Limited smoke production; chunks turn to charcoal

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by lowkey, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. lowkey

    lowkey Newbie

    I am a relative smoking novice and have built and succesfully used a refrigerator conversion for one year. My heat source is a small hot plate-style element with an old cast iron pan for the chip pan. My current problem is that sometimes I will get a very brief run of smoke then-nothing but heat. The chunks I use are nearly all turned to charcoal. This problem is not consistent and does not seem to be dependent on type or condition of the wood. I am mostly using chunks about 1" thick. My wood is apple, cherry, and maple.
    Thanks for your interest and advice.
  2. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    Charcoal is mostly pure carbon, called char, made by cooking wood in a low oxygen environment. Not knowing your smoker design I would check on your venting. Perhaps on the occasions when you made charcoal your smokes were with the vents mostly closed? Or when you didn't make charcoal your vents were open or you opened the door more often to check progress & let air in, preventing charcoal formation?
  3. [​IMG]

    Do you have pictures of your smoker?

    Happy smoken.

  4. lowkey

    lowkey Newbie

    I don't but I will get some tomorrow. 
  5. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yes , send pics of the inlet , exhaust , how the fuel looks and shots of the smoke during these times .  Tell us how the "heat" smelled at the exhaust and if the coals were "glowing" or not...

    I'll gather some shots of different smoke and we will try to explain the prob. , if any...

    have fun and . . .
  6. lowkey

    lowkey Newbie

    I've come to the tentative conclusion that my new outle

    t vent is too small.  I made a new one with a flow control salvaged from an old grill.  My air intake is the un-gasketed bottom of the fridge where the door meets it.  I had placed a gasket all the way around the front of the fridge and left the bottom open.  This results in a 3/8" x 24" vent at the bottom; approximately 6 square inches of air inlet.  My new and improved vent has about 3 square inches of outlet.  I strongly suspect my new outlet vent is the problem.  I was hoping to use all homemade parts here.  Any suggestions for a homemade vent are appreciated. 

  7. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Unthinking at your new out will help you out quite a bit. Now for the wood. I run 2"-3" chunks in a thin steel pan. If you have a store that carries the big or little chief smokers go look at the pan that comes with that. Works way better than cast iron. Do not wet your chunks. Out one to two in at a time (2"-3") don't let them touch. At the lower temps (225 or less) they will smolder perfectly. Higher temps you may need to place the pan off the burner a bit to keep from igniting the wood.
  8. lowkey

    lowkey Newbie

    Is there a formula for the ratio of inlet to outlet venting?  I am making a very rough estimate here but I calculate I have approximately 2:1 inlet to outlet.  Wouldn't 1:1 be too much?

    I am looking online for pictures of Little Chief smokers.  If anyone has any experience with came could they post a comment regarding the set-up of the heating element and the chip pan?  I can't figure out from the pics whether the chip pan rests on the heating element or is spaced above it.  Additionally, I can't see what the pan is made of, how thick the pan material is, and how big the pan is.  Finally, why isn't a cast iron pan recommended? 

    Thanks to everyone for the helpful comments and suggestions. 
  9. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yes the pan sits right on the element in a little or big chief smoker. The pan is made from very thin metal. 1/8" max thickness if that.

    On all of my smokers the air inlets are about twice the amount of the exhaust. With the exception of my UDS which has 3" of intake and 3" of exhaust.
  10. lowkey

    lowkey Newbie


    It was really too windy to get any good pics of the smoke.  It was light gray/white.  It had a pleasant smokey odor as you would expect.  It has seemed very thin most of the time.  I can get my smoker internal temp up to about 225-250F which is all I really want. I have only had a small amount of glowing coals.  I use pretty dry wood and although I don't store it in the driest place I don't soak it or moisten it in any way before I use it.  This is a pic of my outlet before I modified it. The modification I made was to open the drilled out holes to match the size of the cover.  It's difficult to get scale from the pic but I estimate that the 6 openings combined create approximately 3" of opening.  My old one was a homemade stove-pipe/butterfly damper.  I thought it leaked too much air. 

  11. lowkey

    lowkey Newbie

    I have changed the chip pan from cast iron to sheet metal which made a much better smoldering of the chips and much more smoke. I think the modification to the exhaust vent helped a lot too. Thanks for the good suggestions.

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