Smokey Joe Thermometer Mod

by zydecopaws on July 26, 2009

The things you do on a Sunday when you’re alone… Get your mind out of the gutter, I modified one of my Weber Smokey Joe Platinum grills today and added a thermometer. Why do this to a portable grill, you might ask? So that I could experiment with smoking on a smaller scale and turn this portable grill into a truly all-around device.

The modification process used the same equipment and design philosophy as the WSM thermometer mod discussed previously. Here’s a picture of the unmodified kettle.

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I thought about mounting the thermometer in the grate vent, but was concerned about the ability to do so and still be able to open and close the vent. I might give that a shot in the future, as one of the concerns I have about placement of the thermometer directly over the coals and getting a lot higher temperature reading than over where food will be cooking. I will likely have to get out the old candy thermometer and wine cork to see how much variation there is at the vent.

The first step in the mod was to put some painter’s tape on the kettle to keep the porcelain from chipping. A few taps on a center punch to score the metal, and it was time to drill.

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As before, I pulled out the trusty Unibit and cordless drill and had at the lid of the kettle. And yes, I did wear my safety goggles.

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I got better results with the hole this time, and there were no signs of damage to the porcelain finish (other than the hole I just drilled).

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The thermometer was mounted, and as you can see from the picture the placement was just about right. Any further from the handle and there would be issues with the lid holder bracket on the back of the kettle.

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Inside clearance was good too.

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Here’s a shot of the finished product. Now it’s time to fire it up and see if the temps can be controlled enough to go low and slow.

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UPDATE: This placement of the thermometer is not optimal. I tested temps coming from the vent and the installed thermometer is running about 100°F hotter than measured at the vent. Since the vent is directly over the food and not the coals, this is to be expected (yeah, I know, should have seen this coming) and I will have to try a different location. SmokinManBBQ suggested putting it in the side near the grill so as to get a good reading where the cooking is going on, but there are some barriers to doing this that will have to be overcome to pull that off. Worst case is that I drill out the vent rivet and put it over the vent. Stay tuned…

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

smokinmanbbq July 26, 2009 at 1:11 pm

That’s a great tip, but I would have installed the thermometer closer to the grate in the lid putting you closer to the heat source. By installing it on the side it would give you a more accurate reading. That’s the problem with most manufacturers, they install the thermometer on the top of the lid where the heat rises and it’s not a true reading of the temperature where your meat is cooking. SM

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zydecopaws July 26, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Great tip. I’ve got a candy thermometer in the vent over the food and it is reading about 100F cooler than the thermometer over the coals. The problem with mounting the thermometer on the side of the Smokey Joes is it interferes with either the lid, the grill, or is pointed down and difficult to read. Plus, the way I transport these is to turn the lid upside down and put in the kettle with the grill upside down in the lid; this allows me just enough clearance to get them under the tonneau cover on my truck. I will likely rethink this based on the cooking experiment, take the thermometer out, plug the hole, and either find an acceptable way to install it on the side like you suggest, or see if I can install it over the lid vent.

Thanks for the suggestion!

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Aaron October 24, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Hey there,

I was looking at adding a thermometer to my SJP and was wondering if you found a better place to place it? I’d love to place it based off someone’s really experience more then me just guessing where will work best.

Please let me know if there is any place you can suggest. Thanks.

-Aaron

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zydecopaws October 25, 2009 at 8:51 am

I haven’t gotten around to it, but I was going to attach another one on the side of the lid down closer to the grate. This would allow you to get the temperature at the grate; there would still be variances based on your charcoal placement but you could spin the lid around to see how much difference there was. If you keep it on the side where you have the food, that should be a lot more accurate than the top placement I had here.

One of these days I’ll have some time to play around and try this; when I do I’ll be able to compare the temps at the top with those at the grate. I’ll be sure and post an update when I do.

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Terry December 28, 2009 at 7:23 am

I say leave it where is and use a thermometer with a bit longer stem. The pit is small enough that there shouldn’t be a “huge” temperature variance due to location. If you want to get all technical just get a grate thermometer and put it on whatever side of the cooking grate you’re using at the time. Besides the top mount thermometer just looks cool.

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zydecopaws December 28, 2009 at 9:44 am

The real variance shows up if you have the coals set up for indirect cooking and the thermometer is directly over them. I suppose if coals were set to both sides and the gap in the middle as opposed to all at one end that this problem could be avoided; one of these days I’ll have to play around with this and see if I can devise an easy way to hold coals on both sides rather than against the back. Weber used to have metal inserts you could put on the lower grates, but I haven’t seen those around for a long time.

