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Coffee Can Mod for Charcoal smoking steaks

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I was looking for something different this afternoon. I wanted some more beef steaks over charcoal/hickory, only, this time, with a SLOW/WARM smoke, not a hot smoke.

Bush's Beans 7#-5oz can (coffee can works) burned out and wire brushed to remove the poly food-grade lining, with 5/32" holes (13) drilled in bottom:

Drilled 5/32" holes in the top 1/3 of the can, staggered, 2 lines, @ approx. 2" spacing:

3 chunks of Hickory went in first:

Then, topped-off with hot coals:

Set can into grill and placed a small grill coal-grate (Weber Smokey-Joe) over the top:

Inverted can, with grate over the top, and placed into the chamber:

Placed a slew of oven therms in to monitor the resulting g cook grate temps:

Combustion Air intake position for temp checks, with fresh coals:

Upper vent position & thermometer reading during temperature checks:

Sorry, forgot pics of grate temps from second attempt. They were very close to these, which were taken with the can upright, on the first attempt without a grate under the can:

I did notice that the vents needed to be opened gradually as the coals burned down to maintain a constant temperature. No biggy there. I plan on taking the cook grate off and dumping the coals ontpo the full-size coal grate and leveling out to put on a nice slow sear when the smoke is completed. That should pretty much use up the remains of the coals...no wasted fire for this one.

I'll be trying this new conception out this evening with a 6-pack of bone in Rib steaks. I'll post the results w/ q-view as well.


post #2 of 15
Interesting set up, you sure have the temps covered with all those therms!icon_lol.gif
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks Billbo. Yea, anytime I make a change to a cooker, it's time for temp checks. Temps are everything...

Oh, I forgot to mention, if anyone tries this mod you will need to make a clearance check to find out if your can will fit between the grates. I had to cut off about 1-3/4" off of my can, but I used a smaller diameter grate so I could use a taller can. I gained about 3/4" to 1" by doing so.

One more thing, my reason for drilling the side holes so that they would be oriented towards the bottom when installed was so that I could hopefully get the most even heat distribution towards the outside. The temps are reasonably close @ about 15* differential, so not bad. I wanted to be able to smoke the steaks @ 120* or cooler, and that's pretty much what I got. Then, the sear to finish to your liking of doneness.

Here's the link to her maiden smoke, if you're interested:

Thanks, and enjoy!

post #4 of 15
Hmmm...looks like a Uniflame grill to me...I found a used 22" Weber for $10, and DW got grumpy on me over it..."What, the one I got you isn't good enough?"
She doesn't understand why I need a Horiz Offset, a Weber, the Uniflame, and, when I finally get to it, a UDS. If she only bought shoes, I could explain...
post #5 of 15
That's the beauty in it for me. I'll never catch up to Reds investment in shoes. Ha!
post #6 of 15
Ok, this is a similar concept I used for my gas grill when I was single and lived in an apartment. Those metal smoker boxes suck and I wanted a solution to generate some serious smoke. I took a soup can, punched holes in the bottom for vents, then made a little wire grate at the bottom. I took two lit briquets and put them on the grate, then filled the can with smoking chips. I usually got about 20-30 mins smoke out of it. It worked really well, and with two cans of chips generated a fair smoke ring. The one thing I learned quickly is that the gas needed to be off, because with it on, there was a serious lack of oxygen and the briquets would go out.

Here's a side view of the can:

Top view:

Here it is in action:

post #7 of 15
I got tired of the iron boxes not working in my BBQ too and started making up foil packets with chips. If I put enough chips in and poke 10 -15 holes in the top, I can get about 45 min out of a packet - grab it with tongs and throw another one in - This looks like it is a longer smoke - gonna have to try this one
post #8 of 15
MooseMan, what do you mean the gas has to be off? Aren't you cooking the chicken over the gas while the smoke is doing it's thing? Or do you just let the chicken smoke at the low temps generated by 2 briquettes and then cook it over the gas?
post #9 of 15
The latter is correct. I found that keeping the gas on while the smoke can was lit really cut off the oxygen to the can, and it would significantly cut down the smoke or it would extinguish. Turning the gas off kept the oxygen levels up and the can generated plenty of smoke. This is not how I originally envisioned how it would work, but that's how it turned out. The bottom line is that this works best as a cold smoker, at least on my gas grill.
post #10 of 15
Is it safe to cold smoke poultry without curing it?

