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Just another smoker from MInnesota ....

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

First, a little background. I am a former meat cutter / sausage maker. I worked at a Red Owl store in Hutchinson, MN.. I was trained by my father, to cut meat. We learned with the help of the seasoning reps, and by trial and error, how to make great sausage, and other smoked products.

When another food chain opened up a new store in town, I got laid off, since I was low man on the totem pole. Since my father was the meat dept. manager, I still came back on weekends, during deer season, to help process all the venison. This helped me keep sharp with my processing skills, as well as my meat cutting prowess.

Since I had the opportunity to work with a professional smokehouse, I knew what I needed to have for my personal smokehouse. I acquired an old, non-functioning, refrigerator from a co-worker. I then had to remove the internal freezer compartment, and found some metal panels from some old computer equipment we were scrapping, at work. These panels were heavy duty enough to rivet in place and use a hight temp caulk to seal the edges, so the smoke would stay inside, and not get into the insulation. Now I needed something to hang my smoke sticks on. I had some oak boards I got from a friend. I cut one down into 3/4" x 2" cleats, and notched the upper ones, to have offset recesses for the smoke sticks, which I also bought from Allied Kenco.

I then pulled an old 2-drawer file cabinet from a pile of scrap equipment, at work. The file cabinet would work as my smoke chamber, and the fridge, as the main smokehouse. I looked around and found an electric element for the Brinkman smoker/grills. This is big enough to produce enough heat, quickly, to be used in the smokehouse. For the smoke chamber, I picked up a returned cast iron skillet, and a single burner hotplate.

The file cabinet is a funky one, so I rented a hole saw, and cut 5 - 4" hole on the inside of the top storage area, and one in the top cover. I then got some duct work pieces, and some aluminum tubing, and assembled the smoke chamber. While I still had the hole saw, I also punched a hole in the side of the fridge, just above the heating element, for the smoke to enter the smokehouse. I also put another hole near the top, for the exhaust, and then bought a simple chimney and damper setup.

With the house and smoke chamber assembled, I knew I needed some type of thermostat, to control the heat in the house. Here is where I didn't cut corners. I bought a nice unit from Allied Kenco, for about $150. They still have them for $159, but are a little different than the one I bought. When I got mine, they didn't have one with the outdoor outlet box attached. I had to buy that myself, and wire it up to the exposed wire coming from the thermostat. Obviously these new ones would be much nicer, for somebody just starting out, without having to worry about wiring up an outlet box.

I have tried several different options for fans, to circulate air in the smokehouse. I still haven't got a good solution yet, but I get by with what I can find in old computers and large printers, from work. Also, I need to do something with the damper as it doesn't seal shut enough for my taste. I lose too much smoke out the smokestack.

OK, now you know a little bit about me, and my background. Sorry for being long winded, but that's the way I am, when I get talking about making sausage.

On to some recently smoked items, I was successful in harvesting an Elk this year. So, with my meat cutting background, I was able to keep the inside nice and clean, while I cut it up, in the field, so we could pack it back to camp. This enabled me to keep both rib plates. I used a battery powered sawz-all, to cut them in half, so I could have two full rib pieces, just like the pork ribs are. Now since this was just a calf, they were still small enough to handle, even though they were a bit bigger than a full plate pork rib.

It has been a while since I have done any ribs, and I know I didn't have any dry rub for them. I found several recipes on the internet, and concocted my own dry rub. I think it turned out very nice. Now I just need to tweek it a bit. Anyway, I put the dry rub on the ribs, and let them sit overnight. The next morning I plugged in, and fired up the smokehouse. I needed to get it up to temp, so I could verify the thermostat knob setting. The mark had disappeared over time. Once I got that set, I started the ribs in the house at 180*, for about 90 minutes. I then started my smoke chamber, as this usually takes about 20+ minutes for smoke to start forming. I use a hardwood combination sawdust I got from Mandeville, in Minnepolis. I use enough sawdust to just about fill the cast iron skillet. Somewhere in the area of a half gallon, for those who really want to know.

