Simple cold smoker build

Discussion in 'Other Builds' started by kjlued, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    I wanted to build a cold smoker that would work well off wood chips because I can run tot he store and buy those as opposed to saw dust.

    Now, of course this will not burn as long as something like an amazing smoker but it will burn more then long enough for doing cheeses.

    Total cost was roughly $40

    1 Rubber Made container

    1 pack of 3 cooling trays for baking

    1 pack of 5 foil trays (only 2 used)

    2 soldering irons

    2 replacement plugs

    1 instant read thermometer


    Cut plugs off soldering irons, drill holes in tub, and pull cords through.

    Then ad new plugs


    Place soldering iron in foil trays as such

    Only reason you will want 2 is because when one tray smolders out, you can unplug it and plug the other in to double the time without removing the racks. Each try will last 30 minutes to 1 hr and produces lots of smoke.


    Towel did was replaced with upside down baking pan that I already had in order to prevent the bottom from melting out.

    Baking pan did the trick.


    Thermometer added to top


    Only issue I had was the initial towel was not enough insulation to prevent the bottom from starting to melt but I caught in time as I suspected it.

    Upside doen baking pan solve this.

    Also, smoke was maybe a little too heavy as the box was sealed.

    First run of cheese turned out pretty good but if anything maybe a little smoky.

    So future mods will be some vents that can be opened or closed to help control the smoke.

    I could also ad 2-3 more trays for additional smoking.

    May also add some rods that can be installed for hanging.
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

  3. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Don't recall seeing one made out of plastic before.  You are in good shape as long as you don't develop any flame, then all bets are off[​IMG]

    Very innovative, hope you get a lot of good use out of it.

  4. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    Not too worried about a flame however, I suppose as precaution, I could cover the trays in foil and just poke some holes in it.

    Actually seems to work pretty good, so far.

    However, like I mentioned, I want to work some vents in it.

    I have a really cool idea for doing it too that will cost nothing.

    After I am done, I will post pics.
  5. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looks good, but the plastic tub will melt and can catch fire if it contacts the hot soldering iron or hot pan.  You should only need (1) soldering iron for this small of a box and you need good ventilation.

    Here's a thread I posted a while back on a Cardboard Box Cold Smoker.  Replace the AMNS with a soldering iron, soup can and some chips, and you're in for about $20!




    Cardboard Box = $0.00

    Digital Thermo = Already Should Own One

    Racks = $9 @ Walmart

    Baking Sheet = Stole from Wife's Collection

             Total = $9

    Now add a smoke generator....

    Soldering Iron = $7 @ Harbor Freight

    Chips = $5 or Probably Own Some

    Soup Can = $0.00 From The Recycling bag

    If you're going to use a soldering iron, I would suggest you place the entire smoker on top of your grill.  It's a little safer!

  6. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    I thought about the carboard box first but wanted something that would last without having to get a new box every few times.

    Also wanted to be able to keep it outside so I wouldn't make the inside of my house smell like a smoke house.

    The price of the box was well worth having something permanent and weather proof.

    First run, tub did not melt at all after I put a upside down baking sheet in it like the one in yours.

    That half inch gap was plenty to keep the heat off the bottom.

    First I tried the towel but thinking it probably would not be sufficient, monitored it closely before putting cheese in.

    I do only use one soldering iron at a time.

    However, for longer smokes, I can set up both trays.

    When one smolders out, I unplug it and start the other.

    I can get a couple hours out of it this way.

    Now that I look back, I wish I would have just bought a bigger box so I could reload chips without pulling the racks out.

    I had the smoker sitting on some metal mesh chairs.

    Although I would not worry about setting on the ground as my patio is poured concrete.

    I will probably still get the AMS for longer even longer smokes but I wanted something that I didn't have to order sawdust for. 

    Plus, I like to build. :D

    But if I do get a sawdust burner, the AMS is #1 on my list if for no other reason, it is made in the USA and close to my home town of Shakopee Mn.

    (Not to mention, people love it)

    Maybe my next trip up, I can come by and try some of your sample smokes. ;)
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2011
  7. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Home Town Guys Get BIG Discounts!!

    You're on the right track to something, now work out the vents

    Lots of guys use soldering irons and the cheaper ones work best!

    Try the soup can trick

  8. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    I thought about the can but don't buy anything canned at all.

    I also don't like wasting food, so buying something just to toss out didn't appeal to me.

    The trays do work really well though, they are cheap and reusable.

    First attempt with the soldering iron I used one in a ceramic coffee mug in the grill. It worked awesome but the grill is a cheap grill and a little busted up so I wanted to build something from scratch.

    Half the fun was the build anyways. I just like to build things (it keeps me out of trouble lol). I am sure I will build others down the road just for the fun of it. I would like to do one out of wood.

