So I had a smoking I wanted to do this weekend and read this forum a couple days before. I am handy but don't have a ton of tools at my disposal so I went CHEAP and EASY. Perhaps if you are like me or not even handy at all you try these mods.
First I purchased this heat plate from Lowes for like $18:
It was all prepackaged, plus is has the slots so smoke can get through evenly.
It had an extension piece which made it a bit long, so I just used the extension piece block some of the heat directly form the opening initially (as pictured) but ended up moving it to the top rack of the grill in hopes it may help keep/ reflect some of the heat from up in the top of the grill down. Though it may have done nothing up there.
There were 2 screws sticking out from above the hole so used those to hold e right side of the heat plate, then used the legs it came with on the other side. it had a very slight slope down from the opening.
The second mod I performed today was also just as basic. I found a stainless steel wire basket also at lowes in the plumbing section, its supposed to be for stackable storage. I was originally planning to get a sheet of the steel lath stuff that others have done and fabricated a basket, but this $8 solution suited my better. I then used a cast iron picture holder thing I had lying around the house, basically it is just a # (hashtag) shaped piece of cast iron, and it was the perfect size to brace between the sides of the smoke box to hold the basket about 4 inches off the bottom:
So this is what all the mods I I did looked like:
The other 2 things I added was the dryer vent mod, and I also added 2 new Webber Brand temperature gauges which I drilled in 5 inches into each side, and 4 inches up from the grate. Unlike others I actually found my stock gauge on the smoker side to be fairly accurate and I put in a poulder gauge right next to it on my last smoke and they were always fairly close, so it served well on this as a good indicator of the temp higher up in the box.
Now for how it all worked:
The Heat plate seemed to do its job effectively and the temp across both sides of the box was within a couple degrees almost the entire time. I did remove it for 20 minutes or so just to see if it was working and the right side gauge jumped from the 225 it had been at to 320 and the left gauge dropped to below 200.
The coal basket seemed to work well as the co9als were staying well lit and not getting all stuffed up. I did have to empty out the ash tray about mid smoke as it was getting a bit full in there.
At this point I am not certain that the dryer hose did anything at all, because the grill is not well sealed the smoke was just coming out of EVERYWHERE! I have plans to do the fiberglass seal and some other mods in the near future to remedy that, but again, I don't think the hose mod by itself is worth the effort.
Unfortunately I was too distracted by actually chopping up and eating the Shoulder and Ribs I smoked on her this weekend to snap some pictures, but they were beyond beautiful!
Now the problems: With the current mods really it was tem control that was the success, but I was only able to get the thing to hoover at about 210 no matter what I did in the fire box. I tried everything I could think of but it stayed at a constant 210, one thing I did to remedy this was occasionally taking a handful of red coals and throwing them into the corners of the grill, this brought the temp up to a fairly steady 225, but I literally sat an manned this thing for the entire 8 hours that I had the shoulder in (and the ribs did the 2-2-1 method)
I am sort of in between here, because now looking back I think it was all worth it for the food I got, but because of the time and attention it took I really felt like I had put in an 8 hour work day. So im thinking, "hmmmm... should I spend another $xxx on getting this thing slightly more acceptable to control but putting in some more mods, or should I just consider it a grill alone, and buy a base/mid range electric smoker?" I don't have the answer yet, other than to say I guess im sort of excited at the prospect of seeing how well I can jimmy rig this thing which may carry its own satisfactions.