After the first smoke was done, I gave it a second blast, and turned up the house temp to 200*. From here I just let it cook for the next 4+ hours. I checked the internal temp on them, just to make sure I got it over the magical 165* point. Once that was achieved, It was just to determine if they were getting tender. I then turned the house off and let them cool down gradually. After a couple hours, they were cool enough to handle with bare hands. I took them in the house, and let them cool for another hour, then wrapped them, individually, with plastic wrap. I figure if I can keep them from drying out, they should be nice and juicy.

Last night, I fired up my gas grill, just to reheat the ribs. I put them over medium heat for ~5 minutes on each side, and they were nice and hot. I then cut them into pieces, and put a small amount of BBQ sauce, on the side. They didn't even need much sauce. They had great flavor, and were fairly tender. Now I want to go buy some full slab pork ribs and smoke more.

So, again, sorry for being long winded, but there it is. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. PDT_Armataz_01_22.gif

I am looking forward to reading alot of the forum entries, and hopefully get some more ideas.

Thanks for reading (listening),
post #2 of 20
Welcome to SMF! Don't worry about being long-winded here, we LOVE details! Now we just need some pics of your rig! Sounds like you're well on your way to getting those ribs just right! Only thing I can say is maybe up the temp a little, 225 is what I do for ribs.
post #3 of 20
Welcome to SMF! It sounds like you're gonna fit right in here. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing about your smoking experiences. Glad to have you with us.
post #4 of 20
Welcome to SMF Bombo................
post #5 of 20
Welcome to SMF from a neighbor in North Dakota !!!
Your smoker set up really interests me, any chance of posting a picture or two of it? I have made a couple smokers and I think your past experience wll benefit my self and others. At the same time there are many knowledgable members here that may give you an idea or two. As Monstah said, don't apologize for be long winded, we love details !!! Again, Welcome to SMF and joined up as a member.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 

Here's my setup

Here are a few pics of my setup.
post #7 of 20
I like your smoke house set up, it has a look to it that indicates someone knows what they are doing. Do you have any problems with smoke going downward in the ducting to the smoker? If so, would elevating the smoker help?
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 

Nope, I have no problems with the smoke. I can always get plenty into the house. I have the top of the smoke chamber sealed. That really helps not losing any there. It just flows from the smoke chamber into the smokehouse. Never had any issues.
post #9 of 20
Welcome to the site. Your going to fit in here.
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
The only real problem with the smoke is keeping it in the smokehouse, and not getting out through the exhaust tube. The damper needs to be re-worked, so it will actually seal shut. I just have a heating & AC damper. lots of room around the damper plate. I just need to tear it apart and get some rubber to put in above the damper on one side, and below it on the other. That way when I shut it, it will seal against the rubber. Then it will be a one way turnable damper. Not a big deal if it will seal well.
post #11 of 20
Welcome to the SMF Bombo. I know you will enjoy your stay here and so will the rest of us.
post #12 of 20
Welcome to the family of SMF Bombo ! That is a truely wild looking smoker you have there. ( two thumbs up ) PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #13 of 20
Welcome to the SMF. With all of your experiece I think all the members here will enjoy your input and Q Views too! Have a great weekend.
post #14 of 20
Welcome Bombo -

Kewl smokehouse! Sounds like you've got plenty of experiance and give us enough details to keep us happy! I love making sausages I look forward to your post!
post #15 of 20


wow cool smoker, back in high school 27 years ago we made a couple of fridge smokers but nothin like that.we werent even smart enough to remove the seal around the door.just let them burn out.cant belive were all still around but after a few smokes all was good .anyway welcome aboard.icon_biggrin.gif
post #16 of 20


Welcome to smf, keep coming back!!!!!!
post #17 of 20
Welcome Bombo, glad you joined us. I like the smoker, you are gonna fit right in here! PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif

Have fun!
post #18 of 20
PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif Welcome to the SMF PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif Great looking smoker..
post #19 of 20

just learning

I use a smokin tex electric smoker and am new at it,have smoked ribs and brisket so far now I am thinking about a turkey and wondering what flavor wood to use,
post #20 of 20
Hi Bombo80!...Welcome to the SMF!...PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif...Glad to have you aboard!...You're gonna love it here!...

Neat smoker setup ya have there!!..I LIKE it...I LIKE it!!...PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif

You're gonna fit right into our little family here at the SMF!...PDT_Armataz_01_18.gif

Until later...
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