Utility Cart Holding Cabinet Conversion - Should work well eh?

Discussion in 'Fridge/Freezer Builds' started by thepackerbacker, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. Before I start drilling holes and spending some money, wanted to see what you all thought. Picked up this insulated warming/cooling utility cart. It looks like it would have been used on an airplane maybe? or for banquets? Its not huge but then again I wasnt looking for something huge so thought this would be easier to manage. Interior dimensions are 26d x 18w x 25 h. Cart has nice handles and wheels and is all aluminum as far as i can tell with foam insulation.

    Plan is to install a burner simular to this http://www.sausagemaker.com/41900heatingelementfor20lbsmoker.aspx

    And then also get myself an AMNS or AMNPS not sure which would work better?

    Want something that will both cold smoke and heat up nicely. I know aluminum is good up to 1200 degrees and even on a hotter smoke i dont see any reason to get up past 325. 

    Hoping i can run the AMNS/AMNPS and then just turn on the burner to supplement heat is needed?

    Ivs been doing a lot of reading, hoping to build my own PID however may just end up buying something pre-made from Auber http://www.auberins.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8&products_id=203

    I guess im just looking for confirmation that this should work out?

    Assuming my plan seems good, then I was hoping for some input on where to start moding the box. Ive never done this type of conversion before and after reading a million threads its kind of hard to gauge how i should go about this because everyone has their own opinion and no 2 custom builds are the same.

    Seems pretty obvious that I will need to make to mods to the box, air intake near the bottom and chimney at the top. Thoughts on location and size?? Materials? Ball valves? Something more professional looking. Im not opposed to spending a little money to get something nice both in appearance and functionality. The mailbox idea is intriguing however I wish I could find a better, more professional looking alu/steel box to attach.

    Any and all input is appreciated...thanks in advance. 

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
  2. bamafan

    bamafan Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    One thing I can tell you for sure is that if grease /runoff gets on the aluminum and burns it is very hard to get off. I tried making a custom drip pan (for easier cleanup) for a 40" MES and that turned out to be an epic failure. Used it once and threw it away.As far as the set up you are looking at from Auber I see no reason it wouldn't work. I looked at the same unit bu decided to build my own for the ramp feature, but I'm only using that box for sausage. I'm not the smartest guy in the world. I'm sure tyou'll get more inputs soon. Best of luck and keep us posted.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2013
  3. radio

    radio Smoking Fanatic

    My main concern would be what type of insulation is in there and how much heat it can take.  It is likely designed to hold food at 140-150°, so the insulation could melt or put off toxic fumes and it is likely not sealed well enough to prevent fumes entering the CC at higher temperatures. You don't want to get the box up to 250-300° and have nasty fumes from insulation spoil your cook and/or make someone ill.

    I looked at food carts on line and couldn't find what material they use for insulation or a heat rating. 
  4. So thats a stainless steel baking sheet on the bottom. I was thinking i would leave it on the bottom as a drip pan and place a burner element and AMNPS on top of it. As stuff falls to the bottom all I need to do is slide out the pan and wash leaving the bottom of the actual box clean as a whistle.

    The foam look simular to "great stuff" or the like. The inside is sealed up pretty well. There is a door seal and lock and the edges have no gaps. They way it is constructed I think the shell was build and then the sides were filled with a foaming insulation through holes on the top. To me it looks like a standard closed cell foam.

    This unit is NSF certified, its hard for me to believe that they would use materials that would be toxic. Maybe Im wrong though?

    Here is what I get from the companies website. Mine is obviously older but same model...perhaps mine is the same. Measurements and construction looks to be the same as described.

    • Body: .063 aluminum.
    • Reinforcement: Internal framework of channels, 1 x 3/4 x .125.
    • Insulation: Fiberglass, thermal conductivity (K factor) is .23 at 
    75°F. 1-1/2” in walls and door; 1” in top and bottom.
    • Pan stop channels: Mounted to inside rear of cabinet and door.
    • Bail handles: Two mounted on each side.
    • One piece construction, .190 aluminum.
    • Casters: 5" dia., swivel, modulus tires, 1-1/4 wide, load cap. 250 
    lbs. each, temp. range -45°/+180°F. Delrin bearings.
    • Front casters equipped with brakes.
    • Field reversible.
    • Formed .063 aluminum.
    • Latch: Anti-microbial chrome plated zinc with composite handle, 
    magnetic type; mounted inboard.
    • Hinges: Heavy duty chrome plated zinc; mounted inboard.
    • Gasket: Perimeter type, silicone.
    • Transport latch.

  5. radio

    radio Smoking Fanatic

    It would definitely be food safe at temps it's designed for, say 140-150°.  No way to know how the insulation would react to 300+ degree temperatures though.  I looked up the MSDS for Great Stuff and found this  " Elevated temperatures can cause hazardous polymerization. Toxic fumes may be released in fire situations.  Avoid temperatures above 49°C (120.2° F)"

    Unless the inside is one piece construction so no fumes can enter the CC through the areas where pieces join, I would be very hesitant to use it as a smoker.  Just my 2 cents, so YMMV
  6. I'm sure it's not great stuff type foam based on the intended application... It just looks similar. Hoot food would easily warm the internal temps in that cabinet to 200+.

