How to Convert a Horizontal Charcoal Smoker to Gas
One of the challenges of using a horizontal smoker is to keep a steady supply of smoke and a moderate about of heat produced in the fire chamber to smoke food in the cooking chamber. If a smoker uses charcoal to produce the heat, the charcoal can be replaced by adding a propane burner to the firebox to provide the heat source. The smoke will come from wood chips heated to the smoking point by the propane flame.
Drill a hole through the end of the smoker firebox to connect the burner to the propane tank hose. The size of the hole depends on the size of the burner and hose fittings. Analyze the fittings for the burner and gas hose to make the proper connection for the burner through the end of the firebox. If the burner has air vents, make the hole larger enough to allow airflow through the vents.
Mount the burner in the firebox. The burner should be solidly positioned on the bottom of the firebox. If the burner has a thread bolt on the bottom, drill another hole through the bottom of the firebox and secure the burner with a washer and nut.
Attach the propane tank to the burner assembly. The pressure regulator will screw onto the propane tank with the plastic collar. Hand tightened the regulator only. The gas line attaches to the burner with an included SAE fitting, which is screwed on to the matching threads on the burner. A wrench of the appropriate size should be used to tighten the fitting. Check for leaks and ignite the burner to check the operation of the burner. If you purchased an adjustable pressure regulator, work with the regulator to find the best setting for the burner flame.
Set up the smoker to make smoke with a wood chip container and possibly a water pan. The wood chips can be placed in a metal pan above the burner on the former charcoal grate where they will smolder and smoke. Another option is to use a large can, like a metal coffee can, open on one end with a large chunk or several large chunks of wood. The can is place sideways above the flame with open end towards the cooking section to direct the smoke. A pan of water in the smoke chamber will add moisture to the smoke, increasing the effectiveness of the smoking.
- Smoking food requires practice trying different combinations of gas flame size, wood chunk amounts and the use of water to get the amount of smoke and heat necessary to smoke your food. There are many variables to successful smoking, so you need to adjust your techniques until you find the ones that work for you.
- If you are not comfortable selecting individual propane burning components, buy a ready-made gas smoker conversion kit. The cost will be about twice that of picking out your own components.
- Buying the components separately will be less expensive than purchasing a ready-to-install gas conversion kit. You may need to use online retail sources to find some of the components.
- Gas turkey fryer burners come in low-pressure and high-pressure versions. Make sure the gas regulator you select will deliver gas at the pressure for which the burner you select is designed.
Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images