Currently, I have an MES 40 that I added a mailbox modification to use my AMNPS with. Just couldn't keep that thing lit inside the smoker for some reason.
Anyway, I really hate that the temperatures inside the smoker are so different, not only on the same shelf from left to right when only smoking two meatloaves or two pork butts or few racks of ribs, but from one shelf to the next, too. Also, though I know it doesn't make the meat taste any differently, I would like to have a nice smoke ring that I am not capable of getting with an electric smoker and pellets. I'm thinking of building a horizontal smoker large enough to cook at least 10 racks of baby backs or a case of Boston butts at once, with the temperature remaining the same no matter where the meat is located on the shelf. So I can get it going, up to the temperature I am shooting for, put the meat in and walk away for the most part for hours at a time and not worry about it.
The thought process is that the cooking surface would be about 42 inches wide and 25 inches deep. My plan is to use propane as my heat source, with a single long tube running through the bottom of the build and a piece of thin (if there is such a thing, for weight reduction) cast iron shaped like a tent above the flames to disperse the heat evenly and keep grease from dripping onto the flames.
1: Am I an idiot for thinking about doing this?
2: If the answer to #1 is no, what wood should I use and should I line the inside with sheet metal, both for insulation and protecting the wood from catching fire or rotting?
3: What should I use for the smoke so I get the smoke ring? I'm thinking a firebox of some sort outside of the smoker far enough away that heat wouldn't be a factor if I wanted to cold smoke cheese or salmon, etc etc, with aluminum dryer vent or something else running into the box.
4: If I just used my AMNPS similarly as I do now, would the combination of the pellets and the propane produce a smoke ring or do I need to actually burn wood? Would flavored charcoal produce a smoke ring?
5: How much outside air needs to surround the propane burner tube for it to function properly? I would like to keep the whole thing as sealed as possible, especially during the colder months, you know?
6: Thinking about using automobile hydraulic lifts, one on each side of the lid similar to those pop up truck bed covers so it stays up on its own when opened. Good idea, or no?
7: I have started, especially with brisket and pork butts, to smoke them for 4 hours and then put them in aluminum pans and cover them for the remainder of the time to save all the juices and reduce some of the cooking time. I've had butts take 18 hours to get to 200 degrees IT. The last time I used my new method, after 12 hours, the IT was 210 on one and 212 on the other. I may not get crispy bark, but the meat stays REALLY moist and flavorful and we haven't had a single complaint since doing this. If I decide to complete the cooking process of something without the aluminum pans and covering, like meat loaf, what could I use to catch the drippings without affecting the heat distribution from the propane?
I will probably come up with a lot more questions, but this seems to be a good start and I know there are a lot of people here that have a lot of experience and are willing to share. Sorry for being so long winded. Thanks in advance.