First let me start by thanking everyone on SMF for their many posts that I've read for a few years now. About 5 years ago I started deer hunting and processing my own deer and hogs for my family's consumption. These forums have been invaluable and so I thank each of you for taking the time to share your successes and failures.
I live in S. Illinois and enjoy the outdoors when I can get there. By trade I am a District Sales Manager for a valve and actuator manufacturer for the commercial HVAC market (left name out because I'm not sure if there are forum rules for plugging companies). I love my job and the company I work for. I love my God and family even more and enjoy providing my family with meats from animals that God provides for us to harvest, process, prepare, and preserve for survival. Sure I can afford to buy the meat at the store but nothing beats the satisfaction of what I described above when sitting at the table with my family and us giving thanks to God for the harvest and ability to prepare the harvest.
Presently, I have been reading the SMF forums on building a cooker/smoker and wanted to post my project to solicit the advice of the many who have gone before me in this adventure. I acquired a former commercial fridge that's stainless inside and out, thick, and very well insulated and am converting it into a cooker/smoker. It's internal dimensions are 60"Tx24"Wx27"D (approx. 20 sq. ft.). I want to place an electric heating element in it for cooking and control the heating element with a controller that can maintain a cooking temperature accurately and then adjust to and hold a lower temperature automatically after it senses the meat is finished cooking. I would also like to add multiple meat sensors for when I smoke multiple hams, roasts, hocks, ribs, briskets, etc. at one time. In addition, I would like to add a smoker box to it that can generate smoke over long periods of time without having to babysit it and possibly a convection fan to distribute heat evenly when many items are being cooked and smoked at once - also controlled by a controller as well. Here are pics of my project box:
I plan to use the area on top of the box for the chimney stack and controls (insulated from each other). Another feature I am thinking to incorporate into this box is an adjustable cooking lid that can be slid into any of the multiple shelf supports you see in picture above. This adjustment will allow me to cook and smoke just one single item without having to heat the entire cooking chamber to do so.
Answer to foreseen question; how will smoke exit the box at the top if I have an adjustable lid feature? The lid/shelf will not seal off the space below it but will have a gap on both sides of it that will allow heat and smoke to escape up into the stack. This idea is to maintain a majority of the heat and smoke in that space - not trap it there. This will require the controller to be able to modulate the heating element to a lower wattage when this feature is in use.
Thank in advance to those that will no doubt answer my post and provide some great advice based on their own experiences. I am expecting to put $300 to $400 in this project to get it completed. That cost pales in comparison to a commercial cooker/smoker this size which is around $7k to $10k easy.