Hi everyone I have been reading over the various threads about char grill-er pro. I smoked my first time ever last week with one. I tried to smoke a Boston butt.. It turned ok. With that said it was a real struggle to keep the temp @ 225- 250. I was going through charcoal and wood like crazy. In 9 hours I used a small 5 lb bag of hickory wood chunks, approx 12 lbs of charcoal and a bag of hickory wood chips. It was a 65 degree day with a small breeze (10 mph winds). Is that normal to use that much fuel? So now I'm trying to figure what modifications are a must have on char grill-er pro. Any help would be appreciated. I did go ahead and add the dryer vent to the stack, and add 2 thermometers to the cooking surface level the are located to the left and right of the handle about 2.5 inches from the ends.
Help w/ mods on char griller pro
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Modifying your offset smoker
You can make modifications (called "mods" by smokeheads) that will make your offset smoker work a lot better. Try the following mods to tune your pit, and scroll down to the comments section see how other clever folks have made these aggravating devices into serious smokers.
Add a deflector or a convection plate or a duct. Here's the problem: The cooking chamber is a lot hotter on the side near the firebox. And as the heat moves to the other side it dissipates rapidly. If the cooking chamber is thick and tight, the heat will not dissipate as much. But most offsets are thin and leaky.
There are several ways to help mitigate the prob.
1) Make a flap of metal that covers the opening from the firebox to the cooking chamber at an angle and bolt it on. It will deflect the heat and smoke downward. Or have a neighborhood body shop fabricate one for you. The picture here is a deflector made by Paul Salverda of Walnut, CA, from an aluminum cookie sheet and held in place by one self-tapping screw. He says the temperature diff between sides before the deflector was 40-50°F and now it is only about 10°F.
2) Cori Alcorn writes with this idea "I really want one of those convection plates but can't afford [a commercial] one and my wife wouldn't let me use one of her cookie sheets (she caught me with one of the old black ones that I thought would be fine and says it is her great grandmother's...). So instead I wrapped the cooking rack closer to the firebox with foil and then poked slits in the foil and it seems to work pretty well. My temperatures evened out quite a bit. Just thought I'd mention my solution for the po' man's convection plate."
3) Another option is to have a local body shop fabricate a baffle for you. Coleman Shelton did that and set it on bricks at right. A plate like this will radiate heat and move a lot of it over to the right side away from the firebox.
4) The ultimate solution is to fabricate a heavy steel duct like the ones built into the large commercial offset smokers and move the chimney to the side by the firebox. This design is called reverse flow. This directs all the smoke to the far side of the cooking chamber inside the duct, it travels up into the cooking chamber and across the food to exit the chimney. The duct also radiates heat up to the meat as shown in the illustration below.
Extend the chimney downward. Here's the concept: These smokers have a chimney mounted on the top. Heat and smoke travel from the firebox across to the chimney and out. If you can lower the intake of the exhaust you can move the heat across the grates at a lower level and even the heat in the cooking chamber. One way to do this is with some aluminum roof flashing from your hardware store. Roll it up, insert it into the chimney from below, let it expand to the same diameter as the chimney, and pull it down to grate height. I bought a roll of 0.0092" thick aluminum flashing 14" high and 10' long. I cut off 8" and made my chimney extension from that. Flashing costs about $8 for a roll.
Another way is to remove the chimney altogether, cover over the hole, and put in a new chimney down low as barbecue enthusiast Bruce Cook has done, above (photo credit: Bruce Cook). Here's how he described the process: "I cut a hole just below grate level and welded an elbow to the side of the pit. Then I used an exhaust pipe off of a semi-tractor, I then stuck the exhaust pipe into the elbow. Any metal tube that is 4-6" in diameter would work." Clever fellow with the right last name, no?
Add a chimney cap. A chimney cap like the one to the right sits on top of the chimney, keeps the rain and snow out and prevents rust. The place I bought mine doesn't sell them anymore, but maybe you can find a source.
Add a bottom grate to the firebox. My Char-Broil Silver Smoker came with a grate for cooking meat inside the firebox directly over the coals. It mounts just below the door. I use that to sizzle in sauce when I am done cooking ribs. I am told some models come with a lower grate for the charcoal to sit on, but mine didn't and I've never seen them on the Silver Smokers I've looked at in stores. The coals sit right on the bottom of the firebox with no airflow below them. So I bought a 13" x 17" grate from spare parts at Home Depot, and hack sawed it down to 13" x 15" so it would hover a few inches above the bottom of the firebox to allow air beneath the coals. Works, ahem, grate. Cost: About $10.
Make a charcoal basket. The technique is to build a charcoal basket that will hold a large pile of coals inside the firebox. With such a basket you can use the Minion Method of fire control. Invented by Jim Minion, this is a clever technique of maintaining constant temp for a long time by filling the basket part way with unlit coals and then you pour hot coals on top. The hot coals slowly ignite the coals below them and the temperature remains remarkably steady for long periods of time.
