One or more of the following issues can affect the temperature of the cooker.
Elevation Setting Correct?
Be sure the air intake setting is at the proper opening based on your elevation. If the intake is opened more than suggested the coals will burn hotter.
Lid Seating Properly?
Be sure the lid sits down all the way around the top of the barrel. The more air escaping from the top, the hotter the barrel will be.
Brand New Barrel House
There is a slight chance a brand new cooker may run hotter for the first cook due to the porcelain coating. If you experience this, the food will still turn out great. The cooker will become seasoned, which will bring the temperature down on subsequent cooks.
Thermometer Working Properly?
Thermometers can go bad. See more information on replacing a bad thermometer.
Direct Sun and Hot Days
Ambient temperatures affect the cooking temperature of the barrel cooker. The results will be the same, but the timing will be a little different. For more consistent times, keep the barrel cooker in the shade on hot days, and in the sun on colder days. The wind may also affect the cooking temperature by cooling the barrel down. The effect of weather is not overly dramatic but does play a part in the cooking temperature.
Wind Blowing Air to Coals
The cooking temperature will increase if air is being forced through the bottom intake holes. Turn the barrel cooker away from the wind, set up a wind block, or place barrel in a sheltered area.
The Process: What the Cooker Does
Temperature Naturally Rises during a Cook
As meat heats up, the ambient temperature in the barrel usually increases. Less energy is being used to cook the meat so the air gets hotter. If the temperature goes beyond the cooking range there may be other factors to consider.
It is normal to see spikes in the temperature. Spikes usually calm down within 30 minutes. Some of the reasons for temperature spikes are:
- As briquettes burn, they ash and become smaller causing them to rearrange and make hot spots.
- There may be a temporary hot spot from grease or a wood chip.
- Opening the lid, no matter how little or quick, introduces air into the system and the coals heat up.
Probe Temperature Varies
During the cooking process the temperature within the barrel fluctuates, but the end result is a consistent cook top to bottom. At times throughout the cook, it is hotter toward the middle and other times toward the top. This is normal as the meat heats up, as coals breakdown, and air moves.
The Process: What You Do
Keep the Lid Closed
Try to limit opening the cooker when necessary to check the meat, add smoke wood, or to add/remove a side dish. The additional air let into the cooker raises the temperature and can change the cooking dynamics.
Some Fuels Burn Hotter
Some charcoal brands and types burn hotter. For instance, lump coal has the reputation of producing more heat than briquette coal. Consider an alternative product such as Kingsford Original or similar.
What Not to Do
NEVER pour water over hot coals in the cooker. The result will be meat coated in ash, temperature cooled too low, and it may crack the porcelain finish.