Fix My Smoker!

Discussion in 'Other Builds' started by tmorro, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. I bought a new smoker from a retiring caterer and have a few problems with it.  I created a website to solicit feedback.  It's  There I describe the design and problems I'm seeing, and seeking solutions.  Would love to have feedback either here or there on what you see that might be improved.  Thanks!
  2. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the site tmorro, To start ya might drop by the roll call forum.

    Besides that, I'm not quite sure where I would start with that rig.

    WOW it looks like a cross between a piece of modern art and a turd with tooth picks stuck in it. Not meaning to offend ya man, its just kinda different looking.

    What are ya cooking with the center grate at 300° ?

    This is just a guess but maybe you could extend the stack down to the grate and then also get a convection fan to circulate the uneven air.

    Good Luck.
  3. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Sheesh, that's a downright spooky design. What ever the builder was trying to accomplish...well, I can't see it, 'cause it goes against everything I know about a solid fuel fired cooker, with one exception..that being an indirect fired rotiserie possibly for whole hogs once the grates are removed.

    My first thought would be to go with two tuning plates (I'd recommend 3/16" to 1/4" thick) about 1/4 to 1/3 the height from the bottom from end to end (tight fit against the chamber shell and fire box plate) with a seperation in the center of approx 2-3" in order to continue venting at top center. Then, close off the top of the fire box plates and all holes and open the bottom of the fire boxes so the smoke and heat can travel accross the bottom of the smoke chamber. Drill holes in the tuning plates to bring grate temps up where cold spots are found across the length and depth of the grate (front to back, left to right, as measured with oven rack thermometers). And put a drain valve in that 2" hole in the bottom so you can drain off grease during long smokes with full loads.

    Well, all things considered, I think even this design make-over would have issues due to very hot surfaces for rendered fat to drip onto (which again goes against one of the main benefits behind low & slow smoking, IMO), unless drip pans were installed about mid-way between the grate and tuning plate to keep the drippings from smoking off or burning. Keep in mind that the addition of drip plates will baffle heat, so you'd need to do the actual tuning of the plates (temp checks and hole drilling) with the pans installed in the same positions they would always be used in. Man, honestly, this is way too complicated. A single fire box would be the way to go, and reverse flow configuration to get the most bang for your time and money.

    Correcting this smoker's configuration is a nightmare to say the least. I'd remove all internals, close off the vent, build a side fire box and begin the work on converting this to a reverse flow smoker...performance should be top notch as far as evenly heated grate temps are concerned.

  4. Thanks, guys.  

    I was thinking of moving the smokestack to one end and putting a plate on the bottom that leaves an opening at the other end, creating a reverse flow.

    First I was going to try to seal off the top half of both heat chambers, as was suggested.  This might pump heat and smoke into the bottom half and it should rise to the center, across and under the food, to escape.  I just don't know if that would work.  

    I can hold the middle racks to 220 for my smoking process.  Just too much spread between the center temp and the upper and lower temps.

    The fat now just collects in the bottom of the smoker and it's easy to shovel out.

    Could I use sheet metal to seal of the top of the firewall on both sides as a testing method, or would I have to use plate?

    Ultimately, if I can't get it working, I will convert it to an offset.  

    I don't understand the comment about the drip pans and the plate.  What's the difference between the fat falling on the plate and falling to the bottom of the smoker?  Is it because the heat would be under that plate and make too much smoke when the fat hits?  Also, can you point me to what a drain valve might look like?

    I"m committed to making this work, one way or t'other!  Thanks again for all your help.  PETA forever!  (People Eating Tasty Animals)

    Paul  (*if possible!)
  5. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    This is on a normal offset smoker but the idea is the same.


    This is not my drawing, I saved it awhile back since it was such a great drawing.

    Here is what I did on my RF a built while back.


    If it doesnt make sence, I might be able to find a better pic, at this very moment I don't seem to be finding what I am looking for,
  6. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Paul that has serious potential.

    Just posted at your website.
  7. I see.  I love the drawing.  I think I understand the plate to keep the smoke down and drive it to the far end and make it come back across to hit the exhaust.  I guess that has to be 5/16 steel.  I see!  The drip pan sits on the plate and runs the stuff down to the valve. 

    Ok so the question is, is that plate/drip pan sposed to have holes in it along the way or be solid like in your pic?  If holes, doesn't that render (no pun intended) the drip pan useless?  

    Thanks for all your patience....I'm getting there.

    Sqwib~thanks for the post.  Very interesting.  I had a f/u question posted there for you.


