in my version the smoke is clear or white. zero smokeback, the draft starts up immediately. i sealed up all of the leaks with high temp fireplace caulk. most of the heat comes off of the burn tube( 8'' steel pipe), and the barrel gets hot but definitely not hot enough to cook on, though i did keep some apple cider heated in a saucepan on top last night. my guess is if you had the feed right up against the barrel and the burn tube inserted into it a little bit, the barrel will probably get hotter. the horizontal part of my burn tube is about 2 feet long, kind of a mistake, but its made of heavy steel and gets good and hot. trying to think of how to keep this basic design but make better use of the barrel.