Thanks for the BBQ!

Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain 16 x 24 gas smoker

Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain 16 x 24 gas smoker

Just a quick Thank You! to those of you who have hit the Paypal link on the right and made a donation to this site. You have collectively bought a BBQ Smoker. You’ve also bought an electric food dryer, but that’s not as flashy for a picture ;-) Oh, and remember the Banana Boat from the Florida trip? Well, you paid for the next year’s registration on it, too.

Just thought I ought to let y’all know what your donations are doing. The food dryer arrives this week and the Smoker sometime after the 11th. Expect product reviews and recipes when the time comes!

Why a smoker? Well, that patio kitchen…

I’d cobbled up a sort of an ersatz smoker from an old portable BBQ and, frankly, the food was so good that the spouse and I both just knew we’d be making more of this for years to come…

The ersatz rig is working well. It is a “knock off” of the Weber Smokey Joe 14 inch diameter portable. It is a gas grill that runs on a single 1 lb propane can. It has a lower grate that holds cinder ‘rocks’ and a proper grate above that for food. I’d put a small tin pan (like for a small pot pie) full of water in one side, and set a couple of chunks of hickory where the flames could char them, then added the meat. It wasn’t quite slow enough to be a real “smoker” (that ought to be under 250 F and take about 5 hours+ for chicken); more like a smokey BBQ (which is what it is) running about 275 F to 300 F. I’d start it on high, then crank it back to the lowest setting for about 40 minutes to an hour. The grill is a tendency to be hottest on the side away from the regulator, so that’s where the wood and water go.

It also has a vent on the kettle top that I’d set at 3/4 closed. Pretty soon the whole thing would be smoking pretty good. Partly the wood. Partly the “drippings” hitting the burner. (What didn’t burn or smoke eventually drained out the bottom into a catch pie tin.)

I think I paid all of $15 for it several years ago on a prior trip to Florida and used it once or twice while “camping” there. Then about a dozen times over the years here just for straight grilling. It worked well enough for that (though it gets a bit messy inside as the drippings hit the rocks and burner).

I just wish now that I’d thought of trying it as a smoker years ago. I’ll post pictures of it in a day or two. It rained today, and while I did cook a chicken in it (that we just finished… Yum!) With the rain I didn’t have decent lighting for a photo. It deserves a bit of a commemorative… The Little BBQ That Could. And did.

But two things.

1) It can’t take a whole chicken, pork butt, ham, or other large pieces.
2) It can’t act as an oven.

The new BBQ / Smoker can also act as an oven. It runs up to about 400 F and has a thermometer. Leaving out the smoke chips pan, it can just be a propane oven. Solves my oven problem AND it lets me do real smoked meats low and slow.

For Purists:

Yes, I know I ought to have gotten a side box charcoal smoker or at least a vertical charcoal smoker. I thought about it a long time. I decided that would be a ‘stage two’. For now I am the limiting factor. I need some months under the chefs hat at a proper smoker to justify the next stage. I also decided that the stable heat of propane would help in that learning curve. Later I can add the whole ‘keeping a steady fire’ process. As it is, I get a decent oven and a stable heat smoker that lets me learn the rest of the art first.

Once I’m seeing the smoker as the limiting factor, I’ll upgrade. If it REALLY bugs you, donate a few $Hundred and I’ll buy whatever you demand! ;-) Heck, you buy it, I’ll review anything you like!

This smoker also has the feature that it is fairly small and vertical. I have some “junk” to clear out of the patio before I have room for a large super duper double deluxe side box grill / smoker / BBQ pit on wheels… (Like a large motorcycle roll around repair station tool box and an old rabbit hutch and … )

If you remember when I “did the math”, charcoal was about $1 to $1/2 / lb and had less BTU / lb than propane. Here propane runs a bit under $1 a lb. All in all it’s about the same cost, and a lot less effort than schlepping bags of charcoal; especially when just starting out. Propane is also instant on / off, so more efficiently used when in oven mode. ( In smoker mode, a few minutes of start up time as the coals light, or over run at the end, get lost in the several hours of smoking.)

I’d also read a lot of reviews. The low end charcoal smokers were universally criticized for a few points. Maintenance of decent stable temperatures was one of them. Being flimsy was another. Being a pain to load / unload food and fuel was another. This smoker is set up to be easy to load and trivial to control temperatures and manage the fuel. All good things. It’s also about $200 to $300 less than the decent charcoal smokers. So it is at the sweet spot of low cost and high review ratings with good features and function.

At least, “on paper”. We’ll see when it’s set up and running if I feel the same.

