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Trying to make my pit to a Reverse Flow Smoker

marco007

Fire Starter
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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Hello guys!  Have serveral concerns with my pit.  I have a Off set smoker, that was made in Texas, and temp. I use too cook at was around 250-275 all day long,  I moved to Charlotte, NC, and my temp. is now 300-350.  I can't seem to get down to smoking temp.   have been cooking good, but have to nurse/tweek it constantly.  3-4 logs an hour, and cook what seems to be a higher temp.  Where in TX, use to put like 3-4 logs, for like every 2-2 1\2 hrs, and sleep/relax.  Now I have to be up worried if  temp drops or rises, and burns quicker up here for some reason. Am I losing it or what. Just started to compete in KCBS, and we have been doing good , but have been struggled a bit.  

Background on my pit:

9ft rolled steel, 1\2 inch thick.  -with tuning plates has about 5 tuning plates.

30" diameter

Smoke stack is opposite of firebox!

Smoke stack has adjustable baffle

Firebox has one baffle in front of it, that slides sideways.

Problems:Meat was getting to smokey, and dark smoke.(Fixed by adding a new firebox grate, helped drop coals better, and let new wood catch fire first before closing door."

Burning really hot after shutting firebox door, and was able to break down to about 345-355, but no more than that.  If I get it down to 250-275 I don't get good bark. 

Modifications made:  Replaced firebox coal grate, more elevated for coal release.

Questions:It is a thick walled steel, do you think the elevation difference would cause it to burn at a higher temp.? and my 250-275 is now 300-350 here in NC.? 

With tuning plates, tried to butt them up together to push air flow out more, How are the tuning plates suppose to work exactly?  I know that they keep the meat from burning, but am I suppose to space them out or leave them butted together?

Last one,  should I attempt to make a reverse flow, or try and sell it.  It is 1\2 steel, you don't see that too often, and probably would outlast me, and my son, and his grandson's.  Has alot of hard work put into it.  Don't know if I should try and get another pit that maintains heat better.  It's becoming burdensome, having to fiddle with so much here!  Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Marco

Tex-A-Lina Cookers

Stay Smokey My Friends
 

daveomak

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Marco, morning....  The difference in temps could be the type of wood you are burning... Texas vs NC.....   Also humidity plays a role in temps...

tuning plates are designed to let heat escape between them to deliver an even temp or uneven temp across the cooking grate... depends on if you want a lower or higher cooking zone in different parts of the cooking grate....  

If you could put up a picture of your cooker that would help.....

Also, installing an air inlet to the firebox, well above the fire grate, allows for additional air flow to the cooking chamber without feeding the fire additional air and increasing the heat....  

Have you checked your therms since the move ??? They could have been knocked out of calibration in the move.... 

We have members that live in NC and put out some darn good Q....  Hopefully they will stop in here and help you with your quest for perfect Q in NC....  Below is a link that explains quite a bit about theory and operating smokers of different types....   Dave

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/54542/building-an-italian-offset-smoker/20
 
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marco007

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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Thanks Dave for your insite, and advice, and for the link will check it out! posted some pics of my pit, and some meat samples. Please let me know if they came ok, had problems earlier posting them.

 I know my pit can cook with the best of them, just have to master it overhere in the Carolinas.  Sounds like I have a wood guzzler overhere.

In TX was burning oak, pecan, and mesquite.  In NC primarily hickory, and oak.  Usually the wood we use is dry, but occasionally there have been some semi-sappy ones.  In that case we would try and dry on firebox.

I have tried moving the grates around, and spacing them evenly and I got a better sear/bark on my meat that way.  I have tried also butting them up, but my bark was that good, and or took longer.  Maybe it will butting them up for higher heats like for chicken, and spread apart for slow smoking.

Thermometer-Will probably replace/ and add more in each door!
 

marco007

Fire Starter
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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Thanks Dave for your insite, and advice, and for the link will check it out! posted some pics of my pit, and some meat samples. Please let me know if they came ok, had problems earlier posting them.

 I know my pit can cook with the best of them, just have to master it overhere in the Carolinas.  Sounds like I have a wood guzzler overhere.

In TX was burning oak, pecan, and mesquite.  In NC primarily hickory, and oak.  Usually the wood we use is dry, but occasionally there have been some semi-sappy ones.  In that case we would try and dry on firebox.

I have tried moving the grates around, and spacing them evenly and I got a better sear/bark on my meat that way.  I have tried also butting them up, but my bark was that good, and or took longer.  Maybe it will butting them up for higher heats like for chicken, and spread apart for slow smoking.

Thermometer-Will probably replace/ and add more in each door!  I'm due for another firebox in a year or so, will try that, and maybe make it a reverse flow!

Again, Thanks Dave!
 

marco007

Fire Starter
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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Well finally had mods. Done to pit, made 3 smalls doors into 2 large doors, one level to 2 levels of grates. Also added more tuning plates, and 2 baffles (1 on each side of firebox)! Man I cant believe the difference of heat control i have now! I can dial it now and pretty much have temperature the same on each door! Know i have bbq temp. 250-275 all nite long! Also will had 4 new thermometers put, from rivercountry, good thermos!
 

marco007

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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Again thanks Dave those extra inlets on firebox really did the trick! Its a huge pit and needed more airflow and the extra tuning plates made better temp control
 

daveomak

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Marco..... You are welcome.... I'm glad all the mods made your smoker into something you are happy with.... That is what matters... 

