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Thread: Propane smokers

  1. #1
    Member sisusuomi's Avatar
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    Question Propane smokers

    Couldn't find a fish prep etc location so I'm figuring protein is protein.
    Anyone here use propane to smoke salmon?
    We've always used electric I initially bought one Little Chief 30 years ago and then was given more of these or had others appear in our yard depending on the severity of the wind storms in the Mat-Su.
    I'm living in Juneau now and currently down to 2 Chiefs so I'm just curious how much better propane is than electric for smoking.

  2. #2
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    I've used both and I'm using a propane one now.

    Propane bonus- it's hotter...you can smoke at -20F if you want which is impossible with an electric.
    Propane negative- it's hotter...getting a long, cool smoke is tough to pull off. For fish, I typically run it on it's lowest setting that will keep the burner lit and it's still a little warmer than I like and you really have to watch it carefully.

    That said- I really like the propane smoker better...and when you try to smoke pork roasts or ribs that need a bit more heat... it's way better.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

  3. #3
    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Large smoker, home made about the size of an outhouse.
    Propane burner in bottom, use it year round.
    Bk
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    I've now got a Masterbuilt Digital/Electric, a Smoke Vault propane-fired smoker, and my walk-in 5'x7', 10' tall on one end and 6.5' on the other end, adjustable-vented, with insulation and vapor-barrier, wood-fired smoker (with a Canadian air-tight on a steel scooter). It doubles as a refrigerated moose-hanging spot, with a few quick changes.

    I found the Little Chief I recently gave away had too much dryness to the smoking, the propane smoker smokes too hot for smoking (rather than cooking) fish, and the Masterbuilt is scant on the amount of smoke offered for fish smoking.. as well as being just a WEEEE bit warm for the temps I prefer to do fish at.

    So each smoker now has its range of purpose/meats.

    If I want to do a pork butt/shoulder roast at a precise LOWER temperature for an extended (12-14 hour) smoking, I use the Masterbuilt. If the winds warrant it, and I want to accelerate the time for smoking meat, to have it done more quickly, I use the smoke vault.

    But for -smoking- (i.e., NOT COOKING) salmon at a nice lower temperature (say, 110 to 130 f.), with LOTS of smoke to it, I use good ol' fashioned, locally-harvested alder in the Canadian air-tight in the walk-in smoker, wherein I can do up to 108 sockeye fillets at a time.

    Smoking at lower temps, however, I also freeze the fillets in larger bundles, at -15 to -20 f. for a month or so, before smoking, in order to take out any parasites in the meat.

    That's my experience and preferences, anyway.

    If I had a smaller batch of fish to do, and they were brined, glazed, and ready to rock, I MIGHT consider using the Masterbuilt electric, but NOT the propane; too hot a smoke. Though I've toyed with the idea of down-sizing the cast iron chip tray in the propane-fired Smoke Vault, as I suspect the cast iron helps to generate greater heat due to its size, and I MIGHT be able to control that with lesser-sized cast iron, and fewer chunks of wood.

  5. #5
    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Traeger grills are the bomb.
    If your just smoking small batches or using it to smoke briskets, tri-tips, Boston but, etc.... I highly recommend on of their grills.

    Just a thought!
    Bk
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    Alaskas only Planar diesel heaters dealer, service, warranty, and installation.
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  6. #6

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    [QUOTE=hodgeman;1597308]Propane bonus- it's hotter...you can smoke at -20F if you want which is impossible with an electric.
    QUOTE]


    I use my big chief electric smoker all winter, regardless of temperature. I saved the box and drop it over the smoker to keep the heat in when it's cold outside. If it's really cold I wrap an old blanket around it. Either way I keep a small opening at the top to vent.

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hodgeman View Post

    Propane bonus- it's hotter...you can smoke at -20F if you want which is impossible with an electric.
    Kinda depends on the insulation doesn't it? I bought a digital elec. Char Broil smoker a couple years ago and I can smoke in below zero temps no problemo. The only thing I don't care for about it is, and I'm like you, I can't seem to keep the temp down low enough for fish. All meats though it is excellent.
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    I use a propane smoker but I added an adjustable regulator to it and I can get the temp down around 110-120 and it works pretty well for fish. Then when smoking sausage I can run it up to whatever needed to finish it (165-225).

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    My Smoke Vault can't/doesn't cook much below 230 to 250 on a cool day, sometimes even in the winter. It has an adjustment knob on the thing, but I've found that when I -do- crank it down to the lowest setting, I have to check it WAY regularly, to make sure the flame hasn't gone out due to a breeze crossing through the side vents. There seems to be no effective thermo-coupler to extinguish the flow of gas when the flame goes out, which has led to some interesting 'light shows' (low, blue, circular 'blast patterns' across the snow surface in the winter time night).

    What is this regulator you're referencing, and how is it different from the adjustment knob on the smoker I have?

    Thus far, in terms of problem-solving for excess heat, the only ideas I've come up with are to down-size the cast iron chip/chunk plate to have less cast iron to regenerate/express heat, add fewer chunks of wood, leading to less smoke over-all, but decreasing the amount of heat generated by the wood burning, or, perhaps find some sort of baffle material to obstruct heat rising from the bottom of the smoker, which would also likely cut down on the amount of moisture coming up from the water tray, and require an adaptation to catch the grease.