I’m certain it will do at least as well as my little Ersatz Friend. (Who will stay “in service” until whenever it gives out. But it will get a good cleaning and some “drippings” hosed out of the insides and the smoking deposits presently coating the inside rinsed off ;-)

If you have a favorite recipe for smokers, feel free to put it up. One I’ve tried that’s pretty trivial is just a Soy Sauce / Lemon marinade. About 1/4 Soy Sauce and about 3/4 jug lemonade. Add about a cup to a plastic tub or baggy, put in chicken parts, squeeze the air out, and let it sit for a couple of hours (or overnight) while getting everything else ready to go.

In Summary

Thanks again to all who have donated. You can expect a full product review along with some recipe reports and meal plans as they develop. You can also realize that your gift was a ‘gift that keeps on giving’ as I’ll be using this tool for at least a couple of years. In California, things rarely rust, so unlike back east where outdoor grills may expire in a year or two, here it can take decades.

I’m planning on doing a whole chicken first, then a pork shoulder (hoping for decent pulled pork ;-) and eventually, when winter comes and it’s cold, I’m planning to make an adapter to pull smoke out, cool it in some long aluminum tubing, and in a second temporary box try making some bacon. I’m tired of paying $5 to $8 / lb for mediocre stuff, so I’m looking forward to trying my hand at making a better cut.

Maybe even try doing some home made kippers and / or smoked salmon 8-)

UPDATE – Added pictures of “before” old BBQ

This is an image of the old BBQ that I’ve called my Ersatz (smoker) Friend. You can see some smoke leaking out under the lid. In this case I’m just grilling some Kielbasa for Polish Sausage and Sauerkraut (lunch today, Yum!) though it is picking up a little smoke flavor from the prior uses of the grill

"Vortex" brand small grill - note wisps of smoke at the front edge

“Vortex” brand small grill – note wisps of smoke at the front edge

In this next picutre, you can see it opened as I’m getting ready to take them off the grill. If you look closely, just below and to the rear left of the sausage, there’s a bit of yellow flame. That’s some drippings that have caught fire with the lid off and more air in. Toward the rear center left you can see a more “ashy” area. That’s where the wood sits for making smoke and where I put the little “pot pie tin” of water on top of the grill to keep moisture up. Makes much more smoke then ;-) This would be fine, really, for everything except large chunks that just don’t fit; were it not for the fact that even on “low”, things cook a bit too fast. I could modulate it on / off / on / off over time, but that’s a pain. Still, as an expedient “learning about smokers” it was a very good experiment.

Kielbasa ready to come off the little Vortex grill

Kielbasa ready to come off the little Vortex grill

I bought this on a whim for cheap. I think I got it at a Target store north of Orlando. It works surprisingly well and these pictures are after several years of outdoor use and sitting outside. ( In California, mostly). Don’t know who made it. Don’t know if they are still made. But all in all I’m quite happy with it. I’d owned an old “Scotch Box” grill for years ( like a tool box with a grill in it) and liked it, but could not find one in the store then. Having just another tool box in the car is a convenient way to have a portable grill. This one was a bit big for that, and it drips drippings out the bottom so needs more clean up before tossing it into the car. Still, it’s done great burgers and sausages while sitting near various fishing holes or just in a roadside park. I’d buy another one, if this one ever wears out… At first I thought the cinder rocks thing was a bit hokey. It actually seems to stabilize the temperatures some and catches some drippings, that make some smoke, and improves the flavor.

This one looks very similar, though at $37 it’s gone up in price, and has a drip pan built in along with a fancier lid:

Looks like they have a charcoal one for $19.

IMHO using one of them as a ‘getting started’ experimental charcoal smoker would be a reasonable thing to try. Heck, I could even see getting one just to do some “slow charcoal smoking” when camping or by the river… With real coals, wood chips, and a water pan on the grill, it ought to do everything it needs to do, just for small quantities. I got one chicken, as parts, on the grill (though it was tight). If that doesn’t feed 2 or 3 folks, add some side dishes ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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44 Responses to Thanks for the BBQ!

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    Glad you are having fun cooking out in the liquid sunshine. I Bar B ed a tri-tip yesterday over Manzanita on my stone and steel cooker. My significant other twisted my arm severly. ;-)
    If you get serous about this I will have to deliver a load of manzanita to you as it sure beats hickory for flavor. pg

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    Manzanita, eh? That “Deer brush” that grows all over every scrap of dismal hills above Oroville (where I hiked as a kid)? Golly… Maybe I need to bring up some potted Bamboo and come back with a station wagon of Manzanita… (don’t think I’d need more than that for a year)

    FWIW, part of why I decided to get the gasser was that I’ve got this idea for making my own charcoal BBQ. I have this large brick 1950s DIY style BBQ in one corner of the patio. Makes a terrible BBQ so I use it to hold potted plants. My BBQ sits on the “work area” flagstone shelf next to the “pit”. I think I can make a nice ‘smoke box’ to hang off of it, put a lid over it, and a box in it, and have a nice smoker… Still thinking it through, though. As it’s all brick, once warm it ought to hold nicely… I’m pretty sure I could weld up a steel liner …

    Either that, or I’m going to make a tin can one. Maybe something like this: only with a smaller drum… (Yes, it’s got a RedWings logo on it…. I’m trying to get used to the idea of being “friendly” to Chicago teams… since the kid is talking of moving there…)

    Just seems like it would be more interesting to make one (and likely would end up a better bbq) than buying a thin sheet metal bucket with a bowl in the bottom… Almost universally the less expensive charcoal ones had reviews saying “Works great after you fix (foo) and redesign (bar)” so if I’m going to be in the DIY group anyway, why not DIY the whole thing?

