charcoal to wood in small offset smoker

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by kapangaluc, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. Hi all,

    I am new to smoking meats. I bought a small offset smoker (Charbroil 430, not decided on investing on big one yet! I cook for my wife and son only) recently and cooked a 6 lb pork shoulder using charcoal briquets and hickory chunks. I was ok with the results. However, ash built up and choked the fire in the end and meat didnt reach 190-200 IT. It ended up being sliced and not pulled pork.

    I am smoking a brisket (or will try to) this weekend so I am thinking of using only lump charcoal and wood chunks. Or should I do all wood? May raise the lower grate to improve airflow?

    Also, if I wanted to replace this smoker with a better one of similar size, what do you recomend?

    Thanks a lot.
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Your choice of smoker requires some heavy modification to become less than aggravating. I would seriously suggest more practice at fire and temp management before spending the big bucks on a brisket. They can be tricky and frustrating and you don't want to be disappointed and frustrated before you get the hang of smoking. . Yes raising the fire grate and using lump helps with a small hotter fire. Pure Stick Burning is a whole Art in itself and requires a Tight firebox to burn clean and efficiently. You want to start a small fire and using the air damper, control it until the desired temp is reached, Start damper wide open. When you reach temp, toss on a chunk of smoke wood and close the damper most of the way to maintain temp, opening if temp starts dropping. It is easier to make more heat than it is to choke down a huge fire. Chicken Quarters are cheap, are forgiving and good for practice. If you have to have Beef, a Chuck Roast is much cheaper and is tasty Pulled. If dry or tough, Chuck can easily be made into Chili or Taco meat.

    If you are handy with tools, any offset can be made to work, the heavier the metal and construction the more efficient they are. Oklahoma Joe's are a step up and Yoder's are very nice. You may find building an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) is to your liking. If you want to buy a great smoker that works well out of the Box, no mods needed. The Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) series is very popular. Then there are electrics, gassers and pellet smokers to choose from...JJ
  3. Thanks Chef Jimmy J. I'll think about my choice of meat then. I may go for a cheaper cut, Wife wants brisket though!

    Unfortunately I dont have many tools. So, how can I raise the grate? Small bricks?

    I read tha lump charcoal can be added unlit to the burning fire w/o generating a lot a smoke or decreasing temps. Is that accurate?

    Regarding the smoker, I think I like the offset. I really like being outside tending the fire (I am originally from Argentina), and the challenge the whole process represents. Other comment and suggestions are very welcome. Thanks. 
  4. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I don't know anything about your particular smoker. However, as far as fire is concerned, I may be able to share some thoughts. You may be able to raise your fire grate by turning it 90*. That may give you some more air under it. If not, put a couple of bricks or a couple pieces of angle iron under it.

    I put about 1/2 to 2/3 basket of Royal Oak lump in my charcoal basket with a valley in the center. I light about 2/3 chimney of Royal Oak briquettes and when they are all grey on top, I put them in the valley in the middle of the lump. I pull some of the lump over the briqs and when the lump is fully involved, I put a couple of splits on top and close the CC doors. When the CC is at cooking temp or a little above, I add another split or two and my flavor chunks. This is when I add my meat. Always put meat in a hot CC. Don't rush the temp. My exhaust damper is always fully open and the air intake dampers are usually fully open. I manage my temps with the fire. If I need a little more air, I prop the FB door open a little for a few minutes. If the temp is running a little high, I may close the air damper a little bit for a few minutes. An offset smoker does not run at an exact temp, but at a range. Find the range that your smoker likes and add wild when it gets to the lower edge of the range. My smoker likes to run between 250-275* and I will add wood when it gets around 255*.

    The lump will make a good starter bed of coals and you will need to manage your wood adds to always keep a good bed of coals. I never put any more lump in he FB. From the time that the fire is going good, it is always all wood.

    One of the VERY MOST IMPORTANT things that I can tell you is to always pre-heat your splits before putting them in the FB. I lay 3-4 splits on top of my FB and when I add a couple, I put a couple more on top. Pre-heating your splits is IMPORTANT because they will ignite very quickly. This will help to hold the heat and prevent heat drops. In igniting quickly, they will not smolder and put off thick white smoke. They will begin to burn hot as soon as you put them in and promote TBS. If you don't have a flat top plate on your FB, just balance the splits on top. You may be able to take some thin metal and make a saddle for the top of your FB to help hold the splits.

    Good luck with this. I don't know wha size your smoker is but a good small smoker is the Old Country Wrangler at Academy Sports in the $500 range. If you can get your budget to the $1,000 range, the very best thing out there is a Bell Fab. Contact Craig Bell at: [email protected]. He is a great guy and will make you a custom smoker to your personal specifications and wants. It is excellent quality material and fabrication.
  5. joe black, thanks a lot for your help. i will try the lump/briqt system. i checked out the old country wrangler and i liked it . compact, well built. may be my next smoker
  6. Hi all,

    I took your advice on practicing before going for a brisket and smoked two chuckies last weekend. I was pretty happy with the results. It was fun. Used lump charcoal and hickory chunks. A lot easier than using briquetes. Less ash, more room in firebox, good airflow. I mixed in chips with unlit lump and dump it in the fire every hour, and was able to keep a decent temperature range. When they hit 160 IT I wrapped them in foil and cooked them until they hit 203 (see pics).

    One issue that I had was that when I added wood chunks (every 1/2 hr) I got big flames and temperature spikes. Also, once the chunks were burned I couldnt see any smoke.

    So, questions:

    How can I  prevent temp spikes when adding wood chunks? Should I wrap them in foil? Would I still get "blue smoke"?

    Should I be looking for continuous smoke the whole time? Shohould I decrease the amount of lump and add more wood?



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