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Aaron August 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm
zydecopaws August 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I had a set of those a long time ago (they came with one of my kettles) but they burned out and disappeared. They worked OK, but I do remember them falling over frequently and being a bit of a PITA.

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MiJaGourlay July 6, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I recently modified my Smokey Joe Silver to include a hook on the lid to hang it on the bottom bowl. The larger Weber kettle charcoal grills have such a hook and obviously that helps manage where to put the lid, freeing up a hand. Just wanted to mention a few tidbits in case they end up being helpful to other people.

I got the parts from Ace Hardware. I used a “rope hook” which is a hook with a flat piece with 2 holes. The receipt says .236″x2.56″. It cost $1.29.

The hook was galvanized steel. I removed the zinc by soaking the part in hydrochloric acid (a.k.a. muriatic acid) for about one minute. The zinc dissolves very rapidly, and emits a lot of hydrogen gas in the process. It looks effervescent, like dropping an Alka-Seltzer into water. After several seconds, the bubbles stopped and the hook came out clean and perfectly free of zinc.

I didn’t want the hook to corrode so I decided to “season” it as if it were a cast iron pan. I coat the metal rope hook in lard and hung it inside my oven, set to 550 F. I let each coat cook for about an hour. After one coat, the hook looked reddish-brown. After several coats, it took on a polished hard smooth black finish.

I used stainless steel (round philips head) 10-24 hardware (2 bolts, 2 washers, 2 hex nuts, total cost: $1) to attached it to the lid. Although it was all stainless I decided to “season” it anyway to give it a black finish so it would resemble the black Smokey Joe lid I have.

I placed the screw holes under the handle, such that the hook itself is almost directly under one of the “struts” of the handle. I chose this location for 2 reasons: symmetry and the fact that when hanging, the lid was a little higher up. I had in mind that the lid might provide some wind-screen effect, like what the Platinum provides (albeit using a different mechanism). In retrospect I would have mounted the hook closer to the rim so that more of the lid hangs below the cooking bowl because the placement I chose ends up making some of the lid lean a little over the cooking area.

I drilled the holes using a cobalt bit. Just like the mod above, I put masking tape on the bowl and used a hole punch to dent the steel so the bit wouldn’t walk.

The round head goes on the outside under the handle so it doesn’t snag on your fingers.

I also used a tiny bolt cutter (actually a combo crimp/bolt cutter tool meant for electronics, which has a special 10-24 threaded “port”) to make both bolts exactly the right length; no excess on the inside of the lid. I figured that would keep the whole thing cleaner. Barely any thread is exposed.

The whole thing looks like it belongs there; it doesn’t look like a mod.

I’d recommend this mod to somebody who struggles with their Smokey Joe Silver lid. The only thing I’d change is the hook placement; should be nearer to the lid rim.

Hope this helps.

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zydecopaws July 7, 2010 at 8:01 am

Great (and detailed) suggestion for all those that own Smokey Joe Silvers. Thanks very much for taking the time to write it up!

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MiJaGourlay July 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Decided to post the description with pictures:
http://tvwbb.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/1840039023/m/808106616

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Jmac September 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

Have you just tried using an oven thermomter and placing it on the cooking grate? This is what I use. I have a 22.5 weber, and a large barrell smoker with a side firebox. The smoker came with a thermometer, but being in the lid doesn’t give you a reading of what the fire is on the cooking grate. The oven does. There are two inconviences though. You have to open the lid to check the temp, and when you’re done you will have to clean the thermomter window as the smoke will cover it; however, it does give you the cooking grate temp whether using direct or indirect cooking…….

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zydecopaws September 7, 2010 at 8:43 am

Been that route and don’t like it as it requires opening the lid and letting all the heat out to check the temperature. I’ve also used a remote probe (where the digital readout is on the outside and a metal probe attached by a wire is on the inside) and didn’t like that either (my apologies to whoever gave that to me as a gift) as I didn’t like all the extra wires and devices hanging off the grill.

I’m beginning to think there are reasons Weber doesn’t put thermometers on the Smokey Joe grills (other than cost/value), especially the smaller ones. It seems most folks use them for direct grilling and don’t really care what the temperatures are.

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