I have a Master Forge vertical propane smoker (30" model with a single door). Its been a great inexpensive unit to learn on. The unit has the chip tray (cheap thin metal) sitting right on the heating element. This usually causes a quick flare up and burn of the wood. Last weekend I did some experimenting with using a cast iron skillet for a wood tray. I was doing beer can burgers. The chips/pellets would smoke and smolder well at 300 degrees. But I wouldn't get much going with lower temps. I think the cast iron skillet may be too high and thick to get the wood going? The bracket for the chip tray is probably 3/4" high and 7" wide. I was debating on getting a cast iron chip box or thicker chip box and turning it sideways so it sits about 3/4" above the heating element. Any thoughts?
Master Forge Vertical Gasser Chip Box
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I had a similar unit....I gave it to my brother a few years ago. It served me well to learn on. The chip pan, although chincy works fine with wood chunks. The instructions might say not to use chunks but I can tell you they work just fine. After loading in the pan I'd let them go for a few hours then the chunks would get flipped (if they weren't burned up) and another chunk might get added.
The arrangement of the chunks is important. It's best to use two or three - 3-4 inch, relatively flat chunks. Put the lid on even if it doesn't cover the chunks 100% (but you don't want them sticking up 3 inches) that will keep them from burning. With this method I learned to produce perfect Thin Blue Smoke (TBS)
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I pretty much have the same smoker (Masterbuilt vertical gasser with 2 doors) and so far I've been doing my cooks with a 8 inch cast iron pan sitting on top of the factory chip pan. Like many others, I skip the wood chips and I've been using large wood chunks. I can tell you with certainty that large chunks of wood have no problem getting up to temp and smoking when using a cast iron skillet. I had a issue with wood chunks igniting in the factory pan, but they don't ignite in the cast iron skillet.
Adjusting your temp down into the mid 200s requires a different modification though. I had to install a needle valve in between the the propane tank and the smoker. The modification is simple and well explained if you search "needle valve".
Thanks Hollowpoint for the additional info. I have been pretty lucky with getting lower 200 temps with the setup currently and haven't had to do the needle valve yet. I haven't used chunks in my cast iron skillet (just chips and pellets) but last week I had trouble getting the pellets/chips getting smoldering/smoke until I reached 300. I was thinking the cast iron was a bit too high from the flame and thick. I have some chunks I am going to test tonight in the more standard chip tray and in the cast iron.
The wife requested beer can burgers tomorrow night so I am good for that setup. I am may through on a butt in the morning to smoke beforehand.
No foil....Just the chunks and the pan. One other little trick I learned.....Once you find where 225 is on the temp control dial don't mess with it again. Simply turn the propane off at the tank. Only rarely did I need to mess with the knob on the smoker.
Went with the chunks in the original chip tray and it worked well. I was getting a good thin smoke from them. I experimented with putting a layer or two of HD Foil in the tray under the chunks and I did get a longer smoke time. I would getting about 1 hr for a small chunk.