Modifying the Smoke Hollow 47180t: The Charcoal Grate (Plus bonus mod!)

In this installment of Modifying the Smoke Hollow 47180t, I will show you the custom charcoal grate I installed in my smoker box. This mod is fairly simple and inexpensive and doesn’t take too long to complete. Plus, at the end of this simple walk-through I will show you a bonus mod! So click through for some hot smoker modding action!

The problem: Outdoor Leisure Products (OLP) designed the Smoke Hollow’s smoker box to accomodate the burning of wood logs, not charcoal. Since I burn Kingsford charcoal briquets exclusively, the factory log grate won’t suffice. The answer? A custom-fitted charcoal grate made from 3/4″ expanded metal!

The Smoke Hollow factory log grate. No charcoal’s going to fit on there.

Here is an inventory of everything you need to install a custom-fitted charcoal grate:

  1. One 3/4x24x24″ expanded metal sheet (this can be purchased from Home Depot for about $20)
  2. Five 1/2×4.5″ hex bolts
  3. Ten 1/2″ nuts and washers
  4. Jigsaw with metal blade (or hacksaw)
  5. Tape measure and chalk
  6. Wrench and socket set

(Almost) everything you’ll need for creating your charcoal grate.

First things first, you need to trim the expanded metal sheet down to size. The inside dimensions of the smoke box are 14″x16.5″. First I took my measurements and marked the metal with chalk, then used a jigsaw to trim the main sheet to leave about 1/4″ of space from each side of the smoke box.

Use chalk to make your marks on the expanded metal.

There was a large enough piece of metal left over to stack with the primary piece for reinforcement. This expanded sheet is sure to warp a little under in intense heat of the charcoal (more on this below).

Two trimmed sheets of expanded metal. Watch those sharp edges!

Now that the pieces are trimmed, it’s time to begin assembling the legs of the grate. Begin by screwing a nut and washer onto one of your hex bolts. I wanted my grate to sit about 4″ off the bottom, so I bought hex bolts that gave me the elevation I needed without having too much sticking up from the top of the grate.

A single 4.5″ hex bolt with nut and washer.

After prepping the five bolts, I stacked the two trimmed pieces of metal and attached the bolts by threading the open ends through the expanded metal and securing a washer and nut on the other side. I placed one bolt in each of the four corners and one in the middle for support. I stacked the smaller piece of expanded metal on the bottom to leave all the surface area of the top piece uninterrupted. It’s very important that you connect the four corner bolts a couple inches from the longer edges to make sure you have plenty of support, but more importantly so that you can insert and remove the grate through the door of your smoker box with ease. If those legs are too close to the edge it’ll never clear. Also, keep the sheets aligned to leave room for charcoal ash to fall through.

The custom-fitted charcoal grate fully assembled and ready to go.

With this charcoal grate installed, I can now easily use charcoal in my Smoke Hollow smoker box. Here’s a photo of the grate installed:

The charcoal grate installed. The 4.5″ hex bolts are just the right size.

Here’s another view from above:

Look at all that surface area ready for some charcoal.

I’m really pleased with this mod. I can now easily employ the Minion method for my charcoal without worrying about briquets falling through or off either side. This was a no-brainer and I recommend it to anyone who owns a Smoke Hollow like mine. Happy modding!

Bonus mod: Smoke box heat deflector
In my attempt to optimize my Smoke Hollow to maximize the efficiency of the transfer of heat from the smoke box to the food chamber I installed a heat deflector in the top of the smoke box. Here’s the reason why.

The lid of the smoke box is several inches deep. This will ensure that at least some of the heat from your fuel will rise into the lid and either be trapped there or lost through the lid seam. My solution? Something quick and simple. I simply cut a piece of metal flashing and set it directly beneath the grate.

The trimmed metal flashing fits perfectly in place.

This does not create an air-tight seal, but that’s not the point. The flashing and grate combo serves to deflect the majority of the rising heat and energy from going into the smoke box lid which allows more of it to transfer over to the food chamber.

No airtight seal here, but none is needed to accomplish the objective.

There you have it. With this mod you are one step closer to smoking nirvana.

Update (10-16-12) – Charcoal Amounts
In response to a comment below I am posting the following two pictures to show how much charcoal I start out with when smoking something. See the comments for more information.

A full chimney worth of charcoal piled close to the food chamber.

Another full chimney of lit charcoal to go on top.

32 thoughts on “Modifying the Smoke Hollow 47180t: The Charcoal Grate (Plus bonus mod!)

