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Patrick S

Homegrown Smoker

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Okay, having borrowed a smoker from a friend, used it a couple of weeks, and fallen completely in love with smoked food, I'm ready to get my own smoker. But instead of buying one, I'm thinking of building one similar to one that Alton Brown made on the pulled pork episode using two clay pots and a hotplate. My questions are: has anyone else made a smoker like this? If so, do you have any advice? Can anyone recommend a durable hotplate that can run on high for 12 or more hours at at time, inside a 210F smoker? I'd rather pay a little more for a good hotplate up front than have a cheap one fail in the middle of the night and ruin the smoke session.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I have not personally used this method (I own a smoker), but I have a friend who does all of his smoking this way. (He's cheap and a gluten for punishment.) It does work. Wish I could offer advice, but I've never gotten into his ramblings about it.

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I have never tried to build my own either (I have absolutely no skills in building anything), but if you do decide to go with buying one, check out the Cookshack units. They are electric, completely self contained, easy to clean, and put out a great product.

I was given one this past christmas, and I have yet to turn out a bad product from it.


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Since I had the terracotta left over from the time Alton Brown made a standing rib roast, I rigged up the smoker and gave it a try. It worked pretty well. I didn’t have a hot plate, but I had an old electric skillet that I had previously used when I put together Alton’s cold smoker from his smoking salmon show, and it all worked pretty well. To my surprise, the heat from the skillet was actually enough to bring the temperature in the ceramics well into cooking temperature (I am using a smaller pot than AB).

I have a weber bullet, but I wanted to try dry smoking a pork shoulder because a few of the books I have read say that the water smoker is too moist to get good shoulder. Having tried back to back bullet vs. dry shoulders I would have to say I kind of agree. The dry smoking pulls a lot more fat out of the shoulder and yielded an impressive smoke ring compared to the bullet.

But since my version of AB’s smoker was quite provisional, I haven’t spent much time using it and I still smoke shoulders, ribs, and whatnot in the bullet. However, I can say Brown’s ceramic smoker idea definitely works.

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I have a weber bullet, but I wanted to try dry smoking a pork shoulder because a few of the books I have read say that the water smoker is too moist to get good shoulder. Having tried back to back bullet vs. dry shoulders I would have to say I kind of agree. The dry smoking pulls a lot more fat out of the shoulder and yielded an impressive smoke ring compared to the bullet.

A trick that some people are doing with the WSM is to use sand covered with a layer of foil in the water pan. Be sure to leave enough room for the fat to collect. You can also replace the WSM water pan with a Brinkman charcoal pan for greater capacity.

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I'm going to give the AB method a try next weekend. I've read elsewhere that the hotplate can be problematic-- it either doesn't get hot enough or burns out before you're done. Any thoughts on how to best select a heavy duty hot plate? Also, does the pie pan thingy go directly on the hot plate? I would imagine this could cause the wood to ignite rather than smolder-- isn't that a problem?


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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look up the sausage maker,,,its in buffalo ny. they have all kinds of burners and smoking ideas.

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I'm going to give the AB method a try next weekend. I've read elsewhere that the hotplate can be problematic-- it either doesn't get hot enough or burns out before you're done. Any thoughts on how to best select a heavy duty hot plate?

What I am going to try to do is detach the heating element and underplate from the base, so that the more heat-sensitive parts of the hotplate aren't actually inside the smoker. I got a $9 hotplate last night, and if looks are not decieving, I think this can be done pretty easily.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'm going to give the AB method a try next weekend. I've read elsewhere that the hotplate can be problematic-- it either doesn't get hot enough or burns out before you're done. Any thoughts on how to best select a heavy duty hot plate? Also, does the pie pan thingy go directly on the hot plate? I would imagine this could cause the wood to ignite rather than smolder-- isn't that a problem?

