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Insulated charcoal smoker?

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by 5lakes, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. 5lakes

    5lakes Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Living in Minnesota means cold weather in the winter. Snow. All kinds of joy!

    Anyway, the two smokers I have, Char-Griller with SFB and an ECB will not be good for the temps we will have. Since starting this obsession... err, hobby... this past spring, I've never thought about what the winter will bring. I'm sure it can be done, but when the temps are below freezing, I imagine it will be a challenge.

    I've started looking for an insulated smoker, such as the Big Steel Keg. I'd like a Big Green Egg, but am most unsure about heating ceramic to cooking temps and then letting it cool to such a cold temp fairly quickly.

    What do others do in cold climates? I suppose I could cook up a bunch and buy a freezer. There has to be a way, but I'm not seeing it and need some help. Thanx.
  2. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Since i am usually wearing gym shorts on Christmas day i really can't help alot.

     But i have heard that others have used welding blankets on their smokers and others have bought watt burners to use in the winter.

     I think if i lived where it actually snowed i would build a cooking shed.

     Small building ,just high enough to stand up in and big enough to hold my smoker and be able to sit  a few friends comfortably . Put some type of heater to keep temps up inside and vent the smoker outside.

      won't hurt if it gets snowed in as long as the door will open and the vents are clear.
  3. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I smoke all winter long and love it. I actually smoke more in the winter than I do in the summer. I have three smokers and I run then them the same in the summer as I do in the winter other than the propane rigs I usually have to give it just a touch more gas in the winter to keep them up to temp. I have personally not had any issues with my smokers in the winter but I have read several posts where people use hot water heater wraps or welding blankets. Here are my rigs and what I do. 1- Small propane ring and it works fine in the winter like I said I just turn up the gas from say low to med to keep temps. 2- Big propane smoke shack. this thing is insulated so well that it cooks the same all year long. It was -30+ out last winter and I was still smoking without any issues. I take that back I did have one issue. It was soo cold out that the propane in the propane tank was starting to freeze or what ever you would call it. I had to keep going out and shaking the tank to get any gas to come out. 3- My UDS is my favorite smoker. Just make sure you put some type of barrier between your UDS bottom and your concrete so it doesn't heat up your driveway to much and it explodes because of the heat of your smoker on the cold cement.

    Moral of the story you can smoke all year long even when it it very very cold out it just isn't as enjoyable because you can't sit outside by the smoker and shoot the bull and have a few drinks. You are usually running in and out as fast as you can so you don't freeze your butt off. Depending on your smoker you may need to make a few mods in the winter to keep it up to temp but I have been lucky and not had to do that.
  4. crd26a

    crd26a Newbie

    I'd look at the insulated cookers like a Superior, Stumps or DW Cookers.  We use two Superior SS-2's for comp and I seasoned mine when it was around 5 degrees and 3 inches of snow on the ground.  You'll burn around 1-2 lbs of briquettes an hour and can use a stoker / guru to tend it overnight.  Be amazed at their efficiency.
  5. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    For the ECB a wind break will help a lot. I also had good luck in the cold using a box from a new hot water tank. It was cold and I was having trouble keeping it warm let alone hot. I cut one side of the box off and wraped it around the ECB. It kept a lot of the heat in the cardboard shack so the cooker didn't cool off as much.

    I know it it sounds as bad as it looked, but it worked.  I like Eman's shack idea better

  6. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Hello to my fellow Minnesotan!!

    I scour Craigslist for used commercial fridges and freezers, and came across a used "Warming Oven"for $300.  Some of these guys have junk stuff, that you can pick up for scrap price.  Stainless inside and out, well insulated and fairly easy to convert.

    Dan's idea for a windbreak is great!  I used to wrap a wool army blanket around my old ECB in the winter.  The windbreak is the key.

  7. 5lakes

    5lakes Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Thanx everyone for the info, ideas and pics. Dan, your post is incredible. I think I just might rig something up like that while I keep thinking about what I want for my "premier" smoker. I could have used that about two weeks ago. Lessons learned, this is a great place and the people incredible. Thanx again!
  8. I have a Bubba Keg, which is the brother of the Big Steel Keg. I can tell you that they retain heat very well and they are all steel. During the summer, they were being sold for $299. I think all of those are gone but if even if you cannot find one at that price, they are still worth $599. I would definitely go with the Big Steel Keg if you don't want to drop down $1000 for a BGE.
  9. crd26a

    crd26a Newbie

    Another option for the Char Griller is to go to Harbor Freight and buy a 1000 degree rated welding blanket.  It will help hold in heat by draping it over the main chamber, but be careful not to drap it onto the SFB, it will be hot enough to smolder and burn blankets (I know from my Char Griller)
  10. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Very true, and don't ask me how I know........[​IMG]
  11. rcullison

    rcullison Fire Starter

    Ive got the michigan winter problem so i understand what your saying. This year ive made an oven into ane electric-charcoal hybrid. T johnson is correct in saying its an easy conversion. im hoping the dual heat source and insulation will make ribs for new years more enjoyable
  12. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Guys its way more fun and way less work to just consume more adult beverage's and then the cold doesn't bother ya while you are out there stoking the fire to keep it up.

    Just kidding guys, I hear your pain and I am planning a 4x carhart blanket lined coat for my drum this winter. I'm thinkin it will be pretty cool looking. BTW its an old coat.