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Diary of a Mod Masterbuilt

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by bluewhisper, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    It all began in a Sears hardware store. They had various offset smokers for around $150, and One Fine Day they had this display smoker marked down to $100. I told my sister I wanted it, and she said, buy it. I said I would if it would fit in the Outback, and I had the manager help me load it. And so arrived the Good Neighbor.

    I'm having a lot of fun with this rig, but of course it has some shortcomings. I've had to smoke them out, so to speak.

    First, I've enjoyed using it in various modes. I can run it as an offset (my first) or I can cook direct in the firebox or in the cabinet.

    Then, the mods began. I didn't like the way fuel could drop through the OEM grate wires, so I made a fire basket from the door of a dog crate

    (retired tomato stakes as kindling FTW)

    Then I cut up another one to make a grate for the cabinet

    mmm yeah

    The Hibachi Simulator Mode

    Now I'm working on a heat baffle. I looked for aluminum flashing but I saw this $3 piece of duct that was a near-perfect fit.

    I ran it for a test smoke, and I need to improve the heat distribution. As it is now, too much heat goes through to the end. I'll close off the end and drill more holes.

    Stay tuned for more news when Next the Lighter Flicks ...
  2. Hello.  I don't mean to rain on your parade but please don't use pine ( tomato stakes ) in your smoker.  Pine tree sap is not good for smoked foods and not good for consumption.  Pine tar was used for grip on baseball bats back when they were wood ( although you may be too young to remember that ).  Also used in rodeos ( resin ) to stick to saddles and hold bull ropes.  Turpentine is made from pine sap and that is/was used as paint thinner.  You will get a REALLY heavy creosote build up if you continue to use it which will make your food taste Really BAD!  It is also a pain to scrape that muck out of your smoker, clean the entire smoker and re-season.

    NOW.  IF you do your homework you will find that beech wood tar was used in meat preservation and as an antiseptic.  The problem is that you need to TOTALLY research the ENTIRE process.  I don't know how it was done, and I'm not going to doing the research.  Here at SMF we ALWAYS err on the side of food safety, so when we offer advice we don't always know the experience of the person receiving the advice.  IF you know what you are doing please pass on that knowledge to the rest of us with the facts to back it up; if not then I would just say please don't do it.  Keep Smokin!

  3. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for the advice, well taken, but those tomato stakes were oak. Nice straight wood that breaks down to kindling slivers. I know enough not to use pine.

    And, kindling wood isn't cooking wood.

  4. Hello.  Please forgive me.  I meant no disrespect.  I have never heard of someone buying/ using oak as tomato stakes, I assumed it was pine as you didn't make that clear.  Kindling wood deposits creosote also but I didn't realise your experience.  I was out of line.  I do apologise.

  5. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    This is good advice. Although some countries will use some species of pine for smoking specialty items, prolonged use will make for a creosote coated smoker with off flavors. If you have only used the pine a few times so far, I don't feel a heavy cleaning and re-seasoning is necessary but clean with some Dawn and water then proceed with your favorite hardwood and or charcoal...JJ 
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2014
  6. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've heard of smoking with juniper in Europe but I've never tried it.

    I usually use apple, but lately I've been using some maple that I helped a friend clear from his property. Great stuff.
  7. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Has anyone else done this? Back when the temperatures were near zero degrees F the smoker went into service as a freezer. I'd get a pork shoulder at a good price, and grind it into "Italian sausage" meatballs, and breakfast sausage patties.

    Well why pay money to make the freezer work, when there's wild cold outside? The smoker makes a critter-proof box (close the vents) and I'd leave the meat out to freeze solid overnight.

    JMcGraw47 likes this.
  8. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yesterday was a basket case. Specifically, this basket. I wanted to try the technique of stoking a basket, then lighting the top - as opposed to my usual method of starting a small fire and then adding to it.

    So, I loaded the basket with a mix of lump charcoal and hickory chunks

    Garnish with maple kindling, and light

    Only a small amount of fuel fell out of the basket, this is so much better for making use of small pieces of lump that would fall between wires. BTW the OEM wire rack is not in place; the basket is sitting on the firebox floor.

