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Smoker for a confined space?

Ken Bayne

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I live in a townhouse and need to smoke on a small balcony. All the electric smokers I've looked at say they need 10 feet space around them. Does anyone know of an outdoor smoker that can be used in a confined space, perhaps with a 2-3 foot clearance around the smoker?
 

SecondHandSmoker

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I tend to think that the lawyers made the manufacturers include that 10 foot space requirement for liability reasons.
Of course, you wouldn't want to place any smoker right up against a wall or structure in case the thing goes Chernobyl.
Also, If you're renting, double check with your landlord.
If you own your townhouse, double check to see if there are any restrictions.
Keep an ABC fire extinguisher at arms reach too.
With all that out of the way, an MES smoker would fit the bill.
 

chef jimmyj

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I lived in a second floor apartment and had a Masterbuilt Electric. The box is insulated and does not get more than warm to the touch. It does have a 3" vent and put out a large enough volume of smoke that some neighbors complained, even though I had management's permission to use it.
If I had to do it again...I would get a Smokin-It Smoker. Small, well insulated and a tiny 1" vent that trickles smoke rather than letting it flow rapidly. They are popular and a much better unit than the Masterbuilt. Unfortunately, the Smokin-It is much more expensive, but the savings in neighbor aggravation is worth it. The link is for the WIFI models but they have less expensive models as well...JJ

 

tallbm

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I live in a townhouse and need to smoke on a small balcony. All the electric smokers I've looked at say they need 10 feet space around them. Does anyone know of an outdoor smoker that can be used in a confined space, perhaps with a 2-3 foot clearance around the smoker?
Hi there and welcome.

I used an MES unit on my patio when I lived in an apartment. You should be ok. If the smoke goes straightup and causes issues you can always buy an aluminum elbow duct joint and put over your 3" vent to direct smoke sideways... some. You may have to flue tape or rig it down on top of the mes with some sheet metal screws or something but its doable and may help.
 

Fueling Around

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The Big Chief or Little Chief smokers give you the 2-3' clearance.
They are inexpensive. They are very limited, too.
No temperature control and the chip/chunk pan is terrible. A smoke tube with pellets gives much better thin blue smoke.
 

bill1

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The 10' means 10' of free space. Unless your balcony is enclosed, all that free air over the balcony railing counts.
But your neighbors will certainly complain if smoke finds its way to their open windows. Any chance you're on the top floor?
 

Murray

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MES instructions booklet wants you 10’ away from a combustible surface and discourage using an extension cord yet they supply a 6’ power cord. I could never figure that one out. As chef jimmyj chef jimmyj states “The box is insulated and does not get more than warm to the touch.” My outer surface(black) gets way hotter with the sun shining on it that it does when smoking at 250F. Lots of forum members have built/purchased enclosures for their electric smokers. Check out the setback distances for a wood stove and they generate way more heat than an electric smoker.
 

Lonzinomaker

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I second the Smokin-It. I have both the #3 and #1. The #1 is their smallest model. I use mine for camping. I wouldn't hesitate to use it on a 3'X5' patio like a lot of appts have. It can be set on a small table when smoking and put on floor when not. There is smoke produced, and when smoking there is the great barbeque smell the whole time you are cooking. Some neighbors may complain about the BBQ smell lasting overnight when doing a pork butt. Especially if you don't offer them any.
 

johnmeyer

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I'm sure any electric (I own an MES) would be safe.

The bigger question is whether it will upset the neighbors, or worse.

By "or worse," I was living in an apartment in 1974 and lit my hibatchi to cook some hamburgers. I had no money at that time, so I used the cheapest ground beef I could buy. The fat dripped and it smoked like crazy. Just as I pulled them off, I heard the loudest knock on the door I'd ever heard. I opened up the door and there were three firemen, one with an axe about to break down the door. Neighbors had seen the smoke curling up out of my balcony and they assumed the worst.

So, make sure you have thin blue smoke.

You might also want to consider adding a chimney so the smoke can vent a few feet outside your balcony so it doesn't "curl up" out of the balcony. This will also save the ceiling of your balcony from developing a "smoke ring."
 

bill1

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The spacing rules are for combustibles. Don't operate any appliance capable of supporting a grease fire, and that's all smokers, while up against wood siding. Stucco or brick not a problem. Now if there's a one-story roof rafter overhang <10' above you, that's also combustible and is an excellent way for fire to quickly enter dusty attics and cause extensive damage. Avoid that as well. Most smokers with 6' cords are safe to operate within 6' of most interior walls. If not, get a 12AWG 3-wire extension cord.

These are all rules for that 0.01% probability of a grease fire. But the rule about not letting smoke get in your neighbor's window applies all the time. Lighting a wood match can give you a some idea which way the wind is blowing. You may not always be able to smoke in an apartment complex. Regardless the rules, you can probably run certain smokers 1000X if you know where your smoke is going because you'll get no complaints. But get one complaint, and you'll probably have 100 people quoting the rule against smokers and BBQ's to you.

I like the idea of rolling a "stack" and directing/funneling your smoke into it and thereby out above the roofline, but that usually involves mounting something to a roof overhang and not all apartments dwellers can get by doing that. I have a conventional 2-story home in an old-fashioned neighborhood. My neighbors don't complain about smoke but my wife does. I'm considering a 16-foot vent pipe on a pulley system that's only erected into place on smoking days. But to tell the truth, I'll miss the smoke smell myself on smoke days. However the meat should then taste better...I really think we saturate our olfactory nerves on smoke day. And that's why leftovers seem to taste so much smokier to the cook...we've recovered by then a bit!
 

SecondHandSmoker

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If the neighbors bitch about the smoke, then invite them over for some brews and Que.
 

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