Here is my old Brinkmann Offset Smoker. It is probably close to 25 years old. With the help of several mods, it makes some good BBQ.
One of the first things I did to this old smoker was to add wheels. I still need to add wheels to the other end. This old thing is heavy and almost impossible to move around.
Next was to work on the heat control. I added this elbow to the stack to move it closer to grill level. It comes down to about 1" above the grill, forcing the heat to flow over the meat
I also lined the bottom with fireplace bricks, and those heat retaining briquette things. I eventually replaced those briquette things with three more fire bricks. I keep them covered in foil.
For the tuning plates I used some old ceramic tile I had left over from a kitchen remodel. I just cut it to the size I needed with the ceramic tile saw I bought for the remodel. Each piece is 4" wide x 13" long. Before I smoke I cover each piece with aluminum foil.
These tuning plates work extremely well. It's actually possible to "over tune" the heat, meaning I can get a higher temperature on the exhaust side than the firebox side, especially when I use a water pan barrier.
When I first started smoking I had a terrible time controlling and maintaining the heat. I decided it might be a little easier if I could use propane rather than charcoal. I discovered the Afterburner - H at http://www.gassmoke.com. This makes it very easy to convert a charcoal smoker to propane. It's not a permanent conversion and can be taken out easily when I want to use charcoal or wood.
It's made to set a 46 oz. juice can filled with wood chips or pellets on the cutout over the flame. Cover the open end tightly with foil and punch 2 or 3 small holes and it will smoke for a good long while. This thing is great for cold smoking.
The next mod I made was to add temperature guages to the lid at grill level. I know two would have been sufficient, but I added three. Is there such a thing as too much information?
By the time I had several successful smokes under my belt, I decided I had to master the art of controlling the fire in my smoker using charcoal or wood. It was time to work on the firebox. I had to make a charcoal box to allow airflow and have a way to remove the used ash during long cooks.
Ain't this a pretty sight!
Now I believe there is no better way to smoke than to use charcoal or wood. There is something almost spiritual about feeding the smoker with some kind of fruit or hard wood to get the desired results you're after.
Over the years I've used several gadgets to monitor the temperature on my smokers. I used an iGrill for quite a while. http://idevicesinc.com/igrill/
I really liked the iGrill because it allowed me to monitor the temperature of the pit and the meat with my iPad or iPhone. The problem I had with the iGrill was that the distance between my smoker and my living room was right on the edge of the working bluetooth range. It would regularly lose connection. Very frustrating! So I gave my iGrill to my daughter and purchased a Maverick wireless temp guage. It worked flawlessly as long as I had fresh batteries in it.
My most recent addition is a Cyber Q Wifi from http://bbqguru.com.
This thing is great! It connects by wifi to my home network. I can monitor and control my cook on my iPad, iPhone, or computer from my living room or even across town. I fabricated a plastic box to protect it from the elements.
It comes with 1 pit probe that controls the fan mounted on the smoker to increase the temperature, and 3 food probes. I decided that I didn't really need 3 food probes, and that I would like to have a second pit probe to monitor each end of the cooking chamber, so I purchased another pit probe. Of course the second pit probe which is plugged in to one of the food probe sockets won't control the temperature, but it does give a reading of the temp. It works great!
Here is a brisket I recently cooked with a pit probe attached to skewers on each end approximately an inch above the meat, and a food probe on each end of the brisket.
Here is the Cyber Q control screen on my iPad. Notice the difference in temperature between the Pit-Right Side (exhaust side) and Pit-Left Side (firebox side). This was the "over tuning" I mentioned earlier.
When you enter the Setpoint it controls a fan mounted on the side of the firebox. The Output is the percentage the fan is working. When the temp falls below the setpoint witin a range, it kicks on the fan. More airflow means higher temp. If the temp rises to or above the setpoint within a range, the fan shuts off and as long as your firebox is relatively airtight, the temp will go down.
Here is a picture of the bulkhead fan adapter I mounted to the side of my smoker. I also purchased an adapter for my Big Green Egg. The BBQ Guru has many adapters for many different smokers.
Here is the fan mounted. I gotta be careful not to allow hot coals to come in contact with that wire.
The Cyber Q Wifi will alert you when your pit temperature falls below or above your set range, and when your food reaches your set temperature. It also has the ability to send email alerts. I'm really impressed with this thing!
Now here is some food!
Chicken and ABTs
Scotch eggs, spare ribs, and meatloaf