Noob read the CG mods thread, but still has questions...

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by rob27502, Dec 18, 2010.

  1. rob27502

    rob27502 Newbie

    Hi everyone -

    I've been surfing the forums for the past hour or so, trying to get a handle on my Char-griller with SFB. A lot of the mods make perfect sense, but I've still got plenty of noob questions I can't seem to figure out. (And yes, I searched first...) A couple of these are of a more general nature about the smoking process. These questions are in no particular order and let me thank you in advance for any help you may provide. I'll be sure to post some food porn from my first smoke as a thank you! [​IMG]

    1) It seems to me that while tuning plates are ideal, they are best used in the event that you are using the CG specifically as a smoker, and not a grill. Is this correct? I do plan on using the main chamber as a good 'ole charcoal grill from time to time.

    2) I completely understand the tuning plate concept, BUT, I'm having a hard time grasping what a baffle is, and how specifically I use or install it on my CG. (I should use this as the chance to point out that I am NOT a handyman in anyway, and anything beyond basic drilling or screwing I'm pretty much lost on.) The baffle helps with the flow of smoke and is similiar to a tuning plate, as far as it's function. Is that correct?

    3) With these thoughts in mind, my first mods are going to be a) swapping out the thermometer on the lid - any suggestions for which one to use as the replacement? b)lining the bottom with ceramic briquets c)making/building a better fuel holder for the SFB, and d) assuming I can figure out what it is, adding a baffle.

    4) A common mod seems to be extending the chimney. From the pictures, it looks like the metal tubing extends down from the lid on the inside, towards the grill surface. What is the reason for this mod and how far down should the extension be?

    5) If I am using lump charcoal as my primary heat source, and wood chunks for the smoking - how much of both of these goes where? Being a noob, I just assumed that all my fuel would be in the SFB, and I would just put the smoking wood in there with the charcoal. But after reading a little bit, that doesn't seem to be the case. Should I keep lit charcoal in the bottom of the main chamber? And would you not lose heat that way, because you'd have to open the chamber to add new coals? I thought the whole reason for the SFB was to keep the heat in the main chamber and not have to open the main chamber up.

    6) Given that I'm probably not going to have tuner plates to put them on - what's the best place to put the water pan? Can I just place it on the grill beside the meat?

    Thanks again everyone. I'm going to dump a bunch of lump charcoal in tomorrow and fire up the CG to give it a first burn/seasoning and then next week, I'll try my first smoke - probably something very forgiving like a pork shoulder or butt.

    Merry Christmas!
     

  2.  You might want to try some ribs as your first shot, pretty easy and relatively quick. Butts can be a looooong process depending on the size. Good luck and Merry Christmas.
     
  3. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I used to have the same smoker and have a couple of pointers for you:
    • If you don't want to mess with the tuning plate/baffel set up, just flip the charcoal pan in the main cooking chamber upsidedown and hang it as high as you can. That will give you approx. a 10° differance between the firebox end and the non-firebox end.
    • Don't put ceramic briquets in the bottom of the main chamber. You will end up with a mess in the bottom of the smoker. Buy a large restaraunt roll of foil and before each smoke line the entire bottom half of the main chamber with foil (and the bottom of the charcoal pan if you are flipping it over). That way any drippings just collect in the foil that can then be wadded up and tossed after each smoke. Makes clean up super easy!
    • Even if you get the digital probe therms. I would still put two therms in the lid (one on each side), Lowes and Home Depot sell some for about $8 that you just drill a 3/8" dia. hole and install with a nut.
    • For the charcoal amount, it depends on your charcoal basket. Basically fill your basket with unlit charcoal, then dump about 1/2 a chimney of lit on top of it. Wood can be added a little at a time approx. once an hour or so.
     
  4. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I used to have the same smoker and have a couple of pointers for you:
    • If you don't want to mess with the tuning plate/baffel set up, just flip the charcoal pan in the main cooking chamber upsidedown and hang it as high as you can. That will give you approx. a 10° differance between the firebox end and the non-firebox end.
    • Don't put ceramic briquets in the bottom of the main chamber. You will end up with a mess in the bottom of the smoker. Buy a large restaraunt roll of foil and before each smoke line the entire bottom half of the main chamber with foil (and the bottom of the charcoal pan if you are flipping it over). That way any drippings just collect in the foil that can then be wadded up and tossed after each smoke. Makes clean up super easy!
    • Even if you get the digital probe therms. I would still put two therms in the lid (one on each side), Lowes and Home Depot sell some for about $8 that you just drill a 3/8" dia. hole and install with a nut.
    • For the charcoal amount, it depends on your charcoal basket. Basically fill your basket with unlit charcoal, then dump about 1/2 a chimney of lit on top of it. Wood can be added a little at a time approx. once an hour or so.
     