  1. Thanks for multiple posts regarding the Smoke Hollow 47180T. It was very helpful in my decision to buy one today at my local Sam’s Club for $350. It’s my first grill ever, so I’m looking forward to learning how to use this beast of a grill. Keep the posts coming!

  2. Shawn, you are more than welcome. I’m like you in that I try to read about other people’s experiences with a product before spending my own money on it. I’m happy to know that my comments have proved helpful to you in your own shopping process.

    You will definitely enjoy this smoker as long as a.) You are patient with it and are careful to learn how to use it properly (keep in mind that this is technically a ‘cheap’ smoker), and b.) You are willing to put a little extra effort into improving it and making it your own. Come back and share with me your thoughts and experiences with it as you go.

  3. Like your firebox mods. With mine, I flipped the stick burner grate upside down and set a cooking grate on top of it, works grate. I’ve been thinking about the deflector plate under the lid also. Do you have problems with paint peeling on your firebox. Would love to hear about your other mods.

  4. Thanks, Jason. I was doing the exact same thing with my wood grate, but I hated how a.) charcoal would always fall off the sides, and b.) I was using the grate from my sear burner and it was getting sort of nasty from the charcoal. I’m not having any paint issues that I’m aware of. Sometimes what looks like paint peeling inside of a smoker is really just flaking smoke/grease/carbon buildup and not paint at all. I don’t even think that this particular smoker has paint on it, but I suppose I could be wrong.

  5. Thanks for your helpful article- I will try the firebox mod when I get home- I just got the 4 in 1 mentioned above about 2 months ago and am used to the near cheating-like ease of an electric smoker. I have had an awful time trying to get my 4-1 to keep temperature. I have read up on various forums and done several mods and though things have gotten better its still not great (yet)

    Do you have any photos or can you describe the amount of kingsford you use and approximately how long that quantity burns for?

    • Ryan, thanks for the comment. When using my smoker, I start out with one full chimney of unlit charcoal piled close to the food chamber side of the firebox. Then I add one full chimney of lit charcoal on top of the first pile. I have added pictures above. This gives a nice, slow burn for 2-3 hours, depending on the conditions and how hot you want it. Honestly, this type of inefficient smoker burns through a lot of coal, so I only use it for short smokes, like ribs and fatties. If I’m doing a shoulder or brisket I use my electric rig. Let me know if you have any other questions for me.

  6. Great blog about this smoker. I have a couple questions if you don’t mind. I just bought one of these and I am putting your mods as well as the ones on the Chris G blog. I am almost done with it and hope to season it pretty soon. My questions are first, alot of reviews I have seen on this say it rusts prematurely. Have you had any issues with yours? I decided to put a coat of Rustoleum 1000 degree paint on everything except the inside of the charcoal chamber to try and extend the life. Second, can you tell me what your system is for starting it up for smoking and how you maintain your temps. Like where do you set your dampers? Do you leave the lid on the food chamber open or propped a little to start it drafting. How much charcoal do you add when you add it during a smoke. I know it won’t be acurate to what I need but I am just loking for a starting point. I have never smoked anything before so I want to know where to start.

    • Kim, thanks for visiting and asking some questions. Here are some thoughts:

      1. I have not had any rust issues, but this is because I take good care of it. I have not put a single thing on it except a nice grill cover. I’m careful to never leave it out or even use it in any precipitation. If I ever drip any liquid on it I am always careful to dry it up. It’s pretty simple, really. Take care of your equipment and it should last a long time.

      2. Here is a summary of how I fuel my smoker for the average smoke. I pour one 3/4 to full chimney of unlit charcoal into the firebox and make a pile right up next to the hole that connects to the smoke chamber. Then I light a second 3/4 to full chimney of charcoal and let it heat up until all the coals are slightly covered in ash. Then I pour the lit coals right on top of the unlit coal, Minion style, and use some tongs to keep the pile tight and neat (see the pictures up above for reference). Depending on the target cooking temp and weather conditions, I will add more lit charcoal every 1.5-2 hours. However, because this smoker will never be super efficient, I never really use it for prolonged smokes (ie. briskets, shoulders, etc.), otherwise you’ll burn through bags upon bags of charcoal in no time. For anything longer than 4-6 hours I use my electric smoker.

