Man has smoked meat and other foods for thousands of years. Cooking with smoke has always been a science and an art. While it is infinitely easier today to cook food, there’s just no substitute for the scrumptious flavor that slow smoking adds.
Unfortunately, many of today’s commercially made vertical smokers are not adequately insulated so as to not lose heat during the smoking process. It seems that modern man could learn a few things from ancient man. This heat loss problem leaves us having to insulate our smokers. Fortunately, we can tell you how to insulate a smoker.
How to Insulate Smokers
Method #1 Insulating Jacket
Smoker supply companies sell generic smoker insulation jackets. Being generic, they adequately fit several smokers. Smoker manufacturers, on the other hand, commonly make insulation jackets that are designed to perfectly fit each model of smoker that they sell.
Whether generic or custom-fit, smoker insulation jackets are generally made of aluminum-covered fabric. Some are covered with silicone. They effectively keep the heat in and save energy.
Perhaps the smoker manufacturers actually do know what they are doing when it comes to designing their smokers.
Well-built, adequately insulated smokers would create sticker shock, which would discourage consumers from buying smokers.
Whatever the reason for their heat-losing designs, smokers continue to sell well, as do the needed smoker insulation jackets.
Not only do the custom-fit jackets keep the heat in, but consumers know they would fit their smokers.
While it would be handy to know how to insulate a vertical smoker, you’ve got to admit that having a ready-made smoker insulation jacket would be the easiest and quickest way to insulate a poorly insulated vertical smoker.
Method #2 Insulation Blanket
Another smoker insulation product that you can find at a smoker supply company is a newer innovation. It is a material insulation blanket, which has an aluminum layer and a fabric layer. You put the aluminum layer next to the smoker and wrap the blanket around the smoker.
Being a blanket, it is a one-size-fits-all solution, although some blankets are meant to be laid over the top and strapped together below.
Some blankets wrap completely around a smoker up to several times and stay in place from their own weight.
Other blankets are made to be wrapped around the edges of the smoker, leaving the top of the smoker not covered, and closing on the side with a Velcro closure feature. Be sure that you don’t wrap it around the firebox.
Obviously, you don’t need your bbq smoker insulation blanket to fit as an insulation jacket does.
Insulation blankets for smokers work well, even when smoking food during extreme weather conditions. An insulation blanket promotes heat consistency and very even smoking of meats and other foods whenever the outside temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Method #3 Welding Blanket
Although they vary in materials, thickness, and temperature tolerance, an insulated welding blanket is designed to protect welders from both heat and fire sparks and to hold up well. Even molten metal does not damage the structural integrity of these blankets.
They’re made with inorganic heat-resistant fibrous material and unexpanded vermiculite. Some contain fiberglass also. Historically, they contained asbestos, but they no longer do.
They’re stitched together with fiberglass or high-temperature Kevlar sewing threads. They handle temperatures between 300 and 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because they are made to withstand high heat and deflect it, a welding blanket makes a great smoker blanket.
There is every reason to consider using a welding blanket for smoker insulation purposes. Just make sure the welding blanket you use is made to handle your smoker’s maximum temperature.
You can often find a welding blanket wherever there are construction supplies. As you might do with an insulation blanket, you wrap a welding blanket around the smoker as many times as possible and avoid covering the firebox. The welding blanket will stay in place by its own weight.
Method #4 Cement Board
A cement board is one of just a few commonly used solutions for firebox heat loss. It is also the only smoker insulation method that is applied to the inside of a smoker.
Cement is made of iron ore, silica sand, blast furnace slag, slate, clay, shale, chalk or marl, shells, and limestone.
It is made through a chemical combination of iron, aluminum, silicon, calcium, and other ingredients.
These ingredients withstand extremely high heat and help to keep that heat within the firebox.
Exactly what ingredients are included in any cement board you are considering, you’ll want to investigate with its manufacturer. If the board puts harmful chemicals into the air and into your food, that would not be good for your health.
Once you are happy with the cement board you have selected, you can quickly insulate your smoker with it. Here are the steps to make cement board insulation for your smoker:
- Check that no fuel is burning in the firebox.
- Measure the inside of the firebox with a tape measure and mark those measurements on both sides of your cement board.
- Score cut marks on both sides of your cement board where you want to cut it.
- Lay the cement board on a flat surface and hang the extra part over the edge.
- With the edge of the work table lined up with a scored line, press down on the undesired piece so as to break it off.
- Place the pieces against the interior walls of the firebox.
- Use one of the other three methods in conjunction with this method. As always, do not cover the firebox with any of the fabrics. The cement board applied to the inside of your smoker is all you will need to insulate the firebox.
Other Reasons to Insulate a Smoker
Adequate insulation is needed to properly cook and smoke food in a smoker. The insulation jacket, insulation blanket, welder blanket, and cement board keep your smoker’s heat in, assuring you of properly cooked and smoked meats and other foods.
The three outer insulation methods also protect your grill from the elements if they cover the top as well as the sides.
Without outer insulation, metal smokers deteriorate over time from exposure to:
A Word about Insulating Fireboxes
An alternative to using cement board may be to sandwich insulation of some sort between two layers of metal. You’ll want to use thick enough metal on the outside of the firebox to allow it to withstand the elements and high heat for many years.
Through time, man has smoked meat and other food. Cob ovens were used up until modern times when electricity changed the way most of us cooked. Even when using modern appliances, smoking food remains a process that takes time and must be done correctly to get the desired results.
Smoked food must cook at hot enough temperatures to cook thoroughly. It must cook long enough to develop the desired smoked flavor throughout. Many of today’s smokers do not retain heat. Insulation jackets, blankets, welders blankets, and firebox alterations bring smoker performance up to the needed level