Saturday, September 10, 2011

Smoke Hollow Smoker Modifications Part 1


I have been enjoying my Smoke Hollow smoker/grill/gas grill since I bought it this summer. I've used it mostly for grilling because there were a few modifications I wanted to make to improve the smoker capabilities.

It's not that the smoker part is defective.  I would recommend this smoker/grill to the back yard griller.  But it has been my experience that ANY smoker under $500 is going to require home brewed innovations to improve their performance. For example, horizontal smokers like the CharGriller need standard mods as do Brinkmann vertical smokers.

Here is what I did to my Smoke Hollow smoker in the past week. 


[The thought occurs to me that modifying and fabricating your cooking equipment is pretty specific to grilling/smoking.  When is the last time you heard about someone modifying their oven or altering their stand mixer?  I think it adds a level of personal involvement in our cooking.]

Issue 1: 
Air gaps between lids of the cooking chamber and fire box. It might not look that bad, it's only 1/8th inch, right? But considering the distance around the lid, that is equivalent to having a 10.25 square inch hole in your smoker. This causes heat loss, inconsistent temperatures, and increased fuel consumption.


Solution: Install a gasket. I used a Nomex gasket for a Large Big Green Egg.
Clean the edges with Goo Gone, then mineral spirits and let dry 30 minutes.

Cut gasket to size.

Affix with 3m 77 spray adhesive but brush it on instead of spraying.

After installing the gasket, shut the lids, loosen the hinge screws, align the lid and re-tighten the screws.
UPDATE:
The seal gasket worked great for use as a smoker but after the third or fourth time of GRILLING instead of smoking, the higher temps loosened the adhesive on the cooking chamber.  Another Smoke Hollow owner, Nic, and I were discussing this as it progressed and he used a more successful solution as follows:

It worked really well. I ended up doing the main grill area first then I decided to do the fire box as well. I did this because I turned the grill into a cold smoker to smoke salmon. It worked super well. Keeps the smoke to a nice 75 degrees. The unit holds smoke and heat well now. I used a high temp nomex gasket and used a high temp Rutland gasket sealer (the black one). I cut the gasket in half, sanded the lower part to ruff it up then applied the cement glue. The. I dampened the gasket and stuck it down let it dry for two hours then I fired the grill very hot for an hour ish and it cured great. I also did the jb weld thing which also regulates heat well. The grill does well but for hot smoking it can get a little over heated if not careful. Happy thanks giving


Nic T

Ps
It makes a great cold smoker, just get a flange and some four inch ducting and a old BBQ and a electric coal starter 

Issue 2:  
Air gaps due to use of “spot welds” in the construction of the fire box.
All 4 corners need attention.

Yes, that is daylight coming through the corner.

Solution: Seal the air gaps using JB Weld like caulk. It handles the high temps of the fire box with ease.
That is JB Weld coming through the seam.  No more air gaps.

JB Weld fills the gap and handles the heat.

Issue 3: 
Chimney exhaust allows hot smoking gasses to escape unevenly.

Solution: Extend chimney down to the level of the cooking grate. This will create even temps in the cooking area by keeping in the hot cooking gasses until they even out at the grate level.

I just rolled up some metal flashing, stuck it into the chimney. The flashing will try to unroll, holding it in place.

Issue 4: 
No charcoal tray. There tray is meant for split logs only.

Solution: I added a standard charcoal grate purchased at Lowes.

I did a test burn last night and the smoker worked noticeably better. There was minimal leakage and the temps held steady. Today I have been smoking chicken and have maintained 250f rather easily.

Look Ma.....no leaks!


Don't expect that gasket to stay white for long.....
I did have two of the strips come loose during cooking HOWEVER, one was taken off and reattached during the install and the other I sprayed the adhesive instead of brushing it on.  I'll re-clean those two sides and re-do the adhesive properly.

