Hello everyone, this is my first thread so bare with me! I am new to smoking but a veteran in DIY so naturally I have never bought a meat smoker, but I have built two! My first one was just a webber grill that I welded on top of a steel 5 gallon bucket where I made my fire and it worked ok but it was tiny. My second smoker, which I am writing about now (shown below) I may have went over board with in size!
What I built:
I built an offset vertical barrel smoker out of a 30 gallon drum (fire box) and a 55 gallon drum (meat chamber). I took a metal storage rack I had laying around and customized it to fit the barrels, welded all the joints together, and then welded the barrels in place. I connect the barrels with a 4" iron pipe welded between them (from the top of the fire barrel to the bottom of the meat barrel). For air inlet on the fire barrel, I JB welded two 3/4" black iron pipes with ball valves. I also made a standard charcoal basket out of 3/4" expanded steel which sits in the fire barrel on top of two bricks (see pics below).
My first run was a few weeks ago using lump coal with the minion method and it ended up working out great, but I had a few issues during the cook.
First of all, the meat chamber barrel (55 gallon) took what seemed like for ever to heat up (I think over an hour and a half) and I couldn't get it much hotter than 150 degrees. I instantly thought "This barrel is way to big". I decided to cook that meat I had planned anyway and just figured it would take way longer.
What really confused me was the meat, which was 4 tri-tips and two whole chickens, only took 4 hours to cook and they all came out amazing!
So then I started thinking maybe the 6$ temp gauge I bought at Home Depot was the problem and I was really cooking at higher temps the whole time??
A few ideas I had, which I'd love everyone's opinion on, are:
1. Starting a small charcoal fire in a metal bowl in the meat barrel to help heat it up quicker.
2. Buy a better temp gauge (which I'm going to do anyway).
3. I already added two more air inlet pipes with ball valves (not shown in pics) for a total of 4.
4. If I still can't get the temps up in the meat barrel, maybe run another 3" or 4" pipe out of the side of the fire barrel and into the bottom of the meat barrel to transfer more heat.
Other than the heat issue, the smoker worked great. There were almost no smoke leaks except for a few trickles coming out of the lid on the fire barrel (its has an old rubber gasket which I need to replace). The fire barrel and the 4" pipe were extremely hot during the cook, I mean you couldn't even touch them. The meat barrel was also hot, but not nearly as hot. You could hold your hand on there for a few seconds.
The Smoker with 1/4" Aluminum diamond plate door
Here it is with door open. You can see the 4" iron pipe sticking through the bottom of the meat barrel, my high temp silicone cloth gasket, and the three 22" round Weber grills.
Here is the fire barrel with the two (now four) 3/4" pipe inlets.
Inside the fire barrel. Those are the two bricks that the charcoal basket sits on. The bottom inlet has a 6" pipe nipple the extends in and sits directly underneath the charcoal basket. The other three (only one shown) have a 2" nipple that feed the basket from the side.
Chicken and Tri-tip from my first cook!
Well, please let me know your expert opinions on my build and maybe some ideas on the temp problem. Thanks guys! P.S. I love this site!!