I bought this grill/smoker from Home Depot in May. I didn't know what I was getting into until I brought it home. I liked that it had a side firebox, although I had never used one. It had cooking grates in the firebox as well as a charcoal stand in the bottom, so I expected that if I was just cooking a few steaks I could cook them in there. And, if I was cooking for a crowd I could use the main chamber where there are cooking grates and charcoal grates for grilling. After I assembled it, I attempted to season it. The instructions said to get the temp up to 300? or so, but 250 was about all she would do. I turned to the internet and discovered a whole world I never knew existed, Smokingmeatforum.com. After some research, I determined that there were some modifications I could do to get it working correctly.
I made a charcoal basket for longer cooks where I don't want to use or don't have any dried wood (the large firebox is made for wood).
I added two 2 3/8" holes to the front and rear sides of the firebox to help it breathe. The factory vent is too small to get the fire hot enough to exceed 300 degrees.
I added cam locks to compress the lid into the wood stove gasket tape I glued around the lids of the smoker and fire box. I bent the hinge slightly on the firebox lid and it will close up tight with just a small bungee cord hooked to the handle.
I filled the seams with black high-temp silicone. The picture makes it look uglier than it is.
I added a dryer vent elbow to the stack, and it lowered it to about 1/2" above the grate.
I added a stainless steel sheet bent to divert the heat/smoke from the firebox to underneath the tuning plates.
The tuning plates are 3/8" aluminum. I cut them progressively smaller, wider ones closest to the firebox. The temp can easily be regulated to within about 10 degrees from side to side.
The RiverGrille. This photo is before I cut the vent holes in the firebox, which I haven't tested yet. See the bungee cord on the firebox handle. Also, notice how small the factory vent is. These mods have made it work a lot better. I can get it up to 300 fairly easy, if the wind is blowing and it is much easier to keep a constant temp up to 275. The new vent holes should help it get a lot hotter, wind or no wind, and hopefully I can get it to 350 and keep it there. I'll let you know after I test the new vent holes.
Back to the whole new world I discovered on the internet. I bought a UDS back in my youth because it looked cool. I had tried smoking a few things with it, but I could never get it right. Too done, not done enough, too much smoke. So, I put it in the shed and never used it again. When I bought the RiverGrille, I mainly intended to grill on it, but as I discovered on this website and amazingribs.com, there are some amazingly good smoking methods that I have never tried before. So, I did the mods and tried cooking pulled pork. It was the best my family and guests had ever had. Ribs, same thing...the best. Smoked chicken...beat my grilled chicken that always got rave reviews. Will I ever use my RiverGrille for grilling instead of smoking? Probably not. I will just grill steaks on my Weber kettle grill and smoke everything else from now on. I'm not claiming to be some talented smoker chef, I just used the recipes and techniques I learned on the web.
Birds are doing nicely. Grill has been holding at 275 for well over an hour. This was before my vent mod, but the firebox vent was turned toward the slight breeze that was blowing that evening. The other mods had already been done. If the vent mod doesn't work, I'll try one of those electric fan thingys with the thermostat.