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Wood smoker build suggestions

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I am a newbie to this board, and am looking for a little insight on a smoker that my dad built. It is an offset firebox style that we made with a 20 gallon drum and a 55 gallon drum, and a bunch of stovepipe we had laying around.

I have since bought a little chief and started with making my own jerky and snack sticks. In fact, i have another batch that is going in the smoker this afternoon. I also have been talking about getting a masterbuilt electric smoker for christmas. However, i hear a lot of people talking on this board about how smoking with wood as a heat source is the ultimate way to smoke as far as flavor is concerned. Also, my dad is really pround of the smoker he made, and has since painted it all black, and welded a front on the firebox with a little stove door, as well as installing dampers in the pipe between the firebox and the smoke chamber, and the stack coming out of the smoke chamber. The drawback is that it is way too unpredictable, and we can't keep the heat where we need it for any type of smoking.

So, my question is how can we make it so that we can?? I am guessing that we would have a little more control over the temperature if we were to add a few more sections of stove pipe between the firebox and the smoke chamber, so the smoke has a chance to cool a bit before reaching the chamber. And maybe put closable vents below the dampers in case we need to completely cut off the smoke/heat.

I am open to any and all suggestions. Thanks in advance. Here is a picture.
post #2 of 9
The key to controlling your heat is to control the amount of air the fire gets. You need to seal the firebox up airtight except for a vent that you can open and close to control the air. Don't try to control the heat leaving the smoking chamber or you'll end up with creosote flavored meat.

Remember, you don't need a big fire in that situation to smoke. A slow controlled fire is what you want.
post #3 of 9
If you ara talking about the smoker that your dad built in the picture. I saw this blanket insulation made by 3m it's made to wrap cooking hood duct work and that stuff is heavy and has a heavy duty jacket on the outside. So it looks like it would work out perfect for what you and alot of you northern smoker need to keep smoking iin the snow and cold weather. I'll get some info on it and post it if you want me too. Just pm me and I'll give it all to you.
post #4 of 9
First off, what they said, a small manageable fire is the key, and and insulated blanket would sure help.

On a unit like this, even though it looks like it works great, is going to be harder to control just because of the thin walled metal. Thicker steel like on some of the professional built units and some home built units recover and maintain temps better because there is more mass to hold the heat. I would seal up the firebox totally, leaving only the draft as a means for any air to get into the unit. Post a few up close pics of the the firebox and the main chamber. As far as wood being the ultimate way to go, well it is one way to go, but its not for everyone, and certainly does not make it ultimate way to get the best possible smoke flavor. Give an old pro a little chief electric smoker and he will turn out a better smoke than a novice with a lang. All wood is mostly just the "old school" way. I use all wood because I wanted the challenge of doing it in the purest form of smoking.

I would not add anymore lengths of pipe between the firebox and the chamber. Get some of that insulation and wrap that main chamber. If you can, wrap the firebox. Control your temps with the damper ONLY. Do not use a chimney damper as this is going to cause smoke to become stagnant and give the meats some nasty tastes. By insulating this smoker with the proper insulation, not only will it works great in the cold winter weather, but you will also cut WAY down on the amount of wood you use.

Another thing you may try, if you can, is to add some steel mass to the main chamber. Heavy pieces of steel placed inside will absorb heat, hold it and release it slowly and help to cut down on fluctuating temps.

Take some more pics of this setup in detail so we can see it better. If you don't have a photobucket account, get one. Makes uploading photos a breeze.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 


hi guys, thanks again for all of your wonderful ideas. I know the firebox is welded, but it is not airtight. I will try welding it a bit tighter and see if that helps.

Also, the insulation that you guys are talking about, is that called reflectix?? I know that I was looking for an insulator blanket for my little chief, and rather than pay the $25 for the custom one from luhr jensen, i made one out of the reflectix insulation for $10 per roll, and i have enough left over to make about 5 more if i need to. Anyhow, i have leftovers. I will try those and let you know how they turn out. Unfortunately, that smoker is in Wisconsin, and i am in minnesota, but i will work on it over christmas. Thanks again for all your expertise, guys!!
post #6 of 9
..another quick and easy way to help regulate your heat is to add firebrick to the cooking container... but as stated above, fire control is key.

The key is the answer to this question..

Q When does an experienced pitmaster's smoker need more wood?
A Never...
post #7 of 9
Im not sure of the name of the insulation. Make sure you check the temp ratings for it. There is also the option of using the insulation for kilns. Not real spendy either as you would only need a small amount for the firebox. I am in Minnesota as well, near Preston. Where about are you?
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 


Thanks again for the tips. kiln block is something i never even thought of.

Meathunter, I am in the eagan area. I gave the info you gave me to my dad, and he is all excited to try it out. He is retired and always looks forward to a new project. I'll post more when we make the mods.
post #9 of 9
Get ahold of bbq engineer. He used that kiln insulation in his insulated smoker, worked like a champ. Send him a pm if your interested. He can tell you the name and where he got it.
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