Most smokers agree that adding fire bricks to your offset smoker is an excellent upgrade if you want better fuel efficiency and consistent temperature control for your meat.
Long and slow smoking is challenging for newbies because temperature fluctuations can ruin the perfect meat cut. The goal is to achieve thin blue smoke that will infuse your food with smokey flavor.
Fire bricks help regulate the temperature in your smoker. As a result, the temperature will be consistent throughout the smoking process all across the pit, and there is a lower risk of temperature fluctuations. Once a fire brick gets hot, it stays hot, radiates heat, and prevents fluctuations in temperature.
There’s nothing worse than smoking for 6 hours to realize that the meat doesn’t have that perfect smoky flavor you wanted.
Perhaps the temperature kept rising for long periods, and you didn’t even know it.
One of the common challenges of smoking is that there are temperature swings in your smoker. The fire bricks are known for excellent heat retention, so they will maintain a relatively even temperature by adding thermal mass.
Airflow for temperature
I quickly want to remind you that while fire bricks can help regulate the smoker’s temperature, the biggest factor is airflow.
If the temperature in the smoker is too low, you need to open the vents to let more air inside. This will help raise the temperature.
However, if the temperature is too high, then cut back on the airflow by temporarily closing the vents and leaving the exhaust open.
To measure is to know. Get yourself a good Barbecue Smoker Thermometer, I’ve reviewed the best 7 digital & analog ones here
What are fire bricks used for?
Fire bricks are used during long and slow smoking. The bricks are added to the smoker box because they retain heat, and as a result, the bricks will help you keep an even temperature for longer.
Fire bricks are made of ceramic material and shaped into blocks. They’re most often used to line fireplaces, furnaces, kilns, fireboxes, and now smokers.
The main reason is that the bricks act as insulators, holding the heat in and regulating the temperature.
Another reason fire bricks are so popular among pitmasters is that these bricks improve fuel efficiency. Since they keep the coals and the temperatures hot and steady, you don’t need to add as much fuel as you would otherwise.
If you own a cheaper smoker, the thin-gauge metal is prone to temperature swings because it doesn’t have enough thermal mass. Fire bricks can solve this issue.
Fire bricks are helpful, especially during the cold months.
You know that the heat can lower much quicker during the cold season, making smoking more challenging. You have to keep checking the temperature.
Using fire bricks allows you to get more rest or sleep more if you smoke all night because you’ll have to add fuel less often.
Also read: At What Temperature do Wood Chips Smoke? Guide to Getting it Right
How to use fire bricks in your smoker
You can add the fire bricks to the firebox, in the smoking chamber’s side, or line them on the bottom of the pit.
Place the bricks side-by-side on top of your heat source (usually charcoal). Then, place the second grill grate where you smoke the food over the fire bricks.
The idea is that once you have your bricks laid out, you add your charcoal, and then these ignite and smoke all around the bricks. The role of fire bricks in a smoker is to add thermal mass.
As a general rule, use about two fire bricks in the firebox and anywhere between 2-6 in the main chamber.
Here is a video explanation of how to set up the fire bricks in your offset smoker:
It’s extremely important to buy fire bricks and not any other kind of brick. These are relatively cheap at about $1-2 apiece.
They’re about 1.¼ inch thick and 9 inches wide so that you can fit about 6 or 7 of these in your offset smoker.
Fuel efficiency trade-off
Once the fire bricks are hot, you end up using less fuel because they retain and regulate heat. However, heating the bricks up to the right temperature will cause you to use more fuel to accomplish this.
If you plan on having many bricks in your smoker, it might take longer to set up the smoker, and it takes a while to get cooking.
But, since smoking meat is a long process that takes many hours, you’re better off saving fuel during the cooking process.
Are fire brick safe to cook on?
Yes, fire bricks are safe to cook on.
Fire bricks are stable for cooking. They contain silica in different proportions dispensing on the brand, but it’s not a danger for human health.
Therefore, you can cook and smoke on fire bricks safely. The bricks don’t release any dangerous chemicals while hot, so they are not a problem.
Most wood-fired pizza ovens are lined with fire bricks because these non-porous bricks are completely safe for cooking.
Read more about Smoking Food and Staying Healthy
Should I use fire bricks for a BBQ?
No, it’s not necessary to use fire bricks for a quick flame-cooked BBQ. The reason is that fire bricks are mostly used for long and slow cooking in a smoker.
However, many pitmasters prefer to line their BBQ grill with fire bricks.
If you plan on using your charcoal grill, it’s a good idea to line the burner area with fire bricks, which are good at regulating and maintaining an even cooking temperature.
Fire bricks are used to line BBQ pits and even gas grills.
The key thing to remember, though, is always to use fire-resistant brick. Only fire brick is safe for use because it doesn’t crack or explode when exposed to high temperatures.
Read next: How To Build A BBQ Smoker: 2 ideas you can make in under 8 steps