Master Forge Propane Smoker - not getting hot / too much meat!?

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by meat hound, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. Fellow meat hounds,

    Sorry for the long post, but I'm trying to share all the details of what I know and don't know...

    I have the Master Forge 2 door smoker. I've been smoking with it for 3 years now. I've been super happy with it until my last two cooks when i couldnt get it up to 225 or above. Took 2 hours to break 200 and then only hit 215 or so with the gas wide open. I should say that both of these cooks were large batches with 30-40lbs of meat. I never struggled to get up to temp in the past but im not sure i've done cooks this large. I am wondering if this is a matter of heat output limitation of the smoker or if something is wrong.

    I've included pics of the smoker for reference at the end of this post. I just used it yesterday so it's still dirty... my apologies for that.

    [font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif]How I smoke:[/font]
    1. Chunks (not chips) in the wood pan
    2. Water in the water pan
    3. I generally keep the doors closed but open it once every 1.5 hours to spray water / juice mix
    4. Vents on side of wood pan wide open.  I've noticed with the master forge that I have to keep these open or i make charcoal of my wood instead of getting a full burn to ash. This suggests to me that the design may have some airflow limitations in the firebox area in general.
    5. I've been running the stack vent at about 1/2 open. Not sure why I do this really.
    6. I have noticed that the tips (last third) of the flames at the burner are pretty orange instead of a nice hot blue. Not sure if this could be a sign a burner issue resulting in less heat from inefficient burn? (see pic below)
    My current thoughts on addressing the problem(s):
    1. Already got some great feedback (thanks to Dave Omak!) that I should probably run my stack wide open to increase airflow and help prevent 'charcoaling' of my wood. Maybe if I ran this vent wide open I could run the lower vents more closed?
    2. Insulate the doors with high temp rope gaskets as lots of you guys on the forum with Master Forges suggest. I  am considering insulating the doors, sides and top of smoker as well, but this seems like a big hassle. Thinking it'll keep the heat in and on the meat where i need it. My guess is that I may save on gas as well which over time could pay itself off pretty quickly.
    3. Also (thanks to Dave Omak) I've head that maybe the steam smothers the wood burn causing charcoaling and I should switch to sand in the pan? 
    Other questions:
    1.  Is the water pan for temperature control through evaporation and moisture for the meat or just designed to provide thermal mass / heat sinking?
    2. Based on others experience am I pushing the limit at 40 lbs of meat or should this smoker be able to handle it without all of this fuss? 
    Thanks in advance!!!


    All thoughts are appreciated!

  2. ps0303

    ps0303 Meat Mopper

    I use the same smoker as you.  I keep my side vents almost completely closed and top vent wide open.  As you mentioned, your flame looks like you might have a bad or dirty burner.  I'd check it out and see what if anything you see that might need to be cleaned.  I would also get your doors sealed up as well.  You do lose a lot of smoke and heat from all the leaks.
  3. PS0303,

    Thanks for the tips... I wish I'd cleaned the burner and tube out before I smoked yesterday, but will do it before it goes away today. Heading to Lowe's for those rope gaskets this afternoon.

    Interesting, with the side vents close to closed and the top vent wide open you get full burn on your wood i.e. not turning wood to charcoal?

    BTW, do you use water in the water pan or sand?

  4. ps0303

    ps0303 Meat Mopper

    I use water in a disposable aluminum pan but I am contemplating trying sand.  Also just recently I switched to a tube burner from A-maze-n products.  It uses pellets and it works great. I got tired of the flare ups and other things.  Plus you can get almost 4 hours of constant smoke.

    You can also try hi temp RTV for the door sealing.  There are threads here on how to use it and you get a great seal as well.  I had to order my rope gasket as it wasn't available in the store.

    I am considering a new smoker, Brinkmann Trailmaster, in addition to this smoker so I have something with more space for lots of ribs.
  5. davidhef88

    davidhef88 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  6. David and PS0303,

    Thanks very much... I have clear path forward. Will clear out the gas tube... sounds like I'm pretty much guarantee to find some webs or something in there. I also picked up a rope gasket at a fireplace supply store today and will be taking my angle grinder to the water pan in the near future.

    Best to you guys,

  7. davidhef88

    davidhef88 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Let us know what you find.
  8. Well on one hand I am happy to report that the fuel tube, it's screen, and the burner were very clean (pics below). On the other hand I need to keep looking for reasons that my smoker isn't getting as hot as it should. At this point I am pretty sure that the design is the limitation and it's time to sign up for some mods if I want to be able to smoke larger quantities of meat efficiently.

    1. I glued 1/4" fiberglass stove gaskets on both doors today.
    2. I'll be taking an angle grinder to the water pan in the next few days to give more room for airflow and heat to get from the firebox to the smoke chamber itself
    3. Jury's still out on moving away from water and toward a water pan filled with sand

  9. davidhef88

    davidhef88 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep that's clean. Lol. I'd go with sand and cutting that pan. When I put a lot of meat in I preheat my sand in the oven to the temp I will be setting my smoker at. Saves on some fuel from heating the sand.
  10. Pre-heating the sand is a great idea. I used to do that with the water until it started to feel futile since I end up having to fill the pan so often anyway.  My gut is telling me that switching to sand is going to be a big help. It takes a lot of energy to boil water and over the course of a day smoking I fill the water pan at least 10 times.  That's a lot of heat energy down the drain. 
  11. davidhef88

    davidhef88 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  12. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Meathound, morning.......  With the flame I see in your smoker, that thing should run  350 deg no problem....    Folks have covered all the bases on modding stuff...... 

  13. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Definitely go with the sand, you'll wonder why you didn't earlier. Water can only get to 212* so when you want chamber temps above that the water is just fighting you and as it evaporates it's mass decreases again fighting against you. The sand will get as hot as you want it to and once it gets up to temp it will stay there and it's mass won't decrease! If you still want water in the chamber to add humidity or to catch drippings just set a disposable foil pan on top of the sand pan and just add a little water to it.
    This is how I have my GOSM set up and I can dial in any temp from 135* to well over 300* and it will hold it all day.
  14. ps0303

    ps0303 Meat Mopper

    Today I did some chicken wings and didn't use a water pan but I didn't have any sand.  However, I had a few bricks that I wrapped in foil and put in the smoker.  I don't think I will go back to water again.  The bricks did stay hot probably just as good as the sand would.  I did set a drip pan on top of the bricks.  BTW, the wings were great.

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  15. davidhef88

    davidhef88 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great looking wings.

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