The Costa Rica Caldera
Several years ago Shotgun Fred decided to take a vacation. He came to visit me in Costa Rica. Fred and I had not seen each other for many years and it was good to reunite. He was also a bearer of fine gifts. He had stowed in his luggage a brand new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and a BBQ Guru Pro Com 4. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. After all, I had spent the last four years cooking on a Webber Smokey Joe. The WSJ was about the finest grill in my neiborhood at the time, but was a far cry from the new WSM! We threw some chicken on the grill and had a case of beer delivered by the liquor store. For awhile, life was as good as it gets.
The next morning Shotgun was up before the parrots where singing country western music in Spanish. (In Georgia that would be before the rosters crow)
After a great breakfast of mango from the tree in the backyard, Shotgun was beside himself. He jumped up and said let's go out to your shop and build something! In a flash that would make Saint Nick proud, he was out the door. Before dinner he had constructed the Costa Rica fifty five gallon Caldera smoker.
This is one sweet cooker.
It is easy to make and all the materials are easy to come by anywhere in the world. It can be constructed for well under one hundred dollars. Couple it with a BBQ Guru Temperature controller and you have a smoker that will maintain temperature better than most household electric ovens, until it runs out of charcoal. That could be as long as 24 hours depending on the temperature settings and conditions.
This cooker is extremely simple. All you will need is a fifty five gallon barrel, steel rebar pipe or tube, expanded metal or mesh grates, electrical conduit, wood for the shelves and handle, a few fasteners, and a thirty gallon barrel or other suitable container for a fire box.
The fire box on the original was constructed from a thirty gallon barrel. We used only the bottom third of the barrel.
Six or eight bolts are drilled into the fire box to hold the expanded metal grate up off the bottom of the box allowing the air inducing tube to be fitted under the fire.
The air inducing tube is a piece of electrical conduit fitted with the standard metal pit adapter tube for the BBQ Guru Temperature control fan. The end of the tube is closed to make a press fit for the inducer's sleeve. On quarter inch holes are drilled in the tube to disperse the air flow evenly throughout the fire box.
Notice the firebox is assembled through the barrel. Push the tube all the way in butting the open end of the tube against the sidewall of the firebox.
The fire box size is not critical. The bigger the firebox the longer the cooker will maintain temperature without refueling. Keep in mind the amount of charcoal loaded will only determine the length of time the cooker will burn. We will control temperature with airflow. Airflow will be controlled precisely by the BBQ Guru Temperature controller.
Holes are cut into the sides of the barrel to accept the steel bars. These steel bars will support the cooking grates and the exterior wooden shelves.
The first cooking grate could be placed directly on top of the firebox. Normally two grates higher in the cooker. The grates could be grates form an old Webber cooker. On the original, the grates where cut from expanded metal.
The barrel lid was used as a pattern to mark the shape. Cutting was done with a four and one half inch grinder. The grates could be made with a hole in the middle to make it easier to add more fuel. With a little ingenuity racks could be fabricated for jerky, ribs or any other special purpose you can imagine.
The cooker lid handle was fabricated from a piece of wood, nuts, bolts and a couple pieces of tubing used as spacers. The complete assembly is hanging on the side of the barrel in the photo. A hook is attached under the lid to allow it to be hung on the rim of the barrel while the cooker is open.
The best barrels are the type with a removable rim. Save the hoop to seal the barrel while it is in storage. All the parts can be stored inside the barrel for transport. In third world countries like Costa Rica you could even throw the whole rig on the roof of the SUV and haul it to the beach for a cookout with the gang.
Notice the hoop around at the top to hold the lid on.
This rig will hold a lot of food. I have smoked as may as six turkeys at once with no problem.
There are endless ways that this cooker could be improved on. A door that opens on the side would make it a lot easier to add charcoal. Doors would also allow the cook to add, remove and turn meats as desired during the cook. More racks could be added. Specialty racks for ribs, jerky or other meats could be fabricated. The list of possible modifications is endless. We encourage builders to innovate and hope to see this cooker evolve over time. Please send us some photos of your finished project so we can post them here on our website.
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