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Building my own off-set smoker with an old hot box

Chef Bradley

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So, about 6 months ago, I started an Executive Chef position at a country club. We were doing some cleaning up and I came across this old hot box/ proof box. It's a little beat up and so far, Ive only been able to use it to hold junk! I dont want to toss it in the trash, so, I figured since I like to smoke my own bacon and such, I'd love to be able to turn this thing into a nice tall all purpose smoker. Offset would be ideal with some sort of temperature control. Anyone know of a site where I could get building plans for this project? Perhaps you've done this and had some success?

First of all, it is all aluminum and has a latching door, very heavy duty as well.

Thanks in advance for any help!

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I gather that you have an electrically heatable metal box.

My suggestion is that you control the temperature via the electric heater, a thermostat of some sort, and a temperature probe suited to measuring air/gas temperature.

You don't need a PID, but they are pretty cheap and can take proper air/gas probes.

Auber sell appropriate probes, PIDs and also SSRs to actually switch the current to the heater.

And they offer a fully-built controller as well, if you'd rather pay than do the electro-tinkering.


A much cruder (and cheaper) thermostatic control would certainly be possible!

For smoke, the easy pro/commercial thing to do would be to hang a Bradley smoke generator off your box.

I understand that these can actually handle amazingly large (walk-in) smoke boxes (or rather garden-shed-sized smokehouses).

But you are pretty well tied to using their proprietary smoke-fuel.


However, real smoke can be controllably generated in a tiny "offset" firebox.

A tightly controlled supply of air is the essential element to keeping a tiny 'fire' smouldering steadily. And a cheap aquarium air pump provides just such a controlled air supply.

You should get the general idea from studying the videos on http://porkypas.spaces.live.com/

A small generator can produce steady and cool smoke for a matter of hours between sawdust/woodchip refills.

Otherwise, the alternative is a much larger fire, more fuel usage and more (uncontrolled) heat.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how well a tin-can lashup performs with the aquarium pump!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Do you want to hot smoke/BBQ or cold smoke?

For bacon, salmon, cheeses etc you need cold smoking - essentially a box with a seperate smoke generator seperated by enough distance or pipe to cool the smoke

Here is my crude setup.

snow smoking.jpg

It consists of an old (clean) oil drum with the top cut off. From a hole in the bottom a length (at least 6 foot) of drain pipe goes to a firebox lower down the mound (a brick lined hole in the ground with a roof tile for a roof ), in wich there is a pile of smoldering oak or fruit wood sawdust. The food is suspended or placed on racks in the drum.

With this crude setup we smoked over a week just before the holidays 3 x 12kg (40lbs) hams - 120lbs in total, plus 6 sides of salmon, bacon, trout, cheeses (cheddar, stilton, brie, reblochon), quail eggs, and pretty much anything else we could find.

Smoked mashed potato is delicous.

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I built my cold smoker based on a modified version of Alton Brown's hot smoker and a trash can - step by step here.


the heat in my hot smoker comes from an electric hot plate which is more than sufficient to keep the ceramic pot at 250-300 (or lower). Im not sure that would work for a large proofing box - but a variation on that theme might. What about a series of heating elements of some kind, maybe a tandem hotplate or something similar?

You might consider building it with its own heating element for hot smoking and with a conduit for off set smoking. I found that flexible dryer hose is nice because you can extend the length to control the smoke temp.

for an external smoke source, the bradelys mentioned above are great... or build your own out of a clay pot :)

Good luck and keep us posted!

Edited by NickDawson (log)
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google should bring you plenty links, I've seen them made from just about anything, old fridge, closet, oil drum, wooden box. Just don't spend too much on it, or you might as well buy a smoker :biggrin:

post some pix if you get it working, I love to see what people come up with!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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... I've seen them made from just about anything, old fridge, closet, oil drum, wooden box. ...

Yes, a (more or less) food-safe box is not a major problem.

Apart from durability, loading convenience, weather-proofing, hygiene and capacity, the main design significance of the type of box is the degree to which it is insulated - which impacts on the temperature range achievable - and its materials' safe temperatures. (Plastic fridge interiors would not be recommended for hot smoking and BBQ work!)

Control of temperature and smoke is more difficult than finding a box!

And control requires more continuity of attention (and skill) when heat and smoke come from the same source!

These problems are compounded, the smaller one's smoker.

I find the use of a controlled (forced - not fire-dependant) draught to be a major advance in managing a small smoker.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Crazy at work! So, as you can see, its pretty sturdy aluminum with a hole in the back and casters. Id be able to move it any where I want, which is nice.

I love all the ides Ive received! Im considering doing either a couple electric burners down below the box for the times I need heat, and an off-set smoke box for my smoke. I still need to check out everyone's links for ideas, but I appreciate everything!




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  • 3 weeks later...

I would think it would be relatively simple. I have seen a lot of plans to build smokers fr/ old refrigerators in various places on the web and in books so this should be pretty much along the same lines. (We used to have a smoker at a restaurant that was professionally built but was essentially a converted hot box so you might check your suppliers and just copy one that is already built).

You could use a hot plate (as Alton did in one of his shows) or an electric charcoal starter for a heat source (too bad the heating element is not in that one any more or you would be a step ahead already). I would not think you would even need a fan and since it is standard issue finding shelves, wire racks, &c should not be a problem at all.

Good luck and keep us informed.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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