Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

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Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 6th, 2021, 6:53 am

So, this 75 gallon smoker that I built is hard to keep a small fire in that doesn't get too hot. Well, it's not actually hard, but it takes an awful lot of attention. Just constantly having to add little bitty chunks to keep it going.
Wondering if a mix of charcoal and wood would make a small fire last longer. Haven't tried it yet, but was wondering if any of you have, and if you have any tips or suggestions about it.
I plan on giving it a go this weekend.
The long term plan is to build a more mid-sized smoker.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by dacolson » January 6th, 2021, 9:54 am

Hey boomer. the 2 RF pits I haven't had the heart to sell yet are 80 and 60 gallons. I'm using 12 to 16 inch splits about as big around as the end of a baseball bat - exclusively oak and pecan. I add 1 or 2 splits every 30 to 45 minutes depending on how my coals look. I find the key is not letting my pile of coals under the wood get too small and conversely not having too much fuel above a nice bed of coals. If the bed gets too small, then I have to really baby the next split along and add some kindling to build it back up. If I have too much fuel over a good bed, it just takes off and I have to pull a piece off the fire. At the hottest, the end of the smoker next to the firebox seems to like to be at about 260 deg. The end opposite at 230. If I wait until the temps get down to 240/210 respectively I'm usually in good shape adding a spit every 30/40 mins.
I have not used charcoal for anything other than starting the fire. I don't use it any more for even that.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 6th, 2021, 10:18 am

I guess RF must be the way to go on the smaller smokers. If I put splits in mine it would be at 350 or more in no time. I guess I could try butting the tuning plates up tight and see how that does.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by dacolson » January 6th, 2021, 10:33 am

Do you have any sort of throat baffle on there? I think your tuning plates should help. Thicker the better at the FB end. That radiant heat really heats things up.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by Dirtytires » January 6th, 2021, 10:37 am

Air control is key to keeping a small fire. An air vent is more effective than leaving the firebox door open as it allows better precision. Leaving the door open also allows a massive amount of heat to escape which results in wasted fuel.

Everybody wants to be like Franklin but remember he runs massive pits (that require massive amounts of air) and has a crew to minions to feed them. The larger pits have a bigger margin of error. I would suggest you put in a door vent and would bet your high wood consumption and temp spikes will be a thing of the past.



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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by dacolson » January 6th, 2021, 10:37 am

I am considering putting a water tray in the bell area above the FB on my smaller RF as a heat sync. It gets really hot right there even with an insulated FB. It may help get my temps even closer.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 6th, 2021, 12:16 pm

I know I said that I had the door wide open, but that was just the one time. Here recently I’ve been running it cracked just wide enough to keep the fire lit...1~1/4 inch wide. I was planning on some mods anyway, I guess I could put a vent in. I gotta finish the new build first, though. Dang tHing is dragging on forever.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by SheffSmoker » January 6th, 2021, 3:45 pm

Hi Boomer,

I've tried both with my (small by US sizes) smoker, and definitely have more control using a mix of charcoal and splits. If I use an exclusively wood fire it's similar to you, it flies up to 300-350.

I use decent restaurant quality lump, put a full established chimney in to get the smoker up to temp, then a couple of thin splits once the meat is in to get it established. Once I've used a few smaller splits and everything is ticking along I start adding single bigger splits and try to keep it clean burning. I've also worked out if the coal bed is getting small I can add some fresh charcoal near the door next to an existing lit piece and it soon catches without acrid smoke.

I have a FB vent in mine but still use the door as well, half an inch to two inches cracked is all it needs to encourage nicer smoke.

Wind is the biggest enemy with mine. Cook before last it was really windy and I couldn't keep it either burning or clean, spun it round and nosed the FB into the garage where it was sheltered and immediately it was a different animal!

