   #4
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Keep us updated Larry. We want to know how it works for you.
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Old 06-25-2006, 02:36 PM   #5
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Chix look great! Thanks for the report. Brian, the Guru works pretty much the same way ~ Once the pit gets to temp, the controller will only pulse the fan as needed to keep the pit temp where you set it.
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Old 06-25-2006, 03:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brian j
thanks for the report. so even though your temp never got above 250 the fan wasn't blowing the entire time?
If I remember correctly it did run continuously at first, when the temp was way below target, but eventually it cycled on for a short time, then off for a short time. To be honest, I wasn't watching it full-time. I just went outside and checked on the temp every 10 minutes or so, just to see if it was getting close to 275. It's possible that I didn't successfully set the temp to 275 - I had had it set at 250 in anticipation of doing butts for the first cook. If that's the case, then the unit worked perfectly. Next time I'll start earlier and give myself more time to set the unit up, and I'll probably let the fire get going a little better before turning the process over to the Stoker.
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Old 06-25-2006, 04:02 PM   #7
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Re: First cook underway.

Larry those chicks look great , making me hungery right now!! LOL
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:35 PM   #8
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Looks great Larry! Nice birds and great idea on the rain shield. When I use the guru (which is all the time), I set the temp below my target temp for the first 1/2 hour. After 1/2 hour I raise it to my target temp. It takes time for the temps to stabilize and this way it doesn't go over the target temp.
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:43 PM   #9
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Chickens are my favorite.
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Old 06-25-2006, 07:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Prochilo
When I use the guru (which is all the time), I set the temp below my target temp for the first 1/2 hour. After 1/2 hour I raise it to my target temp. It takes time for the temps to stabilize and this way it doesn't go over the target temp.
That makes sense. I'll do that next time.

BTW, the chicken was as good as I've ever cooked. I only put salt and pepper on the outside, and used a few chunks of maple wood for smoke. It turned out moist, tender, and with just enough smoke flavor.
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