Tony B, no problem with the hard, level surface. I did a big batch of babyback ribs yesterday, specifically to pay attention to the ramping up of the heat and keeping the heat low, around 225*. The ramping up went quite slow as I did not want to, again, overshoot the goal and then be unable to effectively bring the KK down to the desired temperature. So if anything, the ribs were relatively under-cooked for the first hour.
I also decided to experiment with just straightforward cooking for four hours, instead of using the 2/1/1 method. So while the ribs finished around 225-240*, they were cooking at a lower heat initially. In the first photo, the ribs are covered with the rub and ready to go in the smoker. I forgot to take "after" pictures until they were already plated, but you can see the two angles that the ribs were nicely cooked. I do think that the 2/1/1 method produces slightly more moist and tender than a straight four-hour cook as you see on the plate. However, they were not dry and not tough- good "tooth" feel.
One thing I did nearly by accident was a VERY good rub application: I was using my favorite Dizzy Pig rubs and I had about 1/4 of a bottle of of Jamaican Firewalk that needed to be used up- I mixed that 50/50 some Dizzy Dust. AS you can well imagine, the Firewalk has a significant presence of scotch bonnet (habanero) pepper. It really popped up the flavor of the ribs and married beautifully with the smoke and sweet pork. HIGHLY recommended. (We had some potato salad and coleslaw left over from the weekend...it was an easy and delicious meal.)
Most of the temperature control is by the top vent. The lower vents don't have much impact, as long as you don't starve the fire. What the lower vent does impact is the amount of charcoal that is burning. The KK is super efficient once heat soaked, so you can dial back the lower vent to conserve fuel.
Hello, I have cooked those same ribs for 8 hours at 250 F, the trick is to open only the part of the circles below the second smallest, once the coals are lit, above it opens to 1/2 for fluidity on the smoke
Dave H, did you see the latest post from Dennis?
My mantra is Temp is Airflow. If it's not leaving the grill it's not going thru the charcoal. There are no mysteries here, charcoal always burns at the maximum volume for the allowed airflow. I suggest making smaller adjustments after the grill is heat soaked. There are many factors but remember that hot air exiting the grill creates vacuum, this vacuum grows as the volume of burning charcoal increases. It's like having a little built in blower. I use the large pencil hole for everything except high temps which I pull the door open or open the half dial all the way. Other than that going in I only use the top damper.
Another problem is that different grills have different diameter damper top chimneys so what's 1 turn on the 23" is less on the 32. Before you follow too closely settings on posts here on the forum best to keep in mind or know what grill the person is cooking on. The size of the charcoal and resistance it creates is also a factor.
Another odd ball thing to check. Is your KK on a solid surface (patio) or one with a bit of flex (deck)? Mine is on a deck and I discovered that when walking around the grill the flex/bounce will cause the top vent to move enough to mess with the temperature. Others have seen this, too. Fit is simple. Get a spring and put it on the shaft of the top vent between the spider and the top vent to apply slight pressure/resistance to help stabilize the top vent. It doesn't take a stiff spring for this. Something akin to the spring in the toilet paper holder. They last a couple of seasons and then just replace them.