Monday, April 29, 2013

Got supplies and got started

This past weekend I made a trip to Walmart for shelving, Lowe's for construction materials, and Walgreens for the hot plates.  I figured I would get started with the hot plates (hereafter known as the "burners").  For about $14 each here is what Walgreens had to offer: 

They had only 2 - a black one and a white one.  I really didn't care what color they were so I got both.  

The platforms are made of plastic.  I do not want plastic inside my smoker so I had to take the burners apart and rebuild them to meet my purpose.  My desire is to have both of them, mounted side-by-side, with their controls on the outside of the cabinet.  Here is what I found after I disassembled them:

One bolt attached the heating element to the base and it was easy to remove.  The wires connect to the heating element via tabs which are about 1.5" below the bottom of the heating element.  I needed to provide a support which would allow room for these tabs and wires.  I also did not want a hot burner sitting directly on top of the wood base below it.  So, I was able to kill two birds with one stone by building some feet:

I found the brackets in my junk box.  I marked and drilled holes in the burners pan and used rivets to attach everything together.  Photos of the completed feet will be in the next blog entry.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Many years ago I owned an inexpensive meat smoker.  It was a thin-walled metal cylinder which used an electric burner for both heat and burning the wood chips.  I used it once to cook some chicken and it did great.  After a period of time I was in somewhat of a desperate need for a few dollars so I sold it to a friend and I regret having done that.

Recently my desire to smoke meat got relit - pun intended - so I decided to do it again.  Of course I could quickly purchase, for little cost, and obtain a smoker and get started right away but that is not the way I do things.  Instead I decided to build my own and this blog is a journal of that effort.

Here are some random thoughts and goals which, of course, are subject to change as I continue forward with this project:

  • Relatively small in size - I do not have a lot of storage space nor will I be smoking tons of meat.
  • Portable - Need to be able to move it around.
  • Wood will be the primary building material
  • Keep it simple
  • Use electric heat as my source - I am not interested in either propane or charcoal for this project.

In an effort to learn more about what this project will consist of I did some Google searching and found web sites and YouTube videos where other people showed their similar projects.  There were a lot of good examples (even one built out of a 5 drawer file cabinet) and some even made me realize things I had not considered.  After mulling over what I had learned here are my thoughts at this point:

  • I can get 2 electric hot plate burners for less than $10 each.  One will be used for heating the wood and the other for additional heat in the smoker.  Having 2 separate hot plates allows me control the production of the smoke and the cooking temperature independent of each other.
  • I already have some casters I can use for making the smoker roll-around-able.
  • Could use either oven racks or grill racks for my shelves.  Will probably use grill racks as they are slightly smaller.
  • I want to insulate the smoker so I will put insulation in the walls and top and will seal the inside such that no smoke can get into the insulation.
  • Need thermometers.  Will probably get 2: 1 for the cabinet temperature and 1 for the meat temperature.
  • Need water/drip pans.  If I get deeper ones I can double their placing water in them it will help to keep moisture around the meat and by using the same pans to catch dripping grease I prevent a possible fire (do not want the meat grease falling onto hot burners!!!).
  • Size of the smoker will be based on the size of the racks I use.