Pictures are put in jail until you have 20 or so posts to reduce the spam we get here.... Maybe one of our jailers will check the lock-up and let your pics out ....   

Dave
 

daveomak

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Again thanks Dave those extra inlets on firebox really did the trick! Its a huge pit and needed more airflow and the extra tuning plates made better temp control
Marco, morning....  Can you take some pics of the extra inlets on the firebox ??  size and placement will help others modding their smokers... Your results are incredible after listening to your concerns and problems with the original design....    Dave
 

marco007

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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Last pic is how it looked before mods. Note to anyone , sure u cut doors low enough so it can be easier to place meat on grills! The way the first welder cut the doors you had to tip toe and stretch to lay meat down! Thats the way I bought from an old friend. The cooker was great all ready, it is 1/2 or 3/8 in thick, 9ft long and 30" diameter. Total length on trailer, 16ft! Had problem keeping smoking temp., here in NC temp. Ran hot, but I new something had to be off! Mr. Dave came me the idea, on inlets on side of firebox! Man as soon as I turned on the fire it took less time to ignite. Chamber warmed up twice as fast, especially being 1/2 in thick. Got temp. In chamber to almost 480-500, then started to break down temp. Left smoke stack open full bore, tuned it by side inlet and front inlet! 240-250 the whole nite! New logs ignited faster, so less white smoke, and blue almost clear smoke. Side inlets a big awesome plus! Then added a few more tuning plates, left about 5-6 in gap and end of chamber, separate the tuning plates about an 1-2in apart from each other! This allows the smoke and heat to regulate better! Now with the 2 doors big doors instead of 3 small doors, we able to have 2 shelves and able to cook twice as much! Also, added flanges or door lips to better seal in the doors, it almost makes it air tight. Overall very happy with welders work. Now I need counter weights, to offset the now extremely heavy doors. Wife says, you looking more buff, said I get my work out lifting those heavy a$$ doors! Have to squat then power lift those doors!
 

marco007

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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Oh also instead of 1 temp gauge, i added four, now i can really tell more or less the temp on top or bottom grate. Went river county temp. Gauges
 

daveomak

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Marco.... Nice job on remodeling the smoker.....  I'll bet you wish the guy who built it knew what he was doing to begin with....  It is amazing how folks who build smokers and sell them, don't have a clue about the physics and air flow in a smoker......  Dave
 

marco007

Fire Starter
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Joined Oct 18, 2012
Well dave it was a trial and error thing, it was hell at 1st! We had to work on getting a good product, and sweat it out! I was about to sell pit and at wits end with this beast! I was so discouraged, i was about to give up bbq! I
Was so exhausted after a cook out, I was sure I was done with it! We had big blessing, come thru for us , and was able to do mods. That we have done! Still have a couple of more things need done, but know we can rest easy, enjoy bbqing! Not the case before! Now its like im a new man, breathe of fresh air! I have been cooking for 25 years and we are still learning! My advice to all new pit builders, do your research with other pit owners, and cooks, and welders that have been in the business, to get the best product and cooking efficiency! I know how to cook, but helps to get others insight, or see something we don't see!

Overall Dave big thanks, I got my MoJo back for BBQ! New mods not only got to bbq smoking temp. It starts burn faster, and believe or not burns more effieciently, I use less wood!. Can cook lower temp, and be done at the time I alloted for that particular meat!
 

maple sticks

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Joined Jan 19, 2013
Oh also instead of 1 temp gauge, i added four, now i can really tell more or less the temp on top or bottom grate. Went river county temp. Gauges
Hi Marco, Have a question on those new gauges. I also have them at grate levels about one inch above. Was wondering what temp difference you get between shelves. When my temp is stabilized I get about 50* difference. Would like to know what is normal on your unit. Which is a nice one I may add.
 

marco007

Fire Starter
31
10
Joined Oct 18, 2012
Well

Hi Marco, Have a question on those new gauges. I also have them at grate levels about one inch above. Was wondering what temp difference you get between shelves. When my temp is stabilized I get about 50* difference. Would like to know what is normal on your unit. Which is a nice one I may add.
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marco007

Fire Starter
31
10
Joined Oct 18, 2012
Well on 1st door near firebox i may get a 5 degree difference . Top gauge will be like 250 bottom will be like 245 . 2nd door will be almost dead on accurate! The temp also well depend on wood being dry or more wet. I had all 4 gauges tuned in same temp at one time. Tuning plates and good firebox ventilation are key
Also does your temp gauges have adjustable tuning or calibration screws? Might need to be calibrated. If that doesnt work, might need to get some new gauges. I find if you dont have tuning plates, temp tend to run hotter. 50 degs sound really off! What is the make up of your pit or how is it designed? If you dont have plates, might consider getting some like 1/4 ' thick should fine. At first my pit didnt have them, would guess to see how my Que would come out or work damn hard to get a good product. Also your firebox!
 
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