Monday, May 21, 2012

I built a smoker

I've had a rabid craving for BBQ lately and was reading on the internets how to make a smoker out of a couple clay planting pots. Since I didn't want to spend 30 bucks on those on top of all the other supplies, and I had a brick planter in the back that wasn't being used, I decided to use that instead.

This is the planter box that I converted.

The bottom wasn't level so I filled it in with some Quickcrete.

I stacked some bricks to make a stand for the grill. The hotplate in the bottom heats the chamber and burns the wood. This setup didn't work, though. The hot plate has a thermostat and turns itself off before the chamber could get warm enough.

I knocked out half a brick to get ventilation and to get the power plug out.

I bought a concrete paving stone to use as a cover and drilled a hole for the thermometer. The thermometer setup didn't wrk though, as not enough of the rod from the thermometer was exposed and I wasn't getting accurate heat readings.

I ended up rigging the hot plate with jump wires so that the heating element was inside the chamber but the unit with the thermostat was outside the chamber. This also made changing the temperature easier.

I bought a small cast iron skillet at Walmart to hold the wood chips and a pork roast at Hy-vee for a first try.

I added a drip pan to help keep the inside of the chamber clean, and put the skillet on the hot plate.

Then I covered it up and let it smoke. 

Almost up to temperature.

Molly giving me advice on how to cook the meat.

All in all, this is about what I spent on the whole project.

$16 Hot plate (but it has a $3 mail in rebate.)
$2  Concrete paving stone
$3 Quickcrete
$10 Cast Iron Skillet
$4 Jumper wire and spade connectors

The primary problem we ran into was that it took a lot longer to cook than anticipated. I read online to cook it at 220 for 1.5 hours per pound. This didn't even come close to being done. After 5 hours the 2-pound roast still wasn't finished and since we had started it at 5:00 pm (later than I wanted too, but the soonest we could get to it) we eventually had to pull it out and finish it in the crockpot. Next time I'm going to start it earlier, and cook it a little hotter. In the end though, it was actually pretty delicious.

 Done. Finally.

Also, next time around I'm going to use wood chunks instead of wood chips. I have to turn the hot plate up so high to heat the chamber that the chips get burnt up after about 45 minutes. I had to add chips 5 times and had to soak the last 4 batches of chips to make them last longer. Of course every time I opened the top I'd lose a bunch of heat which probably accounted for the extra long cook time. This is design flaw that a professional smoker wouldn't have, but have you priced those things? I'll just be patient.