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