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new guy building my first smoker looking for input


Smoke Blower
Joined Oct 26, 2010
hello all,

I am building a smoker and would love any input (positive or negative...  I take criticizim well).  I am hoping to avoid mistakes and problems that others have already dealt with.  after wandering around this site for a few days I have been impressed with how great everybody here is. 

here is my experience.  living alaska as you might imagine I have a good supply of fresh salmon and smoking has aways been done in my family.  as a kid I learned to "cold smoke" in a old smoke shack with a drum bottom as a fire pit in the center of the shack.  we made "squaw candy" every summer and it wasnt till I got older that I began to really understand why the squaw candy was so much different than what every body else was eating.  as I got older and didn't spend summers at my uncle's commercial fish site any more I was reduced to a big chief smoker and the typical hot smoking of fish.  the flavor is good but obviously much differnent than the smoke shack smoked strips.  I use a very similar brine to what I learned at the fish site with very short brine times (under 15 minutes).  I had stoped smoking fish due to lack of time for a couple years until this year when I got reinspired.  I can't believe I ever stopped.  this year I tried smoking some jerky and now I am totally hooked!!  but again all I had to work with was the big chief.  once the temps outside got below about 50 or so the big chief is not much better than a cardboard box!!  sure it will generate smoke but not enough heat to really dry anything.  also this fall my 9 year old daughter started hunting snowshoe hares and we have alot of bunny meat to turn into jerky.  I have tried the dehydrator and liquid smoke but the results are no where near as good as what comes out of the smoker!!  but of course you all know that.  so I decided to build something that I can smoke in all year round.  when I smoke salmon I have to use 3 big cheif smokers for one batch of smoked salmon, so in designing my smoker I want to have at least as much shelf space as the 3 big chief if not more. 

my basic idea...  

thought about using a fridge freezer but when I looked around I found that unless you can find an old metal fridge the whole "plastic" thing is going to work against me.  plus there are problems with removing all the stuff you don't want blah blah...   decided to make mine out of wood.  I have a large supply of pallets and I plan to use that for most of the wood needed.  I plan to use oven racks for smoke racks (have some old ones laying round from some old ovens that came out of my rental property).  I have an old electric stove/ oven that I plan to canibilize for heating elements and some controls.  I plan to have a seperate section at the bottom which will be insulated from the main chamber where I am going to put a heating element and a pan for wood chips to generate smoke.  I am going to run a few pipes from the "smoke chamber" to the main chamber so that I can cold smoke some fish.  and as i read more about smoking this will also work for other things that work better with cold smoke.  the main chamber will have a large burner element from the stove for a heat generator.  the chamber will be roughly 28 in wide and roughly 28 in deep by roughly 65 in high.  the main determing factor for the size is the size of the racks and how to easily get them in and out.  I was going to frame it in 2x4s and cover with the 3/4 in thick pallet wood cut with 45 deg angles to overlap each other.  I don't know how much insulation this will give me? the top will be some more pallet wood with a metal roof cover and a chimney with a damper. 

here is a most basic picture of what I am going to do..   not to scale and a bit sloppy!

please let me know what you think.

here are my most pressing questions. 

1. at what temp do I need to worry about the inside catching fire?

2. so far I am planning mostly jerky and smoked salmon but like the idea of doing other things like poultry, pork and maybe rips... what temps will I want to plan for? or do I want to smoke in the smoker and finish in the oven in the house?

3. I was planing on covering the inside of the smoke chamber with metal canibilized from the oven for fire saftey.  is the nessesary?  should I line the inside of the main chamber as well?

4. should I put in a diffuser where the smoke delivery pipes enter the main chamber?

5. is there any particular type of pan to use for a chip pan?  cast iron? any peice of junk I can find?

6. am I trying to build it too big? 

7. if I put vent holes in the smoke chamber area will I get enough draft through the pipes and the smoke chamber area or will I need to install a fan somewhere?


all help and input is appreciated!!!!!

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