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Direct Grilling in the smoke chamber of a horizontal smoker

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Meatwad

So I recently bought a beautiful horizontal smoker with the offset firebox (Bar-B-Chef make, I believe). A major factor in my decision to buy this model is the idea of grilling mass quantities of food over direct heat in the smoke chamber.
However, I've had problems achieving nice, hot fires in the smoke chamber. While the fire closest to the firebox opening burns ok, the fire on the other side, at best, just smolders. Here's some of the things I'm doing:

1. Lining the bottom of the smoke chamber with tinfoil to protect the metal and aid in clean-up.
2. Place newspaper beneath the lower grates in the smoke chamber, pile charcoal on these lower grates, douse with lighter fluid, and light it up a little while later. I've tried using the chimney, but, after I unload it, the fire just dies. I promise I won't give up on the chimney.
3. During this process, all doors and vents are wide open.

I'm thinking I'm having an airflow problem. Does the horiontal smoker design prevent sufficient oxygen from reaching attempted fires in the smoke chamber? Should I install an adjustable vent at the bottom of the fire chamber? Might there be a simpler solution before I breakout the power tools? Is it something else I'm not considering?

Post Tue May 25, 2004 5:16 am
BBcue-Z well done
well done

Posts: 3039
Location: Atlanta-GA
Meatwad,
I have a horizontal smoker/grill and I use it often for direct grilling. My smoker has a charcoal tray insert with charcoal grate that sets 3 inches above its bottom. This allows the oxygen to flow freely all around the coals. This is what it looks like:

Image

If you already using a charcoal grate and it’s not working, you may want elevated by using 4 bricks (one in each corner). Also you might want to leave the lid on the side firebox open at all times and adjust the opening between the main chamber and the firebox with a brick and a piece of metal or foil(from side firbox side). This will allow a better airflow. Try these things before you permanently modify it.
Image

Post Tue May 25, 2004 9:23 am
Bob-BQN User avatar
well done
well done

Posts: 12904
Location: Texas
Meatwad,

Z's recommendations are pretty much what I would do as well. So in this post I'll touch on another idea.

I used to use lighter fluid on my grill and could taste it, so I'm concerned about using it in your smoker. The reason being; once you've used your smoker several times it becomes seasoned (coated) on the inside with a layer of smoke and oils. This seasoning imparts a noticeably improved flavor on the meat once it is established in the smoking chamber.

By using lighter fluid the inside of the cooking chamber is being coated with petroleum soot which will most likely change the flavor of the food cooked in it afterwards. Since I have not used lighter fluid in an offset this is merely an educated guess. Anyone else have experience with this? Let me know if I’m off target. Will the chamber need to be cleaned? Or does the food still taste great and lighter fluid has no affect?
Image

Post Tue May 25, 2004 12:12 pm
RichD medium-well
medium-well

Posts: 280
Location: New Jersey
You may also want to consider adding a baffle to your smoker between the firebox and main chamber. This will not only help you control the heat when using the firebox as your heat source, but it will also direct your airflow towards the bottom of your main chamber allowing the air to come up from below your coals more evenly. You should get a better all around fire without the hot spot you are getting now. As Z said you should also use a grate that is at least 3" above the bottom to allow the air to flow.

Here is a link to give you an idea of the modification I am talking about.

http://www.eaglequest.com/~bbq/

You want to click on BBQ FAQ Version 2.0

I have a horizontal smoker and have done this. I use the main chamber to grill in and have not had any problems since I made the modification.
As to your problem with the chimney you may not be giving the coals enough time to completly light before you dump them. Read up on some of the threads on chimneys. i think you will find the helpful.

Hope this helps a little.

RichD

Post Tue May 25, 2004 8:50 pm
BBcue-Z well done
well done

Posts: 3039
Location: Atlanta-GA
Bob,
You’re right on target as usual. I would never use fuel in the smoker main chamber (or any where near my grills). Because when you use the unit as a smoker, the water condensation will for droplets on the inside of the main chamber, which will drip on the food. You don’t want these droplets to contain any petroleum residue. That would be dangerous and not very tasty.
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Post Tue May 25, 2004 9:48 pm
Meatwad

Thanks fellas,
A simple little elevation adjustment on the lower grate is probably all I need.
As to the lighter fluid issue, your point is well taken that I'm not only ruining the present meal but potentially many in the future by using fluid. I'll get back on the chimney wagon ASAP.
Thanks all for the tips.


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