First electric smoker build, need help!

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smokin-aces

Meat Mopper
Original poster
Dec 28, 2012
194
12
Normandy, TN
I have posted this in "other builds" and nobody had made the first comment after 120 views. I am hoping some of you electric smoker guys can help me out.

I have acquired a large stainless box (industrial electric panel box) that I want to turn into a smoker. I also bought a stove that I plan on gutting and putting the heating elements and controls on my box.

Questions I have:

What insulation works best for this?

Will a residential oven provide enough heat for this box (3'x2'x6')?

I want to be able to put a probe in the meat and have the heat automatically shut off when it's temp reaches xxx°F, how do I do that?

 
The insulation from the range should work well. The oven heating system should work in the cabinet since your not really looking to get those high temps. As for the probe in the meat controlling the oven I have no idea
 
Thank you for the reply!

I'm actually not looking to use insulation from the oven, I'm wanting to buy insulation for it. I just don't know what to get

I'm thinking about putting fire bricks in the bottom under the heating elements, but I wonder if clay house bricks will work?
 
That box looks like it has good potential.

Are you looking to insulate the outside so it retains heat better? If so, you can get fire rated wool insulation that should work.

What wattage is the stove element? It should be sufficient if you plan to keep it under 300 degrees.

As for turning off at a certain meat temp, you would have to build/buy a PID controller and have it wired up to kill the power at a set temp. Auber instruments probably builds what you need but it will probably cost $200 or more. You might be able to get a dual probe controller from them and use it instead of the oven controls. One probe for air temp and one for meat temp. The problem you might run into is that the oven element is 40amp and most PID controllers that I have seen are only 10 or 15 amps. That problem can be solved with a relay but you are just compounding the amount of custom wiring.

For the drippings, you will need to build a shield to cover the element (like in most electric smokers).
 
Nice that thing is the perfect size and shape for sure. Wish I had one for my pellet build.
 
Regarding grease - smokers like the cookshack and the smokin-it have the wood box slide over and enclose the heating element. Either incorporated on the wood box or seperately attached to the smoker body is a pitched roof that sheds the grease down and away from the wood box which encloses the element to the smoker floor. The wood box is supported so as to not touch the floor; it is elevated. The floor is V shaped to channel grease to a drain hole.
 
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Lots of good ideas guys!

I am planning to insulate the outside and maybe cover it with wood. Where are good places to get high temp insulation?

I'm still a tad confused on the drip pan.. I want to make sure the pan doesn't get hot enough to cause the grease to smoke/burn. Let me elaborate on my intentions with this.

I cook about 100-150 lbs of meat every weekend in the summer. I want to be able to load this thing before bed or work and come back to fully cooked meat. So I really wanna go the extra mile to make it safe to leave alone for 8-10 hrs at a time.

Let me know what y'all think
 
I'm also considering using the stove eyes to heat the inside as well as the oven elements... Any suggestions?
 
So you are considering using the eyes AND the oven element?  Smoking meats is a low and slow process, sort of a crock pot style of cooking.  All of my smoking is typically in the 225 -230 degree range on my Cookshack.  With my old wood burning offset, keeping the temp to 275 to 300 was my target. 

On the drip pan, mount it outside the smoker, below the element and the floor. You don't need massive amounts of heat to get wood smoking and maintain a temp range of 140 to 300.  Look up the smokers from Cookshack, Smokin-it, and SmokinTex to get an idea of construction. These smokers are very similar.  While the CS will go to 300 degrees, the other two peak out at 250. More than adequate for long smokes. 

You might get some ideas here:

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/f/198/fridge-freezer-builds

To control the temperature, if you are not going to use the stock oven controls, you might find something here:

http://www.tempco.com/controls/Temperature_Control_hub.htm

I admire the 'do it yourself' aspects of your endeavor. And I wish you luck.
 
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If you have a few inches of separation between the element and the drip pan it should be fine. The drippings will cook into a solid black mess but you can cover the pan with foil for easy clean up. As for fire rated insulation, you should be able to find it at Lowes or HD. They might have to order it but they should be able to get it since that is what is used around fire places and chimneys. 

If you are looking for a true set and forget set up then your best bet is going to be a PID controller. And if you aren't an electrical engineer I would suggest buying a pre-built controller. I am in the process of custom building one for myself and it is a pain in the butt (probably because I am not an engineer by any means).
 
Y'all have eased my mind on the drip pan.. Maybe it's not as big of a danger as I thought.. I definitely do want a true set and forget setup.

The only reason I was considering using the stove eyes with the oven elements would be because I'm afraid the oven elements won't heat it up fast enough on initial turn on. Also this space is much larger than the oven so I was afraid it wouldn't be able to keep the smoker at temp.

So now for the smoke. Is it as simple as putting a pan of wood chips above the heating element?
 
Wood chunks on a tray over the element is all that is needed. The grease drain hole through the floor and a hole in the ceiling or roof of the smoker provides the draft necessary to keep the wood smoking (not burning with flames). Too little ventilation and no smoke.  Too much and the wood could burst into flames.  You could rig up an external smoke source like a Smoke Daddy.  I cannot give any more advice.  I have used up all my knowledge.
 
You could use an AMNPS to avoid having to build a wood tray (you could mount a mailbox to the side like @Pops6927  has on his smoke house). Or you could use a cast iron skillet. The skillet will hold the heat well to get a good consistent burn. 
 
AMNPS is an acronym for the Amazen Pellet Smoker. http://www.amazenproducts.com/

It will generate all the smoke you need on its own without any outside heat source to burn the pellets.

Do you have a 240V outlet close to where you plan to smoke? If not, a 240V extension cord will be crazy expensive.

As for the 2500W, a 40" Masterbuilt is about 11.7 cubic feet with 1200W (which is about 100 watts per cf). You will have about 36 cf so if you go by that rule, you will need 3600W. Now of course this is funny math with no actual scientific evidence to back it up. 2500W might work fine if the box is insulated enough and you leave the door closed during the entire smoke.

Cook shack has a commercial model that is 31cf and has two 1500W elements (96 watts per cf).
 
The 2500w is just for the the oven elements. If you add the eyes it'll be closer to 6000w. Which is more reason for me to put the eyes in it along with the oven elements... At least I think that's a good idea..

I'm liking the idea of cast iron for the smoke tray, but what I'm really wanting is a controllable system. So which will be more consistent: Amazen, or cast iron?

About the outlet. My plan is to get a 220v outlet installed in my garage and make my own extension cord out of heavy gauge wire.. I want to be able to move it around in the garage and possibly put it outside occasionally.
 
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The AMNPS will give you a consistent burn for 8 or more hours (depending on which model you get). You might have to go with the tube smoker to get enough smoke which doesn't last as long as the maze.

If you use wood chips or chunks in a cast iron skillet you will have to refill it during the smoke.

If I was building it I would use an Amazen product in an outside box (like a mailbox mod) so it could be refilled as needed without opening the smoker door. 

Here is a pic I borrowed from @Pops6927  of his smoke house with the mailbox mod:

 
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