Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Modifications to any Smoker you can purchase. examples- Brinkman, Weber, etc.
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Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by SoloQue » September 3rd, 2012, 5:38 pm

I have been tinkering with basket placement and modifying the charcoal distribution within the basket to see how it effects overall heat transfer and hot spots. Below are some basic diagrams and the observations I made on each layout. My goal was to reduce hot spots and maintain control over fluctuations. In the long run I believe I have done that but at the expense of fuel economy. The last diagram is based on comments made by TQ regarding a customer's mandate on a rear vent location and I can appreciate that request after reviewing what I encountered. As always feel free to add your own insights.

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With the rear-box placement of a partitioned basket, I experienced very little temp fluctuation but also had a reduced max temp capability. I'm going to attribute that to the air being able to go around the coals and therefore not transferring enough heat. On the plus side I literally never had to adjust my intakes with this set-up and with some minor exhaust tweeks could adjust interior temps easily. This really puts a premium on intake placement when initially laying out the firebox. With side vents I am beginning to see a serious need to have them as close to the door as possible to keep incoming air from bypassing the lit coals.


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by PvilleComp » September 3rd, 2012, 5:53 pm

My fire box is a top loader with the vent on the end like your last pic. I usually do a thin flat bed to warm up and then as I need to add coals, move the hot coals toward the chamber and load cold coals on the vent side. Seems to be working so far. About 2 hours or so between coal loads.



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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by SoloQue » September 3rd, 2012, 6:08 pm

PvilleComp wrote: move the hot coals toward the chamber and load cold coals on the vent side
You're forcing the coals to light against the incoming airflow. That's gotta be fuel efficient since the fire can only creep along your charcoal as the airflow keeps pushing it away from the unlit coals, kind of like a horizontal Minion method.


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by PvilleComp » September 3rd, 2012, 6:40 pm

Well - yesterday I went through ~ 28 lb's of lump for a 17-18 hr burn so I guess that's good.



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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Frank_Cox » September 3rd, 2012, 7:05 pm

Awesome drawing Solo! I would say your spot on with coal placement. I another approach is to make the coal basket/ log rack take up nearly all the horizontal space in the firebox and put the air intakes under the log rack. closer to the door is great but you need to block off the rack on the CC side. That would force the air up through the rack instead of under and bypass the coal area. :beer: :points:


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by The Czar » September 3rd, 2012, 8:19 pm

Smells like a sticky to me.....I'm just saying.... :beer:


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by maccas66 » September 4th, 2012, 12:54 am

Great work Sole! :points: , I have been toying with the idea of partioning off part of my fire basket after what TQ said the other day, with your findings I now know where or should I say what part to close off!................. :beer:


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by SoloQue » September 4th, 2012, 6:46 am

I just took a piece of expanded metal and wired it into place to cut my total area by about 25%. Initially I was doing it to control a charcoal burn by forcing a stack up but then I noticed that even the logs were burning cleaner since the heat was so compact.


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Smokeone » September 4th, 2012, 8:20 pm

Great post Solo!
Are you related to Rick? Seems you two are always tinkering. Guess it doesnt matter, we all get the benefit of your tinkering! :points:


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Gizmo » September 4th, 2012, 8:47 pm

Okay where's my soapbox!

Some observations...
1) heat naturally transfers to the gas and solids around it.
2) heat can't be stopped but it can be slowed down (insulation) and turned SLIGHTLY (from straight up to slightly over).
3) heat rises NATURALLY not because it has more energy but because the surrounding gas (atmosphere) is heavier (oldest debate in the field of thermodynamics).

The goal of a smoker design is to create a device (using the above observations) that even a good ole boy that's been in the apple pie can operate. A device that allows a basic fire to NATURALLY heat enough hot space to cook some food without having to fight the apparatus to get to and stay at temp long enough to complete the job - and looks GREAT parked in the driveway. But most importantly - IT IS REPEATABLE. Imagine having to relearn your smoker every time you use it... And all this without breaking the bank to cover the fuel bill.

The best smoker design will have the draft at the very bottom where the oxygen-rich heavy air is
- then the ash pan to keep hot coals from falling through the draft opening
- then a drop zone for ash/coals to fall through and draft air to flow to the bottom of the fire basket to provide combustion air. Everything up to this point is driven by the hot expanding air ABOVE the fire trying to get out the Stack and a well sealed cabinet.
Once combustion happens and the air has been stripped of it's usable oxygen it continues to rise rapidly but it's squeezed by the transfer opening (kinda like putting your thumb over the end of the garden hose) This has to be the right size to reach equilibrium between what heat the firebox has to offer the cook chamber and what the stack/draft combination will allow for a flow rate. Building just enough fire to do this makes finding this equilibrium much easier.

