Combination smoker and pizza oven?

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SmokeandSwagger

Newbie
Original poster
Mar 6, 2023
22
4
Northern NJ
Hey all, after searching for brick smoker builds and finding that they all pretty much lead back to this forum, I figured I should just start at the source with my questions!

I'm interested in building an offset vertical brick smoker, very similar in design and concept to steveaggie's build. It looks like he has not posted on the forum in about 4 years, so I'm thinking I might be out of luck asking him questions, but here's what I'm pondering in my early planning stages:
  • I've seen some vertical smoker builds where people have noted they have problems with too much heat on the bottom racks compared to the top. This seems to be mitigated somewhat by making the firebox offset instead of underneath the cooking chamber. I'm wondering though- has anyone added a metal baffle to make it like a vertical reverse flow setup? Or is that overkill, and the offset firebox is pretty much enough to balance out the heat differences?
  • I love smoking with charcoal, and want to get into stick burning too, but I also have a young child and another on the way, so my free time is precious and limited. I am considering adding a pellet hopper assembly on the other side from the firebox, underneath the baffle plate (so it could work as a heat diffuser and block the racks of meat from its direct heat) so I can either smoke for a few hours with charcoal or wood, then switch to pellets, or just start with pellets if I'm really pressed for time and want to get a long smoke in with minimal input. Does that sound reasonable? It seems like vertical pellet smokers and charcoal smokers are built fairly similarly, and I have seen some commercial smokers that have both the offset firebox and pellet hopper, so it doesn't seem like it's completely unheard of. Here is a very rough sketch, not to scale at all, just a basic visual of the concept:
    rough vertical reverse flow diagram.png
  • Lastly, I love grilling pizzas, and would love to have a pizza oven as well. It doesn't need to be like the 100% most optimal, amazing pizza oven, just good enough to make some pretty solid pizzas consistently. My thought is that if I allow space in the cooking chamber to slide in a pizza stone with space behind it for air to flow up, and then put a solid steel plate or stone below to build a wood fire, I could turn the cooking chamber into a rough sort of pizza oven. I figure if I put two doors in the cooking chamber, I could leave the bottom one closed to keep the fire warm, and only open the top one to slide the pizzas in and out. Kind of like this (view from the side)
  • rough pizza idea.png
I've seen a few videos and designs of people using a more open concept with cheap materials for pizza ovens, and getting them up to 700 degrees F, so it seems like it could be feasible. I suppose my question is, does that sound like it could work for my application? Or am I better off just making a separate pizza oven? I don't want to go too crazy with this build in terms of budget and time spent putting it together, so my hope is to make it sort of a jack of all trades, you know?

I would love to hear peoples' thoughts, especially if anyone has personal experience building a reverse flow vertical smoker and/or has tried cooking pizzas in a brick smoker with reasonable success. Thanks everyone!
 
https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/threads/the-x-fire-grill.284462/

This is a hybrid that my boy and me built just in case you hadn't seen it, we still need to do the final touches, but it will get to 700 degrees no problem. I think a pellet pot would work in it as well, as along as you have the airflow & deflector designed right. I think it would burn more pellets as the brick is a lot of thermal mass..... What would be really cool is to have the pellet burner removable (ie like a smoke daddy unit), ie when you want it you just slide it in an opening and drop a defector and grease pan and bingo. However, I like having a dedicated pellet and the wood fire both, ie my Recteq 1250 will hit 700+ degrees so it does pizza nicely.

In any event, I'm interested in what you come up with.
 
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https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/threads/the-x-fire-grill.284462/

This is a hybrid that my boy and me built just in case you hadn't see it, we still need to do the final touches, but it will get to 700 degrees no problem. I think a pellet pot would work in it as well, as along as you have the airflow & deflector designed right. I think it would burn more pellets as the brick is a lot of thermal mass..... What would be really cool is to have the pellet burner removable (ie like a smoke daddy unit), ie when you want it you just slide it in an opening and drop a defector and grease pan and bingo. However, I like having a dedicated pellet and the wood fire both, ie my Recteq 1250 will hit 700+ degrees so it does pizza nicely.

In any event, I'm interested in what you come up with.
I hadn't seen your build, thanks for the link! I realized I was just looking in the brick smoker builds, so I should check out some of the other DIY sections too. That's really helpful, I'll look through the whole thread to make sure I don't ask questions that were already answered, but I'm sure I'll have a few for you afterward if you don't mind!

