Why an Insulated Firebox will Your Life!
Everyone loves ‘Optional Extras’ boxes – whether it’s buying a car or a smoker, they give us an opportunity to customise our purchase and makes us feel like we are part of the creation process: that we’re creating something unique. It’s actually a brilliant sales technique. Many offset manufacturers will offer the option of an insulated firebox, however it’s one that is often overlooked in Australia for a variety of reasons. Here’s Why An Insulated Firebox Will Change Your Life.
Cruise any BBQ forum (are they still a thing, or is everybody on Facebook now?) and you’ll see the same three cries for help repeated over and over: ‘Why is my stickburner spiking?’, ‘My stickburner is eating me out of house and home’ and ‘I can’t sleep coz I have to throw on a log every 30 minutes’. While fire management is definitely a large part of these issues, the design of the smoker is equally important. This is where insulated fireboxes come into play.
Why An Insulated Firebox Will Change Your Life: What is an Insulated Firebox?
The traditional design of a firebox is a tube or a box made of one thickness of metal. Typically, the more expensive, the thicker the metal, and the thicker the metal, the better the heat retention and therefore efficiency. The industry standard for premium offset smokers is now 6mm (1/4”). Note that these rules don’t really apply to vertical water smokers like a Pro Q, Fornetto, or a Weber Smokey Mountain because the work on different principles.
There are many different ways to insulate a firebox, but Dan Midgely from BSG Smokers has it down to a science. He starts with a 6mm inner skin. Around this, he puts a 50mm (2”) ceramic fireproof blanket which is rated to 650C (1200F). This is then covered in a 6mm outer plate. This gives a total thickness of 62mm (2.5”) in the firebox, as opposed to just 6mm in a firebox that is not insulated.
Why An Insulated Firebox Will Change Your Life: The Proof
The primary argument against getting an insulated firebox is that Australia simply isn’t cold enough to warrant an insulated firebox. To a certain degree this is true: there is only one tiny part of Australia that is cold enough for snow, and I have it on good authority that most of that is man-made! However, there are many more sides to this argument than just atmospheric temperature. The most important one being efficiency.
An insulated firebox has been proven to radically increase efficiency, and thereby result in steadier fires – less falls and spikes. But just how much more efficient are they?
In experiments done at BSG Smokers, Dan has found that smokers with his insulated firebox use 50-60% less fuel than those with traditional fireboxes. To use specific numbers, in his competition team BLVD (in which he partners with Josh Lawson), Dan found that they used just two milk crates of an iron bark for an entire Australasian Barbecue Alliance competition. These findings have been confirmed by a leading competition team The Smoking Hot Bros who use a BSG offset and have returned almost identical statistics.
And we’re not talking little pits here either. Josh’s pit is 24 inches by 1800mm (6ft), while The Smoking Hot Bros’ pit is a whopping 30 inches by 2400mm (8ft).
Furthermore, with correct use of tuning plates it’s possible on these monster pits to maintain a difference of just 3C (5F) from one end to the other.
Why An Insulated Firebox Will Change Your Life: Conclusions
Clearly, while ticking that box for an insulated firebox is an added expense, when you’re saving 60% on your fuel costs and delivering more consistent cooks, you’ll be making that money back in no time. Not to mention having a lot more fun and a lot less stress. It’ll even make life easier just only having to transport half the amount of fuel to a competition!
For more information on insulated pits, pit design, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of your offset smoker, check out my full interview with Dan from BSG Smokers on: