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Insulating year-round?

SmokeGSU

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Joined Jun 8, 2021
Hey all. New guy here. Been lurking a couple of days and figured it was time to join the commentary. I'll ask my question first and then give some more info for those who don't want to read my life story below... is there any benefit/harm to insulating your smoker year-round instead of only during the winter months?

To elaborate... I've been smoking/grilling on a Char-Broiler Akorn grill for several years now. My usual meat choices that I smoked on it are Boston butts, pork tenderloins, whole turkeys, and picnic shoulders. I have a PartyQ fan blower that I don't believe is manufactured anymore but there are tons of blowers available now. I set my Akorn up to smoke using the "ring of fire" method, which I think is also referred to as the snake method. That method, plus the fan blower, would generally get me 7-8 hours of mostly consistent cooking times, though I typically did have trouble keeping the temps dialed in to stay below 250.

I've wanted to move to a more traditional smoker for a while now and this last week I just purchased a Dyna-Glow Signature Series Vertical Smoker and got it put together over the weekend. Did the initial burn-in with some Pam. I've had some meat in the freezer set aside for a while now to do some beef sticks and jerky and I'm getting ready to dive into doing my first official smoke this weekend.

I originally went with the Akorn because I wanted to try out an insulated grill but couldn't afford a Big Green Egg. What I enjoyed about the Akorn was that it didn't take a lot of lump charcoal combined with the ROF/snake method to keep mostly consistent temps - I didn't have to babysit the grill for hours. Through all of my research, though, babysitting a smoker is the one thing that I seem to see noted repeatedly so you'd probably wonder why I went with a traditional offset smoker instead of a pellet grill. Mostly the pellet grills (which I've read over and over again require very little babysitting at all) have time and time again been noted as not imparting as much of a smoke ring as any other smoking method and this was key for me. If I was going to get a new grill with the intention of getting the best smoke flavor then I wanted a smoker that would get me the best smoke potential.

But I'm also not wanting to sit beside a grill all afternoon and maintain the temps. I'm hoping to utilize what I learned from my Akorn and implement it into the new Dyna-Glow smoker. I've already bought T-shaped dividers in order to set my lump charcoal up into the minion method inside of the firebox. The Dyna-Glow smoker's metal is fairly thick, or at least it was thicker than I was expecting it to be. My smoking theory/goals are to figure out how to set up the smoker in a way that it will burn consistent temperatures for several hours without adjusting dampers or charcoal/wood every 15-30 minutes. Knowing what I know about the Akorn and BGE is that insulation = better heat retention while using less fuel. That's what I want to bring to this smoker.

I've tried to do a lot of research on this and haven't really found any evidence as to why a person shouldn't insulate their smoker year-round. My thought was... if you wrap the smoking chamber (and potentially also the firebox) in an insulating fire-wrap, welder's blanket, etc (other options have been suggested in the forums here) then you would retain more heat, thereby maintaining more consistent temperatures and (hopefully) use less fuel in the firebox all at the same time. So why wouldn't someone insulate their smoker year-round?

I live in middle Georgia and it's currently high 80s-low 90s in temperature so I'm obviously not worried about cold temperatures - even our winters have been fairly mild the past several years rarely getting below 35 degrees. Unless I'm missing something it just seems like a no-brainer that someone would wrap their smoker to get similar heat-retention performance as an insulated grill like a BGE. Thoughts?