    But first I have to get good with the gas one…

    But to answer your question directly:

    The Ersatz Friend is making chicken taste so much better than what came out of the electric box in the kitchen that there is no way in Hell I’m EVER going to stop making smoked meats myself. This stuff is GOOD! The Polish Sausage is great too. I’m fond of “Kraut Dogs” made with Polish Sausage and these are the best I’ve had.

    Yes, I’ve had a deprived ( depraved? deprived? Never could spell right ;-) life never having had proper home made smoked BBQ. Only store bought stuff (some of which is quite good, but not quite the same, and mostly I buy pulled pork or 18 hour brisket, so not a lot of chicken in my history of bbq…)

    There are times when an epiphany happens. A moment of “OMG, I get it!”. This week I had that moment about all those folks for all those years who would get dreamy eyed and stare off into space as their face when slack and that would “Talk about the ‘Q at Their Old Place”… I’m hooked. 100% guaranteed and forever. That it reminds me of wonderful times around a campfire as a kid doesn’t hurt ;-)

    What we have in California is substantially all grilled and occasionally some ‘smoke from a bottle’ poured on. There are some ‘real bbq’ places, but they tend to have a pulled pork sandwich with sauce on it, or like Armadillo Willie’s, have good 18 hour brisket, but with a certain “commercial” aspect to it. Another local place has nice bbq that I like, but again it’s more about the sauce and a tender done cut.

    What was different about what I’ve cooked is just that the flavor is all in the smoke. I can TASTE the hickory smoke (over a feint hint of oriental / soy sauce). No tomato stuff. No flaming hot pepper sauce. No vinegary Memphis juice. Just a clean smokey salty richness…

    Can you tell “I’ve got the bug”?

    I’m pretty sure part of it is the level of smoke I’m using. Another part is the marinade. Partly it is just that it is customized to what I like. But that’s the whole point. I am OK with hot sauce, but I like it better with just a touch of bite, not overpowering. I’m OK with sour, but like it better with just a touch of sour lemon aroma bite. How do you get it “exactly your way” at a store?…

    Then there’s the fact that the chicken white meat was just so soft and moist. Not a bit dry at all. Never had it so juicy moist before. Commercial stuff stands too long.

    Add in that we’re trying to stop beef and that pork does best on a slow low cook… well…

    So yes, I’m going to be doing this for a long time to come. May even try smoking a whole turkey some time. Never had smoked turkey before. Then there are all those plain sausages that are OK, but could be great with a little smoke time… Why buy expensive sausages smoked weeks ago in a plastic package from the shelf? Take a fresh one and smoke ’em if you got ’em ;-)

    Final point ( I really do have to stop soon or I’m going to be standing in the rain at midnight doing another Kielbasa as I’ll have made myself hungry ;-) I’m getting really tired of reading various hot dog packages and finding things dangerously close to “Pink Slime” in them (“Mechanically separated” chicken or turkey is more like ‘crap expressed from the bones and cartilage’). As I have a meat grinder with sausage making kit, I may even make my own hot dogs so that I KNOW what is in them. To be right, though, they need some time being smoked… Which is easy if you cook them in a smoker. ( A bit harder if you want to keep some ready to go in the fridge, but still not impossible). So instead of paying $3 a package and still getting “mystery meat” I can get a much better product for a lot less money and know that it’s all “good stuff”.

    Now if I only do even 1/2 of that list, I’m going to be busy for about 2 years, so I think it’s pretty clear I’ll be doing this for a while ;-)

  3. Petrossa says:

    Not to rain on your parade but:

    Eat sparingly, live longer healthier. Meat is best eaten raw.

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    Eating barely cooked meat that has been cooked over a almost dead little fire is as close to heaven as you can get. Seasoned to taste with whatever you can scrounge up. I have beds of Rosemary, Oregano growing near the “pit”. Actually doing the job is a pain, but makes the wife happy. pg

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    We will be waiting for the photos of the smoked meat, just to check the results at least visually.

  6. Pascvaks says:

    Our digestive systems and bodies have evolved to the point that variety is not only the spice of life but the road to health, don’t eat too much of any one thing for long at all. Mix it up! (Oh yes, and don’t eat uncooked meat, foul, or fish unless you’re starving, and if you can’t cook it through, at the very least, SMOKE IT, MAN! SMOKE IT!;-)

  7. Pascvaks says:

    PS: Not that it would be very ‘cost’ effective, but can’t you new contraption, at losest fuel setting and neigh closed vent make charcoal too?

