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new guy building my first smoker looking for advice


Smoke Blower
Joined Oct 26, 2010
hello all,

I am building my first smoker and am looking to avoid mistakes or problems others have already had.  thanks in advance for all your help.

first abit about my history. 

I have been smoking fish off and on for most of my life. I learned from my uncle who spent many years living in several remote villages while writing his doctoral thesis on some native alaskan "skin Boats".  when I was about 15 the same uncle bought a comercial fishing site from a native family and the first summer some of the family stopped by and " Learned him right" on how to use the smokehouse and some other things around the site.  we made "squaw candy" every summer.  it wasn't till I was older that I began to understand why the squaw candy was so much different than all the other smoked salmon that other freinds and family made. 

since I have a nearly unlimited access to salmon every summer you might guess that there was always smoked salmon around to eat.  but as I got older and didn't spend summers at the fish site anymore I was reduced to a big chief smoker for smoking fish.  never really had the time or the desire to go any further than that till now.  this year I started making jerky and the stuff coming out of the smoker was SOOOO much better than the stuff made in the dehytrator that I need to build a smoker.  

when I smoke salmon I use 3 big chiefs for one batch I wanted my smoker to have at least that much room.  I am going to frame it out of 2x4s and cover with 3/4 in thick pallet wood with 45 deg edges overlapping each other.  there will be a seperate insulated chamber on the bottom for smoke generation and the main chamber above for smokeing, with a seperate heating element.  I am canibilzing an old stove for heating elements and controls and racks.  I also have some other oven racks that I have been colecting for awhile for this project.  the main chambe will be about 70 in tall and about 28 in wide and 24in deep depending on the size of all the racks I come up with.  I will put a drip tray at the bottom of the smoking area above the heating element that will also double as a heat baffle.  see my next post for a basic picture and my most pressing questions.     


Smoke Blower
Thread starter
Joined Oct 26, 2010
sorry about the incomplete post...   I tried to post it all on tuesday but kept gettng a 503 error message.

ok so here are my most pressing questions

1. I was planning on lining the smoke generation chamber with metal and insulation canibalized from the oven to try and generate smoke not heat for the main chamber and for saftey reasons.  should i do the same with the main chamber? 

2. how hot can I get things in the main chamber before I should be worrried about safety of the wood design?  when I started this project in my head I was thinking of mostly jerky and smoked salmon but as I wander around here and see all the great recipes I am thinking I might want to smoke other stuff too.  don't really know what my max temp to shoot for is.

3. with the electric heating element canibilized from the stove is it realistic to think it will heat up a main chamber as big as I am planning.  I am sure that it will be fine for salmon and jerky (130-160F) but what about other things at higher temps?  should I just plan on smoking those things in the smoker and finishing the "cooking" stage in my regular oven? 

4. should I put a smoke diffuser over the pipe inlet in the main chamber?

5. how much venting should i put in the smoke generation chamber. 

6. if I vent it correctly in the smoke chamber will I get enough draft or will I need to install a fan somewhere to help.

7. should I plan on a fan in the main chamber just to circulate the in that chamber and hopefully keep the temps consistant?

8. chip pan??  is there any best type of pan/ pot to use?  i assume nothing with a nonstick coating but other than that?  how hot will I neet to get it to generate smoke? 

9.  once the chip pan is heated up and starts making smoke can you turn off the element and let it burn on its own? or will the element need to be on the whole time?

10.  is there any cheap answer to something to cover the racks with for small peices?  I do a lot of jerky out of rabbit and I slice it into bite size pieces before I smoke it.  someone suggested window screen but that seams awfully hard to keep even sort of clean. 

ok that is alot of questions...   hopefully these are all easy questions that some of you folks have already answered through trial and error.  so much better to not try and reinvent the wheel!

thanks in advance for all your help!!


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