1951 GE Fridge Smoker finally working: Part1

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Meat Mopper
Original poster
Mar 4, 2018
Sweet Home, Oregon
I finished my 1951 GE Fridge smoker! Took about 6 months or so. It has been quite a journey and learning experience. But most projects are always learning experiences. I want to thank many of you for your ideas that you have posted. There is so much information on the website, it is almost hard to sort through all of it. My designs were made to get me the most flexibility as possible, and in some cases... probably did a little overkill. The original intent was to do everything from cold smoke to Pizza oven.

And most of all, I want to thank my son. I have been very fortunate that my son works as a welder at fab shop. He found many great pieces of metal, and got a good price on a stainless steel sheet metal from a distributor. He also TIG welded some of the more difficult stuff with work equipment. Lastly he also bought me a nice Miller AC/DC and he made the base for the welder.



When everything was pulled apart, there was a small rust hole in the bottom pan of the outside fridge shell. The rust was all ground out and then coated with Rust neutralizer; Phosphoric Acid I believe. Anywhere on the fridge that rust was found, it was ground down and coated with neutralizer. The whole inside of the shell was primed and painted with high temp paint and stainless steel was added in the inside of the bottom where the hole was and the metal was thin. The shell wall was also strengthened with extra supports in places were items were mounted on the outside e.g.: electric controller, table, and push bar.

Scrap 3/8 aluminum plates were used to support across the bottom as a base. Then adjustable height casters were mount to the base. I found the casters at a recycle yard, and the scrap aluminum that was removed out of a old machine.

I was very happy to see the only rust on the inside tub was on a dog ear the manufacture used to hold the tub while doing the coatings.


The original insulation was replaced with rock wool.


Stainless Steel (SS) .060 sheet metal was used throughout. It took almost a whole 4‘x8’ sheet. My son got me a discount on the sheet metal, $160. A sheet metal shop did the major sheering for me, so the edges were straight and square to start with. The rest of the sheet metal was cut by hand with a angle grinder and Metabo cutoff wheel. I bent a few of the small pieces myself. The rest of the sheet metal was sent out to 2 different places depending on tolerances of the bends.

The large square hole in the bottom back is the intake to the smoker. An old 1950s-1960 heating register vent was used for the air intake and intake from the mailbox smoker generator. It has a single flap on the inside that can vary the air flow. I have been leaving it 3/4 open. It is probably a little overkill in size, but it is working for my my needs. More on this later on. There are also 2 round holes higher up on the back for exhaust .

The fridge was repainted with white pain before I got it. The paint was a dull white and was soft feeling to the touch. I ended up sanding most of the top coat off. Found many little surface spots of rust while sanding away the top layer of paint. I spent at least a month sanding, and could have spent a lot more time glazing and blocking the outside body. It is not quite show car quality, but as my son and wife say, “It’s a smoker, get over it”.

All of the bare spots is were rust was found, They were coated with rust neutralizer again. The top coat of old paint broke down when tested with paint thinner., so the whole outside was sealed with an epoxy primer, then a high build poly primer.

As you can see in the second picture I was test fitting sheet metal corners covering the space between the Inside and outside walls.


I used SS rivnuts/nutserts to attach items to the both the inside and outside of the smoker. 10-24 and 1/4-20 rivnuts were used throughout. I first tried to make make own crimping tool with thrust needle bearings like I found on youtube, but the strength of the SS made the tool useless after one insert. I bought a Astro Pnuematic rivnut tool that you can use a handheld drill with a clutch to put in the rivnuts. Due to the strength of the SS, and the driving force of the drill I stripped a 1/4-20 arbor on the tool after 6 inserts. Things were not going so good... Astro replaced the arbor with next day shipping... Fantastic!! I used a little 1/4” ratchet and a 1/4”socket and inserted the rivnuts by hand. Took a little strength and to feel the give of the rivnut, but I got the process down and inserted 25 rivnets before the arbor started showing any wear. New arbors are about $7 each, so I order 2 more of each size that was needed for the smoker. The next arbor has done more than 25 rivnuts probably 35-40 rivnuts. SS bolts were used on everything possible, with food grade anti-seize grease in the threads.

Looking at the inside of the smoker, hot rolled 1.5” angle iron for shelving support. There is a total of 8 shelves spaced at 4 inches apart. In the back bottom you can see the flapper on the intake area. Below that is the 2600W - 240V stand stove top burner. Brand new mine is drawing 11Amps (2640watts). Fire bricks are across the bottom and 4.5” up the side. I probably got carried away the fire bricks, but the temp of the element can reach 1500 degrees F, and it gives me some thermal mass.


All of the shelving in the smoker are a 1/8 perforated SS. All of the metal shelves were free; They were scrapped because of a fabrication error. They all had a small arc to them because they were mount on a huge tube. The SS sheet metal in the lower picture is on the shelf above the raised above the wood chip box. It works as a diffuser above the cold smoker and chip box. On top of the diffuser there is a drip pan/water tray/sand box to help even the temperature. The next shelf up are 2 narrow angled sheet metal next to each wall. This to keep the drippings flowing back onto the diffuser plate and drip pan... All of the handles on the shelves are parts from the mounting brackets for the 3” SS food pipping.

Food grade High temp red chalk is used seal all the holes in the inside tub from the old fridge hardware. The 4 pieces of sheet metal (corners) that cover the insulation between the inside and outside of the smoker, and the exhaust were also chalked. The whole project took about 1 full tube of chalk.




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I found a SS electric box at the industrial scrap yard. My son cleaned up some welds on the outside of the box (looked like it had been repurposed before), and he add a grounding lug inside. I add the viewing window on the front. Did some more body work, and painted it. All of the electronics were bought from Auber instruments. There is a SMD-200 PID which accepts 2 temperature probes (inside smoker and food temp). The PID is programable with 8 different cooking profiles. There is a 25 Amp solid state relay (SSR) to control the 240volts.

BTW, Auber is fantastic! The first PID shipped had a bad button upon arrival, they shipped me a new one overnight at no charge. I then got in a hurry replacing the new (2nd) PID and hooked up the 240V to the 12V output. Ah scheisse!! Ach Du lieber, what else can go wrong! I know this is just a home system, but I did not want to wait around to get the 2nd one fixed. They sold me a 3rd PID for a 10% discount and said they could fix the 2nd PID for $10 plus shipping. 2 days later the smoker was up and running. THANK YOU Auber Instruments! I still have to send the second one in to get repaired. Then there ewill be a backup PID.

The red double pole switch on the bottom left for the main 240volt on/off to the box. There are several LED lights, 240V, 120V, and 12V for quick trouble shooting. At a quick glance you can tell if everything is working correctly. Since this is some what of a closed box, there is a small 3” 120V computer fan to help cool the SSR and heat sync. During non-stormy times I leave the front open and air circulates around the front panel. There is also a 120V switch to control a 120V external outlet. Everything has been done so I can smoke in the pouring rain in the winter and keep the electronics dry.

The 2-gang box to the right of the main box is for routing the probes into the smoker box which will be covered next.


I put in a 3/4 hole on the inside of the smoker and a 2.5 square opening on the outside shell. On the inside there is a hi-temp silicone plug with a hole in the center to route cables through. Between the inside and outside shell there is a SS inside lining to isolate the rock wool and allowing the wiring to pass through. 3/4 fiberglass tubing was packed inside to keep heat away from the outside. This is the picture that looks like a rats nest. There are 2 sets of probes going through this area. One is the Auber probes, and the other is ThermoPro probes for a wireless TP-20. 1/8” cork gasket was used to seal between the outside of the smoker and the 2 gang box. In the last picture is the ThermoPro probe on top and the Auber probe on bottom to sense the inside smoker temperature. More later on TP-20 ThermoPro.



I used a 3” exhaust and a 2” exhaust. I do not have good reason for using 2 different sizes. The exhaust pipes are food grade stainless steel (SS) found at industrial scrap yard. SS car exhaust flanges were used to attach the pipe to the smoker. Thanks again to my son for TIG welding the thick flanges to the thinner exhaust pipe. Ain’t no way I could have welded them without him. I took advantage of the normal couplers on the piping to be able to cap off the tops of the exhaust pipes at the top of the smoker. It also allows me to have both long and shortened stacks for cold vs hot smoking. There is also a 3” damper in the 3” pipe. I have also capped off the 2” and turned down the 3” damper all the way while trying to get temperatures higher. Extra coupler clamps were used on the back of the smoker to store the top sections of the stacks when the smoker is not in use.