  8. Tom Bakewell says:

    FWIW “kecap manis” the thick Indonesian soy sauce is a great starting place for creating BBQ type sauces. Happy eating and don’t forget that fish does well when smoked.

  9. Tom Bakewell says:

    Note to self.. I will read the post thrice before commentnig.. I will read the post twice before commenting… I will read the whole post carefully before commenting… Esp about fish.

  10. jim says:

    I started reading up on how to make bricks after viewing the video about the rocket stove. You have to fire the brick at 1000-1800C, so how to do it? I have a charcoal grill. But apparently the charcoal made for grilling is a mixture of hickory wood chips and real charcoal, the charcoal to keep the fire burning. The H in the wood creates water which lowers the flame temp. Apparently, one can buy real charcoal at resturant supply houses. So, I’m thinking about firing my refractory brick on the grill.

  11. Pascvaks says:

    Doesn’t brick take a long time as well as high heat?

  12. John Michalski says:

    Although I do like the the hickory smoke flavor, on a mild dish it tends toward overpowering. I happened to lose two large peach trees to an ice storm last year and they had to be taken out. Turns out they, like most hardwood fruit trees, give off a very mild smoky flavor. Adds a great flavor if you want the meat flavor to be the highlight. Also, in the winter, we burn as our main heat source a catalytic wood stove. When the coals need to be emptied and put in the can, after they cool we sift out the large chunks and reburn them on our grill. They don’t last as long as charcoal, but at that price ($0) i can add them all day long. If we are burning hickory in the stove (good BTUs, btw) we empty it early so we have large chunks they still impart the flavor, yet not as strong. As for recipes, try smoking a pizza! A whole wheat yeast pizza crust (or any crust) sucks up the smoke flavor like a sponge. Go traditional (tomato sauce, proscuitto, provolone, sliced romas and fresh basil to top it off) or add your favorite toppings. Grill on.

  13. Judy F. says:


    I want to make a reservation, please, seating for one at your earlier convenience…

    My sons make deer and antelope sausage and jerky. They add a little fatty pork so the sausage isn’t so dry, as neither deer nor antelope are “fatty” enough. On the farm we had a smokehouse, just a tad smaller than an outhouse, with nails from top to bottom for hanging the meat. For years, the neighbors would use it more than we did, but it gets a workout now. We used applewood for smoking if we could get it. Also, we used dry corn cobs, which made a nice smoke. You have to use field dried corn cobs, not the kind left after you eat corn on the cob. It did make a difference.
    My grandfather used eucalyptus wood, burned down to coals, to grill steaks over. I think everyone has a personal “gold standard” to compare flavors to, and for me, it is eucalyptus grilled steaks.

    Hm, somehow the peanut butter sandwich I was going to eat for lunch has lost its appeal.

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    What rain? PCH are the GOAL! Look, I’m not going to live forever and at this stage, any illness with a 25 year lag to onset is just irrelevant. Heck, I could take up cigarette smoking now it it would not make nay difference. ( typical 30 years to develop lung cancer from smoking). So no, I’m not bothered at all about PCHs.

    BTW, there’s very good evidence that low level exposure to carcinogens is either neutral or protective. So I’m doing it “for my health” ;-)

    Per eating meat raw: There are so many lethal diseases you can get from that that I am astounded you would suggest it as a ‘healthy’ alternative to BBQ. For starters, there’s trichinosis in pork (and any other scavenger / predator like bears), liver flukes in beef (especially tropical places like Hawaii where a friends Dad was the FDA inspector and ‘splained it to me), salmonella in chicken, … it’s a very long list.)


    I’ve got some Rosemary growing in the garden, and a bit of oregano… so you sprinkle it on the meat or put it in the water bowl to steam volatile oils?


    Pictures, for sure! As the sun is shining today, I may get some on the Ersatz Friend for comparison ;-)


    The making of charcoal kicks out some flammable gasses (H2 CO CH3-OH) and is best made in a retort or in a dirt pit where they can’t explode or burst into flames. Easy way is just take a metal drum and light the wood on fire. As the volatiles burn off, coals form. Then cover it such that the coal is starved of air and goes out. Old Way is to start a fire, then cover it with dirt.

    I’d not want the creosotes inside my food box…

    Oh, and yes, IIRC we saw that in the posting we saw that the human large intestine had shortened and was best suited to high calorie easy to digest foods. Basically, we’ve evolved to match cooked foods. Meats are easier to digest than vegetables, so we are best at eating well cooked vegetables ( roast that corn! bake that potato! boil those beans!) and lightly cooked meat ( Smoke that bird!)

    @Tom Bakewell:

    I’ll look for the sauce… Recipes?


