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diy smoker

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
He y there all,new guy here. got a question. Just built a electric( for now) smoker out of an old Traulsen refrigerator. i gutted it ,removed all the foam insulation and replaced it with rock wool. will add some pictures later. My question is the electric element, I have a1500 watt element and my smoke chip tray is about 1/2 inch above it. not seeming to get enough heat to get the smoke going. I am using an old cake pan for a chip tray. Any thoughts??
 

kilo charlie

Smoking Fanatic
692
634
Joined Sep 25, 2017
Welcome to SMF!

When I did this type of thing I used some bolts to keep my cast iron try just millimeters above the heating element.. definitely do not wanna put the metal pan directly on the element.

How long are you heating it before determining it's not working?
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
Welcome to SMF!

When I did this type of thing I used some bolts to keep my cast iron try just millimeters above the heating element.. definitely do not wanna put the metal pan directly on the element.

How long are you heating it before determining it's not working?
yesterday i tried for 2 hours, then used my propane torch to get it started
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
He y there all,new guy here. got a question. Just built a electric( for now) smoker out of an old Traulsen refrigerator. i gutted it ,removed all the foam insulation and replaced it with rock wool. will add some pictures later. My question is the electric element, I have a1500 watt element and my smoke chip tray is about 1/2 inch above it. not seeming to get enough heat to get the smoke going. I am using an old cake pan for a chip tray. Any thoughts??
You might think about ditching the chip pan and get you one of these.

View attachment 496802

Amazen pellet tray. Run about $30 I think. I use one in my electric rig and it works great. Get about 10 hours out of a full tray.
thats a thought, not sure if I am using the right element for this thing, I would think small wood chips would start easier than pellets.I think either my tray is up to far from the element or my element don't getr hot enough long enough to start the smoke
 

Attachments

kilo charlie

Smoking Fanatic
692
634
Joined Sep 25, 2017
Ok.. so that giant space around your element is allowing all the heat to escape .. you need some sort of deflector plate beneath it to help deflect the heat up onto the chip pan. consider some side deflectors too if you can. That concentrates the heat onto the chip pan and will help get the wood heated enough to smolder thus creating the smoke.

That element will never heat that giant space properly
 

SmokinVOLfan

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
5,100
3,962
Joined Feb 27, 2018
I would think small wood chips would start easier than pellets.
I meant to tell you nice rig btw that thing is sweet. Nice work! As far as the pellet tray goes it doesn't require a heating element. You line the tray with pellets and start them with a torch. Let them burn for 10 minutes, blow out the flame, and you are good to smoke for hours. Only problem you might have is air flow as you will need a little to keep the thing lit down there in the bottom.
 

bill1

Smoking Fanatic
991
377
Joined Apr 25, 2015
What's the temperature inside the unit when you're trying to light your chip tray smoking?

I suspect the issue here is you've made a well insulated unit but it's large and has considerable "thermal mass". Once it gets to temp, your heat losses will be less than the electric power you have available, and will regulate temp fine (if you don't open the door until the very end), but it will take a LONG time to get cook temp with just the electric element. And until you get to that desired cook temperature (or at least close to at least 200F) you just don't have enough temp at your tray to start your chips.

I'd recommend putting in a remote thermometer you trust in the center of the unit. (With a fine tethered wire you feed out the door seal is fine) Turn the electric element on full. Get some charcoal going (a chimney starter works great) then transfer to a couple pans and transfer them to a couple lower racks in your unit. Close the door and start taking temp readings. Hopefully with the added heat from the coals you can get the inside of the unit up to 250F or so in less than an hour. At that point, your chips should start smoking within 15 minutes. If not, reduce the pan spacing to .25" and try again.

As long as the chip pan is steel, it could even be touching. But make sure it's not aluminum or teflon coated, etc.

In short you have enough power, at steady-state, to get your chips smoking. But until you get the entire unit to cooking temperature, all that power is going into heating up the unit, not into heating your chips.
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
Ok.. so that giant space around your element is allowing all the heat to escape .. you need some sort of deflector plate beneath it to help deflect the heat up onto the chip pan. consider some side deflectors too if you can. That concentrates the heat onto the chip pan and will help get the wood heated enough to smolder thus creating the smoke.

That element will never heat that giant space properly
you got a good point!! I was hoping that the element would be close enough to the tray to get the smoke going. I am thinking of going to a double burner hot plate so I can set the tray right on the burner.That was my original plan before I found this element.
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
What's the temperature inside the unit when you're trying to light your chip tray smoking?

I suspect the issue here is you've made a well insulated unit but it's large and has considerable "thermal mass". Once it gets to temp, your heat losses will be less than the electric power you have available, and will regulate temp fine (if you don't open the door until the very end), but it will take a LONG time to get cook temp with just the electric element. And until you get to that desired cook temperature (or at least close to at least 200F) you just don't have enough temp at your tray to start your chips.

