New - Oklahoma Joe's Highland Smoker

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by fastback, Sep 3, 2014.

  1. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    Hey guys -

    I feel really fortunate that I was properly able to research and read many forum posts prior to my first smoker purchase.

    I have an old, original Traeger that's been bulletproof in use for many years, but I recently battled with it when cooking a whole packer and a few pork shoulders. Even with the digital temp control and fiddling with the 'P Settings'  I couldn't get good, consistent temps throughout my cook. No issues with burgers & steaks, but low & slow wasn't happening.

    That's when my research on a new smoker started. The plan was, and still is to sell the Traeger to fund the new purchase so funds out of pocket will be minimal.

    Looking in the $500 range I found only a few models that looked like they would work well. The OK Joe's is one that kept popping up on forums at under the $500 price point and seemed to perform well with some easy modifications.

    Wal Mart has these units regularly priced at $268 which seemed fair, but I'd never seen one of these in person. Last Saturday I drove down to check one out in person. I was lucky in more than one way... They not only had a display unit setup, but they were closing them out at a further discounted price. The display unit was the last one in stock and I had them pull it down and wheel it up front for me. They even partially disassembled it and loaded me up after checking out.

    Anyway - I knew what was in front of me so I started collecting the misc. parts and pieces I'd need to help this smoker morph into the lean, mean, cooking machine I know it will be.
    • Sealed exhaust pipe & joint between firebox & cooking chamber
    • Built up a basket for briquettes and wood
    • Added some sheet metal to reduce the intake from the firebox
    • A friend built & just dropped off the tuning\convection plate - an unexpected gift!
    • Extended exhaust down to the cooking surface
    • Added conduit below cooking surface for temp probes to pass-thru
    I have a pair of 2-inch Tel-Tru's on the way for the left & right side of the pit. Holes are drilled and I'm just waiting on the parts.

    The larger 3-inch stock thermometer that will go back in the top-left factory hole was in the house - it just nailed the boiling water temp test so I figure I'll drop it back in the hole (even though it's not the best placement to gather temp info from...)

    Once everything rolls in I'll get it seasoned and tested out. I never fired the unit stock, and expect I'll still have some tuning to do.

    I believe this is a fantastic head start though.

    Enough with my rambling - photos below.











     
    geezer and remmy700p like this.
  2. smokeburns

    smokeburns Smoke Blower

    Wow! This looks like I'm looking at mine! I have the exact same model. I ordered from site to store at Walmart. I like the tuning plates you got . did you buy those or make them yourself? Check out my pictures on my profile. You will be surprised at the similarities . And where did you get the expanded metal for your basket? I'm looking to make one myself.
     
  3. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    The tuning plate was made by a friend and he just dropped it off today.

    I sent him photos and measurements on the off chance he could find some scrap at his work.

    Apparently he had everything to bend and punch the holes as well as having the scrap avaiable.

    This plate ended up being 16.25 inches deep and 22 inches long. It rests solidly against the bottom\sides and just under a pair of bolts that hold on the fire box.

    How consistent the temps will be is still up in the air - I'm hoping for the best.

    The expanded metal was an off-the-shelf buy from Home Depot. I was expecting to spend some cash on the upgrades and at $20 it was a simple decision.

    I was able to use snips, pliers, and a hammer to make the cuts and tap it into shape. There's one video out there that I've seen, as well as a detailed post that outlines the cuts and bends.

    It's not tough at all and it may take you all of 20 minutes to complete. Here's a link to the tutorial I used.
     
  4. smokeburns

    smokeburns Smoke Blower

    Very nice. I checked it out. Going to do that this week. Now since we ave the same model , did you use the same dimensions as he used on the link to fit the fire pit ?
     
  5. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hello and welcome , fastback . Hope you enjoy our Forum . Lots of great stuff here and folks too . We are always happy to share .

    Have a nice smoker , are you a Charcoal man or Wood [​IMG]

    Have fun and . . .

    [​IMG]
     
  6. That's a beauty. Great job on the mods. Looks like a lot of nice smokes are in your future. Good Luck. :sausage::yahoo:
     
  7. Looks great!  If I'd make any suggestions it would be to open up the inlet to the cook chamber more. It's kinda closed off and you're looking for better heat flow.

    If I asked your buddy to make me one of those diffuser plates, what would he charge me shipped to So Cal??
     
  8. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    The cost of the units online I've seen were fairly high - that's why I was hoping to get something made local

    I'd be happy to ask him & put you two in touch if it sounds like he can help out at a fair cost.

    As for the intake baffle... It may need to be bent a little, I agree. I figure I can just add to the existing bend (highlighted) if I need to.