    Bricks take a very special oven to make. Must be refractory materials. It uses a LOT of coal or charcoal and a billows to drive the air up and the heat with it. Your grill will get about 500 F, maybe 600 if you push it. You need above a red heat, closer to a yellow glow.
    has some nice pictures. One looks like a stack of rock slabs… Basically you make a beehive out of rock or refractory brick, have a coal pit next to it, and billows blowing into the fire pit putting white hot gas into the kiln…. The BBQ isn’t gonna do it…

    @John Michalski :

    Hmmm… I have a “fruitless pear” tree in the back yard that is starting to have limbs die. (Fireblight I think). So I likely have a reasonable supply of “fruit wood” to play with for a while…

    Nice idea. Oooh, hadn’t thought of pizza! As I love smokey kippers, I can see a potential for a variety of “non-anchovies” experiments too ;-0 But an honest pepperoni has charm… smoked ought to be heavenly… (wonder where I can find some olive wood…)

    @Judy F:

    Well, it’s portable, so maybe I’ll pick some time (after I’ve gotten good at it) to have a “BBQ in the Park” somewhere convenient and we all can have a Pot Luck ;-)

    I read about Cowgirls Smokehouse and I’m already pondering making a tiny one. Not sized to hold a whole hog or two, but more like a coat closet sized… or a file cabinet… hmmm lots of file cabinets sold at ‘going out of business’ sales… just need to seal the doors…

    There are a lot of eucalyptus growing around here. Often shedding small limbs. Often thought of as ‘weed trees’ by the local PC crowd. I could likely find a source for free…

    Per corn cobs: At Last! An excuse for growing Field Corn! ;-)

    Just think of your “PBJ hold the J” as ‘clearing the pallet’ 8-)

  15. Mike Churchill says:

    Now this is an inspiring post! Count me as another hungry reader.

    I know you said you are trying to cut out beef, but my favorite marinade makes a great tri-tip or london broil (also good on ribs or steaks, haven’t tried it on chicken or pork): in a bowl mix equal parts minced garlic, stone ground or dijon mustard, and Pappy’s seasoning mix ( available in many grocery stores in California), add some lemon juice, and then pour in enough beer to make it a liquid, then mix it all up and marinade the meat in a zip lock baggie for 1 to 4 hours. I tend to use whatever good craft beer I have in the fridge at the moment, typically a medium to heavy bodied ale.

    This marinade works great for grilling and even better when the meat is cooked over hickory smoke. I haven’t tried other smokes yet.


  16. Chuckles says:

    Have fun, E.M., I’m envious, love doing that sort of thing.

    May I suggest that you add pastrami to the list, good homemade pastrami is absolute heaven. I also remember smoked German pork sausages from my childhood. They were made only for harvest festival church bazaars, and were a bratwurst type recipe for frying, but were made and medium lightly smoked overnight, the night before the event.
    They were absolute heaven, people would drive 400 miles to attend and buy them.
    Turning to the dryer, I’ve done a lot of such making jerky and S African biltong in homemade dryers. These were simply large filing cabinet size wooden or metal cupbards, with a lot of 2″ vent holes drilled around the bottom and top. A similarly ventilated partition was fitted a foot or two above the floor, and a 60 or 100W incandescent light fitted underneath it. The meat to be dried was hung using steel hooks from eye hooks and rails in the top section.
    The heat from the light set up a natural convection, which dried the meat in a couple of days. many recipes/techniques available if required

  17. adolfogiurfa says:

    @All: You are a bunch of CO2 contaminators, you are not cooperating to avoid “global warming”!!
    However, how we miss those good old days, the smell of smoked meat, a glass of wine, the tasty smell of tobacco smoking…Yes, those were the days my friends before communists came to spoil our living.

  18. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith fresh herbs I add by the hand full above and below the cut of meat as needed. Kind of depends on the need.
    If you wish to create a smoker/cooker, in my junk pile are 2 bell ended tanks. thin gauge steel. One is a electric water heater core 15×54 inch and the other is a bladder tank shell 24×44 inch, tools are here. You are welcome to help yourself. pg

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve added an update with photos of my present grill “in action”. So check the article again.

    Also found links to the current version of that grill and a charcoal variation. No idea if it still has the cinder rocks ‘feature’ or not…


    Just for you, I’ve added a picture with food in it. Kielbasa. Now in my tummy ;-)

    Per “not cooperating” : Yeah, that pretty much describes me. I yam what I yam… and like spinach ;-)

    Good idea, though. I need to get some wine to see how it blends with the smokey flavors. Likely need a richer red…

    @Mike Churchill:

    I can have beef about 1 x week and not have significant joint discomfort. I’ll never go to zero beef. So I’ll be trying your favorite sauce and a Tri-Tip … probably as a special treat on weekends ;-)

