Building an Electric Smoker

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by osage, Jan 9, 2008.

  1. osage

    osage Fire Starter

    Hello all. This is my first post here.

    I need some thoughts on my new smoker project. I have used an electric brinkman for several years but don't really like it for smoking summer sausage, bacon and other things because it gets too hot and doesn't realy have room to hang large bacon slabs or sausage. It does alright cooking though. I was told by freind that you can make a pretty good smoker out of an old refrigerator if you find an old one that's all metal. My father-in-law had a few in an old farm shed so I rummaged around this past sunday and found one that I think will work great.

    It's an old 50's vintage model that already had the compressor and workings taken out. It was fairly clean and dent free. I removed some rubber spacers and pads on the inside. The inside door panel was made of what looked like fiberglass or some other heavy fiber material so I removed it and the rubber door seal. There was also a small amount of plastic trim around the opening that I replaced with some metal flashing.

    For the heat source, I have a 1000 watt table-top electric grill that I think will work good. I also picked up a temp controller today at an appliance shop.

    1st question: If I only use this for smoking summer sausage, bacon, jerky which I like to do no more than 170 degrees, does all the plastic have to come out? What do I use to replace the rubber seal that was on the door. I have a pretty big gap now. Can I use the fiber rope that is used for wood stoves?

    2. Where do you recommend putting the temp probe for the thermostat? In the very top?

    3. I was thinking of putting lava rock on the heat element like my brinkman. What's your thoughts on lava rock. I'm not sure I can set a pan right on that element. It has a grill that's an inch off the element so I don't know if the pan will get hot enough. see the pic below to see what i mean.

    Here's the door with the panel removed. I'll need to find a piece of metal to fill this if I want to maintain the insulation value of the air space.

    The grill comes in a porcelin crock with a drip pan. Not a bad setup. I may take off the grill and go with lava.

    I'm going to drill a hole out the back for the cord and of course add my bottom and top vent holes.
  2. ajthepoolman

    ajthepoolman Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Welcome to the SMF! I can't really help with your question, but someone will come along shortly!
  3. kookie

    kookie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    First off welcome to the smf. Sencond, if you looking the electric section of the forums there is alot of good info there. Now for your questions. As far as using lava rocks, I would try the smoker out without them first and see how your temps are. I believe the lava rocks are to help hold the temps up. So of the others might correct me on that. My smokers don't use lava rocks, so I am just going off what I have read here. Next question, to be safe I would remove all the plastic. You don't want the chemicals that make up plastic getting it to your food and making you sick. Next question, to replace the rubber seal I would check at a store that sells fire places and that type of stuff and see what they have for seals. Might be nothing more then the rope style gasket or they might have or point you to someplace that you can get some kind of high temp rubber gasket. The last question, as for where to put the thermostat probe, I have mine in the middle of my smoker. My thinking is if you put it close to the element then it will shut off your element before the middle and top of smoker is hot or close to temp. If you put it at the top then I think you will over heat your smoker. I think the middle is the safe area.
    I would try putting your chip pan on top of the grate for the grill and see how that does and if it doesn't work then you can move the pan on to the element. Well I hope this advice helps you. I follow the old trial and error way of doing things. lol.

  4. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF... I don't do electric, but many do here...stop by Roll Call and give us an intro post....
  5. t-bone tim

    t-bone tim Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF, Osage ....go on over to roll call and introduce yer self ...

    that fridge is gonna make a fine smoker , I would put the temp gauge 2/3 up from the bottom , remove all plastic if possible , wood stove gasket will do the trick if you can mount it to stay in place well , and use a pan with either sand , water , or possibly lava rock to help regulate the heat

    you're on the right track [​IMG]
  6. morkdach

    morkdach Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    first remove all plastic from inside door seals are not that inportant with a 1000 watt element if need be use an rtv for a seal. i set a alum pan on grill with 5 or 6 coals and wood chips set thermo close to top. always use a meat thermo as your smoking this will work great.[​IMG]
  7. mulepackin

    mulepackin Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thats gonna make a fine smoker. I posted pics of the one I recently finished in the roll call section. It is my second refer conversion. Some things I would bring up on yours would be 1) a top draft/smokestack - the moisture has to go somewhere, 2)possibly a controllable draft opening on the lower portion, again to let in air for air flow, and temp control 3) I left the magnetic seal on mine on, it never created a problem for me on the older one, but if you feel the material on yours might be a problem, Allied-Kenco sells a couple of different styles of high temp gasket sealing materials and adhesive/sealer.4) I just pop riveted 2 sheets of flashing tin together than used the screw on flange for the magnetic seal to screw this to the door to replace the plastic I removed. My door had a layer of fiberglass insulation which I left in place. I would try to put some inside your door if there isn't any, it will really help hold the heat in place. Good luck with your project.
  8. osage

    osage Fire Starter

    Thanks everyone.

