Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grilled Honey Soy Glazed Chicken

“When my food blog grows up it wants to be just like _______________”

If you are a food blogger, I know you can complete that sentence with 2-3 bloggers that you admire. Not that you want to replicate their voice or style but you would like to be their peer in terms of an entertaining style, food knowledge, creativity, detail, and production quality.

For me, one of those blogs is Steamy Kitchen. Jaden is a food blogging rock star and she is an example of how to engage your audience. Almost everything I know about food photography and styling, I learned either from SteamyKitchen, For The Love of Cooking, or SippitySup. [I hate to disparage their good names by associating them with my photo/styling skills, ha ha.]

Earlier this week, I saw a recipe Jaden posted for Grilled Honey Soy Glazed Chicken and was making it within hours. 

Grilled Honey Soy Glazed Chicken
Servings: serves 4, 2 drumsticks each
Prep Time: 5
Cook Time: 30

Recipe adapted by Steamy Kitchen from Seattle Kitchen, A Food Lover's Cookbook and Guide by Tom Douglas. The chicken can be replaced with fish or even vegetables, such as eggplant depending on your preferences.

Make Ahead: The marinade/glaze can be made up to one week ahead of time and kept, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Sub your favorite Gluten-Free tamari sauce for the soy sauce if needed.

1/4 cup Honey
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 Chicken Drumsticks
lemon wedges for serving

1) To make the marinade/glaze, whisk together the honey, oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes.
2) In a baking dish, resealable bag or container, marinate the chicken in the glaze for 30 minutes.
3) Grill or broil the chicken, medium heat, on both sides until the skin is crispy and juices run clear or the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 25-30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the the chicken, the honey will char easily. Moving the chicken to a cooler part of the grill, if grilling, or moving the chicken further from the broiler, may be necessary.
4) Serve chicken with a squeeze of lemon.

I added ¼ cup mirin, 1 tsp of minced ginger, 1 chopped green onion, and substituted lime juice because that's what I had. Also, I was using hefty bone in chicken breasts so I did a two stage cook.

The weather had been touch and go but when WBIR's Todd Howell said the last of the storms had pretty much moved through West Knox county, I pulled off the grill covers and lit a half chimney (about 3 quarts) of Kingsford.   Of course that made it start raining again.

I grilled the breasts skin side down over direct heat at 350f for 4-5 minutes just to get some initial browning and grate marks. 

4-5 min is a guide, check them often so you don't burn them.

Then I moved them from over the coals and skin side up. I topped them with the strained bits from the marinade and cooked them indirect until they reached 160f internal. TIP: When I cook breasts indirect, I like to make sure that the skinny, tapered end is facing away from the heat source so it doesn't get all dried up.

Do the “indirect slide”
When grilling on a square grill like this, I like to take out one of the grates so I can easily slide the food closer to the coals as they start to die down near the end of the cooking time. For example:
Grate slid away from the coals when they are fresh and hot.
As the coals die and cool down some, slide the grate closer and closer to them. 

It took just over an hour for these breasts to hit 160f. I could have gotten them done faster by staying direct heat but I was inside stir frying and didn't want to burn the chicken. I then cut the meat off of the bone, sliced into medallions, and drizzled them with some extra sauce.

The sweet slightly smoky chicken was devoured by adults and kids, it's a real crowd pleaser.

Speaking of Jaden...the Food Blog Forum is bringing its show on the road to Nashville, TN on Saturday, October 8th!   I am looking forward to being a sponge and absorbing everything I can at this seminar. Some of the biggest names in the business will be sharing information on everything about food blogging. There is still time to register (I should know, I'm just registering tonight, ha ha).

Click HERE to see the event schedule, more about the topics and presenters, and to register.

If you are going, please let me know so we can make sure to meet in person.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On Our Grills September

I didn't catch the Weather Channel's forecast for Hades but I'm pretty sure the place has frozen over.

Why? Because I cooked tofu on the grill today.

Remember those “friends” of mine and their monthly “On Our Grills 4 Ingredient Challenge”? 

Yeah, I hate them.  Okay, hate might be a strong word but I'm certainly not fond of whoever picked this month's ingredients.  (I kid, we bust each other's chops a lot.)

Cheese (or melon, depending which e-mail you read)

Tofu? Seriously. My first thought was to just grill it and drench it in BBQ sauce. But when I was buying tofu at the store I found an Italian sausage style tofu and thought I could make a vegetarian lasagna.

I sliced the potatoes thin on a mandolin and used that instead of lasagna noodles. I layered them on the bottom of a greased disposable pan and topped with some red pesto sauce. Next was sliced tofu, green pepper and onions. I topped it all with mozzarella and smoked cheddar cheese then repeated. 