  8. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Paul everyone does it different but the way that is drawn is actually a reverse flow set-up and what you talk of with the holes would be more of a tuning plate. Its always hotter by the fire so you have less holes on the hot end and more or larger holes on the cold end. This will let less heat rise near the fire and will likewise let more hot air towards  the cool end.

    And yes you are 100% correct that with the holes drilled or even plates of steel that are movable, the drip pan must be of another piece of metal that site above the plate with holes in it.

    I think the plate in my smoker is 3/16th, there is three pieces so I could fit them thru the door opening. The best way could have been for me to slid it in from the end before I welded it up.

    Hindsight is always 20/20 I guess.

    In my signature there is a link that says (Side Fire Box Reverse Flow) that link will take you to a pic hosting site where I have a ton of pics from that build. You can click any of the links down there or just click the Words (my Photos) on the left side of the page right below the picassa name. I got all sorts of pics on there, not all are smoke related but there is several either builds or cooks.

    Maybe you could close up one end, slid a rf plate in there from the open end, with luck the shelving would work as is. And then build a side fire box and move the stack. It sounds like alot of work but built right that thing could be a Diamond!!!!!
  9. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Posted on your site, and look in my signature for the Pit Calculator
  10. Hey tom and forluvofsmmoke,

    Ok, i've now cooked on this bullet for 6 months and I'm beginning to understand it.  First, I think it has convection issues. No matter the rack, the surface of the ribs is like leather as the cook progresses.  Right now I'm cooking on the box smoker also on the trailer and the ribs are juicy with lots of pork candy squeezing out.  I think there's air flow problems with that bulllet.

    The suggestion to gut it and install a new firebox and move the stack is a good one.  Problem is i'm worried it's the "pitmaster" not the pit and I'm spending good money to fix something that's just my problem not the pit's.  So, i'm going to do a few more cooks on it and see if i can figger out the issue.  

    By the way, I did 50 turkeys on the thing at christmas and I'm still getting referral biz from that.  People loved them.  I did 3 picnics the night before last, center shelf, 14 hours, no problems.  Great pork.

    Ribs are what's killing me.

    Another problem is with the fireboxes open to the pit like they are, I get ash on the food when I add coal or wood, even if i'm super careful.  Wonder how much to gut it and make it into a reverse flow.

    Thanks for listening.

  11. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wow, 50 birds, thats great.

    Can you post pics or repost the link to the hosting site. I can't get to that site anymore. 

    If ya let us see what your working with right now maybe one of us can offer an idea.

    I would say if your getting good results with other food then maybe the ribs just need tweeking.
  12. I pulled that site down.  I'm rebuilding my other site now, so I have nothing to show you.

    I think there's a convection problem in the bullet, drying the meat out, plus there's nothing to keep all the ash off the meat.  It comes out dry and black.  The ones I did last night in the box smoker were perfect. So it's not the rib prep or rub.  

    Tom, when I click on side firebox reverse flow there's only one pic there.  Am I clicki9ng on the wrong link?

  13. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sorry about the links to the pics.

    I redid my sig to try and make it a little easier. 

    Both hosting sites have a ton of pics loaded on them, if you have any other troubles, PM me and I will e mail you a link.
  14. Great news!  I found a welder who will convert the bullet smoker to reverse flow for less than $500.  So, I am going to seal off one end completely, install a plate about 1/4 the way up the cylinder, install a firebox offset, and move the smoke stack, and add a drip pan with drain.

    Question?  How far from the far end of the pit (away from the firebox) should the plate stop?  A foot?  Two feet of space or a percentage of the plate length?  Is there a rule of thumb on the size of the firebox relative to the size of the pit or just go by eyeball?  I'm going to make the drip pan removable for cleaning and tuning purposes.  That is to say, once it's ready to go, I can take it from the welder's place, remove the drip pan and start drilling holes.  I've never tuned a pit before.  I'm imagining i'm going to have to fire it up, take temp readings, cool it down, drill some holes, fire it up, take temp readings, etc.  That's going to take days, i guess.  Does anyone know of an online tutorial on pit tuning that is relatively accurate with the info?  I'm sure there's lots of links but I don't know which might have misinformation vs. correct information.

    I'll probably cut the counterweights off the ends when I seal them off since they will no longer need to be lifted.  

    You guys are great for helping so much.  Thank you.  I'll take some pictures of the process and post.  

    Glad to be able to salvage this pit.

  15. PS:  In the drawing posted earlier, it shows the drip pan literally on top of the plate.  That can't be the case if you're gonna drill holes in the plate.  I'll take a look around the web.



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