First off, I want to thank everyone on the SMF for their help and advise. Most of this has been indirect, as I've been wearing out the search bar to educate myself and answer questions. But even if your comments were directed to someone else long ago, it has helped me greatly!
I was recently given a Grillin' Pro with SFB as a gift. I ran it through a gamut of mods: removable burners, tuning plates, heat deflector, and bottom pan to seal off all of the bottom holes. Steel plates and magnets to cover the side and burner holes. Variable chimney caps and ducting to the far chimney. Charcoal basket for the SFB. Silicone rubber seal around 90% of the cooking chamber. 2 Tru-temp analog gauges at grate level.
Grilled on it a few times in the last week. Takes about 10 min to convert from propane grill <---> charcoal smoker. Grilling has gone very well. Super hot compared to my 10 year old Charbroil that recently bit the dust for the last time.
Purchased 4 racks of side ribs and a 7 3/4 pound bone-in boston butt. Made my own rub from a combination of several found online. Coated it last night.
Pulled it out at 6am. Lit Maple Leaf lump charcoal at 8am (overslept second alarm). Finally got it up to temp by 9 and added some seasoned maple chunks. Butt went on. Had issues keeping it above 200F, but went with it. By noon, it was warming up outside (from 30s to 50s), and the temps got up to 225F and I was much happier. Brought it up a little and then added the ribs for 3-2-1.
As a side note, the Tru-Temp dials I bought do not have an adjustment screws. Real bummer since now I have 3 gauges without accurate temps (according to the Maverick digital). My own fault for not making sure I was ordering the right ones, but still a bummer.
Soon after, the wind picked up and the smoker temp dropped as low as 180F. Not having a leeward location to move the smoker to, I came up with a shambled together wind break using political signs I've saved for goose decoys. Temps shot back up. Couple hours later, wind shifted, added more signage. Same response.
A few hours later, I pulled the ribs off from the 3-2-1. Then I really had a hard time keeping the temps up despite wind blocks on 3 sides, no substantial ash buildup in the tray, both the intake and chimney open, and plenty of fuel (added some more from chimney starter). I got really close to throwing it in the oven, but just when I pre-heated the oven, the temps climbed back to 240 for over an hour and I was able to finish the pork while we tore into the ribs.
I was nervous about over-smoking, dryness and creosote. Happy to say that despite all the fluctuations, it was GREAT! My wife is very pleased. Finally, delicious BBQ in Kingston!!!
I'm very critical of my own cooking, but I'd give it a 7-8 out of 10 based on the BBQ I so miss from living in the South. I've got some notes to improve for next time. Tone down the rub, a water heater blanket for the smoker, some RTV on some more seams and respond quicker when temps start to drop. but for a first attempt, I couldn't be happier.
I heard that Q-view was kinda' important, so here ya go: