Over the last few years I have spent much time researching outdoor masonry smokers. My requirements have changed over time and I have begun to consider a multi-functional hybrid design. This post is intended to be for discussion, and hopefully build detail over the spring and summer.
Background: My original intention was to build a wood-burning masonry smoker to replace my existing patio units. As I researched, I saw many multi-purpose units that included live fire grills, pizza ovens, and rocket stove burners in addition to being a smoker. In most cases, these hybrids are separate units combined in one masonry structure. I began to drill down on pizza oven/earth oven combo units that would do both, but with separate fire.
Recently, I’ve taken up a side gig as head baker for a very small market bakery. We do sourdough bread and pies for retailing at our public market. The bakery uses a hundred year old deck oven for our bread, and this was my first exposure to baking bread this way. I am in North Central NY, so the bread ovens made by Canadian settlers from Quebec in the late 1800s/early 1900s are of particular interest to me.
Lastly, I do a lot of grilling and am a general advocate for live fire cooking in as many applications as possible. While I understand the convenience of charcoal briquettes, I much prefer cooking over hardwood and have been doing so exclusively for the last year. I’ve been building a small fire in the base of my bullet smoker and setting a grate on the fire ring. The lid balances on the bottom piece fine. This works, but I want to explore a more efficient setup as it’s essentially campfire cooking right now with no options for moving coals around without falling through the grate and the fire ring is space limiting.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been researching masonry units that make creative use of efficient burn design and may already incorporate some of the function I am looking for.
Enter, Cabin Stove.
It appears to me that with some design modifications, it may be possible to base my design on this unit. That said, I’m not an engineer and will need some help thinking through all of the practical challenges here. It’s important to note that I’ll be doing this build myself and my masonry skills are…not great. That said, I have no delusions of grandeur and expect to enjoy myself and learn a lot.
My initial thoughts are to cobble together the designs of the Cabin Stove with heated bench and the Cabin Stove with a white oven where the heated bench area would be repurposed as a brick, pit style smoking chamber (like this), but I could also be convinced that this should be a vertical cabinet style unit. For the white oven, I have drawn much inspiration from the MHA site, especially this unit and build. I don’t even know where to start in breaking those pictures down into plans or design. I also wouldn’t create a cooktop, but rather divert that heat to the heated bench/smoking chamber. Then, I’ve got to figure out how and where to include a grill component. Initially I had wanted that grill to utilize the same fire, but I’ve changed my mind there and will incorporate some sort of grill component when the full design takes shape.
All of this to ask - will this work?
My key concerns are:
- The fire and the smoker - While I don’t want sooty smoke, I do want to draw low heat out into the smoker and maintain 225-325 within a ~5 degree variance over long periods. Will a chimney on the end of the smoker box be effective in drawing heat through?
- Efficiencies canceling each other out - Can I toggle between firing an oven and heating a smoker without too much heat being lost in the one I’m not using. The goal is to use less wood than I might normally when loading a stick-burning firebox
- How big will this need to be? - I’m hoping to get the oven and fire into a ~4x4x4 square with a smoker box extending out ~3 feet. Hopefully that would leave me with at least a 36 x 24 grate area in the smoker box, but I’m pretty flexible there.
Sorry for the long post - lots to think about. Looking forward to your thoughts!