5 Tips For Maintaining Your Smoker
With Smokeshow 2010 approaching I decided to break the Smoker out and make sure everything was in tip top shape. To my disappointment it wasn’t. When I opened it up it looked like a scene from Avatar; Green and unreal. Mold had taken over my smoker (most likely due to all the grease)! To take care of this infestation I started up a blazing fire in the smoker and made sure not to stick around for the cloud of mold smoke engulfing my backyard.
After the flames settled I noticed all of the little modifications I had made on the smoker to make it the best it possibly could be at producing some of the most delicious BBQ ever. Then I got the idea, why not make a post about how to get the most out of your smoker?! There’s no need to go out and buy the most expensive smoker with thick steal walls (to maintain heat); instead modify a cheaper one in order to produce gourmet results.
The smoker I am talking about is made by Chargriller and I believe the model is the Smokin Pro. The modifications and tips I am about to talk about are tailor fit to this particular brand of smokers but most brands share similar characteristics and basically everything can be applied to them.
Almost everything done to this smoker is related to controlling heat, which is very important when smoking meat. To low and you’ll spend a whole day (not exaggerating) smoking a pork butt, and too hot will leave you with a dried up hunk of meat. The money spot is 225 degrees for most smoking applications.
The first thing to do when you purchase a smoker is to season it and plug all extra holes.
Next cover the inside of your smoker with tin foil. This provides no real benefits to the actual cooking process but it makes clean up MUCH quicker.
Controlling Heat in your Smoker – Fire Bricks
Fire bricks. Use these, or any other stone to maintain a constant temperature in your smoker. Once the bricks are heated they will help keep the temperature stable. If your fire dies down, the hot bricks will keep the temperature up, and if the fire gets too hot, the bricks will absorb some of that heat.
Stabilizing Heat in your Smoker – Smokestack
The next thing to do in order to maintain a constant temperature is to modify your smokestack. To do this you need to purchase a 3 inch diameter (or whatever diameter your smokestack is) flexible pipe which is usually used for drying machines. Attach this pipe to the smokestack (I used a pipe clamp) and run it down to the grill surface. Without this modification, smoke comes straight out of the firebox and shoots straight up and out of the smoker. This means uneven grill surface temperatures resulting in bad bbq! With the extended smokestack, smoke comes out of the firebox and fills the smoking chamber evenly and then exits slowly.
Dissipate the heat – Flip your Charcoal Pan
All of the heat comes from the side firebox which contains blazing hot coals and fire wood. Without this modification/tip, the meat on the firebox side of the grill will BURN and dry up. First you need to take the charcoal pan (see picture below) and flip it over while aligning it with the top of the hole to the firebox. Next take a strip of tinfoil and bridge the gap between the pan and firebox. Smoke will now come out of the firebox and will dissipate evenly around the charcoal pan. Even heat = good eats.
Controlling the fire – Charcoal Basket
When I first purchased the smoker I did not have charcoal baskets. Controlling the charcoal and firewood was a nightmare and inefficient. DEFFINITLY purchase or make charcoal baskets for your firebox. They keep everything neat and give you a more even fire. It also is a good idea to have a squirt bottle filled with water to control flare ups that result in bad heat spikes.
Monitoring the temperature – Electronic Thermometer
Now that you know how to maintain a constant temperature, how do you check that you have the right temp? Well, first off you definitely do NOT use the thermometer on the hood of the grill. They are usually inaccurate and who cares about the temp a 8 inches above your food?
The cheap solution is to simply purchase an oven thermometer and place it on the grill. If you want to get fancy, purchase a digital oven thermometer and place the probe through a potato to keep it slightly above the grill surface.
Lighting Charcoal – Charcoal Baskets
Last but not least, how do you light your charcoal? Most might say lighter fluid but no, never, BAD! Lighter fluid can impart a gasoline taste on your food when you use it to start your charcoal. Instead, use a chimney. They are cheap and ensure great tasting food. Simply fill the chimney with charcoal, stuff the bottom with paper and light. In 20 minutes you will have a stack of red hot charcoal.
Well, so there ya have it – some of the tips and tricks behind Smokeshows success. Hope this information is helpful and inspires you to get smoking! It may be intimidating at first but the results are definitely worth it.
If you have any more tips please leave a comment!