    At 2 x week I can sometimes get away with it. 3 x week plus ice cream on Sunday… I get arthritic joints… It’s all about how often and a little bit about how much. So I do more “binge beef” ;-) One big Dinner, then back on the wagon M-F ;-)


    Home made Pastrami? Saw a show on making that once… beef … spices & cold cure…

    has a recipe that looks easy… Hadn’t thought about it, but yeah, makes sense… I’ve also wanted to test if my reaction is to BEEF or related Bovines via getting some buffalo meat and / or elk / venison. If I’m only reactive by species, well, I love a pastrami sandwich and a Buffalo Pastrami Sandwich sounds cool too ;-)

    Love the description of a DIY meat dryer. I’m planning to try making some jerky (along with various fruit and vegetables) Nice to have a larger DIY design if it turns out to be a fascination for me. It’s also a great example of ways folks use incandescent bulbs for more than just light and why banning them in California / USA is just stupid. Yes, I can find a 100 W heating element (or just use 100 W PAR spotlight bulbs) but we’re talking $10 each instead of 19 cents. I have a ‘stash’ of 100 W bulbs, though, so could support one for a few years…

    Also, if you have a recipe for those sausages…. ;-)

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    If I made one that big, I’d have no place to put it… So hope you wouldn’t mind if it had to stay there… Need to burn something in it every week or two to keep the rust down… ;-)

  21. Dave says:

    I think Nassim Taleb has put his finger why we have climate change alarmists.

    Looking forward to this book.

    PS Nice info on the Grill.

  22. Mike Churchill says:

    E.M., I forgot to point out that the minced garlic, mustard and Pappy’s makes a nice crust on the outside of the meat when cooked. (Being lazy garlic junkies, my wife and I keep a large jar of minced garlic in the fridge at all times.) Slice the tri-tip across the grain and serve with your favorite sides. (At my house, those almost alway include either grilled corn on the cob or grilled marinated onions, squash, mushrooms, and bell peppers (different marinade, often just a vinagrette.) I usually have the teenage daughters and/or my dad begging for slices to be cut off the ends for “samples” ASAP. Of course, they have to wait until I have my samples first….

    I might follow your example and throw some hardwood chunks and a pan of water on my gas grill from time to time (large stainless steel one, though), to add that wonderful smoke flavor.

  23. jim says:

    Once I get around to it, I’ll let you know how the bricks pan out. I intended to sun dry, then grill them, then assemble into a chimney, like the rocket stove, to finish the job.

  24. Mike Churchill says:


    Thanks for that link. Taleb’s book looks interesting.

  25. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Jim; I would also like to know more about your refractory bricks. The refractories that I have used are made with high temperature cements and are not sintered as in fired clay bricks.
    Manzanita cokes up easily as it is very dense. Generally as soon as I am done cooking I drown the coals and leave them to dry for the next effort, so I can get a nice bed of hot coals with new wood and old charcoal very quickly.
    I have charcoaled Manzanita directly for a Cognac making effort. 12 year old now. AquaVieta for medicinal purposes only of course. ;-) pg

  26. Pascvaks says:

    Well, this isn’t ‘really’ about little bbq’s but the subject has been broached in a fashion: Fire Brick and Natural Smokin’ Hawaiian Lava –OK, at least some one said something about Fire Brick– don’t know where these things originate, the older I get the wiring just seems to short circuit all over the place… Lava, I know there are some differences in ‘type’, but for the moment let’s just say ‘Lava’ in general, it’s been fired as we know, soooo… is it capable of being used as Fire Brick? Maybe, if you catch it while it’s still liquid and then cool it real slow and easy? (Have a feeling someone’s going to say “NO”. Then, how about ‘Lava Fire Brick’ of a sort? Just know there’s a market for Natural Smokin’ Hawaiian Lava, gotta-be;-)

    PS: Must have one of those Milo Minderbinder genes; you know, the kind that dream up “Unseeded Chocolate Covered Cotton Balls” as the new ‘Kid’s Treat’ (a’la ‘Catch 22’;-)

  27. oldtimer says:

    OT but may be of interest if you are not familiar with it:

    Click to access Menne_january2012.pdf

    I found the link here:
    in the comments on the post labelled A Dangerous Practice.

    Another post, two down, labelled Large Scale Temperature Trends will interest you too. You got a couple of favourable mentions in the comments. Your work, and others, was in effect later dismissed as not “peer reviewed”, the default excuse for the climate science community to wear blinkers. The Muir Russell review came up with the same excuse.

  28. Tom Bakewell says:

    simple recipe using Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kacep manis) half a cup of the soy sauce, lots of freshly grated ginger root and some garlic. Powdered works, grated or crushed fresh is more zippy. Mix well and baste the bird frequently. The soy sauce is pretty thick which makes for better basting. I’ve tried this on pork with success ( no leftovers) and will try a variation on some salmon soon.

  29. Power Grab says:

    You are so lucky to be able to smoke your own goodies! The only thing I like better than my 8 hour pot roast is good smoked meats.