Once the heat expands the atmosphere into the cook chamber (about 1:3 ratio) the stack takes over and keeps a VERY small negative pressure on the whole exchange.

IMHO - center the fire basket top to bottom and side to side in the firebox and feed the fresh air into the fire box directly OPPOSITE the transfer opening and as low as you can get it. This will allow the firebox to produce the largest possible quantity of hot air all around the basket. As you observe how small of a fire you can get by with then TUNE your basket in from all directions so you have a central basket that holds the correct size fire PLUS one offering of new fuel. Keep in mind in your design that you may want to slightly enlarge this central basket in the winter time depending on where you live.

Keep a log of your cooks and I think you'll find that in the long run it will be the most consistent and stable for temp - 2 things that are typically the hardest to attain anyway and solve the other issues through other means...

MAN - I haven't talked that much since the wife discovered that new sports car parked in my side of the garage....

But I feel better ... :D


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Gizmo » September 4th, 2012, 8:50 pm

And nice drawings Solo!
I knew exactly what you meant... :)


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Smokeone » September 4th, 2012, 8:55 pm

Rest my case! :BS:
All BS aside, Rick and Solo have done a great job on this post! It should be a sticky to help us all, whenever we need it! :ymapplause:


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by maccas66 » September 4th, 2012, 10:05 pm

Nice going Rick!!...I think I agree! :D


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Frank_Cox » September 5th, 2012, 5:08 am

sticky it is.....


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by SoloQue » September 5th, 2012, 6:52 am

:yth: I just used crayons, rick broke out the physics book :D I'm on board 100% my bottom right diagram basically goes hand in hand with your optimum set-up description. I am seriously considering having a new air inlet cut into the bottom center of my firebox door Nice read Rick!


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by bluecatfish » June 29th, 2013, 1:33 pm

Thanks. Very informative and interesting but I sure miss the drawing for clarification.



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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by DUAYNE B » June 29th, 2013, 10:56 pm

Nice job Rick, :beer: :beer:



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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Rodcrafter » June 30th, 2013, 7:13 pm

Yep, good job guys. :beer:


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by HARRY BARKER » December 23rd, 2013, 2:52 pm

the pics are gone?


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by wbrewski » October 30th, 2015, 2:26 am

could you or someone repost the pictures on basket placement? I am having trouble keeping the heat stable.



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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Rodcrafter » October 30th, 2015, 11:38 am

You may want to PM Solo this thread is very old. If you start a thread and post your pictures maybe more of us could help .


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by SoloQue » November 4th, 2015, 9:24 pm

"knocking off the dust" OK, so my system crashed a while back and all my fancy crayon drawings went with it. If you can follow my thoughts I will put in words what the pictures portrayed. It comes down to airflow from the vents to the baffle plate intake and what path that air takes. To get the most bang for your buck on air flow you have the basket back deep and all air flows through the coals instead of around. This allows for the highest % of air to get hot and you can avoid over opening your vents. BUT, you will get a really big hot spot with that basket jammed up against your cook chamber wall and who really wants that. The challenge is to position your basket far enough from the chamber wall and still minimize "flow around" with the air flow. This leads to my opinion that if you have side air vents they need to be positioned away from the cook chamber wall and closer to the firebox door towards the bottom of the sidewalls and to maximize the capabilities of getting the air to flow over and through the coals you would want an air intake in the middle of the lower side of the actual firebox door. If you can draw a line from the air vent to the baffle plate intake and that line goes through your fire basket then you have a good placement and you can have maximum heated air without needing to have everything wide open. You might have to raise the basket inside the firebox to align the fire with the direct flow of air Hope this helps, it might all be a repeat of what someone recently posted but this is what I do and it works. My fire basket is positioned about 2/3's back from the door which makes it very difficult for the air to bypass my fire. My firebox actually has a bottom clean out opening TQ built for me in the front 3rd of the firebox floor. I usually have this open and only use my side vents to fine tune the temp with almost all the incoming air being forced up and through my firebasket BTW ... good to see some killer topics being discussed


If it can't be smoked .... try frying it. It that don't work, it's probably best just left alone

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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by The Czar » November 4th, 2015, 9:37 pm

Sorry that member has removed his pics and doesn't visit anymore


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Re: Observations on Charcoal basket placement

Post by Rodcrafter » November 5th, 2015, 11:08 am

This is one I'm making now, it is like the one I did on my backyard cooker. But this one will become part of a mod on my trailer rig. ImageImage

I hope that helps


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