A little history and short story and an early warning I have long posts but I like detail!
I have some ideas and love to fabricate and just looking for some thoughts and opinions on a more efficient setup for a new firebox for my Chargriller Super Pro barrel style smoker. It currently has the side fire box and I have used this since around 2006 and have put a lot of use on it and never been overly happy with the efficiency and has never been a smoker that I trust to stay hot much more than an hour or so without adding fuel or rustling the coals around a bit. The upgrades noted on this forum made this smoker 10 times better than how it came out of the box! I have already added a nice sized backing sheet for water on the side box inlet set and added the long flexible 3" pipe down to the grate so the heat doesn't go straight out the short spout as these have out of the box. I also made a raised coal grate in the firebox so the ashes have somewhere to go instead of choke out the fire after a few hours. I am amazed at how well my father-in-laws Brinkman upright bullet style smoker works and how long heat retains. I also have a good friend that bought an egg style smoker/grill last year and he went almost a full 6-8 hours with the fuel he put in it first time using it. I realize that heat rises in these styles and have limited airflow but every time I use my side draft and is cold or windy outside it seems all I can do to get up to and maintain 225 deg. I built a big box/shield to block wind around the entire firebox side for windy days. I am for the most pleased with the end product and everyone we invite over loves what gets smoked, I just can't leave well enough alone haha. I use three digital thermometers inside- 1 for the grate in the middle and 2 for meat- plus a nicer dial thermo to verify heat variation and what the digital gauge is reading to test before meat goes on.
I have been wanting to build something from scratch for a while and figured- I like the smoker I have, I just want it to be more efficient and retain the large cooking area on the grates. Has anyone taken a barrel type smoker like this and installed their own bottom fire box/ barrel and ducted it straight up into the bottom of the barrel? I would love to see pictures and feedback on how well it worked if so. A friend of mine built his own custom smoker with a 55 gal barrel on the bottom for the fire, then a few 3 or 4" pipes on top to connect a second 55 gal barrel for the meat to go in on grates. I loved the concept, not sure how well it works since that is a lot of area to heat compared to what I have but nonetheless the idea has always stuck in my head. So here is my plans- Take the bottom section layout of a bullet style smoker and plumb it up into my barrel style smoker. I have several 20 or 25 gal steel barrels to cut up and use that I thought would make a great starting point for a new fire box to build bellow the barrel. Maybe some type of ceramic pot or cylinder to go around the new fire box to help retain more heat, just chewing on ideas.
My main concerns are- water pan location and size/quantity of pipes to let heat go into the cooking chamber. I could retain the large baking sheet I have in the barrel now, which I believe is an 18x12x2" pan that fits nicely under the grates. I could have a tube or duct go straight up under the middle of the water pan and then it would distribute around. I'm not sure I want this water pan arrangement with a bottom fed heat source as it goes wall to wall (front to back of barrel) and all the heat will have to go around the outer sides of the pan so the meat in the middle is only going to get what comes off of the pan and what circulates in the top of the barrel. The water pan being used is only a few inches under the great in this smoker. So there is another design question- water pan under the barrel so ALL incoming heat already has moisture coming up with it from a lower mounted water pan OR do I leave the pan that is there and not over think this if it won't make that much difference?
Thanks in advance for those of you who took the time to read this and have some ideas to share!