    I went to that link for building your own smoker from a barrel…thought it might be like the ones they used to smoke meats behind the big cafeteria in the big dorm. But no, the ones on that page are vertical. The ones behind the dorm are horizontal. I don’t know if they still have them, or not. I should go take a peek. There is still one place you can get smoked stuff at some times of the year.

    They used to have smoked ribs every Thursday at that old cafeteria, and other smoked meats other days. One night I took my kid to eat there and they had these wonderful smoked chicken quarters. And since it was a college cafeteria, it was all you care to eat. I think we both went back 2 more times. As you said, the chicken was so tasty and moist and tender, it was amazing. I wonder how many public college cafeterias served that quality of smoked meats so often?

    Sad to say, those days are gone. The dining units are under a different department now, and the bottom line rules. They no longer have a traditional cafeteria in that building. Now there is a convenience store and sandwich shop. Some times of the year, you can go to the pizza place, which does have a salad bar…when it’s open. Since bread and I no longer are on speaking terms, I have never tried the sandwich shop – besides, it chaps my hide to think about paying something on the order of 8 bucks for a couple of pieces of bread with some cold cuts slapped between them.

  30. jim says:

    @ p.g.sharrow says:
    6 June 2012 at 3:43 am

    I’m planning to use the recipe given in the “rocket stove” video. There is an arts place here that sells clay. I’ll get one that fires at a low “cone” rating. The cones are put into a kiln to measure temperature, as I understand it. They melt at a certain temperature, and maybe time – I still have to research those. I will get real charcoal from a resturant supply house. It will burn hotter than the stuff from the grocery.

    All that said, I’m buried in stuff right now, so it will be a while before I do this.

  31. adolfogiurfa says:

    The high rating of this post shows that those small and good things of life are really appreciated. Thanks E.M.!

  32. Jim – the cones are a mixture of ceramic materials that indicate the state of sinter or melt of the clays you are using. Either lower temperature/longer time or higher temperature/longer time will make the cones bend by a certain amount. Since the cones come in overlapping temperature ranges, you need to use the right one for the clay, and know how far it bends at the temperature you want – they should have a little explanatory slip with pictures included.

    A high-firing clay mixed with sawdust will give you a better (though weaker, depending on how much sawdust) insulating firebrick that should still be strong enough for your use. If you dig your own clay, not much preparation would be required since you won’t be bothered about getting the sand or vegetable remains out of it too much. Slow firing would be needed until the sawdust burns off. Earthenware would probably be OK up to around 600°C – normal house bricks will survive quite a while in a barbeque or smoke oven.

  33. jim says:

    Thanks, Simon! So is the high-firing clay better because it won’t become as dense as a more (probably) easily melted clay that will form a dense body?

  34. E.M.Smith says:


    Refractory bricks are not supposed to melt in a fire… so you want “high fired” bricks that when used with “low fire” stay strong…

    Firing a brick is to prevent it from washing away in the rain. After that, only refractory bricks need to be stiff and strong in a low fire. Put another way, if you made your furnace out of the same clay as a low temperature cone, it would bend over just like the cone does in a low temperature fire…

  35. Providing you have something hard and refractory like a good firebrick at the hot face, you can back it up with something like rockwool to get the insulation you need and thus make the kiln more efficient. A long time back you could buy spun alumina as insulation for kilns – back in ’76 it was somewhat expensive. NASA’s tiles on the space-shuttle were a better development of this, but getting hold of these may a bit tricky since I haven’t seen them for sale. There are quite a few available on used shuttles, though.

  36. jim says:

    Simon – Aerogel would be great for this, but expensive. You can get some at United Nuclear.

  37. p.g.sharrow says:

    The creation of a kiln that works well and does not self destruct with use is not a simple thing. Heat flow through the walls must be managed as well as expansion and contraction of the wall materials. You would not believe the amount of expansion in masonry when heated over 500F.The fireside of a kiln may be exposed to temperatures near 2,000F and expand the refractories 10% while the outside has no expansion at room temperature.

  38. jim says:

    I appreciate the discussion of refractory brick. Given that, I will just try to buy some refractory brick. The reason I want it is to make cement as a science project with my son. I intended to use the bricks to build a small box to hold a small crucible containing the ingredients. A hole in the side would admit the business end of my MAPP gas torch. I tried it without insulation and it didn’t get hot enough. Again, thanks for all the fish!

  39. E.M.Smith says:


    Fireplace refractory brick are pretty common. Out here they have a more yellow color. You could always try making your own kiln out of raw brick (they will be fired in place when you fire it up) if making a very small batch. Heck, the ancient Egyptians made a variety of cast metals and ceramics that needed kiln… but that MAPP Gas Torch is a bit shy on total power for a kiln… Nice high temp, but not enough quantity of gas. You could do a small (like 1 inch) alumina crucible in an insulated box… but not a whole brick.