I was thinking exactly what you said, I want to make the pellet burner removable so I can just slide it in with minimal set up and get it going. So you say I'll burn a lot of pellets because of the bricks- is that just to get it up to heat initially, or through the whole smoke? I'm thinking if it's the former, I could mitigate that by using the firebox to get it up to heat quickly with wood or charcoal, then start up the pellet burner and wait for it to even out a bit before adding the meat.

Thanks again, this forum is great!
 
I have built my own brick pizza oven and I wanted to turn it into a smoker as well.

The problem I had is the thermal mass of the oven. With a large thermal mass, it will take hours to get your chamber up to temp and stabilized.

Had I gone ahead with my design as an oven/smoker, I am fairly certain I would only be using it as a cold smoker.

The thermal mass in a stone oven helps maintain steady cooking temps even after you remove the fire from the oven.

I fire my oven to 700 F floor and 1000 F roof for pizzas. This cooks a pizza in 90 seconds. The oven stays hot enough for around 8 - 10 hours to keep cooking in it. This type of retained, radiated heat would tend to cook your meat rather than smoke it.

That said, even though a pizza oven/smoker sounds like a good concept, in practice I would feel you would use far too much fuel trying to smoke with a brick pizza oven.

civilsmoker civilsmoker made an impressive dual purpose cooker with the right amount of mass and fire to do multiple styles of cooks. I would take a good look at that concept before going any further.

JC :emoji_cat:
 
I look forward to your build!
And I miss the x-fire in action!

Ryan
 
JC is right, an offset brick smoker is not very efficient and would take a loooooog time to heat up. The issue is that the vertical heat in the firebox is not utilized to get the brick in the cooking chamber heated.... Note steveaggie commenting on his counter above the FB was getting around 200 degrees (don't get me wrong his has a sweet setup that I studied for a long time).... IE as JC noted above its easier to get a non-pizza oven hotter than a pizza oven cooler. That said If you go with an offset firebox I would have at least 2 inches of 8lb ceramic above it to keep the heat back down to the FB (FYI, I can have a 2300 degree forge temp and the forge skin is only 250-300 is degrees with 2 inches of ceramic)...... Ask away, I will do my best to give IMO.....

As you read the X-Fire build there is a detailed explanation to the thermal design of the X-Fire. For its design purpose if is a very efficient and effective cooker (I'm missing it hugely at the moment)! That said I am in the early design process of a hybrid brick reverse flow smoker that will have number of elements that the X-Fire has. Ie I want to capitalize on the thermal mass of brick while adding efficiency and reduced footprint. It will also be sized for food service pans etc and possibly a few other cool things...... I hope to build it in about 2-3 years if all goes as planned.


I look forward to your build!
And I miss the x-fire in action!

Ryan

ME TOO!!!!
 
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I have built my own brick pizza oven and I wanted to turn it into a smoker as well.

The problem I had is the thermal mass of the oven. With a large thermal mass, it will take hours to get your chamber up to temp and stabilized.

Had I gone ahead with my design as an oven/smoker, I am fairly certain I would only be using it as a cold smoker.

The thermal mass in a stone oven helps maintain steady cooking temps even after you remove the fire from the oven.

I fire my oven to 700 F floor and 1000 F roof for pizzas. This cooks a pizza in 90 seconds. The oven stays hot enough for around 8 - 10 hours to keep cooking in it. This type of retained, radiated heat would tend to cook your meat rather than smoke it.

That said, even though a pizza oven/smoker sounds like a good concept, in practice I would feel you would use far too much fuel trying to smoke with a brick pizza oven.

civilsmoker civilsmoker made an impressive dual purpose cooker with the right amount of mass and fire to do multiple styles of cooks. I would take a good look at that concept before going any further.

JC :emoji_cat:
I totally get what you mean, my intention is more to make a smoker that can sort of act like a pizza oven, not the other way around. It does sound like a massively insulated pizza oven would be really tough to get to temperature as a smoker, so I want to add maybe a tiny bit of insulation, or none at all, so it's a smoker first and foremost, and a pizza oven second. Then again, I might just do them separately based on feedback, we'll see!
 