Here's how to make a charcoal basket: (a) Go to your local body shop and ask them to fabricate a square box about 12" wide x 12" long x 6" deep from flattened expanded carbon steel sheets with a 3/4 inch diamond (or whatever they had on hand). Make sure these dimensions will fit in your firebox first. They can cut a 4' x 6" length from a 4' x 8' sheet, fold it to 12" x 12" x 6", and spot weld the edges together. There is no need for a bottom if you have added a lower grate to the firebox as described above. (b) Purchase the the expanded metal and bend it yourself. Then stitch the corners together with wire or wire coat hangars. That's what Paul Salverda did in the picture above.
Make a mud pan charcoal fuse. "Mark from South Minneapolis" invented this clever device for creating a slow steady burn. You can put it in the firebox, but he prefers to put it on one side of the cooking chamber and no longer uses his firebox. The "fuse" (a.k.a. maze, C, or snake) concept is a clever idea. You pour lit coals on top on one end of the fuse and the coals ignite gradually, like a fuse, moving from one end to the other putting out a steady heat along the way. He says "Pick up two sheetrock mud pans from any home improvement store, about $10 each. [Use stainless steel only, galvanized can offgas toxins]. They measure 4" x 14" each, so two of them will occupy just 8" of width yet the 3" to 4" height will hold plenty of coals and wood chunks with ease. Drill some holes in the bottoms, ends, and sides. Then cut matching notches out of each with tinsnips leaving the flap on one to create a bridge between the two trays. I didn't permanently connect mine so I can place them individually or together at the same time. Fill with charcoal, leaving a space at one end for lit coals. Two trays will work on a 20" barrel grill but if you have more space you can add a third or fourth tray to extend the burn time. If you're doing a very long cook you can simply remove the tray of expired coals behind the fire, refill it while the other continues burning and place the refilled tray back in position. Pretty versatile and easy to do. Why didn't I think of this before? Easy and cheap this set-up will produce a consistent 225°F temp with the proper fuel load for 4 to 5 hours."
Add a water pan to the firebox. I like putting humidity into the cooking chamber to help keep the meat from drying out. There is some evidence that moisture and combustion gases combine to improve the flavor. So after the cooking chamber is up to heat and stabilized, I put a disposable aluminum pan filled with water on the cooking grate in the firebox directly above the coal basket. Cost: About $1.
Increase the capacity. The capacity of my COS is about six slabs of St. Louis cut slabs laid lengthwise. For our big July 4 party, I need more capacity so I use baby backs, which are shorter, and three rib racks. This ups my capacity to 15 slabs. Cost about $75.
Plug the leaks. Use a heat-resistent food-safe putty or caulk to plug the leaks on the cooking chamber, especially around the chimney. You do not need to plug the leaks on the firebox unless they are large. I used J-B WELD, readily available at hardware stores. The website describes it as an "Adhesive, laminate, plug, filler, sealant, and electrical insulator. Like metal, J-B WELD can be formed, drilled, ground, tapped, machined, filled, sanded, and painted. It stays pliable for about 30 minutes after mixing, sets in 4-6 hours, and cures fully in 15-24 hours. It's water-proof; petroleum, chemical, and acid-resistent; resists shock, vibration, and extreme temperature fluctuations and withstands temperatures up to 500°F. J-B WELD is super strong, non-toxic, and safe to use. Before it sets, you can clean up with soap and water". You mix the contents of the two tubes, apply, and let it cure. Some of it will drip down unto the cooking chamber before it cures, so put some newspaper under the chimney to catch drips. When it has cured you can trim off the excess with a knife or sandpaper. They have several products, so be sure to get the red and black tubes rated to 500°F. You might need more than one kit.
Other products that might work, but I haven't used, are Rutland Dry Mix Mortar or Cement, Victor Exhaust System Sealer, or other muffler cements, or high temperature silicone sealants. Just steer away from anything that might melt and drip on the food.
Seal the door. The idea is to put a gasket under the smoke chamber door so it seals tighter. There is no need to seal the doors of the firebox since you need airflow into that space. This won't work on all COS models because it might require you to adjust the hinges. But if you can fit a thin gasket under the smoke chamber door, do it. Rutland Gasket Kits and Gore-Tex Gasket Tape are good options. There are several options so pay attention to thickness and max temp.
Another option is Rutland High Temp Silicone Sealant or use a high temp auto silicone that is rated for 500°F or more. You can make a really thin bead around the door rim or the smoker body where the door contacts it. Lay a thin strip of kitchen wax paper or kitchen parchment paper (which is actually silicon impregnated) on top of the bead. Gently close the doors until the goo spreads out and the paper makes contact with the opposite surface all around. Lift the door and let it set. Peel off the paper. The sealant can be trimmed with a knife. Rutland Products are in hardware stores, furnace and wood stove stores, and online.