Then one more layer of potatoes, pesto and cheese.

I covered with foil and cooked on my Big Green Egg at 325f for 45 minutes. I had it set up like a convection oven (plate setter, legs up).

Meanwhile, I used the peas to make The Hungry Housewife's Jumping For Joy PhillyPeas which have bacon. You know if I'm having a vegetarian main course then I am having meat in my side dish, right?

After the 45 minutes passed, I took the foil off of the lasagna and let it go 10 more minutes.

I let it cool and then served it with garlic bread.

First the positives. The peas were creamy and every bit as delicious as Leslie said they would be. The lasagna LOOKED good and I thought it was a creative use of the ingredients.

But I did not like the lasagna and it was easily my least favorite dish of 2011. That's the ups and downs of this challenge. If you keep trying things you've never had or done before, you're going to have some bumps along the way.

Don't let my failure deter you from checking out what the rest of the gang came up with. This should be interesting.... (click the title to view their blog or website).

No Excuses BBQ:

Paul Haight started his blog in January,2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world. Somewhere along the way things got out of control.

Bob’s Brew & Que:

Bob Fukishima began his blog in August,2009 with the intent of sharing his views on food and drink. The blog was originally focused on BBQ and homebrew,but it was inevitable that the influences of his upbringing in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s wealth of ingredients,as well as his heritage as an American of Japanese ancestry would help focus his blog,as it has his approach to food and drink.

Grill Adventures:

Started in March,2010 by Marc Van Der Wouw as a way to document his journey to better and healthier eating. The grill has a special place in Marc’s heart. Everything he makes is an adventure. 

Cooking By The Seat Of My Pants:

Jerry Russell starting Cooking By The Seat Of My Pants as a way to document our culinary misadventures. Since then it has become our way to encourage people to cook without boundaries or recipes. To just get in the kitchen and cook something from the heart.

TheBBQ Grail:

Larry Gaian started his blog in 2007,initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet.


Livefire cooking is about taking ordinary cooking and adding the flavor of fire to it, whether in high heat grilling, low heat smoking or indirect heat for baking. It’s about taking the primitive element of fire and harnessing it to make great food.

TheDaily Dish

Kristina has been writing "The Daily Dish" for www.BetterRecipes.com for the past two years. The blog covers a wide variety of recipes, but firing up the grill truly lights up her passion for food! She was named "America's Next Pork Personality" by Guy Fieri for one of her grilled pork dishes, won the outdoor grilling division of the National Beef Cook-Off, and her winning grilled lamb-burger took her all the way to the land Down Under with Meat and Livestock Australia. The "4-Ingredient Challenge" is a fun and exciting way to get creative on the grill!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tailgate Heros: Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots

Be forewarned. If you make these,they will disappear quickly! 

Bacon wrapped tater tots, BGE appetizer, game day snacks
"Hey Napoleon...give me some of your tots!"

But that's okay. Tailgating is all about sharing food and good times, right? 

Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots
Makes 4 appetizer servings

16 frozen tater tots
8 slices THIN bacon, cut in half sideways
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp season salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Mix the sugar, salt and cayenne pepper together thoroughly.

Sprinkle about half of the rub on top of the bacon strips.

Top each half strip with 1 tot and roll up. TIP: If you have a more fatty end, start on the leaner end so the fat will be on the outside and can render easier. 

bacon wrapped tater tots, grilled appetizers

Place seam side down on a raised rack or a tray. The raised rack works better because it lets the hot air circulate around all edges. Also, it keeps the tot from sitting in oil once the bacon fat starts to render down.

bacon wrapped tater tots, kamado appetizer,

Sprinkle the rest of the seasoning mix over the assembled tots.

Preheat your oven or grill to 450f. The grill should be set up for indirect heat so the tray or rack is not over direct heat. I used my Big Green Egg, plate setter legs up. (On a standard charcoal grill, push your hot coals to one side, an aluminum drip pan next to them and cook the tots over the drip pan.)

Cook the bacon snuggled tots until the bacon turns crispy, about 20 minutes. 

bacon wrapped tater tots, kamado appetizer,
Sorry about the "naked" tots, I ran out of bacon.

Don't be alarmed if the bacon goes “boa constrictor” on a few of your tots and squeezes the heck out of them. Those still taste great. 

bacon wrapped tater tots, kamado appetizer,

Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce, spicy ketchup, or other dipping sauce. 

See how the bacon crushed one or two of them?  Doesn't matter!