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JC is right, an offset brick smoker is not very efficient and would take a loooooog time to heat up. The issue is that the vertical heat in the firebox is not utilized to get the brick in the cooking chamber heated.... Note steveaggie commenting on his counter above the FB was getting around 200 degrees (don't get me wrong his has a sweet setup that I studied for a long time).... IE as JC noted above its easier to get a non-pizza oven hotter than a pizza oven cooler. That said If you go with an offset firebox I would have at least 2 inches of 8lb ceramic above it to keep the heat back down to the FB (FYI, I can have a 2300 degree forge temp and the forge skin is only 250-300 is degrees with 2 inches of ceramic)...... Ask away, I will do my best to give IMO.....

As you read the X-Fire build there is a detailed explanation to the thermal design of the X-Fire. For its design purpose if is a very efficient and effective cooker (I'm missing it hugely at the moment)! That said I am in the early design process of a hybrid brick reverse flow smoker that will have number of elements that the X-Fire has. Ie I want to capitalize on the thermal mass of brick while adding efficiency and reduced footprint. It will also be sized for food service pans etc and possibly a few other cool things...... I hope to build it in about 2-3 years if all goes as planned.




ME TOO!!!!
What happened to the X-Fire, why are you missing it?!

I get what you're saying, a brick smoker is going to take a lot to heat up regardless, and there is heat wasted at the top of the firebox. I did see that steveaggie put a steel plate on top of his firebox, which I imagine does absorb and transfer a lot of heat. I'm wondering if a more insulated top of the firebox could prevent some of the heat loss happening there, what do you think?

Another option I'm thinking of is moving the firebox a little bit more underneath the cooking chamber, like this:
option 1.png

So that I could still use the baffle and avoid overheating the bottom of the cooking chamber by keeping it a little offset, but would still get a lot of the vertical heat that way.

If I did end up putting the firebox underneath the cooking chamber, does anyone have tips on how to avoid the bottom racks being overly hot compared to the top racks? I know there are some fancy ways that's being done in cabinet smokers with airflow channels, but I'm not sure I want to get that complex with it!
 
What happened to the X-Fire, why are you missing it?!

I get what you're saying, a brick smoker is going to take a lot to heat up regardless, and there is heat wasted at the top of the firebox. I did see that steveaggie put a steel plate on top of his firebox, which I imagine does absorb and transfer a lot of heat. I'm wondering if a more insulated top of the firebox could prevent some of the heat loss happening there, what do you think?

Another option I'm thinking of is moving the firebox a little bit more underneath the cooking chamber, like this:
View attachment 659442
So that I could still use the baffle and avoid overheating the bottom of the cooking chamber by keeping it a little offset, but would still get a lot of the vertical heat that way.

If I did end up putting the firebox underneath the cooking chamber, does anyone have tips on how to avoid the bottom racks being overly hot compared to the top racks? I know there are some fancy ways that's being done in cabinet smokers with airflow channels, but I'm not sure I want to get that complex with it!
The X-Fire is in the shop waiting a place for it to be in a covered cook shack as I don’t have a way to get it out of the shop easily….. it has some wt ti it…..

Your figure above is closer to a vertical and would be effective and yes add 2 inches of ceramic blanket on top of the FB will help reduce the losses on the top.

A properly designed baffle will do the job you are trying to achieve…….ie a double layer with and air gap or thicker steel water pan, etc. these same thing work in a vertical as well.
 
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I totally get what you mean, my intention is more to make a smoker that can sort of act like a pizza oven, not the other way around. It does sound like a massively insulated pizza oven would be really tough to get to temperature as a smoker, so I want to add maybe a tiny bit of insulation, or none at all, so it's a smoker first and foremost, and a pizza oven second. Then again, I might just do them separately based on feedback, we'll see!

Whatever you decide on, I wish you success. My oven uses perlite cement as insulation. It has a layer of fire brick, a layer of stainless steel fiber reinforced concrete then the perlite concrete. Even after firing the oven, the roof gets barely warm enough to melt snow. That is how much heat the oven retains.

If my oven had a smoke stack in the roof, I would feel better about using it for smoking. As it stands, the roof holds heat and smoke but not enough to really smoke much meat for the amount of fuel that would be needed.

If you do build it, please take us along with some pics and build progression updates.

JC :emoji_cat:
 
The X-Fire is in the shop waiting a place for it to be in a covered cook shack as I don’t have a way to get it out of the shop easily….. it has some wt ti it…..