    There are a couple seams on the side/top edges only.
  7. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looks like you have sprayed-in polyurathane foam insulation, like most newer appliances these days. The stuff has to be removed by hand and replaced with something else, or you could risk toxic fumes mingling with your food.

    Check out the other threads here on foam insulation.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2013
  8. So it seems like the consensus is that I need to remove the polyurethane insulation. 

    My question is how this insulation would be so much different that what comes standard in a MES? Its my understanding that the MES uses a polyurethane foam and max temp is 275.

    After reading other threads it seems like standard polyurethane is good up to 350-375, is this correct?

    I do not intend on removing the insulation from this cabinet, it would be a waste of a really nice and solid cabinet and i doubt it will ever get back together as good as it was from the factory. If it comes down to removing or not using then I will put it up on craigslist and see what I can get... and put that money towards a better starting point.

    I guess my confusion is how all these other mainstream electric smoker companies get away w/using polyurethane when people all seem to think it is unsafe is this type of application.
  9. Anyone?
  10. Took it apart. Easier than I thought. Fiberglass in the door and cut foam sheets in the cabinet. The inner is solid!

    As long as you think alu is a good material to smoke in I'm gonna mover forward????

    Can I do this in aluminum?
  11. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Unfaced fiberglass is good to 1000°. You can use it for the rest of the smoker or rock wool. You did the right thing pulling out the foam. Your going to have a nice smoker.
  12. So just go to Home Depot and buy fiberglass insulation?
  13. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I spoke to Owens Corning a while back and they said that glass becomes molten between 1200 to 1300°. It is then spun into fiberglass. It is nothing but glass. So unfaced fiberglass from Home Depot will work.

    Burning fiberglass gets a bad reputation after resin is added to hold it together like a fiberglass boat. Resin burns and is toxic.
  14. Nice, so I'm good to go. Onward!
  15. ok, so What would be the best style heater to install? This is an aluminum box, want to make sure I don't damage the inside.

    Would a 1000w heater be large enough? It will be insulated.

    Do I go burner style or strip style? All the fridge builds show some type of false bottom....I dont really have  room for a false bottom being only 1" b/w inner and out walls. I could use the cooking sheet as a false bottom...but am then making the actual smoking chamber smaller.

    I though maybe a strip heater could be mounted without use of the false bottom and also without damaging the aluminum.

    Or am i worrying too much? Can i just cut a hole in the inner bottom wall and put a plate in and lay the burner in and be done?

    And then do I need some type of fan to circulate air?

    Planning on using an AMNPS most likely. So I go with the false bottom idea and just set the AMNPS on that? Or can I place the AMNPS directly on the bottom of the box? How hot does the AMNPS get? I don't want it to burn through.

    Other option is to do some type of "Mailbox mod" or secondary fire box and place the AMNPS in there.

    Hoping this will be able to smoke everything, hot and cold.
  16. You might want to put some fire brick on the bottom. That would probably take care of your concern of burning through the bottom. I don't think you would any ways but it might lessen the the amount of heat penetrating through the bottom of the cabinet. I didn't notice any discussion of air intake or exhaust. Maybe I missed it but you'll need both. I highly recommend the AMNPS smoker. Works like a champ no need for external attachments. For the size of the smoker I think 1000 watt is enough . the element you chose will probably word nicely. Make sure to to get the rheostat that goes with it so you can adjust the temp. Otherwise the element will always be on full power unless you plan on running a pid. I wouldn't cut into the inner cabinet. Just place the element inside . Drill a hole through back near the bottom where the wire for the element needs to be and seal it with high temp silicone. You want your air intake hole near the bottom as well about center of the cabinet on one of the sides. Some people use those brass shutoff valves to control the flow and to seal it up when not in use to keep critters out. . A top exhaust vent also with some time of rain shield or chimney cap. No need for a fan, convection will cause the air to move. I would say probably at least 2-3 inch diameter for both. Just make sure you have some type of drip pan system to keep grease from hitting the element and the AMNPS or you will have afire in your smoker. There are a lot of guys here smarter than me on these things but that is Just my 2 cents.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2013
  17. shoneyboy

    shoneyboy Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great start to this build..... Can't wait to see some TBS coming out of it........ShoneyBoy
  18. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You can get a small piece of Dura rock and lay it on the floor to protect it. My smoker is larger and has a 2100 watt element. I thing 1000 watt would be sufficient or even a little large. If you are going to use a chip pan you will want the element to have to work hard to keep the chips going. And go to an electrical supply store and buy high temp oven wire.
  19. I want to be able to cold smoke too. Wasnt planning to use a chip pan but rather an AMNPS. Thought I would get a smaller external box hooked to the side which could house the AMNPS.

    So how would one install an element like this?


    I feel like it needs to sit down into something. Or am I better off using a Grill conversion where its a big element and just set it in there? I like the smaller elements as it seems as though it would be easier to make some type of tent/diffuser/deflector to protect the element.

    Heres the big guy. How do I protect something that large? 

    Thats why I almost started thinking the strip heater might be the best solution, smaller so easy to protect. 

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