Got my first Smoker and looking to make mods

Discussion in 'Roll Call' started by phunkeydude, Jul 19, 2010.

  1. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    Hello All !

    I have enjoyed grilling over the years and can make a pretty good wet baby back rib on the grill.  But I have been dying to try my had at smoking for a long time.  This weekend the wife surprised me and broght home a barrel shaped charcoal grill and smoker.  Nothing fancy at all.  In fact it is called "The Original" Outdoor Cooker - model #2750/R and was on sale at Target for $89.00.  I was excited and quickly put it together.  Pretty solid for a $89 grill.  The illustation shows building your fire on one side and placing your meats on the other side by the chimney.  (Any one ever use this paticular model?)  So I got thinking, how do you keep the heat up, if you keep opening the main lid to check your fire.  So I started looking online and came across this cool forum.  I quickly found that another brand called Char-Griller has an add-on side fire box.  I decided to buy one of these (model #2424) from my local ACE for $50 and figured I can modify my new grill and bolt this onto the opposite side of the chimney since there is a vent there.

    I wanted to make a few other modifications to give me the best chance out of the box before my first stab at smoking.  So of the things I was thinking about are the following and would like you all to chime in as to why you do some of these mods and also any others. 

    Duct from bottom of chimney down to grate level.  Why?

    Tuning Plate.  I have seen several variations to this from steel plates along the bottom to pans of water.  Can someone explain?

    Add to thermometers on each end of the lid near grate level.  Makes sence to see what the heat level is at grate level as opposed to up in the dome of the lid.

    Insullate the lip of the lid to get a better seal and keep your heat in.

    Thanks for any tips, tricks, suggestions you have to get me off on the right foot.  I guess the key is to be able to maintain your heat around 200-225 and dont invite your friends over for your first smoke! 
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  2. well im bout as new at this as your, im just in the process of modifying my craigslist smoker but for the most part ive got your question covered

    Chimney down to grate - allows more heat and smoke to stay in the cooking chamber longer instead of just going up and out through the top.....heat has to circulate and make its way back down to grate level to leave.

    Tuning plates + a baffle - allows better control of heat in cooking chamber as the grill is usually hotter on the side closest to the firebox, other options are a convection plate( plate steel with gradually increasing holes) or fire bricks which can be set up like tuning plates but have added mass that retains heat for quicker recovery when you open and close the lid.

    hope that sorta cleared things up if not just search the site theres more info then you could ever need here, like i said im as new as you and these guys have been very welcoming and full of helpful advice
  3. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the SMF, looks like you'll be busy improving your smoker, which is always a good thing to do. I moved your thread to roll, so everyone will have a chance to welcome you. It's all good my friend.
  4. Welcome, there are lots of knowledgeable guys here to help you with your mods. I just moved from a grill to a smoker this year as well. I was pretty versed in grilling and now I am really loving smoking, watch out it is addictive. LOL [​IMG]  Have you seasoned/cured the smoker yet? I had never heard of that before I got on here a week ago but it is pretty easy and keeps food tasting good.
  5. Welcome, there are lots of knowledgeable guys here to help you with your mods. I just moved from a grill to a smoker this year as well. I was pretty versed in grilling and now I am really loving smoking, watch out it is addictive. LOL [​IMG]  Have you seasoned/cured the smoker yet? I had never heard of that before I got on here a week ago but it is pretty easy and keeps food tasting good.
  6. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    What is the best way to season a smoker with a side fire box?  I will be adding my fire box later this week and will then season it.  Do I just build a fire in the fire box or do I build a fire in the main grill section?

    For tuning plates, I have seen some use pans with water across the bottom of the smoker.  I can see that this would help catch drippings, I can see the water heating up to help maintain heat, but does the water also create moisture as it evaporates due to the heat?  Any input on using pans with water along the bottom?
  7. I just seasoned my offset last weekend. I sprayed the inside of the cooking chamber down with cooking spray then started a fire in the fire box and let it sit for a few hours like that re stocking the charcoal a couple of times.
  8. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    I'm not too clear on exactly what you have an offset or not. If you do have an offset, then you build the fire in the firebox. This grill/smoker units are made to be a smoker when using the fire box and a grill when building your fire in the grill itself.

    The reason for lowering the chimney is to maintain cooking temp at the grill level where the food is and to give the food a chance to be exposed more to the smoke. With the chimeny the way it comes, all the heat and smoke goes right up the chimney having little time to cook or flavor the food that is down on the grill. I have a small offset and even moved my chimeny from the top to the side of the top opposite the fire box.

    After adding a heat deflector to force the heat from the fire box down to the bottom of the cook chamber and under the tuning plate, another common mod, I changed the tuning plate to a series of foil wrapped fire bricks. By varying the spaces between the bricks I got the tuning or even distribution of heat I was looking for but the bricks also added some much needed thermal mass. That has the effect of evening out of temperature over time which makes wild swings in cooking temp all the less likely which means the food doesn't get a change to either cool down or burn and scorch.

