New Braunsfel Black Diamond unconventional mod

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Original poster
Nov 28, 2023
I have a new to me Black Diamond. I did the traditional firebricks in the firebox and cooking chamber plus the extended stack. It worked well. sort of

I was unhappy with the variation of temps across the cooking area. I tried 1/8" tuning plates but all that seemed to do for me was move around the hot and cold spots with up to 75* F variances.

I went rogue to solve my problem. I cut out a 16 1/4" circle of Melamine particle board and installed it 6" downstream of the firebox/cook chamber junction. The particle board surface had a metal fireproof shield, similar to automotive shielding applied to it. A half-moon was cut out about 2.5 inches cut out from the bottom to allow the smokey heated air to pass into the cook chamber.

I tried extra tuning plates downstream, but they gave the same moving hot-cold spot results.

I then started a solid fire. About 35* here in Wisconsin. With reasonable wood-derived coals going, I measured the temps with a Bluetooth 6-channel temperature gauge. Starting on the left of the cook chamber the temps on the evenly spaced probes were 260, 255, 253,253,250,253. Success!

Burning split red oak chunks, the firebox damper at 1/2 open, and the chimney at about 1/2 open. Good white to clear blue smoke. I had to add a preheated split oak stick every 45 minutes. I believe getting the cooking area shielded from the immediate hot surface of the firebox was the key. The downside is I went from a 34 x 16" cooking surface to a 27 x 16" surface. (I think I will supplement my Traeger Timberline 650 and the NB stick burner with a cement block DIY vertical smoker this summer.

My next test will be a cook. Chicken quarters or beef short ribs.
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I will get pictures. As I mentioned, this is winter in Wisconsin and the smoker is quite chilly right now.
I will get pictures. As I mentioned, this is winter in Wisconsin and the smoker is quite chilly right now.


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First off, the fire bricks are making the temp problem worse, not better.
You are pumping more heat into the cook chamber than otherwise.
Second, getting aluminum foil that hot will transfer stuff from the overheating foil to your food, which I seem to remember reading somewhere is a bad thing.
Lastly, is it food safe to potentialy transfer melamine particles into the cook chamber?
Just asking.
could be true on heat but the widespread use of bricks in a firebox is a conflicting opinion. If modulating the heat was the solution then building a less intense fire would be preferable. Tried that approach. Hot/cold spots still prevail. I tried using this Texas-built smoker without firebricks in the firebox. I Wisconsin's cold weather a winter cook was Not going to happen.

The use of aluminum foil in moderately high-heat areas has been used for many decades. Am I missing something here? I think I read something somewhere is not very convincing.

The foil-based material covers the melamine. Very low risk. Are you aware of what melamine is? Used to counters to prepare food. At 71 years old I will accept the risk; We each choose our risk cups.

Let's be constructive. Please comment on the concept rather than the execution. This was a quick and dirty solution. Prototype essentially. Very evenness of the temperature of the chamber during the cook! Ease to control the average temperature. Some of the qualities I admire with my pellet Traeger, Even cook temperatures have been a common problem for COS for owners! A quite simple design change! I tried, as first explained, using a baffle plate and tuning plates for the solution. That solution works with larger volume smokers. The ultimate projection of the false chamber is the reverse flow smoker. There are more COS smokers out there than $1,000 plus smokers. Therefore I sought proof of concept.

The issues Chazdev addresses are solvable. If I were going to market the idea I would construct a steel wall to create the mixing/insulated chamber before the smoke/heated air enters the cook chamber. I will be training myself to weld soon. That skill will be my entry to an insulated steel wall.

The use of the phrase "first off" in the Chazdev post sets a tone of "all-knowing lecture rather than a constructive conversation. I needed to get that off my chest. Just sayin'.
Did a quick search on aluminum foil. This is what I found.

Quick summary.
At what point does heated aluminum begin to give off fumes?
Aluminum boils at 2470 °C So it might start producing a small amount of aluminum vapor at perhaps 2000 °C. Below that, nothing.

I noticed a “Prop 65” sticker on the sheet of aluminum...Here
The sticker is probably about something in the dye used to color the aluminum. Prop. 65 is bullshit, though, and in any case 200°F is not going to cause it to release any fumes.

...and when I looked into it, there are warnings about exposure to heated aluminum due to dangerous fumes.
Warnings from who? Most of what you read on the Web about toxic this or that is quackery. You have to use some judgment when reading such things. There are plenty of dangerous chemicals, but aluminum is not one of them.

National Institute of Health NIH

If you are worried about your health smoking meats acrylamides produced are proven.

Studies show HCAs and PAHs cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer. HCAs develop in meat when amino acids and creatine (muscle proteins) react to high heat. Time is your enemy: The amount of HCAs increases the longer meat is exposed to the heat.

And reputable papers supporting the argument.

Everything we do poses some risk. Our choice is to determine our risk cup. AND to make sure that the information is relevant.
I search for credible articles on Melamine. Here is a summarized comments.

melamine is fine - unless it is used in massive amounts on purpose to adulterate protein to skew nitrogen assay. Sketchy Chinese businessmen were cutting protein to be used in cat/dog food with massive amounts of melamine and eventually they got greedier and started cutting baby formula with it too. If you eat that much melamine (gram quantities, over time), eventually the degradation products of free melamine will crystallize in kidneys and form kidney stones - which isn't good for kidneys. Please note that melamineformaldehyde resin trays (the same stuff like Formica countertop) contain no free melamine, it is all crosslinked and bound, and melamine cannot leach out from them - not even a trace.

Read the article and choose your risk cup. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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