If you made it this far reading everything I applaud you and thank you for your time!
 

sandyut

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TMWs... I didnt get through all that, but I wouldnt use an insulating blanket/cover in the summer. Mine say s not to use over 60 degrees outside temps. I suspect it would get too hot and catch fire, melt or be an issue. also - why?? The covers are made for cold weather, when its not cold weather, run the smoker as designed. I think over heating or not being able to keeps temp down could also be an issue?? dunno
 

SmokeGSU

Newbie
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Joined Jun 8, 2021
TMWs... I didnt get through all that, but I wouldnt use an insulating blanket/cover in the summer. Mine say s not to use over 60 degrees outside temps. I suspect it would get too hot and catch fire, melt or be an issue. also - why?? The covers are made for cold weather, when its not cold weather, run the smoker as designed. I think over heating or not being able to keeps temp down could also be an issue?? dunno
That was my thought as well, the overheating aspect, but I can't see why that would really be a concern when you think about. One of my fav BBQ YouTubers to watch is Mad Scientist BBQ and I have to think that how he fuels his pit is probably how most people do it... you lay out coals to get the initial temp where you need it and then you add wood splits roughly a foot long for your smoke. So doing it like that, most of your firebox is actively filled with an active fire. If you have that much fuel actively lit at one time then I could definitely see how a smoker could overheat if you had it wrapped in a thermal blanket.

But think about a BGE. You don't take that same amount of fuel and have it all lit at one time because the BGE has comparatively much greater thermal insulation properties by how it's built. If you did have that much fuel burning at one time you'd have an incredibly hot fire that you couldn't even cook on, which is why people use the snake, minion, etc methods of using less fuel while maintaining a controllable temperature.

The one thing that Mad Scientist BBQ talks about in a few of his videos is the fact that he adds a log of wood every 15 minutes or so to keep the temperature regulated. I wouldn't say that this fact seems "wasteful" to me more than it simply doesn't seem efficient. I can't imagine how much smoking wood he burns through in an 8 hour cook. So my thought has been that if you can apply the principles of insulated grills to a smoker then you could stretch your fuel sources longer by using less of it while still achieving the same level of smoke ring as you would by burning through a ton of logs in the process.

If you control the amount of fuel with using a significantly less amount of it by means of the snake/minion method AND the addition of thermal blankets (or similar) to keep the radiant heat loss minimal, I don't see how the grill could reasonably overheat if insulated.
 

normanaj

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This is not meant to be critical but you seem to be talking yourself into doing this regardless.

Try it and see what happens.If it helps then great...if it screws things up then lesson learned.
 

SmokeGSU

Newbie
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Joined Jun 8, 2021
This is not meant to be critical but you seem to be talking yourself into doing this regardless.

Try it and see what happens.If it helps then great...if it screws things up then lesson learned.
Sure, that was the general idea. Logically, it seems to make sense to me as I've laid it out but I was just hoping that someone had had some experiences doing it before. Everybody was stacking a pyramid of charcoal and lighting it on fire before someone thought that there might be a better way without burning through so much fuel. The Traeger insulation blanket tells you not to use the thing when it's over 60 degrees outside but I haven't read or seen a good explanation for why you shouldn't. I guess maybe I'm trying to find the "next big thing" in smoking?
 

Colin1230

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Jan 18, 2021
Well Smoke, give it a try. Just don't have the cooker too close to the house. If I lived in Georgia, I would buy charcoal and cook wood, not an expensive insulating blanket. And by the way, welcome to the forum. Glad you joined us.
 

SmokeGSU

Newbie
5
1
Joined Jun 8, 2021
Well Smoke, give it a try. Just don't have the cooker too close to the house. If I lived in Georgia, I would buy charcoal and cook wood, not an expensive insulating blanket. And by the way, welcome to the forum. Glad you joined us.
Thank you! Glad to be here! Hoping to learn a lot and up my bbq'ing game.
 

SmokinEdge

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For what it’s worth, for about 6 years I ran a GMG Daniel Boon with the insulation cover. I ran the cooker this way all year. In my experience, the temperature held much tighter this way and used less pellets. More efficient all around. The thinner the steel on the cooker the more beneficial, I would say. I have since moved on to a Yoder 640. Much thicker construction with a better control system. I have not really needed to blanket the Yoder. If I ever found myself running a thin skinned cooker again, I would definitely use a blanket all year.
 

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