    Look up some of the old historical stuff. Folks have made kilns out of stacked flat rocks, and a heck of a lot of charcoal with a blower… Also look up “Portable Forge”. Hot enough to hammer weld iron. Don’t know if that would make cement.

    Materials that contain appropriate amounts of calcium compounds, silica, alumina and iron oxide are crushed and screened and placed in a rotating cement kiln. Ingredients used in this process are typically materials such as limestone, marl, shale, iron ore, clay, and fly ash.

    The kiln resembles a large horizontal pipe with a diameter of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.1 meters) and a length of 300 feet (90 meters) or more. One end is raised slightly. The raw mix is placed in the high end and as the kiln rotates the materials move slowly toward the lower end. Flame jets are at the lower end and all the materials in the kiln are heated to high temperatures that range between 2700 and 3000 Fahrenheit (1480 and 1650 Celsius). This high heat drives off, or calcines, the chemically combined water and carbon dioxide from the raw materials and forms new compounds (tricalcium silicate, dicalcium silicate, tricalcium aluminate and tetracalcium aluminoferrite). For each ton of material that goes into the feed end of the kiln, two thirds of a ton the comes out the discharge end, called clinker. This clinker is in the form of marble sized pellets. The clinker is very finely ground to produce portland cement. A small amount of gypsum is added during the grinding process to control the cement’s set or rate of hardening.

    Well, looks like an Alumina crucible is out… as it can be used to make cement.

    Close to 3000 F? Heck, a lot of torches don’t get that high. MAPP Gas is 5000 F, so you have a shot at it. Iron melts at 2800 F… so you need to be able to puddle iron.

    Might be easier, and about as instructive, to make Plaster of Paris.

    Gypsum plaster (plaster of Paris)

    Gypsum plaster, or plaster of Paris, is produced by heating gypsum to about 300°F (150 °C):[1]

    CaSO4·2H2O + Heat → CaSO4·½H2O + 1½ H2O (released as steam).

    When the dry plaster powder is mixed with water, it re-forms into gypsum. The setting of unmodified plaster starts about 10 minutes after mixing and is complete in about 45 minutes; but not fully dry for 72 hours. If plaster or gypsum is heated above 392°F (200°C), anhydrite is formed, which will also re-form as gypsum if mixed with water.

    Similar process, and you can do it repeatedly (reversible). A lot less work, and the kid could even participate ( i.e. it’s in the kitchen oven… and not dealing with molten iron temperatures).

    Same basic demonstration, and then you can say Cement is the same, only a silicate instead of a sulphate, so higher temperatures.

    Take a lot less fuel, too…

  40. gallopingcamel says:

    Having spent most of my life in a country where it rains a lot I never acquired any BBQ skills. Verity Jones explains how us Brits think about BBQ:

    My approach to BBQ has been to appreciate the achievements of others. Certainly your erudition is impressive but it made my heart swell with pride to learn what some fellow engineers have done in this important field of endeavor:

    Let’s not forget George Goble, the great innovator from Purdue:

  41. Pascvaks says:

    Truly Outstanding British Pub-BQ. My dad told me the Irish invented British BBQ. (I guess one of them slipped off the spit and got away;-)

  42. Pascvaks says:

    Or is it “Pub’a Q”?

  43. p.g.sharrow says:

    Looks like I will be able to deliver your Bar-B wood the 25 or 26. 8-) . will call this evening. pg

  44. E.M.Smith says:


    Phone was on the charger and I was up all night… phone is now in my pocket and I’ll be up all tonight too… it says it has a voicemail or message, so I’ll get on it.

    Doubt that I’ll need more than a gunny sack of flavoring wood… If I get to doing more than that, I’ll come up and visit and chop wood for a while ;-)

    I’ll be working on getting some bamboo in pots toward the end of this week…


    British BBQ? Say what?

    Well, I guess everyone burned meat over wood at some time or other… but that’s gonna put flavor in the food… Flavor, in British food? Who’d a thunk it…
    ;-) and remember my Mum is British… I grew up on British food and love plain bacon and eggs with toast and tea… Guess you could call smoked bacon a kind of BBQ…

    I’d certainly believe that the Irish would go for burning meat over an open fire. It’s got everything a good Celt would want. Fire. Roast meat. Hunting to get the meat. The Hero’s Portion… (Dad was Irish / German mix, so I can claim a bit of Irish too…)

    @Galloping Camel:

    I wonder if that is the same George Goble who invented a drop in replacement for R-12 (that I’ve used and with whom I communicated back about 1988 or so…)

    Great videos, BTW.

    As it illustrates, the trouble with lighting charcoal with LOX is that it tends to light the iron BBQ as well ;-)

    Bet I could make self igniting briquets with a modest dose of KNO3 solution… but not too much ore we’re back in Rocket Fuel land…

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