First run on the new firebox...w/issues

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LhornR

Smoke Blower
Original poster
Jan 26, 2023
106
125
NE, PA
I tried out the new firebox with some ribs yesterday and while the ribs turned out OK it was a struggle. I got a good fire going and had a nice bed of hot coals in the bottom...but every time I added wood I would get a flow of soot. I had to open the stack damper and sometimes open the SM chest to vent the sooty smoke. I was running both the bottom flap open and the side vents wide open. Even with the door wide open it would put out soot. Once the new wood got totally white then it would burn hot and clean with almost no smoke at all. The only time I got a decent amount of smoke was when I let the fire die down and threw a wood chunk on the coals. At that point I might as well do that inside the SM chest though if I wanted smoldering wood. Other than this I was able to maintain temps in the chest from 220F on up if I wanted.

I tried 3 different types of wood that I know are well seasoned but they all created soot. Am I missing something? How can I keep the fire going without the soot?

This is the setup I'm using... https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t...ion-to-smoke-vault.319728/page-2#post-2430004

This is how it turned out..

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Just to reiterate what Brian said, always have the exhaust damper wide open the entire time you're smoking. Even well seasoned wood will put out dirty smoke until it has burned awhile. Here's what your smoke should and should not look like. Notice that the exhaust damper is wide open...

Dirty smoke...
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Thin blue smoke...
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I let my fire burn for about 30-45 minutes until the smoke cleaned up. This was with both the inlet and outlet dampers wide open. Then I adjusted the inlet side (firebox) to achieve the desired cook chamber temp...
 
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Sorry about taking so long to get back here guys...everything at once or nothing it seems.

I do understand about clean blue smoke and dirty smoke...but this was actual sooty smoke. I keep the wood in a shed but I guess it could still get damp. I'm wondering if the baffle plate is causing problems...I'll have to take it out and see what happens. Then I was wondering if the smoker cabinet itself doesnt have enough vent at the top...but its enough when using the gas for it...dunno.

I made a drawing that shows the paths the fire/smoke can go. I was using the stack damper on the FB to either send the smoke to the smoker with the damper closed...and opening it to reduce it to the smoker and while getting the coal bed started. Soot is telling me not enough oxygen but how that can be with side and bottom air vents open and stack wide open has got me. Even when I opened the door it was still producing soot until the wood was totally fired up and calming down.

I'll try the baffle first and see how it goes...if this freakin wind gusts ever stops around here. Anyway...thanks for your feedback.

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Not familiar with your setup. I'm curious about the intake vent at bottom left of cooking chamber. Not sure about adding cold air in one side of the cooking chamber and hot air in the other.

As already said,,, air flow through the system could be an issue. Should be able to control fire with just vents on firebox. If not, fire may be too big. Also, how are you preheating your splits? The picture doesn't really look like it would lend itself to preheating wood very easily. Are you starting off with a chimney of charcoal to jumpstart your coal bed?

Again,, not familiar with your project,,, not sure if I'm asking applicable questions.
 
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Not familiar with your setup. I'm curious about the intake vent at bottom left of cooking chamber. Not sure about adding cold air in one side of the cooking chamber and hot air in the other.

As already said,,, air flow through the system could be an issue. Should be able to control fire with just vents on firebox. If not, fire may be too big. Also, how are you preheating your splits? The picture doesn't really look like it would lend itself to preheating wood very easily. Are you starting off with a chimney of charcoal to jumpstart your coal bed?

Again,, not familiar with your project,,, not sure if I'm asking applicable questions.

Huh..didnt think about the left vent adding cool air. I was closed but it actually only closes about halfway due to being a gas fired smoker. I may have to close that off...good catch.

It very well could have been too much fire for that tank. Thats why I'm going to take the baffle out when I try it again. The wood I use is about 8-9" long so it seems about right for the size of the tank. The door is 8" as well for a reference.

I can balance a couple pieces on top to preheat but like you said it doesnt do very well. I started it with like a wood interlaced square with a few charcoal briquets inside of that. I put a fire starter on top then I let it all burn down to red coals then start to add wood a piece at a time. How important is preheating wood?