    Quote Originally Posted by Halibut Chaser View Post
    I use a propane smoker but I added an adjustable regulator to it and I can get the temp down around 110-120 and it works pretty well for fish. Then when smoking sausage I can run it up to whatever needed to finish it (165-225).

  10. #10
    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruffle View Post
    My Smoke Vault can't/doesn't cook much below 230 to 250 on a cool day, sometimes even in the winter. It has an adjustment knob on the thing, but I've found that when I -do- crank it down to the lowest setting, I have to check it WAY regularly, to make sure the flame hasn't gone out due to a breeze crossing through the side vents. There seems to be no effective thermo-coupler to extinguish the flow of gas when the flame goes out, which has led to some interesting 'light shows' (low, blue, circular 'blast patterns' across the snow surface in the winter time night).

    What is this regulator you're referencing, and how is it different from the adjustment knob on the smoker I have?

    Thus far, in terms of problem-solving for excess heat, the only ideas I've come up with are to down-size the cast iron chip/chunk plate to have less cast iron to regenerate/express heat, add fewer chunks of wood, leading to less smoke over-all, but decreasing the amount of heat generated by the wood burning, or, perhaps find some sort of baffle material to obstruct heat rising from the bottom of the smoker, which would also likely cut down on the amount of moisture coming up from the water tray, and require an adaptation to catch the grease.
    I use a smoke vault also, and experienced the same issues. A couple things I've done: on warm/summer days, I dont use propane, I have a small electric heating element (kitchen stove) for my heat source. When I do have to use propane, I've added a stainless steel plate right above the burner as a baffle, and adjust the vents often to maintain the temp I need (usually 150-185).

  11. #11
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    Thanks, I'd considered the baffle concept, and have adjusted the vents in the past. (*I think as a matter of safety, and safe-guarding their investment in their business, the installation of a functional thermo-coupler would be advisable, but they don't seem to have addressed that yet).

    In my case, I prefer to smoke salmon at lower temps; some where between 110 and 130 f., thus tend to use the walk-in, wood-stove-fired, but firing it up is usually done only for larger numbers of fillets.

    Conversely, trying to get the walk-in smoker up to the finishing temps for many hot-smoked sausages (~180 f.) leaves me fearing having to apologize to neighbors I rarely speak with for burning down the neighborhood... Meaning that any time I run THAT smoker up above 150 f., I don't sleep a whole bunch... Of course, trying to maintain the walk-in at any steady temperature often means no sleep for a day or two.

    I'll give the stainless steel baffle a shot.

    Thanks.



    Quote Originally Posted by Frostbitten View Post
    I use a smoke vault also, and experienced the same issues. A couple things I've done: on warm/summer days, I dont use propane, I have a small electric heating element (kitchen stove) for my heat source. When I do have to use propane, I've added a stainless steel plate right above the burner as a baffle, and adjust the vents often to maintain the temp I need (usually 150-185).

  12. #12
    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruffle View Post
    Thanks, I'd considered the baffle concept, and have adjusted the vents in the past. (*I think as a matter of safety, and safe-guarding their investment in their business, the installation of a functional thermo-coupler would be advisable, but they don't seem to have addressed that yet).

    In my case, I prefer to smoke salmon at lower temps; some where between 110 and 130 f., thus tend to use the walk-in, wood-stove-fired, but firing it up is usually done only for larger numbers of fillets.

    Conversely, trying to get the walk-in smoker up to the finishing temps for many hot-smoked sausages (~180 f.) leaves me fearing having to apologize to neighbors I rarely speak with for burning down the neighborhood... Meaning that any time I run THAT smoker up above 150 f., I don't sleep a whole bunch... Of course, trying to maintain the walk-in at any steady temperature often means no sleep for a day or two.

    I'll give the stainless steel baffle a shot.

    Thanks.
    In addition to that baffle, I also addd an additional vent between the burner and the baffle. My thought was that I could vent off some of the excess heat before it even got to the cooking chamber. It took a while to get dialed in, but I can maintain my desited temps without too much hassle now. Electronic thermometer with 2 probes in different areas of the smoker is mandatory!!

  13. #13
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    Thanks.

    I suspect that with a 2" or 3" hole saw, a slightly larger disc of stainless steel 18 gauge sheet metal, and a single screw tightened down moderately to allow said disc to hold what ever position it's moved to, how ever many vents are required for temp control could be achieved.

    A great idea, though I'd be hesitant to increase the already problematic cross-drafting over the burner area, but I guess I can let heat out of the thing elsewhere without having the vents be that close to the burner as to cau8se further problem.

    Thanks again!

  14. #14
    Member Toklat3's Avatar
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    Heres our new cedar smokehouse, twice as big as the last one. Propane burners under both sides with a divider between.Smoke comes 25' under ground for fish up to 175f for sausage and sticksIMG_0462(1).jpgIMG_0461.jpg

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