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Wade

Callow Smoker - Low cost bullet smoker

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On 4/21/2019 at 7:59 AM, Smeg said:

Pulled this out in the last couple of weeks - only got two dry runs last year with one thing and another. Smoked some Loin Ribs with Sainsburys briquettes - tasty, but very poor temp control. 

Got hold of some Weber Briquettes, sealed up the door with some stove rope and did a 3lb pork shoulder with much more success. Kept it between 105-115c for 9 hours with a bit of fiddling. Had a stall for a full 4 hours at 70c internal temp so will probably foil next time.

@Wade I saw somewhere you recommended lock washers on the lower vents. What sort? Worth sealing gaps between the sections too?

Is that 9 hours on one load of fuel or did you refuel mid smoke? 

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Yes in ideal conditions it is very possible to smoke for 8-9 hours at ~110 C on a single charge of fuel in a Callow. On a cold day, or with wind or rain, this time can be significantly reduced though.

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12 minutes ago, Wade said:

Yes in ideal conditions it is very possible to smoke for 8-9 hours at ~110 C on a single charge of fuel in a Callow. On a cold day, or with wind or rain, this time can be significantly reduced though.

OK I have something to aim for then! I thought it wouldn't be possible to go that long. I've newly fitted some stove rope (the stove you recommended a while back Wade) to the door, and am planning to drill some more holes in my charcoal holder (the non basket weave version, version 2 I think). 

With some more temp control and hopefully mild conditions on the weekend I'll see what I can manage. Might get some beef ribs.

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Was actually more like 10.5 hours, with a light breeze. I just took the meat off after 9. This was using Weber briquettes.

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Posted (edited)

Good informative write up 👍. I had a Brinkmann for a couple of years similar to the Callow in quality. Learnt a lot from it and having to work hard for your cooks helped me in the long run, I felt. But upgrading to the Proq made me realise, how much easier smoking can be with reasonably decent equipment.

Edited by sotv
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Hi Dave - it is really great when people post up details of their challenges as well as their complete successes. Thank you for this very informative post 🌟

17 hours ago, dl8860 said:

From here until the end of the cook, temperatures stressed me the **** out. That picture above is actually after several hours, after a bit of shrinkage. To close the lid, I actually had to press down and compress the meat a little. Not ideal, and the middle grate wouldn't have caused the same issue, but I know my top grate gets hotter, and air flow might have been an issue. Well, it really was. You can see where my ambient probe is above, prior to shrinkage this was a really pretty thin gap, maybe 3-4cm.

Key thing is probably, don't try a 4kg slab of meat on a 13" smoker. If I had to do this again it seems a no brainer to halve the joint and put half on the lower rack.

Yes, I think you got it right. You would have been better to half the joint to begin with and cook on both racks. 

17 hours ago, dl8860 said:

I drilled some more holes in my charcoal basked last weekend, on the side, and now think that this may be counter productive. As all us callow users now, on the early versions, the air flowing in from the bottom vents doesn't naturally flow under the basket and up through the coals. The foil around the rim of the basket trick solves this, and drilling additional holes in the side helps too. I wonder though if too many holes in the side means you go back to less air flowing underneath (which is best) and actually hinders things. 

The air flow around the fire basket was a problem with the original Callow however it was really only a problem when trying to achieve the higher temperatures. I found that it would naturally stay at ~110-120 C without modification. Each unit probably varied slightly though. The most effective fire basket mod that I found was to completely remove the bottom of the tray and replace it with some large hole perforated steel. This allowed much more air to pass through the coals.

1692749853_FireTraybottomremoved.thumb.jpg.1b31b35a132cfad770ef2026b919e965.jpg2009574239_FireTraywithmesh2.thumb.jpg.cfeb9f38ffc20b1599894c8e742b9008.jpg1580277585_FireTraywithmesh.thumb.jpg.949de3891a38af7a1683ba8508715f67.jpg

These photos were taken from the slightly later fire tray but the mod works well on the original Callow too. The holes in the side should not be a problem as the burning coals will naturally draw air towards themselves as the heated air rises from them. The foil around the rim that you mentioned works well too. Another limiter was the size of the top vent - it was not allowing sufficient air flow through the smoker to produce the higher temperatures. Make sure that the top vent remains fully open (or even remove the vent cover) and if you can slightly increase the size of the holes this will help too.

