The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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To Know Where You Are Going, You Must Know Where You’ve Been

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For too many reasons to mention, I haven’t been grilling lately. I was trying to come up with something to write about for a blog entry and was drawing a blank. This morning I was surfing some BBQ related related message boards and a post I read gave me my topic. I might call it Mods Mania, but let me not get ahead of myself. The post in question took a CG Trio, which is CG’s combination gas grill, charcoal grill and offset charcoal smoker and used the cannibalized guts of a gas grill to add gas grill burners to the SFB (Side Fire Box) for the offset smoker. This got me to thinking about the many posts I see by eager new owners unboxing their grills and then rushing to pimp them out. They end up adding almost anything and everything. One of these days I am sure I will see an AM/FM stereo. I will use the CG in this blog because that is what I own, but the same is true of any other grill. This blog isn’t going to necessarily discourage you from doing non-sanctioned mods to your smoker, but it is going to suggest a wait and see approach. I’ll also touch on gas and charcoal grill mods too.

The poster I saw today didn’t like using charcoal. My first question is why by a 3-way grill where 2 of the 3 functions are for charcoal? But I digress. The guy added gas burners to the bottom of the SFB. He then puts foil packs of wood chips on the cooking grate of the SFB and uses the gas burner to heat the chips to make smoke and indirectly heat the food. While I like both my gas grill and my CG, there is no comparison between the amount of wood smoke flavor I get out of using wood chips on the gas grill and wood chunks and charcoal on the CG. The gas grill is best described as a hint of smoke flavor. But that is why I have the smoker, so I can use the wood chunks to get true smoked flavor. The real puzzle about this to me was why bother? If you want to use gas to indirectly smoke the food: Open up propane side of the Trio, put the food over an unlit burner, put the chips over a lit burner and voila same thing without hacking the grill. While this post may be an extreme case, you read posts all the time from folks making mods to their brand new CG’s (or other grills). Many of them are doing it as soon as they get their hands on the grill. I am not going to say don’t do it, I am going to say wait a bit and learn.


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The one and only mod I made to my CG was to use a pair of CG branded charcoal baskets made for the Main Chamber in the SFB.

I have owned my CG since 2005. The only mod I have made to it involves using the charcoal baskets CG sells for the main chamber as larger charcoal holders for the SFB. This was something virtually everybody does and it worked for virtually everybody who tried it. I had seen mods on the CG family thread on the Barbecue Bible website, some looked very interesting but I wanted to use the basic CG and learn how it performed. I gotta say I was very impressed with the CG. It seems dialed in to 225 degrees (105 C) and I had little trouble using it except for cold and/or windy days. I’ve learned the performance of my CG in all kinds of weather. After owning the CG for a few months I knew enough about it’s baseline performance, I would be able to tell if a mod I made to it actually improved the performance. I was happy enough with the baseline performance I didn’t spring for any mods. I used the money I would have used for mods to the CG to buy a 10x10 (3x3) EZ-up shelter, which covers my CG and gas grill 9 months of the year. I think I got far more out of that expenditure than I would have for any mod of my CG. I keep saying I will get some welders blankets for the winter for the CG and now that I’ve found a source locally, this might actually be the year. The money I spent on the EZ-up wouldn’t have helped here. I don’t use the EZ-up in the Winter and would have had this expense anyway.

When I do get the welders blankets I will be able to tell right away how much of an improvement there was in the performance over the uncovered CG. That is my whole point: Don’t make an “improvement” until you know where you’re starting from. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read posts from folks who have modded their CG’s and don’t know if the “improvement” improved anything. They are posting a question where not only don’t they know if the did the mod right, they often don’t know what the base performance is that they should have had to begin with. Always, always, always know where you are starting from. Then your mod should improve things and not make them worse. So it may be tempting to get your shiny new grill out of the box and start modifying it right away. Resist the temptation and get to know your grill. Trust me you’ll also feel better latter when you can tell someone: “I added X and now Y lasts twice as long.

Another smart thing to do is make one modification at a time. This way you can see if there is actually a measurable improvement for this modification. If you make multiple modifications and something goes wrong, there is no way of easily telling which one caused the problem. I’ve seen posts about this type of thing multiple times. Someone posts that they did a,b,c and their CG isn’t working right, what should they do? By doing multiple mods one at a time, it is easy to tell which one caused the problem. So once again I am not saying: “Don’t do mods to your GC”. I am just saying work smart and you won’t waste time troubleshooting problems.

Now another type of improvement that is similar but different are accessories made by the grill manufacturer for your grill. I’m not talking about third party add ons here, but accessories made by Sears for Sears or Weber for Weber or CG for CG. Third party add ons that are one size fits all can be questionable. But it is usually safe to buy the manufacturers accessories for their own line of grills and install them when you get home with the grill. But and this is a BIG but....but you should still visit some web forums and do some research. You may find the items work, but not as good as other solutions. An example of this is Weber introduced some drop in modular inserts for their kettle grills in the last year. The center of the grill grate is removable and gets replaced with a searing station (flat top griddle), a wok and some other items too I believe. Looked like a great idea on paper. I know I love the modular inserts Sears made to replace my gas grill’s cooking grates. However when folks actually started using them the common complaints were the searing station was too small to be effective and you were better off just using a regular wok. So before coming home with the accessories for your grill, do some web research first. A last piece of advice is don’t wait to long to get the accessories made specifically for your grill. My Sears Kenmore Elite grill had a two year run. I bought it in 2003 and all of the accessories and add ons were plentiful that first summer. In summer of 2004 the grill was still being sold, but only about half of the accessories were in the store. I always try to get the rotisserie made specifically for my grill. The third party ones are often some assembly required when you go to use them and the spit rods are often 2 or 3 piece vs. the manufacturers single piece spit. So research your manufacturers accessories, but don’t wait to long to buy them.


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By learning what my CG was capable of before making any mods (other than the charcoal baskets) I found I was happy enough with the smoker as is. The money I didn’t spend on additional mods, I was able to spend on a 10x10 EZ-Up shelter that benefits my smoker and gas grill 8 months out of the year. Far better bang for my buck IMHO.

So I am not saying you shouldn’t modify your grill, just do it when it is a smart time to do it. For mods not sanctioned by the manufacturer, run the grill without them for a while to see how good it works stock. You may end up being like me where you can spend your mod money for something that will give you more bang for your buck. The mods I didn’t do to my CG paid for an EZ-up. Or you could use money saved to buy some prime cuts of beef. You can do mods using your manufacturers accessories right away. But do read up on the toys you plan to buy to see if they are really worth it. In fact the more grill specific they are the sooner you should grab them. Grill lines often change yearly and their accessories may be around less time than that. In conclusion let me repeat the title of this blog: To know where you are going, you must know where you’ve been.

RELATED LINK:
Shortly after I wrote this entry I ended up buying a new Le Creuset Dutch Oven. When I did I discovered they’d added new features and improvements to the product line. This is the subject of the follow-up blog entry I wrote in 2012:
DUTCH OVEN 2

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