      3. To maintain my temps: I never use the front damper. I generally open the chimney all the way and only adjust the side damper on the smokebox itself. If you use as much charcoal as I have already mentioned, and the weather is cooperating, and you have done all the mods I have listed on my blog, you should have no trouble maintaining good smoking temps. That said, this smoker needs a lot of TLC to keep the temps right. Invest in a good Maverick remote, dual probe thermometer to keep track of the internal temps and stick around. There is “no set it and forget it” here. Sometimes you will have trouble getting the temps up, other times you’ll have to occasionally open the food chamber to vent some of the excess heat. It all depends on the conditions, but over time you’ll get the hang of it. Just be patient. This smoker is not for people unwilling to spend some time and energy on cooking their food.

      4. I never leave the lid open for any reason. In fact, I almost never open it until the food is done. “If you’re lookin’ you aint cookin’.”

      Welcome to the smoking world! You are in for a lot of fun and good times. Just know that while I wholeheartedly recommend this smoker, the first few times I used it I got pretty frustrated. I didn’t have anyone to give me any tips, so it was trial and error for me. I hope that these and my other musings on this smoker will help you along the way. My recommendation: Start simple. Smoke a fatty or something that doesn’t require a lot of skill and is hard to screw up. Then go on from there. Feel free to come back and share your experiences with us. Enjoy!

  7. Sean, thank’s for the info on your starting and maintaining. I agree with the long smoke times. I was figuring if I am smoking a brisket or Pork shoulder I would use this unit up to around the 165 mark then wrap and transfer to the oven to finish it off and save the charcoal. I also agree with your take care of your equipment. I believe that alot of the people giving the bad reviews to this unit are buying it and leaving it out in the weather and then their mad it rusted. Hello, it’s metal. Metal will rust. I am glad I decided to disassemble the rest of the unit and start off with a good paint job for the initial build because I think with care (I already bought a cover and like you I plan on keeping it in the garage or shed out of the weather) This thing should last me a while. my only other concern for longevity is burn through on the fire box. After this season when winter hits I will probably take the fire box off and weld some steel plates onto the bottom and sides to build it up. I can imagine your frustration starting from scratch with this. I was wondering if it was a good purchase after reading the reviews from Sams Club and Gander Mountain but thanks to your time putting this blog together I believe I made a good purchase for my first smoker. Thanks again.-Kim

  8. Thanks for these posts. I bought a smoke hollow last week and plan to put together this weekend. Your explanation of the mods and material is a huge help. I am unclear though, did your friend use the rtv high temp gasket maker as cement to put on the nomex gasket or am I misunderstanding? Also, after some time has passed how is it holding up? Thanks.

  9. Sorry about the question, got confused where I’d read about the gasket mod. Really appreciate the info though and will be back.

  10. So after much review and looking and review and looking… since about last July or August I finally bought this grill tonight!! If no one has noticed there have been some updates made to the grill! Two noticeable ones are the placement of the propane tank instead of the flimsy ring, it is now part of the bottom shelf and sits behind a wall that has two small shelves on the front! Another change is the heat shield on the fire box, not sure if it will work as well as what you show above but at least it seems they might have been reading some of the complaints and blogs! I will have to let you know if it works or not once I get this beast assembled and going in the next couple weeks! I do have to ask though.. what is the proper way to “cure” the grill before the first real grill? and why does it need to be “cured”? The charcoal grill I have now I never did this with and have never had an issue so actually does it even need to be done? thanks for your pics and blog!!

    • Congratulations on your purchase! I find the changes they have made quite interesting. Please come back and tell us all about your experience.

      The curing process is simply intended to purify the cooking area of your smoker by the burning away of any foreign particles left over from the manufacturing process. It’s also supposed to help the paint against rust and remove foul odors. I’m pretty sure that curing is essential for new smokers, so it will probably be worth your time to go ahead and do it once just to be safe. Besides, it will give you a chance to become acquainted with your equipment without the pressure of cooking any food.

  11. thank you for posting the pics of the mods. I am considering purchasing this grill combo and you are helping my decision. i think i am sold!

  12. My brother and I are considering purchasing this grill and have been doing a lot of research to find out more about it from actual users. Your site offers some of the best info I have come across.

    What I would like to know is, we don’t have a garage and short of dragging it in an out of the basement, up and down stairs every time we want to use it [not gonna happen], it will have to live outside. We will definitely get a sturdy cover for it. Do you have any advice on what to do to extend the life a grill exposed to the elements?