These also go great with a grilled steak burger.

Perfect for tailgating or “just because”. 

[Warning]  I'm not a nutritionist nor dietician but I am pretty sure these things aren't "health food" and should only be eaten in moderation.  We eat them 2-3 times a year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Product Review: Sweetwater Spice Company Brine Concentrates

I am a big fan of brining meats before smoking or grilling. But when Sweetwater Spice Company approached me about sampling their brine concentrates, I have to admit that my first thought was, “Why wouldn't people just make their own?”

Brines are easy and inexpensive to make. It's water, salt (30-75 grams per quart of water), sugar (equal or lesser amount than salt), and whatever aromatics you chose. Bring a fourth of the water to simmer, add the ingredients and let steep for 30 minutes. Add remaining water and cool down to 40f before using.

First Impressions
When I received my free sample set of the BBQ and Fajita baths, I was immediately impressed with the packaging. 

I know that has nothing to do with taste but it does say something about the quality the company has put into the product. Alexis immediately said that they looked like something from Bath and Body Works, which according to her debit card, is one of her favorite stores.

The label shows that the concentrates are preservative, gluten, fat, and MSG free. The list of ingredients contains all natural things like apple juice and things you'd find in your kitchen.

The concentrates have a thick texture and are visibly packed with seasonings.

I used this on some chicken leg quarters according to directions. I then seasoned them with my usual poultry rub and smoked them on my Smoke Hollow gas grill/charcoal grill/smoker combo at 250f using a mix of Kingsford blue bag and cherry wood (I was out of apple wood). 

About half way through I started mopping with my usual chicken mop (1 cup cider vinegar, ½ cup lager beer, ½ cup sweet BBQ sauce, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp hot sauce).

It took about 4 hours to get them to an internal temp of 175f which is longer than usual but that has nothing to do with the brine. In fact, brined meats generally cook faster than non-brined meats. 

I used this on leg quarters according to the directions. Next I seasoned them with a chile lime rub and grilled them on my Big Green Egg at 350f using direct heat. I used a “raised grid” which means the meat was further away from the heat than usual.

About halfway through I made a modified mop of lime juice, white vinegar, beer, sweet bbq sauce, and a serrano lime hot sauce. I mopped it twice in the last 30 minutes. 

It took a little over an hour to hit an internal temp of 175f. This was a simple lunch so we just ate them with tortilla chips and a sweet pickled corn salsa.

I wanted to try this one with beef, so I mixed it with beer and “brined” a scored flank steak, a sliced green pepper, and sliced red onion in it. I fired my Big Green Egg to 450f and added the vegetable wok insert for my Craycort cast iron grate system. I grilled the steak until it reached 125-130f (depending which end you checked) which took almost exactly 4 minutes per side.

I sliced the steak thin and served it with the veggies and Three Chile Rice that I made specifically to pair with the Tres Chiles Fajita Bath. 

Results and Thoughts
First, I wouldn't say these are just a brine. They are more like a “power marinade with brining effects”. They are more flavorful than any simple brine I have used, that is why I call them more of a marinade.

The biggest advantage to these brines is time. The recommended soaking time for these brines is about the same amount of time it takes to MAKE a simple brine as I described above. And my usual homemade brine needs 4-6 hours of soak time. They are a huge time savings.

The disadvantage to these is simple....cost. A homemade brine costs me about $1-2 for 6lbs of chicken while these commercial ones cost almost $9*.

So the flavor is there in a hurry but is it worth the cost? That depends on whether or not you have the time. If you are pressed for time, these are absolutely a good option for you.

Sweetwater Spice Company products are available online (click for website) and at select retailers such as Fresh Market.

CLARIFICATION from Sweetwater Spice:
"Our products are designed to save valuable prep and cooking time and cut out additional prep steps (seasoning) by flavoring while brining.

1/2 Cup of BBQ BATH is sufficient to brine 2-3 chicken breasts, meaning that four such meals can be prepared with one bottle (shelf life 1 Year after opening).

We hope that $2 per meal to produce perfectly moist and deliciously flavored chicken breasts in just 20 minutes is a value for our customers and strive to make it so by using only the finest all natural ingredients."

*I got my figure from the front of the 16 ounce bottles of BBQ Bath and the Lime Fajita Bath which state "Brines 6 lbs of meat".  The back of the bottles say that 1 cup of brine (8 oz) plus 3 cups of water are enough for 5 lbs of meat.  So according to the back of the 16 oz bottle, it is enough for 10 lbs of meat which does reduce the cost per serving almost in half.  

