Charcoal ash choking my fire

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by mcbobs, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. Hi guys. I've been a lurker on here for quite awhile now just soaking up new information, but I finally have a question of my own that I haven't really found an answer to yet. 

    I currently use a Charbroil offset smoker as my go to smoker and use a combination of wood chunks and hickory charcoal briquettes. After awhile, the ash from the charcoal begins falling through the grate to the bottom of my firebox and on long smokes, it really starts to build up and doesn't allow air through to keep the fire going. I find that it makes it incredibly hard to maintain temperatures and really begins to extend my already long smoke times. Being that on top of the grate is hot charcoal and wood chunks, I can't exactly take it off to clear out ash underneath. The only thing I've been able to do that helps at all is to take a long 2" wood dowel through the side door to push the ash up against the side to allow air to begin flowing again. This only works temporarily though because after awhile, there is so much ash I don't have any more room to push it to.

    I guess my question is if anyone has any grand ideas that might allow me to take better control of my ash and more importantly, keep the fire burning hot.

    Thanks for any help!
  2. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I am going to hang with ya...if I see what they guys say about this.  Hmmmm.....was reading about that the other day in a cook book but there was not an answer with the exception of clean the ash out.

    Kat [​IMG]
  3. All I know is that it is a real pain in the butt and I can't seem to figure anything out except to brave the heat and remove as much as I can! I've singed my hairy knuckles more than once now! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Does it have firebox door on the end of the firebox? Do you use a charcoal basket? If so I'd raise the charcoal basket a couple inches off the bottom and insert a removable ash pan. Open the door slide the ash pan out, dump, put it back in. If there isn't a door I'd be cutting one!!
  5. piaconis

    piaconis Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Mcbobs, I have a Brinkmann Trailmaster Limited Edition offset.  It is similar to your smoker.  I've done two things to mitigate the ash build up problem.  First, I built a charcoal basket to hold my charcoal. Not only does it increase my capacity, but it elevates the charcoal and keeps it out of the ash.  Second, I only use charcoal briquettes to line the bottom of the basket, and for the chimney starter.  Otherwise, I only use lump charcoal and wood chunks.  What I have found is that the standard cheap briquettes (such as Kingsford) leaves a lot of dense ash behind.  This tends to gum up the works a bit.

    Here are a couple of links on charcoal baskets:

    Here's a pic of my setup in action:

    Hope this helps.
  6. We have a pellet stove and have an ash vac. Might add some metal pipe with some holes on top to reduce the power and pull out ash that wat. @@@@ MUST be ash vac not shop vac. @@@@@ Ash vac will take hot coals and has metal tubing. Was what I was going to try. If I can sneak wife's ash vac out to smoker she's not using it in the summer right :). New they can be high
  7. I just sold a smoker very similar to yours.  To compound your problem that cheap thin fire grate starts to sag from the heat making the gap even smaller.  I used that fire grate as a pattern and built one from 1/2" concrete reinforcing steel ( rebar ).  No more sag and if you build it slightly wider it raises the coals a little more.  A charcoal basket will also work.  Now for the ash.  Go to a local hardware and buy a cheap garden trowel (small little shovel ) and a galvanized metal planter box.  just a small one.  Remove the wooden handle from the trowel and weld a 2 - 21/2' piece of that rebar to the trowel.  Now you can gently scoop the ash out and stay away from the heat, no burns and no ash flying all over your meat.  Dump the hot ash into planter box to cool.  I sit the planter box on a brick or 2x4 scrap to avoid burning the grass.  Whole thing cost me less than $20.  Hope this helps.  Keep Smokin!

  8. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    McBobs, Hello to the Family. You sound a little Preturbed. No worry. Find a piece of metal (doesn't have to be real thick-light Ga. will do). Have it as wide as the FB without hanging-up (slides in / out well) if the FB is round, bend it slowly to almost fit the curvature of the FB and place it in the very bottom to catch ashes. Leave a small tab on the front side so you can grab it with a gloved hane (or pliers) and pull-out to empty in your Ash bucket. You have one don't you?

    Keep this ash and use it in your garden to increase the health of you plants...[​IMG]  .

    You should have no problem with air. You still can't get enough air. Make some holes above the fire(fuel) rack and even with the throat of your FB door. This will allow more air to flow through the Smoker , creating a better flow and control of the heat/smoke.
  9. This all sounds like a really good idea! The garden trowel I might even be able to rig up before I get the smoker rolling tomorrow morning. Sounds like I just need to do a little modification to get some problems fixed and I should be good to go!
  10. jpayer

    jpayer Fire Starter

    hey Mcbobs, Ive also had problems with too much ash. One thing i did was switch to lump charcoal instead of briquettes. It burns down with far less ash than briquettes. good luck
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  11. jerseydrew

    jerseydrew Smoking Fanatic

    first try a better charcoal. if the smoke is long enough it will eventually happen anyway. you can start by raising the charcoal with a basket. or you can just get a small shovel and a metal ash bucket and just scoop it out when needed. aside from that you are going to have to modify!
  12. I would like to add my .02 cents. 

    There have been many great ideas on here so far. I use a shovel thingy to pull ash out myself.

    But The addition of a charcoal\lump coal basket and lowering the exhaust pipe to grill level has been the biggest improvements so far.

    My cooking temps are higher, control of temp is better. I am using less fuel. less ash.

    I just completed this past weekend a 15 hour smoke. which included 2 8lb butts and 9 racks of ribs. Family and friends were impressed and completely satisfied. I had many of the same problems you are having before those mods. happy smoking

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