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Building a cabinet smoker from pieces

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by stevan garner, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. First off, let me introduce myself; my name is Stevan and I am new to the smoking forums.  I am presently smoking my meats with a Red Brinkman electric smoker, the inexpensive one that has no temperature controls.

    I am getting ready to convert an old Masterbuilt electric "cabinet style" smoker to a wood burner.  I already have a masterbuilt cabinet that the electric element burned out on, so I plan to remove the element box completely and by putting a pipe in the hole where the wood chip tray would have gone attach a "firebox" off to the side, I guess that would be called an "indirect" smoker.  The only problem I've run into so far is finding a wood box to attach to this.  Brinkman had shown one on there website but they are no longer supporting this item.  Does anyone have a suggestion where I may obtain something suitable for such an endeavor?  Any suggestions would be welcomed.  I am on a limited income and don't really have much that I can spare monetarily that is why I am looking to build this unit instead of buying something that is already built.

    Thank you in advance and God bless!
  2. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF Stevan!

     If you have one of the MES 30" or 40" electric smokers ,you may want to rethink the idea?

     The reason i say this is, those units are insulated and the insulation is not high temp insulation.

     The mes units will only achieve 275 - 285 degrees. w/ a fire box you may get temps high enough to melt the insulation and cause a fire hazard. Just something else to think about?
    stevan garner likes this.
  3. Well, couldn't I just take the insulation out and replace it with a higher temp insulation or maybe some kind on ceramic insulator?  This is new to me, so I am open to suggestions, I hate to throw the cabinet away.  Maybe I could place the firebox further away from the cabinet and feed the smoke through be a very slow circulator fan?  I'm not an engineer by any means, I just come up with hair brained ideas. 

    Being retired, I have time on my hands where I can experiment on this thing so if you have any ideas, hit me with 'em and I will at least give 'em a try.
  4. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Did the actual MES element burn out or did the contacts where the wires connect to the element "burn"?   Those elements generally do not burn out, but the connection has been known to do so. 

    There are several good threads on here about how to fix the burned out connections.  You want to used high temp nickel plated steel terminals and high temp wire.  You can find them at pretty much any appliance parts store or McMaster-Carr and Grainger online if you don't have a local source.  If you upgrade the wire, go to the next larger size to give you some extra safety margin as wire actually de-rates as heat increases (same size wire can handle less amperage at higher temps).  Also if it is your actual MES element that is dead, you can replace that as well.

    Here are some of the threads on the MES repair and upgrade. Lots of good info and photos of the actual process of repairing a MES. Craig went the low tech way of just soldering the wire to the terminals in the first link.   The other two links are to cabinet wiring upgrade threads.:




    I think if it were me, before I tried to run a MES cabinet on a side firebox type of setup (and try and tame the heat from an actual fire in a sheet metal cabinet), I would repair the MES and perhaps ditch their digital controller and replace it with a PID and SSR controller from Auber Instruments.  That would be a rock solid and mostly bullet proof setup for that size and style of cabinet IMO.

    I think the insulation is only one issue you will have to deal with if you go with a actual "fire" type smoker in a MES cabinet conversion.  That sheet metal is thin and not made to be subjected to the heat from an actual fire smoke source like a side fire box or charcoal cabinet type smoker.  You will likely find the metal will burn through quickly. I would stick with electric for a MES cabinet.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
  5. I have not actually taken the unit apart; I only know that when I plug in I get no heat from the element.  There are a number of rivets that I will have to drill out so that I can get the sheet metal box away for a proper inspection.  I will do that first and then make my decision from there.