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Made a Long Burning Charcoal Basket for my Firebox

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

It's made from two 12" X 24" sheets of 18 Gauge Expanded Steel, each bent into a "U" and positioned with one sheet stting right on top of the other, but turned 90 degrees to each other so that there are 4 sides and a double thickness bottom (takes longer to burn through). The sides are 6 inches tall and the bottom is 1 foot square - 1/2 cubic foot. The Sheet Steel baffles are each 6" X 8", to form a labyrinth within the basket. Welding thin metal stock like this requires turning down welder's power dial way down, and making quick welds - but it's easy and fun. Took me about 45 minutes and used about $25 of steel (since I only buy metal in very small quantity).


post #2 of 45
What smoker will you be using this in.
post #3 of 45
Thread Starter 

I will be using it in an Oklahoma Joe Longhorn Horizontal Offset Firebox Smoket/Grill.

post #4 of 45
Thread Starter 

Here's a more traditional charcoal basket you can just dump a full chimney of lit coals into - made from 13 Gauge, 3/4 inch hole expanded metal (steel) bought from a big box store. The best method is to bend up 2 sheets that are 1 foot by 2 feet as mentioned above, and then tack them together carefully for a 1/2 cubic foot basket:




Here's what it looks like in my Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn, viewed from the front/top firebox door:




Here's what it looks like viewed from the side firebox door:




Note that there is plenty of airflow around all sides ot the charcoal basket, and that this basket design provides for a double thickness bottom so it will last longer before it burns through. 

post #5 of 45

I just bought a new oklahoma joe longhorn the other day.  the only problem is, I can't seem to get it hot.  I know it sounds weird.  I have tried lump charcoal as well as briquettes.  I do throw a little wood in every so often.  But I haven't gotten it over 225 degrees yet and I can use a full charcoal chimney.  It doesn't hold heat very well either, it might hold 200 or so for about 30-45 then starts dropping pretty quick.  I don't know, maybe I need to just play with it some more.  Any suggestions would be great.  Thanks!

post #6 of 45
Thread Starter 
Use more fuel for more heat!

Consider grilling steaks on the firebox side or right up against the firebox port on the food chamber side (without a convection/diffuser plate) when it's searing you seek with minimal fuel consumption.

Even with a convection/diffuser plate installed you can still generate higher temps for say a food chamber full of chicken by using more fuel - a plain basket like pictured above helps you stack your fuel load better without having to pile it up on the sides of the firebox. For a hot fire I often start with a full chimney of hot burning briquettes like Stubbs, and then add Mesquite chunks, quartered de-barked Oak sticks, and Lump to get a roaring smokey fire. The plain basket pictured above will hold 1/2 cubic foot of coals, which is over 2 chimneys - and it keeps the coals piled together rather than spread out for higher heat and better control.
post #7 of 45

Nice Work!


Big Lew BBQ

post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 

The plain basket rocks! It will hold a full chimney of lit briquets PLUS more mesquite chunks, oak sticks, and lump charcoal, and it fits beneath the direct cooking grate when you do use one over the firebox - like I did tonight to grill some split lobsters over my wood fire (be sure to arrange the lengthwise split lobsters so the cracked claws are all in the center of the heat, and the split tails are all aimed outwards towards the cooler cooking areas nearer the outer perimeter)!

post #9 of 45

I just made one of these baskets last week and also dropped my exhaust pipe down to grate level.  I am curious to see how this helps with holding temperature and see if it evens it out any.  I should be finished with my diffuser plate sometime in a week or so as well.  But I am firing it up tomorrow with some butts, and pork loins.

post #10 of 45

  I am assuming that you did cvalibrate your therms? Just to be sure.




post #11 of 45

skifreak. from just looking at the Q-view you do have of the firebox , it looks as if the bottom of the basket is almost even with the middle of the 'Air Intake Manifold'. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong . A better shot would say a lot.IMHO you're too low with your basket and need to raise it so more air gets under the basket - the sides look as if they have plenty of breatghing room. The ash pan id under the intake and does little but hold static air.


I could be wrong, but see what others say...