They are all different animals, and my new bigger one compared to the smaller one is way easier to use but still has it's foibles. If I wanted easy I'd be blowing $$$$ on a pre built pellet smoker that's fire up and forget, but where's the fun in that? :D



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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by shearman23 » January 6th, 2021, 3:54 pm

hogaboomer wrote:
January 6th, 2021, 12:16 pm
I know I said that I had the door wide open, but that was just the one time. Here recently I’ve been running it cracked just wide enough to keep the fire lit...1~1/4 inch wide. I was planning on some mods anyway, I guess I could put a vent in. I gotta finish the new build first, though. Dang tHing is dragging on forever.
There is nothing wrong with using charcoal in there if it is getting really hot.

If you have a basket you can put in there, run a snake method or minion method with coal and wood chunks and see how it does. The vents will control the heat, keep them wide open to see if it will get hot enough.

You'll still get plenty of smoke with wood chunks but the charcoal will be a control on the burn due to uniformity of size and moisture.

I use a Weber sometimes for slow cooks and can keep 225-260 for 10+ hours without ever touching the vents.
People use them in backyard offset smokers as well.
If you set up coals and light one end, they will burn very consistently.

Image



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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 20th, 2021, 1:51 pm

Got me a door vent engineered and installed today. It's a little crooked, good thing I have this homely little smoker to try stuff out on.Image

Image


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by dacolson » January 20th, 2021, 6:08 pm

Nice! I love those chain vents. Nice old school touch.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by tinspark » January 20th, 2021, 6:18 pm

Blast gate method. Nice!
Good you kept most of the opening below the fire grate. Should help the coal bed keep oxygenated....
What size opening as per the pit calc vs tank size??

Also if you don't particularly like the chain, a 5/8" slot along the blast gate and a 1/2"threaded rod welded to the door with a wingnut style nut would look pretty cool too. (could drill 1,2" hole and plug weld from inside door)
Which would give you ability to fine tune to your sweet spot on your gate, instead of the 1" increments (or whatever the chain links are)..
IMO... Looks good!!


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 20th, 2021, 8:24 pm

I'm having a hard time picturing that, tinspark.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by tinspark » January 20th, 2021, 8:56 pm

2 depictions isometric and end view. Sorry for hand sketch. Don’t have more time than for this Hieroglyphic. Hopefully this’ll depict what i was referring to....
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by tinspark » January 20th, 2021, 9:03 pm

Also, U Can cut the head off of a bolt and use a nut if you do not have access to althread rod. It doesn't need to be very long and would work just as well. The bigger the fastener cooler looking it would be IMO. Also U might need a washer behind the nut so that it doesn't bind as much...


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"tinspark's" build links below:
Last build-GF:https://smokerbuilder.com/forums/viewto ... 30#p114730
First build- Santa Maria Smoker:
https://smokerbuilder.com/forums/viewto ... 7a614a230a
Santa Maria Rebuild: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7533&p=112344&hili ... 34#p112344

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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 20th, 2021, 9:10 pm

Nice! Thanks for that!


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by hogaboomer » January 30th, 2021, 1:29 pm

First cook today using the new door vent, what a difference!!! This thing is cooking really nice! Just using a really small gap between tuning plates, like about 1/16". Temps are keeping steady around 250-260. Thanks to Dirtytires for the suggestion.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by Big T » January 30th, 2021, 9:49 pm

Yep it's all about being able to control them and the air flow in and out is the key to it all. :beer:


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by dacolson » January 30th, 2021, 10:59 pm

That’s great Boomer. Glad it’s getting dialed in.


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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by towtruck » January 31st, 2021, 11:07 am

Nice you got it under control. On both my big 2'x4' bbq/smoker and my center feed smoker I can run with the vents closed down to slivers and adjust temp by the degree.....it's amazing how little air is needed once up to temp. I'm pretty sure trying to pull lots of fresh air through the pit like Franklin does requires a large pit and an equally large fire to balance it out.



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Re: Charcoal and Wood in Smaller Smoker?

Post by Dirtytires » January 31st, 2021, 12:01 pm

I’m glad it worked out for you. It is the start of a new learning curve but it will be awesome.



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