    The plate is 22 gauge so it'll move pretty easy even when installed.

    Up to this point I've kept the charcoal in the Weber and the wood (pellets) in the Traeger.

    I'm sure I'll try both on various future smokes, and it sounds like mixing wood with charcoal is a good all-around way to add smoke flavor and keep the burn times high.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2014
  9. I'd appreciate that!
     
  10. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    Yes. I purchased the same sheet of metal referenced in the thread. I made the same cuts and bends but secured it together differently.

    The finished charcoal basket wasn't perfectly square - it fits in my fire box fine one way but not the other.

    It's not a super tight fit though, it goes in fine and I'm not anticipating any issues.

    Is there a spare parts vendor for these smokers? That was one item I didn't get with my unit was the directions.

    I ordered two 2 inch thermometers for my unit that I'll mount near food level so I was thinking I'd plug both threaded thermometer holes up above... I wanted to look into grabbing another plug.
     
  11. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    Planning to test everything out today and get this unit seasoned. My 2 inch therms came in, as did a 1/2 inch gasket kit for the cooker lid.

    When I built the baffle to limit the intake from the fire box I estimated the restriction based on a calculation made when I used an on-line smoker calculator.

    This tool provides a lot of info once you plug in your existing cooker and fire box sizes.  The tool suggested 26.5 sq inches (or slightly more) area for the heat intake.

    I measured my opening again last night and it was close to 9x3  (9.5 at the top and 8.5 at the bottom of the curve...)

    We'll see how it does today I guess. The numbers match up and if I need more air & heat I'll add it.
     
  12. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Are you going to boil test your therms? Did you seal the lid?
     
  13. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    Yep, I did both. All therms came up at 210 and the cook chamber lid got a new high heat 1/2 x1/8 gasket installed yesterday   [​IMG]  
     
  14. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    I have an ECB (electric mod) and an offset smoker similar to the Smokey Joe. You just can't beat the offset for flavor and texture of the meat. I don't know why it's different, but it is. I started out using mostly charcoal with chunks for flavor, but now I just use 1/2 can of charcoal to start my splits then use wood only. Seems like wood always comes out perfectly smoked every time, as long as you're getting TBS.
     
  15. smokeburns

    smokeburns Smoke Blower

    Finally Success with the IQ 110. My BB ribs came out the best yet. As able to keep temps at 240 for the whole 5.5 hour smoke. It turns out my baffle was covering too much of the opening so I adjusted it by raising baffle to where it just closed off .25 of the opening instead of .5. I also removed one diffuser plate and evenly spreads the rest of them. I also constructed a charcoal basket from that linc , and I was so amazed!! I did my entire smoke off one basket full. With a mixture of royal oak and apple wood chunks with a couple of of hickory chunks mixed in. Also was able to try out my thermoworks pocket pen I decided to get instead of the thermopop. I checked it out in boiling water , got 212 in exactly 4 seconds. Very impressive for $16.
     
  16. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    I got things fired up today and it was nice to see this unit in action.

    A full basket of Kingsford Blue and a volcano 1/2 full of burning charcoal got things started.

    It took about 25 minutes to get to 250F, and with a couple of splits it hit 400F about 15 minutes later.

    I kept it at 350-450 for a few hours and then let it coast for a few hours as the fire box burned out.

    The temps across the cooking chamber were very good. The right side would spike when fresh wood was burning but it evened out to +/- 10 degrees.

    Since the unit was hot and we had no dinner plans I grabbed some pork back ribs and got them started about 1pm.

    I went with the 3-2-1 method and when I was pulling the rib racks out of the foil at 5 hrs they were falling apart on me.

    I coated all of them with some spicy sauce and butcher block black pepper and let them go for another 30 minutes.

    My dad & wife were both amazed at how good these turned out. Soft, juicy, and the pockets of fat across all three racks were so minimal people even commented on how little fat there was.

    Overall... a great end to the weekend and a successful trial run of the new smoker.

    I'll try and get a shot or two posted - as many of you know, the photos may not do the cook justice...
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
  17. smokeburns

    smokeburns Smoke Blower

    Congrats on your 1st smoke. Glad everything was an success . And thank you or that linc on charcoal basket. Worked awesome for me!
     
  18. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    You know you did your mods right when you can crank it up over 400 degrees.
     
  19. fastback

    fastback Fire Starter

    I noticed a few new threads from guys who were working on this same unit.

    Just poking the thread in case suggestions documented here may help out...
     
  20. todd405

    todd405 Newbie

    I recently purchased this smoker. I have sealed it up and I have some Lavalock coming soon for the doors.

    What kind of metal do you suggest for the plating on the bottom for distributing the heat?
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015

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