Good luck and...

post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 
Great questions! Yes, the mechanical thermometers do track right with my digital thermometer (double probe model). I generally only use my digital thermometer when I want to continually measure meat internal temperature as well as cooking chamber temperature. Otherwise the mechanical ones are more handy. I have another view of the side firebox of this Oklahoma Joe Longhorn showing the open side door with the butterfly damper location relative to the basket, but can't attach the image for some reason. However, there are 2 butterfly openings, one at the very bottom of the side door and one nearer the top. The lower butterfly opening is below the charcoal grate that the charcoal basket rests on, which BTW is the original charcoal grate that comes with the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn Smoker-Grill. So yes, one of the air intake ports is well below the charcoal basket, but the other one is nearer the top of the basket - but still below the direct-searing cooking grate that rests immediately above the charcoal basket. This 6 inch high charcoal basket fits perfectly between the 2 original OK Joe grates, and it does work very well. If the basket was any higher in the firebox then the direct-searing cooking grate would not be able to rest on its welded attachment rails, and would be too high. The charcoal basket is also properly located with respect to the side firebox opening to the indirect cooking food chamber - and I am using a home-made convection/diffuser plate inside the food chamber.
post #13 of 45
Thread Starter 


I was able to upload the above picture showing the position of the butterfly intake draft openings relative to the charcoal basket. Note that the lower opening is below the charcoal basket. Note also that the charcoal basket rests on the original Oklahoma Joe Longhorn charcoal grate, and is immediately below the original direct-searing food grate. There is breathing room around the charcoal basket, though it's a good point that there is dead air below the basket in the ash removal drawer - which is a pretty nice convenience from an operational standpoint. The charcoal basket does currently work well, and does allow full ash drawer and direct-searing cooking grate capabilities, but maybe there would be some benefit to blocking the upper butterfly intake draft opening, so that air only enters beneath the charcoal basket? If you think so, I could feasibly try that and report back.

post #14 of 45
Thread Starter 

WRT the question about temperature gauges, the below picture shows where mine are positioned:




Adding a home-made convection/diffuser plate evened out the temperature variation between the left and right side temperature gauges to within around 10 degrees. Also shown in the picture are some water pans and my exhaust stack internal extension.



post #15 of 45

I beg to differ with whoever said to add more fuel . you'll soot - up the Smoker with Creosote. What you need is a small hot fire to be controled by the intake ; exhaust fully open at all times.

I use all wood and IMHO is the best fuel ,just enough moisture content to create good smoke and no Petrochemicals in it to make things worse.

This is my inlet holding a 225° temp. for 1.5hrs. and a ember bed like this:

You can get wood for free if you get out and scavenge , most people will let you haul it away and you win. The worst that can happen is they say "NO".

This little Ember Bed helped cook this:

Have fun and...

post #16 of 45
What kind of smoker do you have oldschool? I have an Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn.
post #17 of 45
Thread Starter 
Yup, it was me that suggested adding more coals to get more heat into the indirect heat food chamber side of an Oklahoma Joe Longhorn, for a higher temperature smoke (like poultry). IME with this particular smoker/grill this works for me by adding another half chimney of briquets and/or some extra lump charcoal. I only add wood sticks when I have a hot fire going, and they are always dry seasoned debarked quartered oak/maple logs that I'm not going to burn in my heating woodstoves because they are small. Sometimes I add chunks of dry seasoned mesquite or apple wood for flavor. Having a charcoal basket keeps the fire hot when the intake port is wide open.

I haven't experienced any creosote issues, which IMO generally only result from burning green or wet wood - as creosote is merely the byproduct of smoke and moisture condensing as it enters a cool chimney space. OTOH I generally cook with primarily charcoal (briquettes and lump) which is a dry fuel.
post #18 of 45

I just happen to make a charcoal box today, before even seeing this thread, and glad to see others and their methods.  Basically I used the same method, bending by hand and using bolts/washers to hold the wraps together in a box form.  This was for my new, early Xmas present, a Brinkmann Trailmaster Limited Edition model, which I did my first brisket on the other night, and turned out okay, even though I wasnt completely satisfied, but the others who ate it said it was good... I had a hard time keeping temps and smoke, and since this was the first time using a stick smoker, as I have a propane water smoker also that I am use too, it will be a learning curve on just how to cook with it, but even so I am excited with it...even at my old age...


post #19 of 45
Thread Starter 

I have found that my charcoal basket works best when shifted over closer to the Butterfly Air Intakes:




My basket is 1 foot square and 1/2 foot deep, so that it will clear the cooking grate for searing grilling:



post #20 of 45
I've got the same Oklahoma Joe Longhorn Smoker.

I'm in the process of making my own charcoal basket 14"x14"x7". I'll let you know how it works, but I've never really had a BIG issue with maintaining temp. This will just make it easier.

I went through 3x20lb bags of charcoal for an 8hr slow cook pork shoulder. It come out great but man...that was a lot of fuel!

I hope this basket helps...
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