Your figure above is closer to a vertical and would be effective and yes add 2 inches of ceramic blanket on top of the FB will help reduce the losses on the top.

A properly designed baffle will do the job you are trying to achieve…….ie a double layer with and air gap or thicker steel water pan, etc. these same thing work in a vertical as well.
I am thinking I will just end up making it a vertical, based on the feedback here. Could you expand more on the double layer and air gap for the baffle? I'm having trouble really figuring out whether a baffle should be absorbing heat, or if it should be very insulated and just deflect it, it's difficult to find a definitive answer on the best material to be used. Thank you for your help!

My thinking now is that I'll make it a vertical smoker, put in a good baffle, and make an opening on the side so I can slide the pellet hopper in right on top of the baffle, and set a heat deflector right over it, like this:
vertical with baffle.png


That way the pellet hopper will have less space to heat up, and won't be blocked by the baffle, so maybe it will have an easier time getting up to, and maintaining, temperature.
 
Whatever you decide on, I wish you success. My oven uses perlite cement as insulation. It has a layer of fire brick, a layer of stainless steel fiber reinforced concrete then the perlite concrete. Even after firing the oven, the roof gets barely warm enough to melt snow. That is how much heat the oven retains.

If my oven had a smoke stack in the roof, I would feel better about using it for smoking. As it stands, the roof holds heat and smoke but not enough to really smoke much meat for the amount of fuel that would be needed.

If you do build it, please take us along with some pics and build progression updates.

JC :emoji_cat:
I will definitely keep you all updated and post pictures, I love looking through the builds here and want to contribute!

Where is your chimney? Is it offset to one side to retain more heat under the roof?

I definitely won't be making my smoker that thick and insulated, so hopefully that will help it get up to temperature faster. I'm going to make it 90% geared toward smoking and hope that I can also get it up to higher temps for a pizza oven, but if not, I'll just build something more purposefully designed for that. Thanks for your input, much appreciated!
 
I will definitely keep you all updated and post pictures, I love looking through the builds here and want to contribute!

Where is your chimney? Is it offset to one side to retain more heat under the roof?

I definitely won't be making my smoker that thick and insulated, so hopefully that will help it get up to temperature faster. I'm going to make it 90% geared toward smoking and hope that I can also get it up to higher temps for a pizza oven, but if not, I'll just build something more purposefully designed for that. Thanks for your input, much appreciated!

I have no chimney on my oven. All air in and out to the oven goes through the door opening. The door to roof height ratio is critical for proper heating and cooking in this type of oven.

JC :emoji_cat:
 
I am thinking I will just end up making it a vertical, based on the feedback here. Could you expand more on the double layer and air gap for the baffle? I'm having trouble really figuring out whether a baffle should be absorbing heat, or if it should be very insulated and just deflect it, it's difficult to find a definitive answer on the best material to be used. Thank you for your help!

My thinking now is that I'll make it a vertical smoker, put in a good baffle, and make an opening on the side so I can slide the pellet hopper in right on top of the baffle, and set a heat deflector right over it, like this:
View attachment 659468

That way the pellet hopper will have less space to heat up, and won't be blocked by the baffle, so maybe it will have an easier time getting up to, and maintaining, temperature.
You need to decide how you want air to flow through the smoker and if you want radiant heat from the deflector. If you have the pellet arm and pot above the fire it needs to be fully insulated so the pellets in the arm and pot don't catch fire when here is a fire, this if the pellet is always there.

The "double" baffle is just two plates with an air gap, it tempers the heat ie "light insulation".
 
You need to decide how you want air to flow through the smoker and if you want radiant heat from the deflector. If you have the pellet arm and pot above the fire it needs to be fully insulated so the pellets in the arm and pot don't catch fire when here is a fire, this if the pellet is always there.

The "double" baffle is just two plates with an air gap, it tempers the heat ie "light insulation".
I think my best bet is to make the pellet arm removable, which looks like it should be fairly simple, but I do plan on having it so I run a wood fire smoke for a few hours and then switch to pellets, so you're right, I have to take the heat of the baffle into account so it doesn't affect the pellets as the fire dies down.

What type of material is best for the double baffle? Are we talking like 1/4" steel plates? Is the air gap closed off, like a very thin sealed box?
 
The plate above the fire would be best as 1/4" but you could do 1/8" on the second plate. It could be open or sealed gap.....

