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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vertical Smoker Mod

Making my vertical smoker breath right!

I have several smokers, one of which is a 'Great Outdoors - Smoky Mountain Series'.

Some things I really like about this smoker, but some things were really, really wrong with it.  So this post is about fixing the things that were wrong!

1st Picture: Leaky Vertical Smoker
As you can see from the first picture, there is exactly one door latch on the smoker, located on the right side of the door at the midway point - the coil spring you see.  This latch holds the door against the frame - at this point only!

The top and bottom aren't pulled tight, so inlet air comes in at bottom half of the door, and exhaust air goes out the top half of the door.  Ican see it leaking the exhaust smoke.  Of course, I can't see the inlet air going in, but I know it's there because it's difficult to control the temperature!

2nd Picture: Left side
Inlet air damper control
(with modification)
There are two (2) inlet dampers (see second picture of left side - it has some holes that are part of the modification), one on the left side (at the bottom), and one at the right side of the smoker.  Turning this plate allows more air in, or less air in.  There is one (1) outlet (exhaust) damper located on the top of the smoker (not shown).  Turning this plate allows more air out, or less air out.

I was consistently having problems with this smoker.  Once it started warming up, even with the inlet dampers fully closed, and the exhaust damper fully closed, the temperature would keep climbing, and of course I could see lots of exhaust smoke coming out around the door, and I knew that air had to be drawn in at the bottom to feed the fire, making the temperature rise, past where I wanted it...

So, if I was going to ever make good BBQ with this smoker, I had to figure out a way to either make the whole smoker air tight, or I was going to have to enclose the fire in such a way that the fire was air tight.  After considering different ways to accomplish this, I opted for what I thought would balance the multiple goals of easiest, cheapest, least time involvement, while ensuring success.  I decided to enclose the fire, by placing the fire inside a piece of black stovepipe.  I would use the existing inlet air to feed air into the stove pipe, and the other end of the stove pipe would be the exhaust, with the charcoal and fire being in the middle.  I decided to also use a T stove pipe piece to facilitate adding charcoal and lighting it.

Imprecise temperature control makes for bad BBQ!

Here's How I Fixed the Problem
I went to Lowes hardware store and bought a 6" T stove pipe connector, and two (2) 6" stove pipe endcaps (one male, one female).  The stove pipe T has two female 'ports' - one end and middle; the other end is male.

3rd Picture: Smoker after mod.
Black stove pipe T
at bottom, connected to left
sidewall of smoker via
end-cap.  Right side is
capped off with end-cap.
Brick under right end to
support weight of T.
This is a picture of the modification after installation.  Simple, quick, and most works!

There's charcoal in the T, and it's producing some smoke, which is rising up from the middle 'port' of the T.  The right end is capped off with an end-cap, and there's a brick under the right end to support the right side of the T.

- One end of the T is going to be closed off; in this case, it's the right end.  I slipped an end-cap onto that end.
- The middle of the T is going to be the exhaust.  I didn't do anything with this opening, except to make sure it was pointing up when everything was finished.
- The left end of the T is going to connect to the left-side inlet air damper control.  To simplify this connection, I used the other end-cap, where I first drilled holes in it to correspond to the opening on the control damper, where air could flow in when the damper is in the open position.  I secured this using the same screw that attaches the inlet air damper to the sidewall.
- Once I had the left end-cap secured to the left-side of the smoker, I slipped the T into position, and inserted it into the left side end-cap.
- I made sure the middle of the T was pointed up - this is the exhaust.
- I filled up the T with charcoal, and lit a couple of pieces on the top of the stack of charcoal that is within the T.

I use another end cap that I have sitting around to put wood sawdust into for smoking, or just place whole chunks directly into the middle of the T where the charcoal is burning.  Adding charcoal or smoking-wood is easy as opening the door and placing into the middle of the T.

Sometimes, I found that using an end-cap upside down, I can block some of the exhaust coming off of the T, and that helps cut down on the smoke coming out of the door.  It also lets me use the top damper with more precision.

Hope this helps you if you have a similar problem!


  1. This is a very interesting hack and I think I might try to build one to have a charcoal option on my propane GOSM.

    If you could build it again, would you do anything differently?

    1. I ended up taking this out. While it worked fine, I found that it was difficult together enough fuel in the pipe for a long run, and refueling dumped a lot of heat. Also ash collection became a problem on long runs.