The cold smoke generator is a mailbox smoker. A regular mailbox used with flexible tubing connecting it to the smoker. The mailbox is held up by some left over perforated SS plates. The mailbox has three 1” holes for air intake in the front cover. I have both the 5x8 ANMPS and the 7-12” oval A-maz-n pellet smoker and have tested both with good success. A 120Volt 3” computer fan was placed on the front of the mailbox. A variable switch was used on the lowest setting to run the fan. The fan has been used a couple of times with the AMNPS. The first time the AMNPS almost went out and 5 minutes of having the fan on got the pellet smoking great again, and then it was turned off. The other time I started it up when it was in the high 40s outside and the meat was around 33 degrees. I used it for about an hour to start with a cold smoke without the heating element on. I think I might be able to do cheese with this pretty easily with the outside temp in the 40s-50s without the heating element. The top of the fan will need to be covered if it rains to keep it from getting wet.



The intake as mentioned before was an old register. Both sides are covered except a 2”x3” area on the right lower side; A adjustable intake vent was made in this area. Next to the 2”x3”intake area is the 3” intake from the mailbox smoke generator.


Here is a picture of the front of the smoker. The smoker was painted with PPG paints. I set up my 24”x36” garage as a paint booth and used a HVLP gun. The paint is a metallic green for the main body and a yellow for all of the attached electric boxes. This is the first time I have tried spraying high quality paints. It is not perfect, but close. Magnetic decals were purchased for the added decorations. The “SMOKIN’ DUCKS” magnetic decal was custom made.


As you can see, the bottom cavity was used to put in a drawer, using the front panel as the drawer front. This works great for holding equipment. The drawer slides are heavy duty and made so the whole drawer can be fully exposed when the drawer is completely pull out. The drawer itself is made of SS sheet metal, bent and TIG welded. The only problem is there is less than a 1/16 of an inch clearance between the top of the caster support and the door bottom. I may have to put a 1/4 shim in-between the caster support and the main body so there is more clearance up/down for the drawer.

Picture below, there is a oak butcher block table that folds out. The second picture is of the exhaust capped off and the butcher block table folded up for storage. There are also 2 short 90 degree curved stacks for cold smoking to help reduce back pressure. Not sure if it will help, but it is worth a try; the 90 degree bends came as part of the scrap metal. On the table is a TP-20 wireless temp gauge. Signals have routinely received at around 100 feet away. I have not tried to go 300ft as specs so, but the 100ft was through the house. I know the TP-20 is overkill, but it is nice to see at what phase smoker is without standing right there. The only problem is that the ThemoPro probes seem to read about 5-10 degrees lower than the Auber probes. I did calibrate the Auber probes in a double ice bath.


I tried to see how high I could get the temps. It took over an hour to get the smoker up to 385 degrees. A little slow recovery time to do a pizza at 375 for 10 minutes. I did try adding wood to the chip tray inside the smoker, and the temp became uncontrollable and jumped up above 550 before I shut down the smoker. The temp on the front door was about 110 degrees, the sides were 95, and the outside temp was 85 degrees. The insulation did its job. I have some work to do to make the inside wood tray work. but it would be nice for a little added heat source and to smoke pizzas if the heat can be controlled better.

I have smoked 3 times with it: crackers, chicken legs, and pork. The only problem is I need to smoke at little higher temps. I am use to my old propane smoker. Between the different type of heat, It having no insulation, and a every poor temperature gauge; I’m now cooking more conservative. The meat wasn’t pulling back from the tip of pork rib bone, and the chicken skin wasn’t nice and crispy. It took a couple of years for me to learn on the old propane smoker. At least this smoker has more control. Pictured below is pork ribs and tenderloins. A white wine/Worcestershire sauce was injected in the lions 2 days before smoking, and then a dry rub was used on everything 1 day before smoking.


Last but not least, my wonderful next door neighbor does a fair amount of sewing, and made a cover for the smoker. Thank you Linda.



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Now comes the truly hard part...
Feed the beast!

There is one thing missing...
I don't see a Victory beer in any of the pictures. LOL! :D
Last edited:
Great project and fantastic details! Good luck on your smoking and hopefully I'll see you at a tailgater with that monster 2008RN :) Go Ducks!!
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