Hello everyone, i have spent some time reading through the forms and decided to give smoking a try. I have been an avid griller and have almost always used gas, so making the leap from direct heat gas grilling to the low and slow method of smoking is giving me some problems. I had a gift card to Home Depot and decided to get the brick-man horizontal smoker with the firebox. For my first smoke i got two pork spare ribs, trimmed them up St Louis style, and got to work. I had a horrible time getting the smoker up to temperature. I ended up using an 18lb bag of charcoal and barely getting the temperature to 225. I used an oven thermometer instead of relying on the cheap one that came with the smoker. One problem that i thought of was that i had to keep opening the lid to check the temp, so for my second try i got an oven probe digital thermometer. The second problem i had was with the firebox grate. late into the smoke i noticed that the heat had weakened the steel and the grate had bowed down into the ash, choking the fire. So for my second time i got a 1/4" steel dowel and cut it to length to support the grate better. After making these changes i gave it another try today and had no luck. I went through the same amount of fuel and the temps were lower. i only averaged about 200 degrees. At this point i am running out of ideas. i know there are several mods that can be done to try to improve things, but i don't know if they will help that significantly. I'm thinking about extending the chimney because the hood temp (with the cheep thermometer)was around 300. Do you guys have any other ideas or suggestions?