17 hours ago, dl8860 said:

The temperature of the meat was actually coming on OK though, didn't take too long to get to 140F. Of course then the stall happened. I was aiming to pull it from the cooker by 7pm, which is about a 12 hour cook. My last brisket took 7.5 hours, so I thought I had plenty of contingency. By 6pm I had improved my temps to more like 220-230 (perhaps due to shrinkage improving airflow) but meat was still at 150F, so time for the oven to come in to play. Preheated to 350F, wrapped the meat and whacked it in. Took about 1.5 hours to get to 200F.

You mentioned that you foiled the brisket before you placed it in the oven - but did you foil it on the smoker too? If you foil it after the first 3 hours of smoking then it is less likely to dry out and it will tenderise more effectively. You can then uncover it for the last hour or so to give you the dryer bark

If parts of your brisket do turn out a little tough then do not despair - turn them into Burnt Ends. These are really tasty :thumb1:

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17 hours ago, dl8860 said:

Few other things to mention, the flat stove rope I put around the door kept falling off (more frustration) so will have to try an glue that on. Still a bit of leakage somehow even though it all looks to be treated.

The locking clasps seem to be showing some age (smoker is 16 months old), one of each of the top and bottom clasps have had their springs break, so it's still functional but getting harder to use! I imagine once another one break (i.e. I'm left with 2 springless for one of the levels) then this will become really annoying.

Otherwise I guess I'm still pretty optimistic about getting some good results this summer off this thing. If I can make it last this year and next year, so 3 years total, I'll call this purchase a success with a lot of things learnt along the way.

The Callow is a great Entry level smoker that makes starting on the smoking journey affordable. After 3 years of successful smoking the natural progress would probably be to move to a larger smoker - something like the ProQ or WSM.

Regarding the clasps - give Callow a call and they may send you some replacements. They pride themselves in outstanding customer service.

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18 hours ago, dl8860 said:

From here until the end of the cook, temperatures stressed me the **** out. That picture above is actually after several hours, after a bit of shrinkage. To close the lid, I actually had to press down and compress the meat a little. Not ideal, and the middle grate wouldn't have caused the same issue, but I know my top grate gets hotter, and air flow might have been an issue. Well, it really was. You can see where my ambient probe is above, prior to shrinkage this was a really pretty thin gap, maybe 3-4cm.

No stress, it is only meat, relax, just open close the vents and it will be what it is. Personally the the times I do Brisket I start the night before and let it smoke overnight through to the afternoon.  at super low  temps. No wrapping just let it be.  And then when it hits temp I wrap in foil and put in cool box for a couple of hours, heavenly every time.

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Definitely would not put in oven at higher temp. That would risk it drying out. I appreciate you left 12 hours and that is fine but a bigger brisket and a low temps O allow 16 to 18 hours, hence the put it on the night before, if it finish earlier that is fine wrap and put in coolbox and it will relax and god tender, Plus it is lovely cold cuts too. Like a beef silverside I did the other day, the cold cut the next days was more tender and more tasty, same the a top rump i did last weekend. It is beautiful and tender. mega sandwiches with olives and tomato

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the feedback guys. 

@Wade Glad it's nice for people to read, was a bit worried I went on a bit!

That perforated steel looks like an ideal solution, might be a stretch for my abilities and tools though. Did you weld it on, or solder? And how did you cut the original base off? Wondering if there's any aftermarket charcoal baskets that might be a simpler fix? I could always take a punt with this, might do some measuring up tonight.

https://www.macsbbq.com/accessories/charcoal-bbq-baskets/proq-ranger-replacement-charcoal-basket

I didn't foil in the smoker, the only letdown to my first brisket was the bark was a little mushy, which I figured was due to wrapping early, so I was hesitant, but unwrapping for a final 30 mins or so is a really good idea, so I'll do that next time.

@Justin Going into the oven at a high temp really was a last resort, annoyed at myself yet again that I ran out of time! Night before is an ideal way to do it but I don't have faith in my cooker to set it and forget it, nor do I want to stay up all night tending coals! 

 

Edited by dl8860

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No need to be precise mate. go for it and do not worry. It is what it is

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29 minutes ago, dl8860 said:

Thanks for the feedback guys. 

@Wade Glad it's nice for people to read, was a bit worried I went on a bit!

That perforated steel looks like an ideal solution, might be a stretch for my abilities and tools though. Did you weld it on, or solder? And how did you cut the original base off? Wondering if there's any aftermarket charcoal baskets that might be a simpler fix? I could always take a punt with this, might do some measuring up tonight.

https://www.macsbbq.com/accessories/charcoal-bbq-baskets/proq-ranger-replacement-charcoal-basket

I didn't foil in the smoker, the only letdown to my first brisket was the bark was a little mushy, which I figured was due to wrapping early, so I was hesitant, but unwrapping for a final 30 mins or so is a really good idea, so I'll do that next time.