    The mix was a bit heavy on the smoke, but the meat was looking good. The local stores sell these "country style ribs" which are not really ribs, but shoulder cut into rib-like pieces.

    I was still needing to stoke the fire, and I wasn't getting an internal temp above the 130s with the meat at the hot end (drafty lid seals)

    So I brought out one of the racks for cooking direct in the firebox, but instead of setting it into its slots in the firebox, I just laid it over the basket and the dwindling fire, to finish by cooking direct.

    Lessons learned:

    - lighting the fuel from the top works

    - a half-full basket is not enough fuel for a full run of medium-sized pieces of meat, next time more fuel

    - less wood, more lump, pre-lit briquettes would work for a longer-lasting fuel

    - it is possible to lay an OEM firebox rack on the basket and cook on it
  9. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    When life hands you lemons, drill bigger holes and whip out the tinsnips

    So, what about those drafty lid seals? Try the Cheap Fix First, folded heavy-duty foil - not perfect but much better

  10. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Here's something simple: find a cutting board that matches the size of the side shelf

    The only trick part is installing short screws, which go through the mesh shelf to act like locating pegs to keep the board in place - it won't slide around on the shelf

    On a countertop, the screws also serve as feet so the board doesn't actually touch the surface (which might not be clean or dry). The screw heads were filed smooth to avoid scratching.
  11. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Next mod: remove the top rack hanging in the lid. I lit the smoker and discovered that this turkey breast wouldn't fit under the rack. I should have seen that coming. I tried to disassemble the hardware but it was crusty on the inside and stripping on the outside, so I went in there with a big set of bolt cutters and cut the hardware. Now I can clear taller items. Time to take a try at a butt.

  12. sweet, thanks for pointing me in this direction!

  13. I've done this one more than a few occasions.  My wife always worries about the wildlife coming around trying to get a free meal but I reminder that it is winter and those critters that like meat are in for a long sleep.  The other critter are trying to find cover to keep warm through out the night.
  14. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    It's time for an update. I've moved, and the smoker spent a few weeks in a tightly packed storage unit. It's in there under the rolled-up rug.

    At the new house, there's a covered patio and a separate pad behind the garage. I can dedicate that pad to the smoker, but I store it under the roof. I just need to keep it well away from that vinyl siding while I'm running it. In this morning's slanting sunlight, I noticed a small child's handprint cast into the concrete on that back pad. In a pinch I could probably smoke under that roof, but I'd rather not.

    Back in business, racing the rain, smoking salmon over cherry, the first time I've tried that combination. I'm working through a bag of cherry sold as fireplace chunks. That wood is hard to split - literally hard, the hatchet bounces off of it - and it has a lot of heat.

    I sold a house with 1900 sq ft and bought one with 900 sq ft. It isn't really in Columbus; it's unincorporated Prairie Township. The house still gets mail addressed to the previous occupants with the last name of Horr. So, I've bought the little Horr house on the prairie.
    yazamitaz and SonnyE like this.
  15. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The bitter sting of winter finds the smoker hunkering under the patio roof, but even so it gets snow on it. I'll need to fix that rusting. At least it's just superficial and not a structural failure like a rust-through.

  16. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I recently cooked up a hot sizzling batch of nothing. A batch of chicken left a lot of grease on the racks; meanwhile I was cutting up some deadwood from the yard. So I made a brisk campfire to flame off the racks. Then after a bit of wire brush love they were good to go.

    The Coleman pop-up grill photobombs FTW

  17. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Just a nice lazy run in the chamber as a direct with a split chicken over lump, more roasting than smoking. Marinated in lemon with salt/sage/rosemary/garlic. The bones from these made a very rich broth.

  18. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've toyed around with imitating the way I would smoke in the Weber kettle. I have plenty of room to make a fire at one end and put the food at the other end. The fire is mostly charcoal with a few splits added for aroma. The cooking chamber runs much hotter when the fire is inside, instead of out in the firebox. I can control the rate of cooking by shuffling the food nearer or farther from the heat. I usually do this without the narrow center rack, so I can shuffle the racks around to tend the fire.

  19. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Our story continues, with salmon again.

    Five people here for supper and almost nothing for leftovers.