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I recently acquired a cheaply made offset smoker, and-- ahead of the big event-- did a 'dry run' to get a feel for how it behaves. I think my biggest issue will be regulating temperature; the smoker is made out of thin-gauged metal that just doesn't have enough thermal mass to avoid quick swings out of my ideal zone.

I'm thinking about adding some thermal mass to the bottom of the cooking chamber... possibly rocks or man-made bricks. But obviously I don't want to add anything that will out-gas toxic gases when heated.

Am I on to a good idea here? And if so, what kinds of materials are recommended? I've seen 'refractory fire bricks', however I think the point of those is that they don't store much heat themselves, which means they aren't really helpful for my needs.

  • Thermal mass helps, but you still have to be able to catch when it's cooling off (gusts of wind) or heating up (sitting in the sun). I've heard of people rigging up a thermostat, electric fans and an arduino to adjust how much air is flowing from the hot box to the cold side. It might be able to rig up something to adjust the heat on the hot side, too. – Joe Dec 26 '14 at 19:15
  • You are so right, Joe. Despite my weatherman's forecast of 50F+, my smoke job suffered through an unexpected early drop to 30F. Even with the thermal mass I added, my temp swings were large, and I ran out of wood early. Had to finish in the oven. :/ – Ryan V. Bissell Dec 27 '14 at 6:50
  • maybe some sort of insulation on the outside of the box might help? For the cold side, you could use sheet styrofoam. I'm not sure what would be best for the hot site. – Joe Dec 27 '14 at 12:27
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I like Ryan's idea because it adds moisture. The most common material I am aware of is 8″x8″ unglazed quarry tiles. UN-GLAZED is important!!! You don't want to add chemicals to your smoke. I have been off-set smoking for many years and plan to line my home built smoker with food grade fire bricks. Expensive but last forever.

I just found this link (not affiliated in any way) that might be useful. http://www.traditionaloven.com/articles/84/firebricks-heavy-dense-fire-clay-bricks

Another trick is getting used to controlling the airflow in your smoker. What I recommend is start off leaving the chimney (or vents on top) wide open and then use the intake (lower vents) to control the amount of air that is allowed to enter. The wider the opening, the more air and the hotter the fire. If you can't lower the temp with the intake, then close the top vents. It takes a little practice but once you can regulate the heat, your good to go.

Remember, thin blue smoke is what you're after.

Welcome to the sometimes frustrating world of smoking food. Patience and persistence (plus a beer or two) will go a long way.

Gringo Dave (first reply)

  • Even with natural stone such as quarry tile, I feel it is important to pre-heat them at least a couple of times, higher than your expected cooking temperature, to drive out any toxic volatiles that may be naturally present. I'm accepting your answer because it would feel conceited to accept my own. :) – Ryan V. Bissell Dec 27 '14 at 6:54
  • Thanks! I agree 100% - maybe even bake them in the oven at 500 degrees. – Gringo Dave Dec 27 '14 at 11:37
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One idea I just had: 2 heavy cast-iron skillets. (These will also be handy for keeping some water in the smoker, which is a common recommendation when cooking low-and-slow.)

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