  5. rob27502

    rob27502 Newbie

    Many thanks for the pointers.

    Obviously, I haven't cooked with this thing yet. I just dumped it full of lump charcoal about an hour ago to give it a first burn.

    When I started that, I had not read these replies yet, so I did line the bottom with the ceramic briquets. But I guess the point of not doing it was that they'll get messy when I cook something. I'll probably just leave them in at this point, but always put a layer of foil over them.

    Two other questions based on these replies - 1) if I'm using the charcoal pan as a tuner/baffle, then obviously that's on a case-by-case basis and not a permanent mod. I use it as a good ole' charcoal pan for a run of the mill grilling session, correct? I'm just flipping the thing based on whatever purpose I am using it for.

    2) and this was explained, I just want to make absolutely sure I've got it - when smoking - I ONLY put the fuel in the SFB and not the main chamber. And that will provide enough heat/smoke into the main chamber. Right?

    Thanks everyone! Give me a week or so and I'll post pics of losing my smoking virginity! [​IMG]
     
  6. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Correct... fuel on the firebox only when smoking.

    One thing to mention..... for that smoker they suggest you season the inside of the smoker before using it. Seasoning the smoker is fairly easy in that you spray down the entire inside of the smoker with a can of Pam, then lite a fire in the firebox and apply wood for about 5 or 6 hrs. The idea is to coat the inside with a nice eaven layer of smoked oils to protect the metal.... especially the cast iron grates.

    Now I know you are wanting to high heat grill, but every time you high heat grill on your smoker you will burn off the seasoning in the main chaimber and have to re-season it, otherwise you run the risk of rust on the inside of the smoker. In all honesty I would keep your smoker a smoker and look on Craigslist for a used 22.5" Weber Kettle grill for high heat grilling, probably could find one for about $20-$40. Then you won't burn off your seasoning, and also the kettle comes in handy as a place to light chimneys of charcoal.
     
  7. Just a note on the thermometer that Johnny mentioned. I bought one of those at Lowes (a charbroil replacement if I remember correctly) and it wasn't any better than the stock one that came in the CG. I may have just got a bad one, don't know. Haven't bothered to replace it and it wasn't worth it to return it. I've got two digitals now with 3 probes so it hasn't been an issue.  I agree with having a pair in the lid at grate level though so you can monitor both ends. Mine seems to have a bit of a sense of humor. [​IMG]  [​IMG]
     
  8. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    LOL... yeah I should clarify, I used the lid ones strictly as a quick glance referance to see how my chamber was doing. The two I got at Home Depot both read fine when I put them in boiling water, but I still used my digitals for accurate reads.
     
  9. rob27502

    rob27502 Newbie

    JlRodriguez -

    Your point is well-taken on the seasoning, however, I've got a bit of a space issue as my back patio is rather small. For now, the CG is going to have to do double duty. I threw a bunch of lump charcoal in today to give it a first burn, but I did not do the Pam. Do I need to do another burn with the pam coating? Or can I wait for my first smoke and do a layer of pam at that point?

    On the thermometer issue, I noticed the replacement ones for about $7 each at Lowe's today. I think that rather than replacing the main one, I'm just going to add the two down at grill level. I'll get a couple of those Taylor's to put in whatever cut of meat I'm smoking.

    On an unrelated side note - this was the first time I used the natural lump charcoal and loved the burn it gave. For a regular, non-smoking dinner, I am sure that steaks and burgers are going to be excellent using this stuff.

    Thanks!
     
  10. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well since you are going to be grilling I would just wait for your first smoke. That being said since you are high heat grilling and burning off the seasoning, make sure you clean your cast iron grates as soon as they cool of enough. I would give them a light scrub with soap and water, then either spay them with Pam or rub them with some oil.... and if you can store them inside. The cast iron will rust if you don't keep it coated, just the nature of the beast.

    Glad to hear the grill worked out well for you. [​IMG]
     

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