Wow, I thought I had documented this but realized that I hadn't. I've been asked this question a few times, and it's one of the most common questions asked over on the Backwoods Forum. Nonetheless, it's worth covering for the pursposed of the readers here on GrllandBarrel.com.
Here are the steps that I follow:
- Load 'er up! I won't get into the benefits of briquettes vs. lump in this post, but suffice to say that I burn briquettes only in my Backwoods smoker(s). That's right, just the plain 'ol blue bag from the good folks at Kingsford. I find I get a much more consistent and longer burn (in this cooker) with briquettes.
- Open both sliding vents and the top vent completely. Top door shoudl be copletely closed.
- I light the charcoal with a MAPP Gas Torch in the right front corner of the charcoal pan. There are lots of ways to light the charcoal, but I find that a torch held in one spot for 60 seconds or so is enough to get it going.
- I then shut the firebox door, but I do not latch it. This leaves it slightly ajar and allows for more air flow.
- I leave it like this until the temperature reaches 200 degrees. This can take 30-45 minutes.
- Then I add water to the water pan, shut the left rear vent completely, close the firebox door, and close the right front vent 1/2 way.
- If you're adding wood chips or chunks, do it now.
- In this configuration, the smoker will be completely up to temp in 60-75 minutes.
A couple of thins to note. My Pro Jr takes longer to come up to temp than my Fatboy used to, but that's to be expected given that it's much larger. Additionally on the Pro Jr, I close the exhaust vent 3/4 of the way to maintain cooking temps at ~250 degrees. With the Fatboy, I left the exhaust wide open at all times.
That's how I do it. But there are debates about adding water before lighting, type of charcoal, source of ignition, etc. Find what works for you and stick with it. It's important that you get some kind of routine down that's repeatable, even if it isn't this one. That way, you'll be able to plan for start times when you cook.
Hope this helps a few Backwoods owners!