    I'm going to get some small duct tomorrow to make the smoke stack and lower vent. I already have the thermostat to control the heat element. I never cook without my polder thermometer.

    I'll look for some high-temp gasket for the door. I took the fiber/plastic/whatever-it-was panel off the door but now I'm not too sure what to replace it with. I guess I'll need to find a wide piece of metal somewhere. I was tempted to put the door panel back in. It doesn't look like it will melt and it's got a hard enamel on it. Did they use figerglass back in the 50's?

    I found it interesting that there was no insulation used in this thing. Just air space. I guess electricity was cheap back then.
  9. osage

    osage Fire Starter

    Well, my door gasket material should be here today from allied-kenco. Thanks for the tip. I haven't seen that site before. Also picked up a vent stack and a couple much-needed boning knives. I forgot the adhesive so I'm hitting the hardware stores today to look for some high-temp silicone. Hopefully, Ace or Lowes carries it. I need to seal up some holes after having removed some rubber seals around the shelving brackets. I used some roof flashing material for the door panel. Looks OK. I don't think it's galvanized.

    I did a trial run with an iron skillet right on the element and tested the thermostat against my Polder meat thermometer. All seems to work OK so far. I may yet get some lava rock to put on the element. For some reason, the smoke smells better coming off the lava.

    I'll take some new picks when it's all finished and cleaned up.
  10. mulepackin

    mulepackin Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I think you'll find most 100% bath and kitchen silicone caulks are rated for around 600 deg. I just used GE clear kitchen and bath caulk on mine and its holding up fine (it lasted 15 years on my last homebuilt). Check the label, just be sure its 100% silicone. I got it at Ace. If you can, show us some pics of how you incorporated your skillet thermostat into your rig. Good thermo control has always been a problem in the past fir me I sprung for the Allied-Kenco preassembled thermostat set up. Just got it installed last night. Now I'm working on my blower system.
  11. osage

    osage Fire Starter

    Got it done and fired it up today. Hope to have some summer sausage ready in a few hours. It was 7 degrees this morning so the cook time may take a little longer.

    I used a boiler style thermostat to control the heat element. The only thing I regret about it is it doesn't display the internal temp. I wish I had purchased a Ranco electronic model.

    I replaced the plastic inside door panel and small plastic trim with aluminum flashing. I used RTS silicone (didn't realize it was black) to seal the edges. It was a sloppy silicone job but I wasn't going for neatness. The holes in the back I plugged with dowel rods. I can remove those when I want to use the racks. I added aluminum angle iron and some wood rods to hang the suasage from at the top.

    My new avatar. Just because.
  12. morkdach

    morkdach Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    looks good lets see your finished sausage q-view let me know how the thermostat works.
  13. morkdach

    morkdach Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    mulepackin would like to how your thermo works thinking bout installing for the summer heat dont need one now.
  14. osage

    osage Fire Starter

    Just hung'em up to dry and bloom. So far so good. It took quite a while to get that last 6 degrees. I finally completely covered the smoke stack and that seemed to help. Could a draft have been falling down on my sausage? The thermostat seemed to keep the smoker between 180 and 188 if I can believe my thermometer. I had the thermostat set on 180. The outside temp never got much over 20. The frustrating part was trying to verify what the actual temp inside the smoker was. I think I'll add on a permament thermometer.

    I'll get some pics when I take them down to pack.
  15. mulepackin

    mulepackin Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Osage, on my original refer conversion, I just drilled an 1/8 in. hole in the middle of the door about a foot down and inserted a baby dial thermometer so the probe was inside. Had another one on the side, and this probe was inserted into a piece of sausage hanging inside near the edge.This worked great for me for about 15 years. On my new build, I did the same, but also got a 2 1/2" flange mount capillary tube thermometer from Allied Kenco. I mounted it in a 4 in. weather tight electric box, actually mounted to a solid cover plate, then screwed that to the box which was screwed to the outside of the freezer. This was just for a finished look I guess, could have just as easily cut a hole on the outside of the freezer and screwed it directly. Your rig looks great!

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