    For added moisture, I simply put a loaf pan of water on the grill just over the heat deflector plate where the heat comes in from the fire box.

    I am now considering making another mod to my setup by moveing the chimney yet again. This will convert it to what is called a reverse flow design. This time the chimney moves back to the top but over to the same end the fire box is on.  I will then add a reverse flow plate which forces all the heat to travel across to the opposite end of the grill area from the fire box then up on that end and reversing back across the grill and food to the chimney where it finally exits. I will cover the entire reverse flow plate with fire brick again but with no gaps or spaces so I can retain if not even add some additional thermal mass.

    This I think will be the last mod. Although it's smoking and performing very well as it is now, anything can be improved and the reverse flow just makes a whole lot of sense to me. Besides messing with it is half the fun.

    I don't know how thick the sheet metal on your unit is but mine was way too thin to do any good at all so I added to the sheet metal thickness too. Now it is no longer using all of my fuel just to burn the paint off of the smoker but uses it to actually cook the food instead. The paint even stays on the fire box now where it burned off immediately with the first fire the way it was before. That also saved a lot of leg work by not requiring so many trips to add fuel for a smoke. Now it's down to every couple of hours or so.  I'm out more to add a chunk or two for smoke than for adding fuel. I use lump for fuel and chunk for flavor. I'm looking for a little bit more efficiency improvement from the reverse flow change. I suppose if I wanted even more fuel efficiency I'd have to add an insulating blanket of some sort.
  9. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  10. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    Thanks everyone for the good info.  I'll post me progress!
  11. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    Got the fire box installed yesterday.  Now I am wondering if the damper hole on the side of the grill will be a big enough whole to allow smoke into the cooking area.  Any thoughts on this?  Was thinnking I could either leave it or hack a bigger hole in the side.

  12. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    So I decided to hack a bigger hole in the side where the damper hole was to allow more smoke and heat into the cooking area.


    Then I took the charcoal plate that runs along the length of the cooking area, flipped it upside down and drilled holes increasing in quantitiy away from the fire side.  Thought I would try this as a tuner plate / baffle so to speak.  Appears to work well but I will see how the heat varies from side to side.


    Next I added the exhaust tubing to lower it to the grill level.  Lowes had some nice 3" tubing and clamp that worked perfectly.


    Then I added 2 more thermometers to each side at grill level.


    Built a fire and started smoking the grill to season it.  Cant wait for my first test run later this week!


    Thanks to everyone for all the great info on this forum.  Made all my mods before my first smoke so I should have a pretty good chance of making something editable the first time out.  LOL
  13. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    Now, what is the best way to build a fire in the fire box. 

    What I did for today was to line up a bunch of charcoal mixed with a few pieces of hickory wood.  I then started the fire at the far end of the fire box so it would burn its waay toward the cooking area and after the fire was going good at one end, I tossed a couple hickory logs wrapped in foil on to add to the smoke.

    Any better suggestions?

    After about 1 hour, temp shows to be approx 190-200.  It is also apparent that the left end is appox 25 degrees cooler.
  14. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Get something to use as a charcoal basket that can be suspended just below the lip of the door on the firebox, but is still suspended above the bottom of the firebox by 2" or so. It looks like you got a char-griller fire box? If so the shaker basket they sell at Lowes makes a great basket. You have to cut the handle off of it, then use four 3" bolts and 2 nuts per bolt (8 nuts), sandwich the wire of the basket between the nuts leaving two inches of bolt to extend beyond the basket. Then you can rest it on the rails that the upper grates of the firebox rest on.

    Then you can fill the basket about 3/4 full of unlit charcoal and mix in some wood chunks, dump a chimney of lit on top of that and you should get a nice long burn out of it. And by having the baskey suspended above the bottom of the firebox the ash can fall out of the fire and the fire can draw air better. Here is a nice link to one:  
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2010
  15. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the site Phunkey, glad you found us. There is a mass of information here, if your looking for something try the wiki's, or just ask if you dont see what you are looking for.

    Nice to see ya got the smoker up and running. Now how did things turn out?
  16. looks good i cant wait to get mine going on tuesday, got 2 sockeye salmon that ill be smoking
  17. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    Well the seasoning process came out nice as the entire inside is an amber color.  I was able to maintain the cooking temp and smoke and quickly figured out how to increase the temp or increase the smoke.  Wrapping some wood in foil really brought on the smoke.

    I am going to make one more mod this week to the fire box to do the basket thing as that is a great idea.  After that, I will try my first smoking.  So many choices to decide on what to smoke first.  And no, I will not be inviting anyone over for the first smoking!  If it turns out, I may take a taste test over to the neighbors to get an outside opinion.  Thanks for everyones input and suggestions.  I am going to have fun with this smoking meats.  Hope the gas grill doesn't get upset!

  18. phunkeydude

    phunkeydude Newbie

    At one point it rained hard and the smoker maintained its heat and kept right on smoking.  I do see why some of you try and seal the rim of the top as I did have smoke leaking out from the top edges.


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