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Beginner Smoker...

mlol

Newbie
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Joined Mar 11, 2013
Hey everyone, I want to try out my hand at smoking. I am looking for suggestions on a simple, hot smoker, that uses wood chips/pellets. Any suggestions? I will be smoking mostly beef jerky.

I would prefer something not too expensive, I thought about a UDS, and that is an option but I dont know how to use a blowtorch and cut metal. I'm not that handy (yet anyways, maybe i can learn). The weber smokey mountain looks nice, but its about 600 dollars here in Europe! Thinking maybe thats a little much for my first smoker...
 

chef jimmyj

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It would be helpful if you posted what " is " available in your area. For Jerky you don't need much. A box to hold the smoke, a Hotplate and a pan to hold the Wood chips. For Jerky you need temps up to 160°F. Beyond that you need to get to 225°F or higher for other meats...JJ
 

mlol

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Joined Mar 11, 2013
 

chef jimmyj

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Although any of the horizontal smokers with side fire box will get the job done they will be a major PITA because they burn Charcoal or wood. You will be constantly playing with them to maintain the low temps for making jerky and since jerky takes a long time they are impractical. They are too small for large volumes as well. They are better suited for Ribs, Chicken and even Sausage. I suggest you build your own that uses Electric Hot Plates. They can maintain a low temp over a long time, the only thing you need to do is add wood chips or chunks. You can search through here for ideas... http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/f/200/smoke-houses

 Or take a look at this video from a guy that built his smoker for Jerky...JJ

 
 
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mlol

Newbie
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Joined Mar 11, 2013
That is very helpful thank you. Now Looking at the design I'm thinking: its basically a box with racks. Is there any particular advantage to building it from scratch out of wood? Or could i use something like an old fridge? (seen smokers made out of this before, just wondering if there is a particular reason for building it with wood).
 

fritzmonroe

Smoke Blower
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Joined Nov 15, 2013
I don't know if you get the Food Network over in Europe, but there's a show called Good Eats.  The host, Alton Brown, made a smoker out of a cardboard box, a hot plate and some miscellaneous items.  Here's a guide on Instructables on making one of these cardboard box smokers.  He claims it was about $10 to make, but he probably already had those thermometers. 

  http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Cardboard-Smoker/?ALLSTEPS

I'm still shopping for my first smoker, but I'm seriously leaning towards making a mini WSM.  There's a bunch of threads on it here on these forums.  I was very unproductive yesterday at work because I was reading all about them.
 

mlol

Newbie
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10
Joined Mar 11, 2013
Fritz, Thanks alot!! This has me thinking about some alternatives. So far the main options I see are:

1. buy an expensive smoker (last option, high investment just to test)
2. Fridge smoker - could be getting too technical for my abilities, would probably need a friend to help with any saudering/advanced metal or electrical work. Advantage: insulated for smoking outdoors in cold weather (what I will be doing).
3. Build a UDS - Tons of info availble online, even found a step-by-step video. This is something I could do even with my limited abilities it seems. Disadvantage: circular shape maybe not ideal for maximum jerky racks, i think square/rectangular would be better for maximizing yield. However just for expirimentation this could be ok. Other problem I see is I think a UDS would be too difficult to keep at low temps for jerky, unless i made it an electric one...
4. Some kind of super basic/cheapo smoker - something along the lines of what fritz mentioned (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Cardboard-Smoker/?ALLSTEPS). Advantages: low initial cost to test jerky recipes and get a feel for smoking jerky. Low risk, if I make mistakes its just some boxes and time. Disadvantages: would it be a good representation of the quality of jerky I can make on a large scale or in production mode?


So far I am leaning towards building some kind of very simple, small electric smoker. One other thing I want to mention: its getting cold as hell here (it will probably float around freezing, and in some cases below freezing for the next few months). I think I should consider this in whichever smoker I decide to go with/make.

Again thanks so much for the great info. I have been reading lots of books in the meantime including "jerky" by A.D Livingston, backyard BBQ, and next is Smoking Meat.

Also anyone who has suggestions on the following tools (when I get to this point) I'd like to start researching them:

1) a meat cutter - something to ease the pain of cutting up beef into jerky strips.
2) a vacuum sealer - i have seen plenty but wondered if people have any specific reccomendations for producing/packing and selling jerky.

Thanks!
 
 
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