Richard S. wrote:The key devil is to only do it once and leave it be IMO, too much poking and prodding is a bad thing.
I would say you can't make a "One size fits all" rule about poking in that so much is dependent on: the coal, the stove/chimney combination, the state of your fire & many other variables. My rule, is that I only get aggressive with a portion of the fire at any one time & leave the other part relatively untouched to be done tomorrow. While I poke a mature fire down every time I shake down, I rarely have to do the aggressive side cleaning out at all.
Edit: It's such routine that I didn't fully explain myself above....As part of my normal, daily poking down, I always poke/rake the sides a bit as the shaker grates don't extend full over to them & therefore they need added, daily attention.(just a few pokes/twists is all you need break up the side ash)