    Thanks

    • Ideally you will want this grill stored indoors, but I completely understand if you can’t. I myself moved last fall and was forced to store it (semi)outdoors under a covered front porch. I ended up buying a Weber cover that was wide enough to actually fit my grill from Home Depot. It was a good thing, too. Between rain that blows in to dew to dust, my grill would have been a disaster without the cover. The cover itself is ok. What I have found is that the spots where the cover rubs against hard angles – particularly around the chimney area – tend to wear down and some holes have appeared. You can address those as they come, or you can just buy a new cover when the time arises. Whatever you do, though, you simply must cover it if kept outdoors. That said, my Smoke Hollow is in perfect shape after an entire fall, winter, and spring outdoors, so it can be done.

      Thanks for visiting, NightOwl.

  13. Sir,
    First i want to commend you on the blog you have in place! Now to the “meat” of my comment.
    I just purchased the updated smoke hollow with the shelving and relocation of the tank and the one thing I am waiting for before firing it up this season is the rtv sealant i just ordered off amazon to seal the smoker box seams and chimney. The other is the gasket material i just ordered as well. For the smoke hollow, the one thing you did was place the sheet metal below the grate, of the smoke box. I’m hoping that instead of using the sheet metal that the gaskets will close the top of both the fire box and the charcoal section of the grill. To each their own, as everyone knows when you are bbq’ing, its more the social event where the cook is both cook and a showman, so if the gathering is large enough, I’d rather not lose the second section for its own ability to charcoal. Just my thoughts on the matter.
    As for your other mod the deflector, I have already gone to my local “box” store, who shall remain nameless >_<, to get the material to do so, because as you've shown it is something needed to keep a good even temp! My hats off to you on that one!
    Last thought is have you tried doing a charcoal wood combo box instead of just the charcoal, while the charcoal does have its own distinct flavor, adding an apple wood or hickory also adds it owns flavors and does alter how your rubs and sauces will work with your bbq. Good luck in the near future and I look forward to any more updates you have coming!

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      I think you’ll probably be fine with sealing the smoke box with the gasket. The reason I chose to use the sheet metal is because I didn’t want any heat to get caught in the smoke box lid. Rather, I wanted to force every bit of available heat to the food chamber since the issue I was battling was lack of heat. I’m anxious to hear how your own experience works itself out. It might be best to do both options!

      As for using a charcoal/wood mixture, I always use hardwoods when I smoke. I treat the charcoal as my heat source and my hard woods as my flavor source, if that makes sense.

      Please come back and update us after you’ve experimented yourself. Thanks!

  14. Wow. so excited to find your blog. just picked up the “beast” as I’ve already called it 🙂 I have not assembled it yet but I have a very big question. (well, lots of questions actually) Do you or others actually put charcoal in the in the main cooker (the middle one) and what about a water pan? how does all this work?!?! I’ve read so much and some things don’t make sense. ( I am new to smoking but a very big griller as I’m Argentinian). You’ve got the actual smoke box with charcoal and maybe some wood chips/versus no charcoal and only wood chips. and in the middle, is there also charcoal? and a water pan? What exactly would the water pan do? It seems the water would be for steaming. I’m hoping I can make sense of all my thoughts so things become logical before I start. Thank you so much!!
    Leo

    • Leo,

      Thanks for the questions. Here are a few answers, and hopefully others can chime in and offer some insights as well:

      1. I have only put charcoal in the middle chamber a couple of times. That would only be if I am doing direct cooking, like for a steak or chops or something. If you are slow-cooking, your heat source should go in the smoke box on the right. Of course, you could technically still smoke something by placing the charcoal in the middle chamber, but that is not its intended purpose.

      2. What I have done is I put all my heat source (charcoal) in the smoke box on the right. Then in the charcoal rack beneath the food in the middle chamber I place a foil pan full of hot water. This water pan does two main things: 1. It provides much needed moisture as the water in the pan evaporates when it heats, but, more importantly, 2. The water in the pan helps regulate and control the air temperature. It is for this same reason that I suggest adding some paver bricks or something to the bottom of the middle chamber to create some thermal mass. The thin metal walls of “the beast” don’t hold heat very well, therefore your temps will fluctuate. Adding other elements that will hold heat longer will ensure your temps don’t jump up and down too much, which means you can maintain the steady temps necessary for low and slow cooks.

      I will point out that this smoker takes a lot of practice to be able to smoke at a steady temp. I strongly recommend that you modify your smoker with every modification you see on this blog as these changes will make your smoker more usable. Also, be patient with yourself and use each cooking opportunity to learn something new and refine your technique. That’s the fun of smoking!