Get a good cover. Keep rain, snow, wasps, birds, and other vermin out. Cheapo covers last only a year or two. A good cover costs about $60.
Steve Friend of Weatherford, TX, says "I have used a COS for several years with low maintenance and no rust on the exterior. It sits outside 365 days a year. Everytime I use it, after the cooking is done and while the cooker still warm, I get a cheap can of cooking spray (PAM) and spray the entire cooker from top to bottom. This kind of seasons the metal much like a cast iron skillet. So far so good, no rust and a shiny patina that makes it look new."
Add a Stoker or a Guru. Rock's Stoker and the BBQ Guru are computerized thermostats connected to a blower and damper that manage the oxygen supply to your charcoal or wood fire, allowing you better temperature control. The computer can be set so the blower will be turned up high to get your coals started quickly, then it can be turned down for low and slow, then it can be turned down lower to hold the meat at your desired finished temp, and finally it can be turned off to kill the coals. You can set it so alarms ring when certain temps are reached or after an elapsed time period. You can even hook it up to a wireless router and control it from a web browser.
Insulate. Cheapo smokers are made of thin metal. That means the heat escapes quickly. If you put bricks in the bottom and cover them with foil, the cooking chamber will take more time to heat up, but it will hold heat longer and distribute it more evenly. This will also help dampen temperature spikes. You can also cut down on the heat loss by draping the cooking chamber (not the firebox) with a welding blanket or a foil insulation blanket.
Make cleanup easier. Some COS come with a small hole and a grease cup. It overflows quickly and only works if the smoker is tilted towards the grease cup. One easy solution is to line the bottom with foil. Another clever solution, add a ball valve as Paul Salverda did. Here's what he recommends: "Scrub the inside of the smoker with cleaner and a wadded up piece of foil. Put a bucket underneath the valve. Pour hot water into smoker, open valve. Repeat rinse. Wipe up the remainder. Admire your handiwork. Cook something!"
Make an ash scoop. Get a plastic half-gallon milk jug and cut it up like the one shown here. It makes a great scoop for removing cold ashes. Needless to say, do not remove hot ashes, and remember, ashes should always go into a metal can. Embers can glow far longer than you think.
Make a drain. Paul Salverda says "The next mod I'm going to do is to add a drain to make cleanup easier. I will use a hole saw to drill a 1" hole and then use a 1/2" black pipe nipple, a 1/2" ball valve and 1/2" conduit nuts to install it."
Practice. Practice. Practice. Cook one slab at a time until you have mastered the cooker and don't invite company over until then. You should get it under control in one or two more tries.
This page was revised 6/7/2010
- 88 Posts. Joined 12/2006
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I've had this smoker for 9 years now. I found that there is a lot of heat that escapes around the lip, because the whole top half opens up. I went to the hardware store and found some heat resistant rope (used for furnace doors) and attached it around the lip. It seemed to help. I also turned the coal pan upside down and drilled holes all over it. For the most part, it acted as a deflector to get the heat more in the middle and far end. For years, I used the dryer duct. It seemed ok, but kept interfering with my use of the top rack, so I got rid of it, and haven't really noticed a problem. I still use a lot more charcoal and wood than I would like, and it is difficult in cooler weather to get the temp any higher than 250-275. Since I don't usually cook any higher than that, anyway, it's never been much of an issue. I don't like that I lose so much heat whenever I open the top, but it doesn't take much time to get back up. I used some wire to create a mesh for the wood rack in the firebox, and it seems to have kept better air flow as it keeps the smaller coals from falling down and piling up on the bottom. It has served me pretty well, but I am now in search of a new, bigger, and better one. The charcoal tray is mostly corroded through, and the firebox doesn't seem that far behind. I am only able to fit 4 racks of ribs and a smaller tenderloin. I like to do multiple meats whenever I am having a get-together, and this just isn't enough.
I think with a few mods, you will be satisfied with it. If you ever use it as a grill, be sure to oil your grates when you are finished. I am not sure where you live, but the humidity in Arkansas is not kind to the cast iron grates.
Oh, and welcome to the forum. I haven't been on here in a very long time. However, this is where I learned the art. I enjoy every bit it. Even my mistakes get compliments.
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Most of the heat you're generating with all that charcoal is not making its way into the cooking chamber. What I did with my Char-Griller Pro was ... 1) Threw the firebox in the trash and replaced it with a intake damper. 2) Moved the fire INSIDE the cooking chamber using a "Mud Pan Fuse" and heat baffle/deflector. Works great.
More info/photos on this set-up at: http://www.amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/offset_smokers.html
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for the char griller smokin pro has anybody tried this? if not do you think it would work?