[StandardDisclaimer] I was given a set of free samples from Sweetwater Spice Company for review.

Three Chile Rice

Sadly it is the end of summer but the good thing about that is people have more chiles than they think they can use. Chiles were our most fruitful “crop” this year and I've also been given 3 bags of a variety of chiles from co-workers.

I have been using them as fast as I can. An easy way to use chiles with a big flavor payoff is to add them to rice. I also like to use a variety of peppers in one dish to blend fruitier chiles (poblano, bell, and jalapeno) with hotter ones (cayenne, habanero).

In this recipe, I used poblano, anaheim, and cayenne. 

Half of our cayennes were REALLY hot this year and this was one of the super hot ones, giving this rice some heat. You could make it mild by substituting roasted red bell pepper or sweet ancients for the cayenne. 

Three Chile Rice

2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
1 cup rice
¼ tsp paprika
1 cup water
¾ cup beef stock
¼ cup lime juice
1 ea poblano chile
1 ea annaheim chile
1 ea cayenne, finely chopped
¾ cup corn kernals
1-2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp turbinado sugar

Roast the poblano and annaheim over a hot charcoal fire, blackening all sides.

Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 5 minutes.  Cut off the stem end, split the chiles lengthwise to open them up and scrape out the seeds.  Turn over and scrape off the charred skin.  Dice the chiles.

Melt the butter in a large skillet preheated over medium heat. Add the rice and paprika, stirring to coat. Saute the rice until it becomes fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the water, stock, lime juice, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook 5 minutes.

Stir in the chiles, corn, cilantro and sugar. Continue to simmer another 13-15 minutes or until the rice is thoroughly cooked.

This three chile rice was an excellent side dish to go along with the flank steak I grilled using Sweetwater Spice Company's Tres Chile Fajita Bath [upcoming post].

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chicken Cutlets with Sherry Cream Sauce

Don't fall over dead in shock but I do cook inside sometimes.

chicken cutlets with sherry cream sauce
That obviously isn't a flame from the Big Green Egg.

Yes I cook outside on live fire most of the time. But to be a strong cook outdoors, you have to be just as good of a cook indoors. There are many differences but the fundamentals and principles are the same. The best pitmasters that I have had the pleasure of working with are also talented in the kitchen.

This is one I made up after Trevor's football practice this week. I wanted something fast but rich with flavor. Speaking of fast, I used gluten free rice noodles not because they are gluten free but because they cook in 3-5 minutes and taste just as good. 

chicken cutlets with sherry cream sauce

Chicken Cutlets with Sherry Cream Sauce

2 chicken breasts, each cut in half lengthwise
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup roasted red pepper, diced
¼ cup sherry
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
6 oz pasta, cooked according to instructions

Season the chicken cutlets with ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. 

Season the flour with the rest of salt and pepper. Dredge the cutlets in the flour and knock off the excess.

Pre-heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of butter and oil.

Saute the cutlets for 3 minutes per side or until they reach an internal temp of 160f. I had to do this in batches because I couldn't get them all in one skillet.

chicken cutlets with sherry cream sauce

Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the roasted red pepper and cook for another minute.

Deglaze the pan with sherry and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add the butter and parsley, stirring until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the pasta, plate with the chicken and top with the sauce. 

chicken cutlets with sherry cream sauce

One of the benefits of cooking inside is the ability to make tasty pan sauces like this one!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tailgate Heroes: ABT's

ABT's is short for Atomic Buffalo Turds. Sorry about the crude name, I didn't make it up. I don't even know the origin of the name, but that is really what they are called. Go Google it and you'll find it all over the Internet.

grill bacon wrapped jalapeno pepper, ABT, Big Green Egg ABT, Big Green Egg Appetizer, Grill Dome Appetizer

Atomic Buffalo Turds are probably the most popular appetizer in the barbecue circles. Fortunately, they are most often referred to simply as “ABT's”. But whatever you call them, these things are some of the tastiest things to ever come off of a grill or smoker and are guaranteed tailgate heroes. Ask any barbecuer and they'll tell you, ABT's are the first things to disappear when cooking for a crowd.

I made my first ABT's right after I got my first smoker after learning about them on the barbecue forums circa 2004. So I couldn't believe it when I realized I have never done a post about them. 


12 ea jalapeno chiles
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp roasted red pepper, diced
2 tsp BBQ rub (I prefer a fruity rub like Billy Bones XXX Cherry rub for ABT's)
12 slices bacon

Slice the jalapenos in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and veins with a spoon. Any spoon will work but I have found that a grapefruit spoon excels at this because of the serrated edge and pointed tip.

cored jalapeno, how to clean out a jalapeno
Is that a spoon or a shank?  Are we in prison?
 Another tip - wear gloves when handling these.  Alexis and I made 200 of them once and our hands burned for a full 24 hours.  Washing only made it worse.

