First off, this is a killer forum, I've already learned quite a bit and feel very inspired!
I just purchased a Smoke Hollow 7000CGS this weekend, put it all together, and smoked some meat for the first time yesterday, I can tell this is going to become another obsession-- my first love is beer brewing, I make between 10-30 gallons per month on a system I put together in my garage... but I digress.
I fully understand the grill/smoker I bought isn't of the highest quality and referred to as a "cheap offset smoker" (COS). I got a pretty bangin' deal on it ($350) and figured it would at least be a good way to ease myself into smoking. I've read about some modifications to make this unit better and already added high temp gasket around the smoke/charcoal lid (will add to firebox soon, ran out of rope). While a lot of guys mentioned using JB Weld to seal seams in the firebox, mine didn't have any openings and, in fact, looks to have been constructed quite well-- all the edges are overlapped by about an inch or so. I plan to make a couple more modifications before my next smoke and would appreciate any advice or feedback:
1. Raise the rack in the firebox with a couple bricks, which I figure will not only increase the heat in the smoker box, but allow me to start the charcoal on the floor of the firebox then add wood to the rack. Is this legit?
2. Add gasket rope to firebox lid.
3. Add rolled flashing to bottom of chimney, secure with large SS hose clamp... will 10" fit?
4. Create a heat deflector with leftover flashing, like this guy did.
These seem to be the most common modifications that have a noticeable impact on performance. Anything you'd do different?
After seasoning and a dry run, I figured I'd try my hand at smoking some meat. I wanted to use a relatively cheap cut that wouldn't require much time, so I settled on a couple thick cut pork chops. Given my overall lack of smoking knowledge, the meat came out pretty good, though certainly not perfect. The following is the process I used last night with changes I plan to do in the future, any tips are very much appreciated!
***The outdoor temperature when I started was about 63F and dropped to about 50F during the smoke***
I started a half chimney of mesquite chunk charcoal, placed on rack in firebox, kept inlet and chimney fully open, threw on 2 chunks each of apple and mesquite woods, watched for temp increase via the thermometer on the smoke box lid; rose to about 150F over the first 20 minutes, added a few more pieces of charcoal, which increased heat only marginally, so I built up another half chimney of Match Light briquettes and added them to the firebox, added a couple more chunks of wood to get burning, the temp finally hit 250F after about 45-60 minutes, at which point I put the meat in the smoke box. I noticed the temp of the smoke box seemed to start dropping fairly quickly after about 10-15 minutes, so I'd throw on another chunk or 2 of charcoal... it worked fairly well, I guess. After 2 hours of smoking, the chops had an internal temp of 165F, so I took them off and let them rest 15 minutes before eating. Oh yeah, I also placed a water pan on the charcoal basket and set it to height level 3, I'm not sure if this was even necessary...
For my next attempt, I was thinking I'd raise the log rack with a couple clay bricks, use a full chimney of charcoal on the floor of the firebox, bring the smoke box to temp before adding wood, wait for "thin blue smoke" (5 min or so?), ensure the smoke box is at proper temp (250F or so?), then add meat.
The end result last night was definitely tasty, though my wife and I agreed the meat was bordering on too smoky and I personally thought it was a tad too dry. I understand boneless pork chops are a pretty lean cut of meat, but everywhere I read said to smoke them around 250F for 2 to 3 hours-- mine were probably closer to 225F (according to the lid thermometer) most of the time and went for exactly 2 hours. Hmm.
Thanks for letting me run-on and especially to those who offer advice. I'm planning to smoke a tri-tip this coming Sunday and would truly be grateful for any tips to make it a good experience!