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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling,
passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Smoking, when you have a dedicated smoker, is a pretty simple task. Throw the meat in there, get it up to par on heat, and then monitor it closely. Even easier if you have an automatic temperature controller.
Those temperature controllers can nip a lot of problems in the bud, but they don’t solve everything. Sometimes, you’ll get weird temperature fluctuations and your smoker being especially cold on the inside that your controller or even the closest attention just can’t stop.
That’s where you need to look at your smoker’s insulation. Whether it’s naturally faulty or just not good enough to keep the heat from leaking out in particularly cold weather (usually the case, as most smokers are made assuming you live in a temperate climate), you need to find a solution. Thankfully, there are a ton of simple options out there to get your grill all nicely insulated.
Read also: Doing dry runs for your smoker and grill.
1. Insulation Jackets
Grill jackets are the most “tailored” solution available.
These are aluminum and cloth sheathes for your smoker that just fit over the frame. The aluminum layer is on the outside and reflective, and each of these insulation jackets is specifically made for your particular smoker; tailor made for its dimensions.
As you can imagine, this makes an insulation jacket a less than appealing option in some cases. Not every smoker has an insulation jacket made for it after all, and it’s kind of hard to just “wing it” when it comes to these. Even if your smoker has the exact same dimensions as another you can find, it might be just slightly differently shaped enough to not work out.
However, if you do happen to have a smoker with an official insulation jacket to buy, it’s probably by far your best bet to buy, since it’s going to be perfectly fitted and designed to maximize the insulation of your smoker, so it’s worth buying.
2. Insulation Blankets
This, on the other hand, is your “catch all” solution. An insulation blanket is exactly what it sounds like; a heat resistant blanket that you wrap around your smoker. These are made large and bulky, so they provide a one size fits all approach to covering your smoker.
These ones have the aluminum layer on the inside, but otherwise functionality is the same. Wrap it around your smoker and boom, you have better insulation and a snazzy winter look for your smoker.
Just remember not to wrap this around your smoker’s firebox, as it’s not completely heat proof. It’s good for indirect heat, but the super hotness of the firebox will cause a fire if you try to wrap one of these suckers around it.
As an added bonus, this lends itself well to a specific jury-rigged solution: using a welding blanket. If you happen to already have a welding blanket around, those things are great for taking up the same purpose, being (naturally) very well insulated and heat resistant. An excellent alternative if you’re in a pinch.
3. Cement Board
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, you can use a cement board. Cement board is available from most hardware stores for a pittance (at least for the small amount you’ll need for this), and is a very practical solution if you’re into some light DIY projects.
This does require some measuring, specifically of the inside of your firebox. It goes without saying, but make sure your firebox isn’t lit, and has had time to cool down from the last time it was used before doing this. It also helps if your firebox is clean, so that say a mound of ash in a corner doesn’t throw off your measurements enough to mess up the whole thing.
Once you have those measurements, it’s just a matter of cutting or breaking that bit of cement board into the right dimensions (make sure you mark off the right measurements on the board itself: measure twice, cut once!) and sticking them into the firebox, adding a nice extra layer of insulation to it.
If you really want to improve insulation, you can even combine this method with one of the others for double the effectiveness! Though it may be overkill unless your weather is VERY cold.
4. Grill Jacket
Not all smoking is done inside a dedicated smoker; many people like to do light smoking inside their grill, and it works out quite well.
But grills can have the same issues with insulation as smokers, particularly when it comes to built in grills.
For these types of grills, you can get a grill jacket; a steel sheath around your grill that drastically improves its insulation. It also, as a side benefit, makes it less likely that your grill is going to combust something around it when it’s lit, so it’s great for safety needs as well, especially if it’s installed near a home.
These sheaths, sadly, do have a major flaw. Similar to insulation jackets, they’re tailor made for specific grills. And they’re even less flexible than those, since they’re made of rigid steel parts; it’s basically just a metal half box shop.
They’re also pretty expensive, significantly increasing the cost of your grill. These combined means that you’d better be prepared to do some research on whether your grill has its own grill jacket you can buy, whether you need it, can fit it, and can afford it before purchase.
But if you do, it both increases the efficiency of your grill and its safety, so well worth it!