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First Smoker Build - Holding Cabinets to DIY Electric Smokers?

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by Theo-brew-ma, Dec 23, 2017.

  1. Theo-brew-ma

    Theo-brew-ma Newbie

    Hi all,

    I recently picked up two used Cres Cor aluminized steel holding/proofing cabinets-- they were supposed to come with the heating element and control box at the bottom, but after I had already paid for them and when I came to pick them up, guess what? No heat box. Also, they had been salvaged a bit for parts. Dude full on tried to screw me with a smile on his face. And he seemed like such a nice guy. Those heat boxes cost upwards of $800 msrp, btw.


    So, now I've got two 6' tall aluminized steel holding cabinets. For free, (not taking into account truck rental costs and a lost Saturday). And, I'm thinking smokers. Perhaps one for fish and one for meats and cheeses. And I could use your help in turning lemons into awesome sauce.

    The cabinets are identical in model and dimensions, standing roughly 6' tall on wheels with interior dimensions of 29.5" d, 23" w, 62" h. Each cabinet has two separate doors roughly 26" h, which are above a cavity of 7" h left by the removed heat box. There are two small circular drainage cutouts closed by mesh on the bottom, as well as a bottom back wall circular cutout for air and wires; there is currently no cutout on the top wall or top of the back wall for air. Additionally, the holding cabinet was set up to operate with the heat box through a vertical air circulator panel venting on the back wall. The cabinet had previously had an operation limit of 200F, but I'm told by Cres Cor that many people have modded their cabinets for smokers so I'm assuming the insulation is up to the task.

    I am a bit torn by the arguments on all sides between going electric, gas, or charcoal/wood; electric seems to offer consistency and hands-off confidence, while gas offers high temps and low lead-times, and while wood and charcoal have a nice effect on the quality of the air (important for drying surfaces and contributing to maillard reactions). I've got the 7" h x 23" w, with 29.5-33" d cavity: If possible, I'd like to limit the new heating to this space as a take-in/take-out item, while heat diffusers and the like could be further above. Also, that back wall air cutout (2.25" diameter x 2" long) would be right behind the new heating unit and I'd like to keep that cutout and the back wall ventilator in mind for setting up an exterior cold smoking unit.

    Any heating suggestions on elements and controllers, gas burners or other setups? New or used? The cabinet had previously had an 1800 watt element to achieve max 200F at 120 V, and I'd like to keep everything to 120V for now if I go electric. In the initial stages of planning, but I may try to do a dual or adaptable system, say an electric heating element base with a removable gas pre-heater on a different level or a charcoal tray. As I say, initial plans. Would love love love input.

    I know I'm going to need to cutting out a couple vents and re-sealing, top wall or top of back wall. I'm thinking of potentially putting a fan on-- roof vent or bottom (existing) intake, both? I'll need to re-build the racking system, though some is intact.

    The external cold smoker I'd like to figure out to be modular, capable of hooking up to both cabinets simultaneously, and so I can use dried local woods in sticks, chips and sawdust rather than buy pellets-- I've got an existing small cast iron wood and coal stove that I've left around for future projects... maybe now's the time to use that?

    Any issues with the aluminized steel? How about the door seals? Things to be sensitive to with fish as opposed to meat? Fun ideas to add, or that I'm missing? Also, trying to do this price-consciously but while getting to a more finished look. I've got access to a wood shopbot and a cnc plasma cutter and people (not me) competent in their use!

    Much thanks! And Merry Christmas!

    Attached Files:

  2. Moot106

    Moot106 Newbie

    How's it going? I'm in the process of building something similar but my cabinet is twice the size. Im going electric with mine. I found a couple companies that build custom heating elements. I'm going to get ahold of them after the holidays. I'll let you know how I make out. My cabinet is 40 cubic feet. Hopefully I can get an element built for a decent price.
    I also plan to build an external smoke box that will burn chunks and sticks. I'm going to build that this week if I have time. I'll keep you posted on everything I figure out.

    This is the cabinet I have

    Attached Files:

  3. Theo-brew-ma

    Theo-brew-ma Newbie

    Nice! And Merry Christmas!

    Looks very pretty— what are the names of the heating element companies you've mentioned?

    Look forward to seeing your build! I'll get to mine more after the holidays and some further planning.
  4. Moot106

    Moot106 Newbie

    Merry Christmas to you.

    Heatrex and thermowatt are the 2 I found. I just thought that if I could get an element built for the cubic feet of my cabinet it would take a lot of the guesswork out and it would run more efficient. I'm used to using a mes 40 and offset stick burner so this is kinda new to me. I'm building this mainly for ham and bacon. My cousin has a butcher shop and I'm going to be his smoke guy once I'm up and running.

    What do you plan to use yours for?
  5. I have a crest-cor unit myself. How did your build come out? Interested in seeing your finished product.