Next Steps: Get a charcoal basket built for the fire box. Add a 3/8” plate to the bottom of the fire box to reinforce it and add thermal mass.  Get a rain cover so I can keep this out on my deck with my two Big Green Eggs.

Giveaway Winner
The winner of a copy of Rick Browne's 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes is Dirk


Dirk I will contact you directly to arrange shipping. Thanks to Agate Surrey for hosting the giveaway of this recipe packed grilling book.

35 comments:

  1. I noticed in Rick Browne's video that he didn't remove the skin membrane on the back of the ribs. What do you think about that?

    ALSO, do you have the recipe for the grilled chicken on the Smokey Hollow? Looks Great!

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  2. Slim fell in love with his uncle's new grill and suggested we get one, but I told him if he looked closely, he'd notice smoke leaking out here and there, practically none made it out the top vent. Not a good thing for a smoker grill. I had no idea you could fix them so simply.

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  3. You are very clever Chris. I would have never known to make these improvements.
    Sam

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  4. Nice job Chris and it's good to know about the high temp caulk

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  5. You need to paint hot rod flames on that sucker... My new Weber is starting to look sorry.

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  6. Just be careful not to accidentally build one of those matter transport pods like in The Fly.

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  7. I have 2 questions about the Nomex gasket:

    1. Have you experienced any problems with it shrinking?
    2. How long is the gasket for the large BGE? I noticed you cut in in half width-wise.

    Have you seen that there is now a Nomex gasket with an adhesive backing? No more spraying. Would you recommend this? I am torn between the cheaper Rutland gasket tape or the more expensive Nomex self-adhesive route. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Thanks.

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  8. Sean - yes, the nomex shrinks. Fred Bernardo (Smokin Guitar Player) recommends tossing it in the clothes drier before installing.

    As far as the self adhesive, I'd be hesitant to try that just because adhesives are so finicky. Not saying anything bad about the self-adhesive, just don't have any experience with it.

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  9. So we just bought the Smoke Hollow but we're a little weary of putting it together yet. Do you have any advice on whether this grill can be adapted to accomodate a universal rotisserie kit? We would really like to be able to do some rotisserie chickens over the charcoal, but we have concerns about the placement of the holes in relation to the smoke box. Any thoughts or guidance? Thanks!

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  10. Just purchased the Smoke Hollow and went through the manufacturer's recommended seasoning of the fire box and smoke box. As I type I am doing a non cooking test burn with lump mesquite and it's been at 250 degrees with all of the dampers closed and chimney too. I am using a oven thermometer to check for accuracy, as the one one the smoker box reads hotter than actual. I'm going to be looking for the gasket. Thanks for the information/pictures/and this venue. I am new to smoking and want to get it right. My wife already hates this "loco-motive" looking smoker (and $$$) in the back yard. If I cant (literally) produce the goods I will be sleeping next to it with the dog. -Bull.

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  11. Just purchased the Smoke Hollow and went through the manufacturer's recommended seasoning of the fire box and smoke box. As I type I am doing a non cooking test burn with lump mesquite and it's been at 250 degrees with all of the dampers closed and chimney too. I am using a oven thermometer to check for accuracy, as the one one the smoker box reads hotter than actual. I'm going to be looking for the gasket. Thanks for the information/pictures/and this venue. I am new to smoking and want to get it right. My wife already hates this "loco-motive" looking smoker (and $$$) in the back yard. If I cant (literally) produce the goods I will be sleeping next to it with the dog. -Bull.

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  12. Looks like some great stuff! Is this similar to vertical smokers? Has anyone tried some recipes with this, and are they good? I'm excited to try it out!

