Different types of smokers

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by daniel mccarty, Aug 28, 2014.

  1. I am looking at different smokers. I currently have a cheaply made one from Tractor Supply with an offset firebox. I have such a hard time getting the temp up. The thermometer on the smoker says that it gets up to 300+ but that's at the top of the grill. A thermometer I put on the same level as the meat says 190-220. It gets to 250 if a piece of wood catches fire. Anyways, I am considering a 55 gallon drum or possibly a weber smokey mountain. Any ideas or anyone have any experience with either of those? My assumption is that a vertical one is more efficient (which could pose its own issues I guess).
  2. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Smaller, inexpensive offsets can be good little smokers.  You may want to take a look and  see if you are loosing heat or if you are not burning enough fuel.  You can use charcoal or small chunks/splits of wood in an offset.  A small fire is not a bad thing.  Remember the smoke coming out of the exhaust should be almost invisible with a blue tint.

    Maybe we can fix your problems with your current smoker.    
  3. The enemy of any type of smoker unit is air gaps.  You may discover putting a gasket kit on your existing smoker will greatly improve it.  That said, many people like the WSM for its temperature control and frugal use of charcoal.  The bigpapa drum kit has a good reputation as well.
  4. I am really concerned that I am losing heat. I am using a lot of charcoal. My biggest concern about the airflow. Right near the opening between the smoking chamber and the firebox it will get really hot. A little ways further into the chamber and it gets way lower. I could also try to close the chimney some as well. Maybe that would help it to not rush right up and out of the smoking chamber???
  5. Closing the chimney is rarely the solution.  Adding metal plates to "tune" your smoker is a common solution to equalize temperature across your smoking grill surface.  Sealing all the air gaps is the number one successful technique to help offset grills which do not reach temperature.  One of the unique skills offset smoker owners must master is fire management.  It is a less complex skill on most other types of smokers.
  6. I always allow my charcoal (fuel) to smolder and not stay on fire. Am I wrong?
  7. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Offset smokers aren't very efficient compared to some other types, but they have some advantages when properly set up. Some advantages include: It can double as a large or small grill; you can cook with wood only, charcoal only, set it up for gas; they look cool; etc. The drawback is, the cheaper it is the more modification it needs to work efficiently. Here are some of the mods I did to mine:

    I bought this grill/smoker from Home Depot in May. I didn't know what I was getting into until I brought it home. I liked that it had a side firebox, although I had never used one. It had cooking grates in the firebox as well as a charcoal stand in the bottom, so I expected that if I was just cooking a few steaks I could cook them in there. And, if I was cooking for a crowd I could use the main chamber where there are cooking grates and charcoal grates for grilling. After I assembled it, I attempted to season it. The instructions said to get the temp up to 300? or so, but 250 was about all she would do. I turned to the internet and discovered a whole world I never knew existed, Smokingmeatforum.com. After some research, I determined that there were some modifications I could do to get it working correctly.

    I made a charcoal basket for longer cooks where I don't want to use or don't have any dried wood (the large firebox is made for wood).


    I added two 2 3/8" holes to the front and rear sides of the firebox to help it breathe. The factory vent is too small to get the fire hot enough to exceed 300 degrees.

    I added cam locks to compress the lid into the wood stove gasket tape I glued around the lids of the smoker and fire box. I bent the hinge slightly on the firebox lid and it will close up tight with just a small bungee cord hooked to the handle.

    I filled the seams with black high-temp silicone. The picture makes it look uglier than it is.

    I added a dryer vent elbow to the stack, and it lowered it to about 1/2" above the grate.

    I added a stainless steel sheet bent to divert the heat/smoke from the firebox to underneath the tuning plates.

    The tuning plates are 3/8" aluminum. I cut them progressively smaller, wider ones closest to the firebox. The temp can easily be regulated to within about 10 degrees from side to side.

    The RiverGrille. This photo is before I cut the vent holes in the firebox, which I haven't tested yet. See the bungee cord on the firebox handle. Also, notice how small the factory vent is. These mods have made it work a lot better. I can get it up to 300 fairly easy, if the wind is blowing and it is much easier to keep a constant temp up to 275. The new vent holes should help it get a lot hotter, wind or no wind, and hopefully I can get it to 350 and keep it there. I'll let you know after I test the new vent holes. ADDED: The additional vents will get it as hot as you want.

    Now, with the mods it takes very little to keep it hot:

    Oak wood splits only, and temp is holding at 275 degrees with this small fire. Always with the stack vent wide open.
  8. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    You are doing right with all charcoal to let it burn without flame.  You can add small chunks of wood to add flavor and heat.     Make sure your smoker is not in the wind and try raising the end away from the fire box just a tad.  That may help.  The adjustments offered by grillmonkey will help a great deal but may be more then you are willing to try to do.    Try sealing the gaps with silicone as your first step and make sure the lid is tight.  A fire blanket from a welding shop should help raise the temps in the smoker.

    A new smoker may be in your future.  If you are hooked on smoking you may consider a small reverse flow.  In my opinion as a lover of wood they are the best smokers but I have access to free fuel.
  9. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Yeah, I didn't know what his limitations were so I just threw a bunch of stuff at him for his consideration. If I had it to do all over again, I would have driven down to Lang in Nahunta, GA and picked up a reverse flow.
  10. I have bought high heat silicone and I started a fire to see where else I may be getting leakage from. I am now only getting leakage from under the doors like the cover for the firebox and the lid of the meat chamber. Any thoughts on making that tighter?
  11. As far as the metal plates to deflect the heat the only place I could do that would block the vent for airflow so I am nervous to do that.

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