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How to Build and Use a Brick BBQ Smoker (Part 2)

Updated on June 8, 2017
smoked for 4 hours at 250 - just about done!
smoked for 4 hours at 250 - just about done!

This article will explain how to use a vertical brick smoker fired with gas, based on one I designed and gave building instructions for in How to Build a Brick BBQ Smoker. If you haven’t read that page yet, it’s probably a better place to start.

How it Works

This smoker is designed for long, slow, smoky cooking. The kind of thing you need to create great ribs, brisket, or pulled pork shoulder. It is not designed to grill burgers; although it could probably be used for that in a pinch.

To BBQ, you need 2 things:

  1. Heat
  2. Smoke

Notes on Heat and Smoke:

  • In some cases (very traditionally), smoldering hardwood creates both smoke and heat in one. This is a great way to go, but it does require a fair amount of hardwood.
  • My smoker uses gas for heat and woodchips for smoke. There are some advantages to separating the heat and smoke–namely cost and ease of use. Gas creates an even heat with far less effort than is needed to tend a wood fire, and it is cheaper to heat with gas than wood (in most cases). My smoker will need just a couple of pounds of wood chunks to smoke for hours, enough to do 50-75 pounds of ribs!

This smoker uses a gas burner inserted into the base of the BBQ for heat. A heavy cast iron pan is placed on top of the burner and wood chips are placed onto this cast iron pan. The hot pan will cause the wood chips to smoke and the heat from the burner will heat the air and the bricks to cook the ribs.

Pros and Cons of this Design

This smoker performs quite well in some ways, but it is not a great design for all needs.

Pros

  • The heavy bricks retain a lot of heat, which helps to keep the temperature of the smoker very even. Also, the heat in the smoker recovers very quickly after you have opened the door, because of the retained heat in the bricks.
  • The smoker is easy to use, as the temperature is quite stable. You will need to toss on more woodchips every half hour or so.
  • The smoker uses very little wood, a bag of BBQ wood chips you’d buy at the grocery store could smoke 100lbs of ribs in this BBQ.

Cons

  • The smoker performs best when you give it a substantial (hour or more) preheat. (A small electric bullet smoker does not require this.
  • The smoker is relatively large, and so there is a risk of dryer meat if doing very small batches.
  • There is no automatic wood feeding mechanism, so you do have to pay attention to it every half an hour or so when cooking.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Preheating - an hour (or more is better) of high heat to soak the bricks with heatGrill racks inTrusty cast iron pan ready to go on the burner at the bottomLoading up with spareribsFeeding in the temperature probeAdding the soaked woodchips to the panWoodchips inSmokin'!
Preheating - an hour (or more is better) of high heat to soak the bricks with heat
Preheating - an hour (or more is better) of high heat to soak the bricks with heat
Grill racks in
Grill racks in
Trusty cast iron pan ready to go on the burner at the bottom
Trusty cast iron pan ready to go on the burner at the bottom
Loading up with spareribs
Loading up with spareribs
Feeding in the temperature probe
Feeding in the temperature probe
Adding the soaked woodchips to the pan
Adding the soaked woodchips to the pan
Woodchips in
Woodchips in
Smokin'!
Smokin'!

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    • John D Lee profile image
      Author

      John D Lee 19 months ago

      Just a standard gas cooking ring.

    • profile image

      Lisa 4 years ago

      Thank you! There was a brick smoker built into our patio when we bought our house but it had no racks, burner or innards of any kind. Now, after 4 years, I have an idea of how to set it up, can't wait!

    • profile image

      jeffbohall@q.com 5 years ago

      what did you use for burner

    • profile image

      Luis 5 years ago

      It looks great

    • Michael Adams1959 profile image

      Michael Adams1959 6 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

      looks great, cant wait to try and build this and use my plumcrazy sauce.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Man alive! That chicken looks delicious! Gotta make me one of these...