MooseKnuckle VI

Offset Smoker?

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I was planning to build a mini smokehouse up at my camp. But then I got to thinking.....They already sell those charcoal style smokers with the offset smoker box on the side. What's everyones thoughts on these things? For around 100 bucks I could just pick one up. Be cheaper and way easier than making a legit smokehouse. It'd also be portable. I never smoked anything before so this is all new to me. The only experience I have is when I used to help out at my buddy's butcher shop during deer season. He had a real smokehouse but he did all that. He didn't trust anyone else to run the smoke house.

 

I'm planning on doing a lot of fish on it and some ducks. Maybe even dabble in brisket or hams, but primarily would be used for ducks, trout and salmon. Do these cheap little grills work OK for the occasional user? Are they able to maintain and adjust the heat fairly easily?

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I have been doing the smoking thing for awhile as a hobby and the cheap sub $700 offset smokers are complete junk.  The short of it is the metal used in these cheap offset is too thin for them to be properly used as smokers,  which causes all types of issues with temp control and you doing a lot of fire management to achieve even somewhat mediocre results.  Really your to best options sub $500 is the Weber Smokey Mountain or a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker).  The UDS is basically a 55 gallon drum that you modify at home to make a smoker.  These are not cutting a drum in half like you see in a lot of chicken BBQ's but leaving them intact, creating a venting system on the bottom and top of drum, adding a charcoal ring and round grate holders.  If you are interested in more info I can point you to several websites or answer any question.

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I have a pretty nice offset smoker someone gave me in return for some smoked products.  The biggest problem is temperature control but it's not necessarily due to the thickness of the metal. The metal is a lot thicker than a steel drum. Mine is very thick and the whole thing has got to weigh several hundred pounds.  The real issue is the heat source being attached to the side of the smoker.  Unless it is a reverse-flow smoker it's going to be very difficult to be consistent.  

 

You can turn a regular offset smoker into a reverse-flow with a little DIY work, just google or look around some BBQ forums.   The reverse flow means the heat/smoke travels across the bottom of the smoker before being released into the chamber.  If it just pour directly in the side that one side will be way too hot, as it receives all the heat flowing through and that side is also exposed to radiant heat from the box and coals.  

 

I fixed mine in a lazy-cheap method with two sizes of aluminum grill pans, one has ~1/4" holes and the other has ~1/2" holes.  I bent the pans to fit the bottom of the smoker (above the hole to the firebox) with the small hole pans next to the box and the bigger hole pans at the far end.  This way there is a much more even distribution of heat and everything works well now.  Another option is to use plate steel cut to fit and drilled out.  

 

Or just make sure to buy a reverse-flow in the first place.  There are some good examples on BBQ forums.  I was using a  cheap vertical style one for years until it rusted out, this one holds several times as much meat and is a lot easier to work with so I'm pretty happy with it.

 

A third option is to use a small round BBQ on the ground next to the offset one, take the heat control ring off or cut a large hole in the lid, and use a length of flexible ducting into the door of the firebox on the offset smoker.

 

The other big issue is the chimney stack, it should go all the way down to the level of the wire grills as this keeps as much smoke as possible in the smoker.  Also keep the fire small and as far from the opening to the smoke chamber as possible.  They can work very well when set up properly.

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