With the recent purchase of the cheapo smoker, I have been brainstorming a lot. The first test run last Sunday yielded great results. Temperature control was the one thing that seemed to elude me more than anything though. I was able to achieve steady temps after awhile into the cook but after the fuel replacement things flared up badly. The spare rib test subject was delicious anyway.
Today I decided to run a test with charcoal briquettes to see how they would work for temp management. The first two hours were somewhat disappointing. Temps spiked and didn't come down for quite awhile. There wasn't much I could do to control the temp either. I tried adding cool water, venting the lid, and removing coals. Nothing seemed to work as good as just letting it cool down by itself. Yet this didn't lead to good temp control, which I am looking for. Toward the end of the five hour learning session I realized that my system is flawed and needs some modifications ASAP.
Take a look at this picture
The smoky Joe grill fits inside quite well but as you can see, there is less than an inch of space around the edge inside the smoker. This space is the culprit of temp control. With that space air can enter into the grill and erratically heat the coals. Even if I play with the air vent on the bottom of the smoky Joe, it does nothing to really help. Upon these realizations I sat for awhile brainstorming what I could do to improve the situation. One option would be to foil around the top edge of the smoky Joe. Yet, I still worry the vent on the bottom isn't adequate enough for managing long BBQ runs. Thus, I think I will use the foil idea and marry it another idea.
I have fashioned vent covers out of can lids. I originally had tried using a tin foil pan but found that material was too flimsy for this kind of project. The can lids are perfect. When screwed down they make a tight seal on the bottom of the pan. I just hammered a hole with a spike and then bent the metal out of the way to make haphazard holes. It actually looks pretty good. I'll continue this process with the coal pan itself in order to make air holes. I originally put the smoker legs on backwards so I could slide the smoky Joe inside but I might put them on the right way. Then I will be able to put the coal pan inside. It makes the change of coals more annoying but I can make a foil seal better.
With the addition of the foil seal and air vents on the bottom, I will be able to (in theory) control the temperature perfectly. Then I would be able to fill up the coal pan with a ton of charcoal and do a long cook without too much hassle or adjustment. I half expected I would modify the smoker when I got it so I'm not surprised I'm already doing that. I'm highly anticipating the next test when I have finished the modifications. The smoker is a cheap chunk of metal but I'm going to get every dollar out of that thing. I'll make it work!
Just my handy work at best. What a mess.