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Converting A Stick Burner To Propane

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

After a perfect first cook with my new offset stick burner a few weeks ago my second session was an absolute debacle. No matter how much charcoal and smoker wood I used or how the dampers were adjusted I absolutely could not get the smoker above 200 degrees. I don't know if it was because of the excessive breeze or what, but nothing worked. After 4 hours I took the turkey breasts off and finished them on the grill. That was frustrating and I thought that there must be a better way to regulate temps with this type of smoker. I did a huge amount of research before buying this one and appreciated the "set it and forget it" aspect of propane and electric units but just had my heart set on a stick burner. With the fiasco I had gone through I wondered why I couldn't convert the offset to electric or propane for heating and still get all of the benefits of a stick burner. Another research project ensued and I determined that propane was my best bet. I looked at a ton of different components trying to come up with something that was cost effective, efficient, and wouldn't require a lot of modifications to the smoker. The last thing I wanted to do was tear the thing apart for the conversion only to find it didn't work and have to do a ton of work getting it back to original condition. Then I had an epiphany :-)  I remembered that I had a turkey fryer up in the attic that I bought long ago for beer making that has not been used in years (side note: I still make beer every weekend, just use a different brewing process). I got the thing down and luckily it was still in perfect condition. It's stainless steel, measures 16" x 16" square, and has tall legs welded to it. A couple of quick measurements proved that it would fit perfectly into the fire box, it was just WAY too tall. A couple more measurements and I cut the legs off, dropped it into the fire box, and it was a thing of beauty....so far. I marked inside the fire box where the gas line would have to come through, drilled the appropriate sized hole, connected the gas line, and hooked it to a propane tank. Now to see if it would get up to temp and maintain it, so I fired it up. Within minutes it was at 225 and staying there. I tweaked it a couple of times to see if I could attain higher temps and it worked great. The temp was then backed down to 225 and I set my charcoal pan inside with a handful of smoker wood in it to see how the smoking aspect would work. In about 3 minutes there was a beautiful volume of smoke going through the cooking chamber and out the chimney....it was flawless thus far and I had only drilled one small hole in the fire box which would be an easy fix if it didn't work. I let the entire amount of wood burn and it sat in the pan and smoldered the entire time without ever catching fire, exactly as it's supposed to do for this application. I did wind up drilling 2 more small holes through the frame of the turkey fryer and fire box to bolt the fryer in place so it wouldn't move. Now for the untimate test: to cook something. The decision was made that pork chops were in order so I went to the meat market and had the butcher cut me a sack full of 1 1/4" thick center cut butterfly loin chops. They were oh so pretty :-)  I lit the smoker up when I got home up and went about prepping the chops. By the time the chops were ready the unit was up to 220 degrees so I tweaked the regulator a little and put the smoker wood in to get it going. A couple minutes later it was at 230 and smoking nicely so I put the chops on. Throughout the entire 3 1/2 hour smoke I never had to touch the temperature. It stayed perfect the whole time and never wavered. Additionally, as opposed to the previous week when I was loading handfuls of wood into it every 15 minutes, I only had to add one chunk of wood every 30 minutes or so to maintain good smoke. The chops were stunningly beautiful and absolutely delicious...at least that's what everybody said :-)  Seriously, they came out fantastic and I was eccstatic with the new set-up. Here is a basic summary with pics following:

-This was the most pleasant, relaxing, enjoyable cook I have ever done

-Cost of conversion was zero. I already had the turkey fryer but a good one can be had for $40.

-Time spent making the conversion was 1 hour. If I had to do it again it would be 30 minutes

-I cut charcoal consumption by 100%

-I cut smoker wood consumption by 80% without sacrificing any flavor at all

-Going forward, this is the ONLY way I will ever smoke food :-) I can't stress enough how great this system is

-All the benefits of a stick burner with the added benefit of "set it and forget it"....just the occasional chunk of wood 

Here is the base smoker in the rain on the day of my first cook with it. The two boxes below have smoker wood and charcoal in them. I have gotten rid of the box with charcoal. Don't need it any more :-)



Here is the turkey fryer installed and lit up



Charcoal pan with smoker wood



Propane tank and gas line. You can see one of the small bolts above the gas line that was used to secure the turkey fryer inside the fire box



That's all for now. Will be doing a big cook this weekend and will post pics if folks are interested in seeing what this baby is capable of doing. I really appreciate all of the great info I have gotten from this site and the recipes of Jeff's that I have done. What a great resource this has been is and I hope to be a regular contributor



post #2 of 3

Robert, morning..... Nice conversion.... Glad you have control over temps an smoke now....  That's a nice looking smoker...   Looks like a well designed unit....  Too bad you couldn't get it to work with sticks...  Who made the smoker ??    Dave

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Good morning Dave and thank you for the words of encouragement. It is nice to have far more control over rgulating temperature and volume of smoke but it's perplexing to me why I was not able to maintain those aspects as I did the week before. As stated, the only thing I can think of is the wind blowing like crazy the second week. Whatever the case I wanted to have consistency when cooking so I can continue learning and improving. If you're not able to figure out what a particular problem is due to inconsistencies, it's kinda hard to fix it :-) The smoker is an Old Country Pecos that I got from Academy for $400. I read mixed reviews about it and some of the things I read are true. Overall the thing is pretty well built but there are some minimal gaps around the lid of the smoking chamber. This causes a small amount of smoke leakage but nothing terrible. One thing I did notice yesterday while cooking is that since the conversion to propane I am no longer getting any smoke leakage at all from the the firebox. Again, it was minimal but there was a small amount of leakage from the lid and some from the damper on the door but alas no more since I converted to propane. I don't know what caused the improvement but I'm happy it happened. That may be part of what is attributing to the lowered consumption of smoker wood tha's needed. Who knows but it works well and I couldn't be happier with the results. Thanks again Dave!! I appreciate the feedback.



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