Sure your offset smoker is good enough, but it could be better. I mentioned in the maintenance article that I was doing some modifications to my smoker for the coming season, and here are those projects. After perusing what I consider the webs foremost grilling and smoking authority, amazingribs, I have found ways to solve problems I’ve had with my offset smoker since purchase. These problems being huge temperature swings from side to side of the cooking chamber, and extended cooking times due to wasted heat energy. This has led to these two modifications, in the hopes they will solve these problems and help to make even better food.
I’m starting with the chimney, because it has become a much bigger problem for me than it used to be. Over the years, through expansion and contraction of the metal, the hole the chimney pipe goes through is rather warped. While I could do this very cheaply and easily by just filling the gap, I also want to lower it down on the inside. Lowering the chimney intake is probably the best modification you can make. By lowering the exhaust port, thereby changing the flow of smoke and heat, you help to lower the side to side heat differential, enabling more even temperatures and cooking. This can be done for under 10 dollars, by getting some aluminum flashing, rolling it up, sliding it into the chimney, and dropping it down to the grate.
The “baffle” or “duct” modification is one that has interested me greatly. It doesn’t have to be permanent, which allows modifications during use. Using the above baffle, my temperatures are within a few degrees side to side, where before there was almost a 40 degree difference. I will be working with this throughout the year to find an optimal setup.
The idea is to simply reflect the heat where it comes out of the fire box. This can be as simple as an angled cooking sheet, a long sweep of steel, even actual ducting that runs through the cooking chamber. I’m going to start with an angled deflector. I happened to have 2 old cookie sheets that were to beat up to bake with anymore. Perfect. I can’t get great pictures of it, but I snipped the sides about 3 inches down to bend it as shown, adjust the snips to fit your angles. As this was my very first attempt, I just quickly threw it on, and it actually works very well. Because of the longer bolts I installed to attach the cooking chamber to the stand, I can use the ends to hold the tray in place without having to make any new holes.
This, combined with the new, lower chimney, should really even out temperatures across the cooking chamber, as well as level out, possibly speed up, cook times.
As I’ve said before, after any maintenance or modification, do at least one dry run to see how it is cooking, heating, the time it takes, etc. It’s better to do a few dry practices before the first party of the year just so you don’t run into a surprise 6 hour finishing time difference.
I did, and have planned, a few extra mods as well. I’m still deciding on what to do for permanent handles, but in the mean time, I’m just using beamclamps bolted to the lids, with some shims across as a handle. Works surprisingly well, but I’m still working on something a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
- I am considering doing this over the next winter: completely remove the stock chimney and seal the hole with exhaust tape. then cut a 3″ hole in the end of the smoker, just below the grate, and use a 3 inch HVAC elbow and some pipe to create a new chimney. In theory, this should draw the heat and smoke right through the meat, which may sound like its going to make one end even hotter, but I think combined with the baffle, this will create almost an oven effect, saturating the same temperature through the whole chamber.