Thank you to Leah for inviting me to this group to share my story after seeing my post regarding wine/whisky barrel smokers, which I will refer to as WBS.
As I am new to the world of meat smoking I am learning as I go. Some smokes have been good and some not so good but I am having fun all the same. The biggest issue I have with the WBS is heat control since they haven't been engineered like the mass production smokers. What this means is that I have to baby sit the WBS more than other smokers to monitor the temperature fluctuations.
I had seen a WBS on YouTube and thought I could make this very easily. I found a barrel on Kijiji for $70, took it home and power washed the exterior and interior after the top had been cut off. The most important thing to do is before you cut anything is to drill the hoops at every stave and put in 3/4" screws otherwise the barrel will fall apart when you cut the top off. I cut a hatch in the back so that I could add more coals as needed and drilled 3 x 1" air holes around the bottom to allow for air flow. I attached hinges to the lid and hatch then chained the lid so that it stays open hands free. I then drilled 4 holes at 90 degree intervals 1/3 and 2/3 the way up, installed 5" carriage bolts in the holes so that I had 2 levels that I could put the round bbq grate on. Finding inexpensive 22" round grills is not too easy but if you have old charcoal bbqs the grills will do just fine. For venting a found a 4" dryer vent at the recycle store, cut a 4" opening in the lid then installed a 0 to 450 degree meat thermometer you can get at Walmart for about $5. For the heat source, on Kijiji I found a small picnic charcoal bbq and use the pan for the hot coals. All totalled I probably spent around $120 and about 4 hours labour for the WBS.
Like I said there is a lot to learn about using the WBS like how much charcoal to use, how much airflow and distance from the coals. I have found that the staves start to dry out after a couple of smokes so that there is heat and smoke escaping from the gaps. To get around that I have lined the WBS with foil which does a great job of keeping the heat in.
Some people ask me if the WBS will ignite since it is made of wood. That is not really a concern as the hottest my smoker has got is around 375 and wood ignition temperature is much higher, 500-600 degrees. The bottom is lined with foil so any escaped embers will not burn through. I try to maintain my cooking temps between 225 and 275. Once the coals have settled down I can usually maintain 250 for 2 to 3 hours no problem.
I was asked where to buy a WBS but I have not seen them sold anywhere. You can search YouTube for "wine barrel smoker" and there are several out there all hand made. I have friends and family asking me for one so who know I might start building a few of them as a little sideline business. I was shocked when my wife said she loved it when I put it on the back deck during a rain storm. I thought for sure she would say move it back but she said it was very rustic and went well with our 105 year old home. Go figure wives!!!
So far I have smoked ribs, chicken, turkey, brisket, salmon, pork shoulder and "jalapeno buffalo turds" (look them up, so addictive).
Anyways that is my WBS story and I look forward to many more smokes.
Edited by smokinZ28 - 1/7/14 at 6:30pm