Al,

I watched the show were he did this just the other night. He said to use a heavy duty pan to hold the wood. He banged it with his fist to show it was not a flimsy pie plate. What the heck, electicity, wood, sounds like fun. Too bad there is not some alcohol involved. I guess you are supposed to drink the alcohol. It ought to work, but I am sticking to the WSM. Guess I am not adventuersome as you guys. Whats the worst that can happen? I little fire? My biggest saftey idea is to make sure your extension cord is heavy duty enough to carry the current for 12 hours and plug it in to a GFI outlet.

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I'm going to give the AB method a try next weekend. I've read elsewhere that the hotplate can be problematic-- it either doesn't get hot enough or burns out before you're done. Any thoughts on how to best select a heavy duty hot plate? Also, does the pie pan thingy go directly on the hot plate? I would imagine this could cause the wood to ignite rather than smolder-- isn't that a problem?

Al,

I watched the show were he did this just the other night. He said to use a heavy duty pan to hold the wood. He banged it with his fist to show it was not a flimsy pie plate. What the heck, electicity, wood, sounds like fun. Too bad there is not some alcohol involved. I guess you are supposed to drink the alcohol. It ought to work, but I am sticking to the WSM. Guess I am not adventuersome as you guys. Whats the worst that can happen? I little fire? My biggest saftey idea is to make sure your extension cord is heavy duty enough to carry the current for 12 hours and plug it in to a GFI outlet.

A heavy duty extension cord, at least for my electric smoker, is just plain old required for the thing to get up to temp. I first started using it with a cheapo lamp wire extension cord I had laying around, and the temp would get above 200 degrees inside. Once I upgraded to a heavy duty one, the problem went away (it also has a cool light in the extension plug, so I can make sure the thing is actually getting power up until the smoke comes out, very handy for me since the outlet it is plugged into is switched and my roomate always manages to turn off that switch instead of the light switch when he leaves the room...)


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Okay, what size terra cotta pot did anyone get? I've been searching, and I've found a few good sized pots, but the trouble is I can't find a damn dome lid. I went to some hoity toidy lawn and garden place in Potomac MD today and found a 21 3/4 inch pot and this decorative bell shaped doohicky for a lid that fit the pot perfectly. Total cost? $150. I passed. I've been to a couple of Home Depots and a Lowe's. No luck.

Crap.


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I'm going to give the AB method a try next weekend. I've read elsewhere that the hotplate can be problematic-- it either doesn't get hot enough or burns out before you're done.

I've heard this too. The hot plate isn't made to stay on for 12 hours at a time. Click here to see my homegrown smoker test. (Photos are at the bottom of the post.) It worked wonderfully.

I've since moved into a condo and as they only have one Weber grill and we're not allowed to have our own bbqs or smokers on our decks. I made some alterations and it too worked well. I'll post photos in that same thread and results in a couple of days.


Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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Hi,

This topic is for those of us who have decided to build our own smokers. We can share information on how we did it, what materials we used, etc.

As for my smoker we got a food-grade steel barrel which we passed to a welding-friend. It was based on a design from Popular Mechanics. It hasn't been used yet but we receive it this Sunday. As we got the barrel for free our smoker has been quite economical. Here are our costs so far:

Barrel - free

Welding - $100

Side smoker box (from Home Depot) - $60

Thermometer - $6

(all prices CDN)

So to get things going I'd love to hear from other people who have built smokers and how well they work. I also have a question to start:

Where should I put the thermometer? As far away from the fire as possible or in the middle?

Thanks!

Jeff

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Okay, having borrowed a smoker from a friend, used it a couple of weeks, and fallen completely in love with smoked food, I'm ready to get my own smoker. But instead of buying one, I'm thinking of building one similar to one that Alton Brown made on the pulled pork episode using two clay pots and a hotplate. My questions are: has anyone else made a smoker like this? If so, do you have any advice? Can anyone recommend a durable hotplate that can run on high for 12 or more hours at at time, inside a 210F smoker? I'd rather pay a little more for a good hotplate up front than have a cheap one fail in the middle of the night and ruin the smoke session.

i went an easier way on making my own smoker. i used an electric hot plate and a 3ft high metal trash can with a wire rack stuck in 1ft from the top. it works beautifully...

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