I'd recommend putting in a remote thermometer you trust in the center of the unit. (With a fine tethered wire you feed out the door seal is fine) Turn the electric element on full. Get some charcoal going (a chimney starter works great) then transfer to a couple pans and transfer them to a couple lower racks in your unit. Close the door and start taking temp readings. Hopefully with the added heat from the coals you can get the inside of the unit up to 250F or so in less than an hour. At that point, your chips should start smoking within 15 minutes. If not, reduce the pan spacing to .25" and try again.

As long as the chip pan is steel, it could even be touching. But make sure it's not aluminum or teflon coated, etc.

In short you have enough power, at steady-state, to get your chips smoking. But until you get the entire unit to cooking temperature, all that power is going into heating up the unit, not into heating your chips.
yesterday after I ignited the chips with a propane torch and the electric element going I got temp up to about 180. the meat compartment held temp at approx 150 for an hour after I turned off the electric element
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
yesterday after I ignited the chips with a propane torch and the electric element going I got temp up to about 180. the meat compartment held temp at approx 150 for an hour after I turned off the electric element
The smoker is at outside air temp, about 60 degrees when trying to get some smoke going
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
What's the temperature inside the unit when you're trying to light your chip tray smoking?

I suspect the issue here is you've made a well insulated unit but it's large and has considerable "thermal mass". Once it gets to temp, your heat losses will be less than the electric power you have available, and will regulate temp fine (if you don't open the door until the very end), but it will take a LONG time to get cook temp with just the electric element. And until you get to that desired cook temperature (or at least close to at least 200F) you just don't have enough temp at your tray to start your chips.

I'd recommend putting in a remote thermometer you trust in the center of the unit. (With a fine tethered wire you feed out the door seal is fine) Turn the electric element on full. Get some charcoal going (a chimney starter works great) then transfer to a couple pans and transfer them to a couple lower racks in your unit. Close the door and start taking temp readings. Hopefully with the added heat from the coals you can get the inside of the unit up to 250F or so in less than an hour. At that point, your chips should start smoking within 15 minutes. If not, reduce the pan spacing to .25" and try again.

As long as the chip pan is steel, it could even be touching. But make sure it's not aluminum or teflon coated, etc.

In short you have enough power, at steady-state, to get your chips smoking. But until you get the entire unit to cooking temperature, all that power is going into heating up the unit, not into heating your chips.
My other option may be to go to propane for heat, the direct flame on a heavier tray seems to work well in my little store bought cheapo smoker i have
 

bill1

Smoking Fanatic
991
377
Joined Apr 25, 2015
Also it looks like the back of the lowest section where your heater is may be wide open? You might be losing a lot of heat out the back. I'd close that up, with only a 1" opening at the very bottom and tippy-top if all you're burning is the chips in a tray or pellets in a labyrinth. Also, since the element glows close to re-hot and so a lot of the heating energy is via IR radiation, I'd put at least one shiny heat shield an inch below the element to reflect most of the radiant heat back UP where your food will be. Otherwise the downward directed IR hits your base, which is exposed to the outside air and that heat will just be convected away.

I really like your idea of of using a propane burner to get this unit up to temp in a hurry. Of course then you'll need a bigger air inlet hole than an inch, but you can rig up a way to cover it up when you're not using the gas. I'd try to keep your electric element out of the direct flames however.

You said you got to 180F inside (at 60F ambient) with just the element and the smoker tray so you're almost there! Congrats! A little extra heat and you've got a great working unit you can be real proud of!
 

pigface

Newbie
15
8
Joined May 18, 2021
Also it looks like the back of the lowest section where your heater is may be wide open? You might be losing a lot of heat out the back. I'd close that up, with only a 1" opening at the very bottom and tippy-top if all you're burning is the chips in a tray or pellets in a labyrinth. Also, since the element glows close to re-hot and so a lot of the heating energy is via IR radiation, I'd put at least one shiny heat shield an inch below the element to reflect most of the radiant heat back UP where your food will be. Otherwise the downward directed IR hits your base, which is exposed to the outside air and that heat will just be convected away.

I really like your idea of of using a propane burner to get this unit up to temp in a hurry. Of course then you'll need a bigger air inlet hole than an inch, but you can rig up a way to cover it up when you're not using the gas. I'd try to keep your electric element out of the direct flames however.

You said you got to 180F inside (at 60F ambient) with just the element and the smoker tray so you're almost there! Congrats! A little extra heat and you've got a great working unit you can be real proud of!
The lower section with the element is completely enclosed,picture was before the back of the smoker was put on. My idea was to use the space to the right of the element for dripping collection. Still working on that system 🤔🤔🤔. My air intake is 3” ,exhaust is 4” both with adjustable damper.
 

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