Shred the cheddar cheese (you can use colby jack or whatever) and add the cream cheese, red pepper and 1 tsp of the BBQ rub.  Mix it thoroughly together.

Stuff the cheese mixture into the jalapenos. Fill them level to the top.  [Note:  The amount of cheese mix you will need depends on the size of your peppers so if you have huge peppers, make more of the cheese mix ahead of time.]

grill bacon wrapped jalapeno pepper, ABT, Big Green Egg ABT, Big Green Egg Appetizer, Grill Dome Appetizer
The cheese mix will expand while cooking.  Don't over stuff them.

Cut the bacon strips in half. I like to to it on a bias like this because it gives a “long side” of the bacon that makes it easier for wrapping around and tucking under.

Wrap the bacon strips around the stuffed jalapenos. You can secure them with toothpicks if you want but I don't find it necessary if you wrap them tightly. 

grill bacon wrapped jalapeno pepper, ABT, Big Green Egg ABT, Big Green Egg Appetizer, Grill Dome Appetizer

Sprinkle with the other half of the BBQ rub.  

Preheat your grill or smoker to 250f. I like to use fruit woods like apple or cherry when smoking ABT's. Smoke or roast the ABT's for 90 minutes to 2 hours. 

grill bacon wrapped jalapeno pepper, ABT, Big Green Egg ABT, Big Green Egg Appetizer, Grill Dome Appetizer

They have a built in timer, it's called bacon. When the bacon looks crispy and done, the ABT's are done.

grill bacon wrapped jalapeno pepper, ABT, Big Green Egg ABT, Big Green Egg Appetizer, Grill Dome Appetizer

Be forewarned, these things are addictive. I didn't even like jalapeno peppers until I started eating these things. 

FAQ: Smoke Hollow Gas/Charcoal Grill/Smoker Combo 47180T

The posts that I get the most email questions about are my initial review of the Smoke Hollow Gas/Charcoal Grill/Smoker Combo (47180T) and my post about the modifications that I made.  So I decided to create a page of the frequently asked questions as a resource.

  • I'm thinking about getting this grill - are you still happy with yours?
Absolutely.  Since buying it in 2011, I have used it about 1-2 times a week. My opinions stated in the original article haven't changed, I still think this is a great unit for the "weekend warrior" griller.

I the charcoal grill part the most.  The adjustable charcoal tray ROCKS.  Being able to control the distance between the coal and food gives you great control of heat energy applied.  The hefty grates give good sear marks. 
But all of it gets used at least occasionally.  The sear burner is the best tool I have found for charring chiles quickly and is great for reverse searing steaks.  My 12 y/o uses the gas grill often to cook a few hot dogs and I use it when I've got several things going at different temps. 
  • How did you season the outside of your grill
I sprayed it with canola oil (like PAM) and then ran the units at 350f for an hour.  After it cooled off, I wiped off any excess remaining oil.  I also re-do this each Spring.
  • What are the dimensions of the unit?
82 inches long
25 inches deep
53 inches tall at the top of the chimney
Wheelbase is 24" x 47"

  • Do I need to buy the cover for it? 
If kept outside, the unit does need to be protected from the elements.  I have not purchased the Smoke Hollow branded cover which sells for $69.   Because of its length, I have not seen many universal grill covers that would fit this unit, most of them stop at 72 inches.  I bought a simple tarp with tie downs and that has worked well for me.
  • Have you had a problem with rust? 
Several people asked and at the time my answer was no.  A year later, I have found a little rust on the back of the firebox and gas grill.  I cleaned the area with a wire brush and reseasoned it with some spray canola oil to reseason it. 
  • Do you have a problem getting the gas tank to stay in place
Yep!  The base ring isn't sturdy enough to hold it and the retaining loop won't stay in place.  I worked around this by zip tying the retaining ring to the gas take with two thick zip ties. 
  • What is the dimension of the charcoal grate that you added to the fire box so you can burn charcoal and not just wood?
It is 17" x 10".  Any longer and I wouldn't be able to shut the fire box door, so it could be a little wider than 10" but no longer than 17. 
  •  Can you convert the propane gas grill portion to using natural gas?
 Official response from the manufacturer (May 2013) is: 
We do not offer a kit. However, our grills can be converted. We ask that any consumer wanting to use NG consult their local gas company or plumber.

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.
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

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.