  15. Thank you so much for that well needed bit about the water pan.. But the lever that raises the grate up)if it were charcoal) but now i understand it should be a water pan ), Am I to still use it to raise the water pan up and down? I also read about putting some small pavers in there to hold up a” heat shield” with grooves cut out to help spread the heat out. But in reference to the water pan, should it just sit on the pavers in one spot or be moved up and down? And, since water does evaporate, how much should i have in the pan? ( basically put, how much will last for how long? Not wanting to open cooktop to much. (and or not at all) would a 12″ x2 sq. aluminum brownie pan suffice? Sorry for all the amateurish questions, but the more i’m aware f how everything works, I believe the better start I’ll get. And btw, there instruction booklet is worthless!

    • Don’t apologize for asking questions! The lever that raises the grate is for when you are using charcoal in it. This way you can control how close the heat source is to your food for when you are grilling.

      That grate doubles as a place to hold a water pan for when you are smoking in that middle chamber instead. The water pan does not need to move, and a simple brownie pan will do. Just fill the pan up and check it after several hours. If it needs more water pour some boiling water from a pitcher in there and hurry and close your lid. Chances are, however, that your water won’t all dry up and this won’t even be necessary. Trial and error is your only friend when it comes to this.

  16. Ok here it is my Smoke Hollow modded smoker, I lined the smoke box and the fire box with 16 gauge sheet metal and riveted it in and that includes the lid which you can see in the pic’s. I also did the fire box mod and used 1/8 in. plate in place of the cooking grate.And I also used high temp silicone to seal all the open holes and cracks. I made my stack 24 in. and buried it 4 in. into the lid. I am very happy with the finished result it holds heat well I can 250 like nobodys business and raised and lowered the heat as needed took up to 300 with just charcoal and a couple small logs of oak that was to season it.

  17. Hi Sean, love the blog and all the helpful info on modding the Smoke Hollow grills. I just purchased a Smoke Hollow model 3500 which is basically the same as the 1800CGS. This combo grill looks pretty much the same as it’s big brother the 47180T, just a little smaller. Do you have any opinions on this smaller version?
    I plan on doing all the mods but the smoker box is quite a bit smaller and round. I’m hoping I can get a modified “basket” in there and make it easy to access.
    I’m looking forward to doing some charcoal smokes for a change as I already have a Bradley electric smoker with a dual element mod and an Auber temperature controller. I love to DIY.

    • Jerry, thanks for the visit, comment, and compliments. I don’t know much about the 3500, but from the pictures I have seen I have a few observations:

      • The rubber bumpers on the bottom of the lid on the charcoal side need to go. Any unsealed seam will leak precious hot air.
      • The rounded smoke box might create some problems for you. The grate in there might need to go too, and from the pictures I see I cannot tell how high the passageway to the food chamber is in relation to where your heat source will be. You just need to focus on making the transfer of heat from one chamber to the other as efficient as possible.
      • Speaking of which, all the previously mentioned mods on this site should apply, particularly JB Welding the seams and installing the gasket.
      • Does this model lack an adjustable charcoal grate? If so, that might be an advantage as it would make installing a deflector plate even easier for you.
      • I think having a smaller version of the 4-in-1 might be a real advantage to you. While you lose precious cooking space, chances are you don’t intend to fix 6 racks of ribs at a time anyway. Having a more compact cooking space will make your heat management easier, and that’s the name of the game with this type of smoker. I have actually abandoned my 4-in-1 for most smokes in favor of a smaller and simpler Weber kettle.

      You’ve got a good lookin’ rig there. I’d love to see some pics of your mods when they are done as well as hear about the results of your cooking. I have always enjoyed my Smoke Hollow and I am sure you will too.

  18. Is the airflow into the smokebox to the food chamber supposed to first flow under and through the charcoal/woodchips?
    The vent on the side of my 3500’s rounded smokebox is up higher than the level the coals would be.

    Is this a problem with airflow as I would think you would want the airflow to come from under the coals and up through rather than over the top? Or will airflow over top the coals be good enough?

  19. Jerry, I don’t think it’ll make a significant difference. As the air comes in it is heated by the coals as it is transferred into the food chamber. Having the intake a little high might have some impact on your airflow efficiency, but probably not enough to have a noticeable impact like, say, having leaky seams would. But I’m no expert on this topic. I wonder if another reader has some insights or a link to an article that might be helpful.

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