I might consider trying that, but I think I'll order a replacement air vent from Weber and install it on the top of my gas grill to create some air draw. Then, I think I could cook and smoke at the same time.
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Yes, I've used this method for over 6 months now. Your main concern while doing this is getting the meat over 140* in a reasonable amount of time...the 40-140*/4hr rule of thumb still applies here as well. If you want a longer cold smoke, I have gone for over 90 minutes, then seared, which takes less than 30-40 minutes with a smaller coal bed and rotating the pieces of meat on/off the direct heat to finish them.

Never had any issues here with this method. The great part about the cold smoke method is it seems to develope a thin skin on the meat's surface if given enough time, and this really tends to seal in the natural juices very well. It does make a noticable difference. It's my favorite method for cooking smaller cuts of meats.

For a gas grill, you should have plenty of draft though the cooking chamber, as the bottom section under the burners has alot of large openings. If the cover is like most, it will have a large opening across the back for ventilation, which should work just fine also. I'd try it without modding the grill itself first, then you'll know for sure if you need to make additional changes.

Also, if you wish to warm/hot smoke in a gas grill, you can operate with indirect heat, placing the smoke can somewhere near/under the meats, then, if you want to sear, just move the meats over the hot side to finish.

post #12 of 15
I would never cold smoke poultry. I don't like being sick. 300-350F for me.

I'd put the smoke can close to one of the burners, and let it's heat get the chips smoking. Should work fine.

Just my .02.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
I understand where you may have concerns about this method. It's not like you're doing a 12-18 cold smoke on cured sausages, or a 36 hour cold smoke on a dry cured ham.

As long as you keep in mind that the 40-140*/4 hour rule of thumb applies to all of the prep/handling and cooking times combined, you can do a short cold smoke safely with smaller pieces, and then a fast high temp sear to finish the meat to a safe internal temp. My cold smoke/sear times are generally 2 hours or less total, so I have a good margin of safety with prep/handling times added to this.

Mass-produced ground meats purchased at the grocery store should be handled with a bit more caution because you, as a consumer/cook have no control over the handling/prep times/temp, or any knowledge of possible issues while these meats were processed...so, you don't really know how much time you have to work with the meat safely. When using store bought ground beef to make my beef salami, I add cure to the meat mix and give it 3 to 4 days to work it's majic...then I have no doubts about the safety of my product. The same goes for ground beef jerky mix, and I like to allow at least a 24 hour cure with it.

Myself and my family would have definately been sick by now, if this weren't the case. I can't count how many cold smoke/sears I've done, and quite a few were with chix pieces.

I wouldn't deliberately do a cold smoke for any length of time on a larger cut of meat, or a chub of beef salami for example...that's when curing is a must. We cure our meats when we know by precess/procedures that we'll be in the danger zone too long, as with cold smoked sausages, hams, bacon, jerky, etc, or anytime we think we might breach the safety margins...curing the meat keeps us safe in these cases.

Times and temps is where it's all at, and I'm not afraid of cold smoke/sear for any meats we eat on a regular basis...steaks, chix pieces, burgers, chops, hot dogs, dinner sausages, brats...nearly an endless list...it's all good.

post #14 of 15
This whole set up sound interesting to say the least. But very cool. So let me get this right you want to smoke the meat with a cold smoke and then grill it over a regular grill some then you will have a smokey flavor and the speed of the grill. Brillant
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Exactly right...I do this after work for dinner at night alot. Everybody here loves the flavors, especially with the charcoal fired cold smoke and sear.

If you have a charcoal grill, you're 95% ready to go. If you have a gas grill, use the smoke can anyway with some charcoal to fire the smoke wood...it will give you flavors from the charcoal and smoke wood.

It's the next best thing to an all-day charcoal fired smoke for a quick smoke fix. The size of the smoke can I use will hold over a pound of briqs, give up to 90 minutes of smoke and still have 1/2 the coals leftover to add more hot coals for searing.

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