Process for adding charcoal to electric smokers

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by mikeserve, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. I think I want to give this method a try for my birthday party this weekend. I figure I'll do a small batch of chicken breasts on Friday to see how it works so I'm not experimenting with my guests on Saturday. I've been searching the forum for the past couple days, and it seems like a lot of people are adding some charcoal briquettes to their wood pan to get the chips or chunks burning/smoking a little better. So here are my questions:

    1. What type of charcoal do you use? I've read a post where someone mentioned Walmart/Sam's brand worked pretty well. Do I need to get the fancy wood stuff, or will briquettes work?

    2. Do you break up the charcoal before adding it?

    3. Do you light the charcoal before adding it?

    4. Do you continue to add charcoal throughout the smoking process?

    5. Do chunks work better than chips when using a little charcoal?

    I'm really excited about my new smoker, but I need to get more smoke flavor in the meat. I don't think the element alone is enough to produce the kind of smoke flavor I want. Any advise from all you smoker pros would be greatly appreciated.
  2. pignit

    pignit Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I don't see the benefit of adding charcoal to an electric smoker. I've heard of adding a little lump to create a smoke ring but it doesn't add to the flavor. You should be able to place your wood so that you get plenty of smoke without adding charcoal.
  3. mikey

    mikey Smoking Fanatic

    Here's the way that I set mine up for charcoal. I only did this once, just to see if I could get the "smoke ring" which I did. Smoke ring formation stops after the meat hits 140 degrees internal. The heat from the element ignites the charcoal. Notice the grill bricks under the element like I mentioned to you in a previous post. Dave is correct about the flavor, it doesn't really do much.
  4. farnsworth

    farnsworth Fire Starter

    I like using a little bit of charcoal or charcoal briquettes in the MES when I first get started along with a small chunk of wood.

    The MES often only needs a few wood chips at a time to generate enough smoke, but it takes quite a while before you have enough smoldering embers to keep them going when the element cycles off.

    If you add too much wood at the beginning, you quickly get way too smokey, so having a few glowing coals fill the bill nicely.

    I use 2 Royal Oak briquets at the start and throw another in after about 5 hours if I'm doing a longer smoke. I'm sure other types would work fine, just make sure it's not a quick-light briquettes [​IMG]!

    I do notice a deeper, more consistent smoke ring when I use them, but as the others say this is more for appearance than taste. [​IMG]

    Good luck,
  5. Thanks for the tips. After searching the forum all yesterday, I think I've come up with a way to get some decent smoke out of my new smoker. I put a metal pie pan directly on top of the element, and that worked great. There seem to be a lot of conflicting comments on placing things directly on the element, but several people mentioned that they've been putting a pan on the element for years without any problems. I would think it's basically like a coil from an electric stove and people obviously put pots on them all the time. I could be wrong, but it makes sense to me.

    I'm not that great with working with metal, but I may end up creating a new rack to put my original wood pan in that gets it closer to the element. In the meantime, I think I'll probably just put a pie pan on the element and see how that works.
  6. mikey

    mikey Smoking Fanatic

    You might want to reconsider putting a pan on the element, as I feel direct metal contact on the element shortens' it's life. I've done mine as I've shown for almost a year, and so far no problems element wise.
  7. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Mikey is right, though you can put something like a metal pan directly on your element it does shorten the life of the element. Even if the element continues to work it will eventually develop cold spots.
  8. OK, I think I've got an idea of how to lower my wood pan. I was thinking of putting some kind of hooks on the the rack that supports the wood pan, and drilling a couple holes in the pan to accept the hook. Does that make sense at all? I want the pan to be about 1/2" or less above the element. My questions is, what should I use to make the hook? Is there any small diameter metal rod that I could easily bend to fabricate my own hooks? I'm looking to make a kind of hanging basket with the wood pan. Any ideas would be great.

    Here's a pic of the rack that holds my wood pan and water tray. The wood pan is on the left.
  9. mikey

    mikey Smoking Fanatic

    Why not just add a layer of grill bricks on the bottom of the smoker? Much easier instead of tryin' to reinvent the wheel.
  10. That's true, but for some reason I want to use the wood pan that came with the smoker. Where do you get those grill bricks from? Would I be able to find them at Walmart?
  11. kueh

    kueh Meat Mopper

    I found it unnecessary to add charcoal to my GOSM. I just add fresh chips to the wood pan. The spent chips act as charcoal and I get a decent smoke ring.
  12. Hey Mike,
    I just saw your post on the forum; I also have the Royal Oak electric smoker. Just last weekend I did my first pork butt and it turned out great. It hit the smoker at 6am @225 (probably average 230-sih ) until it hit 160, then foiled it, after the foil, I turned the heat up to 285. It stalled for about an hour, and actually dropped to 158 for a short time. Took it out at 205 wrapped at it in some towels and threw it in a dry cooler for an hour and a half. It was a great first try.
    Have you had a chance to make any mods to your ROES? The wood tray? Reading the forum, they advise against placing anything on the element.
    Mike in Michigan
  13. joe r 6772

    joe r 6772 Newbie

    I have a small metal smokebox that I bought a Home Depot for my wood chips  and I use it on top of or next to the Heating Element and haven't had any issues.

    Good Luck

    I am a wondering if I can use ONLY Charcoal and wood if I take the heating element ?

    What are your thoughts?
  14. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    You do know this thread is from 6 years ago right?
  15. panjammi

    panjammi Newbie

    Can someone please help me out here?   I need to locate a manufacturer of electric smoke chip coil starters.In our quest to make these units more flexible and feature rich I am looking for a manufacturer of electric charcoal or wood chip starters. I need to have these custom made for our use. I know there are a few out there already but they are too long for our use.  If you make these coils yourself would it be something you could give instructions on in making them?  I am really trying to find one that will be small enough to work and fit in the units I build.  

    Any ideas would be great. Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2015
  16. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    panjammi likes this.

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