Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Building a Smoker Barrel - Installing a Temperature Gauge

One of the most important things to have for an ugly drum smoker is a way to gauge the temperature when using your smoker. It is also helpful to know at what level you are cooking. The best solution is to permanently install a temperature gauge on your smoker.
I can't stress enough how important it is to have this on your smoker. You will have a much better time cooking with your ugly drum smoker after adding this particular feature.

The permanent type of temperature gauge used on most smoker barrels requires a small physical modification to your smoker. To install it simply drill a hole in the side of your smoker, insert the gauge, and tighten the nut down on the inside of the barrel. The temp gauge, or thermometer, needs to be at least one inch below your lowest cooking grate. Once you’ve drilled a hole for the temperature gauge probe, it should bolt right up. On my smoker I drilled a 3/4 inch hole for my gauge which had a 3 inch dial face and a 13/16 thread and nut. I also used a 3/4 inch washer on the inside and outside of the gauge to give it further stability. This will vary depending on the size of temperature gauge you have for your barrel.

The trick is finding a gauge that isn't too expensive. Gauges can be purchased for under $20 at your local home improvement store or on the web. Mine was purchased at Academy Sports and Outdoors for $19.95 plus tax. Many of these were originally intended for stick burners or gas grills, but will work just fine on your barrel smoker.

Besides offering the advantage of being permanently attached so that it won’t get lost or misplaced like other types, it also gives a better reading because it is taking the temperature of the air inside the smoker. In practice, these gauges aren’t affected as much by the surface temperature of the smoker barrel it is attached to because your heat source is isolated in your charcoal basket.

One thing is for certain; having a temperature gauge gives you a better idea of the heat level inside your smoker and will make your cooking efforts more consistent. It takes all of the guesswork out of when your smoker is ready to begin cooking and when to open or close your air vents. You won't know how you ever got along without one once you’ve got it installed.

You should also try to get a gauge that has the color shading indicating the various smoking and cooking levels. This way you can quickly check your temperature at a glance when using your smoker barrel.

Here is a link to a website with several permanent type temperature gauges for your smoker barrel that are under $20 (including shipping):
They also sell the Tru-Tel Professional Temp Gauges but they are expensive!

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this very thing.every one else says to put it above the grate,I dont see the big difference above or ever if it is above the grate,you could damage the gauge takeing the grate out.great articles.thanks,pops

riverwalker said...

To: pops

I have mine below the grate and fairly close to one of the support bolts for the grate. It helps to protect the temperature probe from being accidentally damaged when removing the grate.

You can do the other way but if you aren't careful....

Thanks pops.


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