@Justin Going into the oven at a high temp really was a last resort, annoyed at myself yet again that I ran out of time! Night before is an ideal way to do it but I don't have faith in my cooker to set it and forget it, nor do I want to stay up all night tending coals! 

 

Maybe find a second hand proq or even a Weber kettle or something. That way you won’t have as many problems 

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37 minutes ago, Raptor72 said:

Maybe find a second hand proq or even a Weber kettle or something. That way you won’t have as many problems 

I think a ProQ Frontier for my 30th birthday (next July) might be what I'll opt for, or maybe a weber summit charcoal if I win the lottery. Despite the tribulations I want to get as much use out of the callow as I can.

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@dl8860 The bottom of the fire basket I cut out using an electric jigsaw to the edge of the holes. This left a nice lip inside on which the perforated steel disk would sit. The disk I just cut with some metal snips. If you would like me to send you my cut basket and disk then let me know and I will be happy to do so.

The ProQ is a good option to progress to. I use both the Callow and ProQ on my BBQ courses. The latest version of the Callow has had the original design flaws fixed and is now a great cost-effective entry level smoker out of the box. Unfortunately for some, there are still a lot of the older versions out there.

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21 hours ago, Wade said:

@dl8860 The bottom of the fire basket I cut out using an electric jigsaw to the edge of the holes. This left a nice lip inside on which the perforated steel disk would sit. The disk I just cut with some metal snips. If you would like me to send you my cut basket and disk then let me know and I will be happy to do so.

The ProQ is a good option to progress to. I use both the Callow and ProQ on my BBQ courses. The latest version of the Callow has had the original design flaws fixed and is now a great cost-effective entry level smoker out of the box. Unfortunately for some, there are still a lot of the older versions out there.

Ah I suppose thinking about it, as long as you roughly get the size of the perforated circle right, there's no need to fix it down. Very kind to offer to send it but I won't trouble you, I'm sure I'd be able to manage it myself if push comes to shove. 

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>>  "I use both the Callow and ProQ on my BBQ courses"

 

Oh.... tell me more, i'm a sucker for adult education!

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Posted (edited)

Hi all, new to the forum and have just completed a solid 8 hour smoke on the Callow. I picked mine up last year and believe its the 3rd generation.

I've only used it a handful of times but have had good success with it every time.

For the money it seems to be a pretty good bit of kit. There are some areas where I feel the low price is very evident, namely the door latch and the vents. I was sent a replacement door as after only two uses the door handle came right off. This was good as gave me a chance to line the inside of the door with some self adhesive fire rope as I had thought the door leaked a lot of smoke. The vent dampers or whatever they're call are just really cheap. With this, I have bent the tab out away from the smoker that I can get some much needed purchase on them when trying to adjust. One of the bottom vents will not tighten properly and so is either too loose or too tight and I cannot seem to get the right balance. I also think the placement of the bottom vents is just too low, I don't enjoy having to scrabble about on the floor to adjust them!

That being said, 8hrs off one basket of briquettes (Weber) over the weekend and one delicious pork shoulder with very little adjustment or issues is pretty impressive - I even went out for a couple of hours mid cook!

Looking forward to the next smoke!

 

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Edited by pittmab
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Posted (edited)

Welcome to the forum Pittmab and nice write up an piccies

Edited by sotv

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Just received my callow this afternoon and really looking forward to getting it going. I’ve put fire rope around the door as advised however the problem I’m having is the nuts coming loose on the vents when you adjust the vent. Someone mentioned the use of spring washers, Will this stop the nuts from coming loose? Cheers. 

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15 hours ago, forsh812 said:

Will this stop the nuts from coming loose? Cheers. 

Yes this will stop them coming loose, or use two nuts tighten together.

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Hey Wade, 

Thanks for all the info! 

So I'm super new to this but had some success so far, my issues is mai tai I g the temperature. 

My process so far

1) Light coals in chimney untill white

2) add to coal tray

3) put main body on and assemble bottom rack, ad meat, then top rack and meat

4) Put on lid and open all vents half way

5) chuck in some flavoured wood to the coals 

 

My issue is the internal temp rockets to about 130-150c, then over about 20mins drops to 90 and I cant get it back up. Even with all the vents open. 

I'm currently 1hr into a smoke of 5kg of chicken. And the temperate has been hovering around the low to mid 90s the whole time. 

My solution is just to chuck in some more coals. 

But I am positive I am could be doing something better, what's your thoughts? 

 

Thanks! 

Matt

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