Ignoring the output to the smoker...if I can get a good smoke in the firebox with the stack damper and vents open...it should be just a matter of closing the stack to send it all to the smoker. I figured I would just use the stack damper to send more or less as needed for heat and smoke. Smoke is all I'm really worried about...I can supplement heat by firing up the gas on the smoker.

I'm going to try again in the next couple days and I'll get back to you guys.

Thanks
 
"How important is preheating wood"

It probably depends on the cooker really. On my reverse flow trailer, it's real important. I have also found that loose bark on a split can cause dirty smoke. I'm not one to remove bark, but now I will pull it off if there's an large air gap between the bark and the wood itself.
 
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"How important is preheating wood"

It probably depends on the cooker really. On my reverse flow trailer, it's real important. I have also found that loose bark on a split can cause dirty smoke. I'm not one to remove bark, but now I will pull it off if there's an large air gap between the bark and the wood itself.

I can get a few pieces on top and on the side vents...they actually start to smoke if I leave them there too long. I'm in the no bark camp unless I get something like a paper thin bark on cherry or something.

Well it was a success today. I removed the baffle plate and got very little soot when just starting the wood...then once I got a coal bed going it burned clean. I had to close the vents a bit to even get some smoke. Once the coal bed and fire was established I didnt even need the bottom vent/cleanout door open at all. I also altered that left side vent on the smoker so I can close it off completely.

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This was about the worst it would get...I closed off the firebox vents to see how much I could slow the fire down. No meat was involved in todays test.
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As a side note...anyone doing a tank should definetly do the boiled linseed oil coating. Not only does it keep it from rusting I think it looks better than paint.
 
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Son came up from MD so I smoked two 11lb butts and a 11lb brisket for Father's Day. Of course it was windy and I fought the smoker's gas burner constantly. Even if I had it cranked on a nice high blue flame I could check it minutes later and it has either gone out or was a little wobbly yellow flame. I ended up taking some melamine sheets and clamped them front and back at the bottom of the smoker to block the wind...helped some. The firebox did fairly well but its small so it did need feeding often. I checked the smoker warranty and of course I'm one month past that so I cant do anything about the burner. I'm going to try the method of putting a screw in every other hole and see if that helps. Otherwise I'll be ripping out that POS burner and installing one of these...
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The butts turned out fine but I was so exhausted and knees and hips were giving out by 10pm I forgot to take pics of them after the 2 hour rest and pulling time. I had everything on at 7am and the butts finished at 6pm and 7:30pm. My fault for picking it but the brisket was such a crappy piece of meat I ended up separating the point and flat and did the whole thing in burnt ends. After trimming the excess fat it was down to about 8lbs...then after smoking it weighed in a little over 4lbs of meat. The butts gave us about 12 1/2 lbs. total. All in all the taste and juice was there considering the day long nightmare...but this thing needs fixed before I'll do another.
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Looks terrific!
If you plan on freezing any of that, I highly recommend getting a vacuum sealer.
Food will last a lot longer than zip-lock bags in freezer.
 
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Looks terrific!
If you plan on freezing any of that, I highly recommend getting a vacuum sealer.
Food will last a lot longer than zip-lock bags in freezer.

You are right...I'm currently trying to decide on a good vac sealer.
 
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In other news...I upgraded my smoker to help with the wind and temp fluctuations. I bought a 7" x 2' duct pipe...cut it in half to make a 14" x 1' pipe for around and under the burner. If the wind is still a problem I'll add a cone of screen to the end of the pipe.

I also added a needle valve as suggested here. Now I can get and keep the exact flame level I want.

Then came the re-engineering of the burner itself. From the factory the burner head was tilted toward the back...not level like it should be. So I had to put washers under the burner bracket to level that up and move the whole burner mount up. To do this instead of two screws per side I just used one screw on each side using the bottom hole of the burner mount in the top hole in the main mount. I also switched the hose direction at the valve.

Aint perty but its now functional....
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