    I could have cut costs in a few areas like not buying new plugs and just cutting bigger holes.

    Using a thermometer that I already had.

    using one soldering iron.

    But I like it being neat.

    And yeah, they are cheap $5 soldering irons from walmart.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2011
  9. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    I like it I really don't know how good it will work but heck give it a shot it might be the next big thing.
  10. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    When you catch that thing on fire be aware that burning plastic is toxic as it gives off cyanide...
  11. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower


    So do many things we burn and consume cigarettes, almonds, cherry pits/leaves, peach pits, apple seeds, paper products, photos, and many other things that would surprise you.

    However, after running it for over an hour with no signs of heat damage, I am really not overly concerned with it catching fire.

    If it does happen to catch fire, it will be outside in the open air and I promise not to stand over it and inhale the fumes.

    But in the off chance it does catch fire, there is always a hose really close by whenever I do any outside cooking.

    I am sure most people here have inhaled a degree of burning plastic at one point and we all have lived to tell about it. ;)
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Might as well use a metal trash can.

    They say the only thing wrong with that, would be if the trash can is galvanized, and you made the heat too high (real high), it could give off toxic fumes.

    That plastic tub would be nothing but a puddle on the ground, by the time the trash can would be giving off fumes.

    Why cut the plugs off?  You could just cut a slotted "X" & shove the iron through. You need a little air flow at the bottom anyway, and a couple exhaust holes in the top.

  13. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I personally would worry about off gasses from the plastic when smoking cheese. It seems to absorb everything. Good luck
  14. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    OMG! I burned down the house today.

    LOL, j/k

    Ran for a couple hours and still no sign of heat damage.

    Even had my dough sitting on a plastic plate just inches directly above the heating element. :D

    Running it again now to smoke some more cheases that I forgot I set out.

    Thing never reached over 90 degrees.

    This thing works fantastic.

    One tray won't burn nearly as long as an AMS but it will run for over an hour.

    Then if longer is needed, I can plug the second tray in.

    BTW, here is a picture with the upside down cookie sheet I added during the first smoke to prevent heat damage. [​IMG]

  15. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    Just wanted to update.

    I have used this thing dozens of times and it still works fantastic.

    No puddles of plastic or any other malfunctions.

    My only regret is that I wish I would have bought a bigger tub so I could put the trays on the sides of the rack for easier reloading but no biggy.

    Also, yeah, I could build something that work equally as well for a about $10, but I wanted more.

    May build another one soon and see how cheap yet functional I can keep it.

    However, carboard will not be in the plans.
  16. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Plastic...heat.....all closed up.....I dont think so....
  17. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower


    LOL, how much heat do you think a COLD smoker builds?

    Not enough to worry about that is for sure.

    I find it funny that people worry more about the plastic then they do a cardboard box.
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Most people aren't really worried, other than maybe for your safety, and possibly the safety of those who eat your smoked cheese. I doubt if it's going to hurt anyone, if you aren't getting over 90˚, but I can't guarantee that, because I don't know how hot the walls closest to the irons gets. Most are just trying to give suggestions as to what they think about what you're showing us.

    I would say that the cardboard box has a better chance of burning than your plastic tub, and your plastic tub had a better chance of burning than a metal trash can.

    But at low heat, the plastic tub has a better chance of giving off toxic fumes than a galvanized trash can, and people still worry about using a galvanized trash can as a cold smoker. So you can take suggestions to heart or ignore them. People on this forum are always trying to help. Maybe sometimes it seems we try too hard, but we don't mean any harm by it.

  19. kjlued

    kjlued Smoke Blower

    The irons are sitting a good half inch or more above the bottom on an upside down baking pan.

    Not a lot heat gets down.

    I have used this several times since the build 3 months ago, it has been tried and tested with zero failure.

    It has smoked in out 80+ degree days (in the shade of course) and still stayed under 100 degrees.

    I am sure even if you were on the southern tip Fl 0n 120 degree day it would not get hot enough to give off toxins (although your cheese would melt).

    I don't take offense, and I understand concerns in the beginning, but when it has been used over and over without fail and dozens of people have eaten food from it without 1 getting sick, then I think we could get past the naysaying.

    BTW, for those who are concerned have you ever put a plastic bowl in the microwave?

    I am sure most of us here have.

    What temp do you think it got to?
  20. arnie

    arnie Smoking Fanatic

    Good point, but at least the plastic bowls are food grade plastic.

    I don't believe the totes are.

    Chemical poisoning can be an accumulative thing.   

    Is  it there?

    I don't know.

    Is it a concern?

    Is it worth it?

    I doubt it.

Share This Page