Yesterday marked the biggest accomplishment in this project, the delivery and installation of the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro Hopper.
I was almost as excited to unbox the pellet hopper after work last night as I am when I get a new Macbook Pro or a new Nikon camera. I was really happy when 5:00pm rolled around and I was able to shut down the work computer and head out to the garage to work on the smoker again.
The hopper is actually a somewhat “generic” device as Smoke Daddy uses this same hopper in a number of different applications, but they do sell a retrofit kit that includes the needed hardware to mount it to a 55 gallon drum as well as a template to mark where to drill the needed holes and to cut out the section of the barrel to allow the burner to fit in the barrel.
With the template on the barrel, all that was needed was to drill 4 holes and cut out the opening. Both are very straight forward tasks but it did take a little time, and a lot of Dremel cutoff disks, the barrel’s steel was actually a bit harder than I expected and it really wore down the disks, butI had the needed holes and opening in short order.
With all the drilling and cutting done, it was a simple matter of attaching the mounting brackets with the supplied hardware and then bolting the hopper to the mounting brackets.
You will notice that there is a 3-ring binder under the corner of the pellet hopper. The hopper is actually quite heavy and I was having an issue with it not balancing well with the somewhat light barrel. I suspect that if I would have mounted the hopper over the wheel, which you can see in this picture, instead of between 2 wheels I wouldn’t have had this problem. I can think of a couple ways to address this, one being adding some sort of “foot” to the hopper or to add some weight to the other side of the barrel, I will figure that out but in the meantime I will be using a little chunk of 2×4 to hold things straight. 🙂
Once I had everything mounted up, it was time to give it a test firing so I loaded the hopper with pellets and plugged her in. Smoke Daddy sends instructions on how to fire it for the first time, you are basically priming the pellet auger and honestly, which is very straight forward and before I knew it I had the internal barrel temperature up to 225 degrees. Not shown in the picture above is a temperature sensor that you install into the barrel that regulates the hopper to maintain the temperature that you select. It seems to do a great job of keeping things where they should be.
I still have a few odds and ends to finish up before she is ready for her first brisket or tri-tip. I need to install a heat diffuser, you don’t want direct heat under the meat when you are cooking “low and slow” as well as coming up with some sort of a lid. I picked up a cheap stainless steel pizza pan that should make the perfect diffuser and I am still looking for a 22.5″ domed Weber grill lid. Regardless, I should be giving it a test run with a tri-tip on Friday or Saturday and possibly a full brisket for the big game on Sunday.