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  13. Ive got a 7 lb Boston Butt smoke'n as I write this. Thanks for the modification suggestions. Thought I'd share my experiences with my Smoke Hollow Grill which is a great entry level smoker-grill. Since I couldn't drive to the store last night and just pick up some Nomex Gasket, I needed an option for today's cookout. I could drive to my local auto parts store and find Permatex® Ultra Copper® Maximum Temperature RTV Silicone Gasket Maker. It was easy to apply and ready to put into cooking action in the morning. I also made the chimney modification. On another site I found a recommendation for a heat deflector at the firebox entrance into the grilling chamber to create more even heating. BAD IDEA!!! I installed it as pictured but the grill wouldn't achieve more than 150*, once I ripped that deflector out the temp shot up to a more desirable 250* Thanks for the suggestions and this forum! - Frank

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  14. Thanks for the great mod. Ideas. If you have not purchased a rain cover, I purchased a snowmobile cover and it fits the grill perfectly. $29.99 at your local Menard's. Has an elastic strap around the bottom and straps with buckles for those nasty winds!

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  15. Being a bargin hunter, I made the chimmney exhaust from a 24oz tall boy, cut out the top and bottom and it fits perfectly. As for the cover a heavy duty 8x10 tarp at Wal-Mart is about $10, with a few bungee cords, you can't go wrong. Thanks for the mods. Hope some can use my suggestions.

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  16. Where do you buy your 3/8" steel to reinforce the bottom? Have you noticed better temps since adding the steel?

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  17. Where do you buy your 3/8" steel to reinforce the smoker? Have you noticed more consistent temps since adding it?

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  18. Jon - Actually I never got around to that step yet. I had planned to have my neighbor cut it from some scrap but he moved all of his shop and equipment before I asked.

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  19. GREAT ADVICE fellas. I have been using this grill and noticed the inconsistencies as well. I will be modifying it now, soon.

    Few questions for you guys...

    1. Is there a specific conversion kit to buy for changing the grill from propane to natural gas?

    2. Will any hose work for the conversion to natural gas and is it just a matter of the proper fittings?


    We were cooking the other night in the propane side and the whole side went up in flames. I had to put it out with a fire extinguisher.

    3. Have I ruined the burners and need to replace them?

    4. Do I need to clean out the drip pan often to prevent this from happening?

    Thanks for your advice guys. And I love the beer can advice!

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  20. Rookie - I am checking this out with my contact at Outdoor Leisure Products, the manufacturer. Will let you know.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Chris. I really appreciate your help!

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    2. I bought this smoker off craigslist. The guy had some how misplaced the lid/door, do you know anywhere to get a replacement?

      Foralltheshoes@aol.com

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  21. Hi Chris and Rookie - Did you ever find out if there was a conversion kit to go from LP to NG?

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  22. Not yet. I keep forgetting to call Smoke Hollow. I have been doing all my cooking on the charcoal side. I will keep checking back to see if anyone else has found it, and try to remember to call myself. I will let you know when I do.

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  23. So, the Smoke Hollow grills are not made and "certified" for natual gas. The lady told me that you can have a local plumber measure and drill out the proper fittings, and then buy a generic conversion kit.

    If anyone has any other ideas or experiences, I wouldn't mind hearing them...

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  24. Quick question on seasoning. My wife suggested Peanut Oil since it withstands heat better than Vegetable Oil.....thoughts?

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  25. Jammer3005: Peanut oil would definitely work too.

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  26. Can Nik T elaborate on how he uses the Smoke Hollow as a cold smoker? I would like to be able to do this for salmon as well.

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  27. Can Nik T comment on the mod for turning it into a cold smoker? I would like to do the same for smoking salmon.

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  28. Great info, thank you very much! My only concern with these upgrades was the use of J-B Weld on the inside of the grill. I understand its high heat but I still worried about it releases toxins, etc. So I started looking around for an alternative and found this:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CHOA2VO/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    it's food safe and actually rated for higher temps than the J-B Weld. Just thought I would share.

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  29. What type of spray adhesive did you use??

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    Replies
    1. We used the 3M-77 type adhesive but it didn't work great. The best adhesive that I have found is Permatex Copper Gasket maker that you can buy at automotive dealers. I used that to put a gasket on my Green Egg and it has been spectacular.

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