Need input, learning ins and outs of new smoker

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Smoke Blower
Original poster
Dec 22, 2009
Had this custom side firebox smoker made for me several months back and have smoked on it 3 or 4 times, definitely not enough to be an expert with it but I have noticed a couple of things and would like to get some suggestions from you all. Here are some pics.

My first question is about setting up the fire.  What I have been using is a combination of hard wood, primarily seasoned oak for fuel along with lump charcoal. I'll typically make a base of wood and start a chimney full of charcoal and put it on top of the wood..I leave the vent on the top completely open and the vent between the fire box and the smoke chamber half way open, the intake vent to the firebox is usually about  1/4 open once the fire is going really well.  If I'm lucky, I can keep it between 225 and 255 for a good two hours before needing to add fuel.. I think I should be able to go a lot long without having to add fuel, so what am I doing wrong?  Am I not starting out with enough wood or is it a case of the fire burning too hot and the fuel gets used up too quickly? 

Here is a picture of the fire box with my first fire, my initial thought is that I'm not using enough fuel for the size of this smoker, what do you all think? If you look where the air intake is on the left, I need to be careful about how high I build the fire, unless maybe I cover that hole with some type of mesh to keep any coals from falling out..

Second is the smoke, obviously when you first add wood there is going to be some smoke, how long do you typically let your wood burn down before closing things up?  Should I crack the smoke chamber when adding wood or should I just leave the firebox door open?  I can tell you that it burns pretty efficiently, there is usually nothing left in there but ash once everything burns down.  Any help or input would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.
Last edited:


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Sep 24, 2009
Independence Mo
I think I would make up a charcoal basket and give that a try with the minion method. Your box doesn't look any larger than a drum, I would think it would work great.


Smoking Guru
Staff member
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
OTBS Admin
Group Lead
Jul 7, 2005
Midvale, UT
Looks like you could raise that grate up at least a couple of inches. This will allow air to better circulate and give the ash somewhere to drop so it doesn't choke out the fire.

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