Now that I have been thinking about it. You might want to look at the Camp Chef Windwood Pro. They have "solved" the pellet wood combo or at least they say they have......

So after some thought, I would at least look at mounting the pellet at the bottom and have a trapezoidal fire pan above the pot deflector and then have the drip pan/baffle above the fire pan (you could get away with 15-16 inches of height for the fire box. This way the pellet could stay in place and you could mimic the Camp Chef design. Then for the fire brick part, I would go with splits (thin) with rock wool or ceramic blanket around them and then skinned. This would reduce the overall thermal mass of the CC but give a nice amount of retained heat to even things out. This is a similar principle the X-Fire is based on.

You just have to be careful not to make the volume too large for the pellet to operate or you may need two of them....
 
The plate above the fire would be best as 1/4" but you could do 1/8" on the second plate. It could be open or sealed gap.....

Now that I have been thinking about it. You might want to look at the Camp Chef Windwood Pro. They have "solved" the pellet wood combo or at least they say they have......

So after some thought, I would at least look at mounting the pellet at the bottom and have a trapezoidal fire pan above the pot deflector and then have the drip pan/baffle above the fire pan (you could get away with 15-16 inches of height for the fire box. This way the pellet could stay in place and you could mimic the Camp Chef design. Then for the fire brick part, I would go with splits (thin) with rock wool or ceramic blanket around them and then skinned. This would reduce the overall thermal mass of the CC but give a nice amount of retained heat to even things out. This is a similar principle the X-Fire is based on.

You just have to be careful not to make the volume too large for the pellet to operate or you may need two of them....
I'll be honest, a lot of that is going right over my head, any chance you'd be willing to point to a diagram or drawing that shows what you're talking about? Thank you so much for all the thought you're putting into this, I appreciate it so much and I'll be sure to keep updating as things progress!
 
smoker concept.PNG


Here you go, 1.25 split fire brick, then 2 inches of ceramic 8lb blanket and then a decorative brick outside. Have the drip pan open on the font and back sides just like a pellet smoker and have a drip pan external drip pipe. I would use 3/16 or 1/4 on the bottom of the drip pan with 1/8" top with 3/4" inch air gap. Note top drip pan is water tight to catch all the grease to drain it away and out...... I would also do a double door, the bottom would be just below the bottom rack and the top above that... I believe this would be a very cool unit......

Edit, I would also insulate the pellet delivery tube with ceramic blanket and a cap of some kind.....
 
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View attachment 659589

Here you go, 1.25 split fire brick, then 2 inches of ceramic 8lb blanket and then a decorative brick outside. Have the drip pan open on the font and back sides just like a pellet smoker and have a drip pan external drip pipe. I would use 3/16 or 1/4 on the bottom of the drip pan with 1/8" top with 3/4" inch air gap. Note top drip pan is water tight to catch all the grease to drain it away and out...... I would also do a double door, the bottom would be just below the bottom rack and the top above that... I believe this would be a very cool unit......

Edit, I would also insulate the pellet delivery tube with ceramic blanket and a cap of some kind.....
This is awesome, thank you so much! I definitely think this is the direction I'm going to take it, much appreciated!
 
Ok, so I have changed my plans around quite a bit as I've started collecting materials that I want to use for my smoker/pizza oven. I really wanted to source the doors from decorative/old fashioned cast iron hardware, so I've obtained two Timberline wood stove inserts, like this:
1682447257052.png

And I'm planning on picking up a slightly narrower, one door wood stove with similar decorative elements, an upper and lower air intake, and an ash cleanout door. My plan is to use that as the firebox, and the two Timberline inserts as the cooking chambers. I'm leaning toward basically turning the Timberline inserts into metal frames by cutting out the sides and back, and making it a setup similar to this: https://stoneagemanufacturing.com/products/wood-fired-pizza-oven-kits/little-pig-cabinet-smoker/

The idea is that the firebox will be covered at the top and open at the sides, allowing the smoke to come up the sides of the metal frames where the cooking grates will be, giving a more even temperature. I would basically build the masonry around the metal structure to keep the heat in.

Does this sound like a reasonable approach? I know metal expands when heated, so I need to account for that in the design, but is there any other glaring issue I'm not seeing yet?

Would it make more sense just to cut the fronts off of the inserts and either bolt them to the front of a masonry structure, or weld something onto the sides to incorporate into the masonry? Any prior experience or thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated!
 
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