I don't know the answers to your questions, but I just wanted to say thank you for this helpful tip. I don't think I've ever run across that suggestion before, it's a brilliant idea! I bet some of the extra unglazed terracotta pot liners I have laying around would work too. I can, however, share some observations I made the other day with my unit. I only recently got my smoke hollow assembled. While doing a test burn and seasoning; I had a non digital oven themometer, the door thermometer that came with, and my digital thermometer with two probes (one for food, the other temps the smoking chamber). They all gave me different temps, but were all within a 30 degree range, so I figure there are some hot spots. Was thinking I would just keep the digital chamber probe close to the food I'm cooking (also ordered a second one just like it last night). Here's a suggestion about how to secure your probe. Someone around here posted pics of the inside of their smoker, and this person had drilled a small hole inside a block of wood for his probe to fit into. I was planning on doing this too, and if you decide to do it as well- make sure you use untreated wood so toxins don't leach out of the wood tainting your food. That's all I got to share.