Thinking about building a smoker out of an old freezer......

Discussion in 'Fridge/Freezer Builds' started by id2nv2nj2ca, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    OK, here's the deal.  I have an MES 40, the newer one.  It does an OK job, if I can keep my AMNPS lit (smokes GREAT when the door is open), and if I only smoke on one rack so everything is at relatively the same temperature.

    I really like smoking meat, and the wife and I have been thinking about turning it into a business of some sort, either a restaurant, food truck, trailer........something.  No matter what we decide, or even if we don't do that, I want a smoker that will smoke throughout the entire time I am "cooking" the meat and where the temperature will be the same no matter where the meat is.

    Here is my idea, and I am just looking for some feedback as to whether anyone here thinks it would be doable.  Or feasible. 

    1:  Get an old upright freezer because I only want one rack as a cooking surface so my temps will remain consistent all across the whole length, and a chest freezer would be "deeper" and require more heat.  Not a fridge because I don't want to deal with the freezer compartment.  

    2:  IF, and that's a big IF, I can get some without going broke, line it with stainless steel so I don't have to worry about the plastic making the food smell.  If I have a friend with the right tools, I would love to be able to cut a rectangle out from the bottom of the smoker and somehow attach a drip tray to it for easy cleaning.  I'm not one that worries too much about saving the drippings and using them, so anything to make cleaning easier, sign me up.  I've also found that using disposable aluminum trays in my MES 40 has a tendency to really affect the temps in the smoker and I want to avoid that.  But still need a way to remove the drippings in the easiest way possible.  I could easily put two levels of racks so the one under the food could hold drip pans, but again, I'm concerned about the temps surrounding the food.  Thoughts?

    3:  Use two gas burners along the length of the bottom with a 1/2" or so gap between the two.  That would allow me to put in a divider if I were only going to smoke one or two items, and only need to use one side of the smoker to do it with, but don't want to heat the whole thing.  I would have a "tent" to cover the burners to prevent dripping on the burners.

    4:  If #3 is successful, I would make two exhausts for the mailbox mod I plan on doing on either end, (depending on if I were using the whole smoker or only half), since the one side would be pretty much blocked if only using half.  That sounds strange while reading it back, but I can see it in my head. :)

    Doing this, I envision being able to cook at least 10 pork butts at once (possibly more), many chickens, turkeys, slabs of ribs, etc etc etc.

    So, am I nuts or what?
  2. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    Nobody has an opinion on this?
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    id, morning.....  Well, I read the post and the first thing that came to mind was installing the mailbox mod to get the AMNPS to work at all temps and even cold smoking...  then I wasn't sure where you were going with the smoker thing......   When I get confused... I sit back and listen...   

    Now you got me talking and I'm still confused on what your plans could be....     

    Help me out here.....

  4. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    Hi Dave.  I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone had responded.  I'm sorry I have confused you with my mailbox mod talk.  It's just that I have SUCH a hard time keeping that dang thing smoking.  No matter what I do, it usually has to be re-lit at least twice during a smoke.  For example, I smoked some chicken thighs the other night.  I only used enough pellets to fill 3/4 of one row of the AMNPS.  Before lighting them, I nuked them for 2 minutes.  While lighting them, I kept the torch on them for just over a full minute.  Let it burn outside for a full 10 minutes.  It had a GREAT flame going.  So much, I thought I might not have enough pellets to smoke the 2 1/2 hours I so I anticipated smoking them.  Sure enough, it went out for the most part.  I could see ZERO smoke coming from the pellets.  Took the AMNPS out, blew on the coals awhile and got flame.  Let it burn a few minutes again, and put it back. It was smoking great for about an hour, then it just slowly got to be less and less.  The chicken turned out pretty good, though.  

    I figure doing the mailbox mod will make it work better, and plan on making two vents, one for when I only use half of the smoker, and the other when using the whole thing.         

    If you can't understand the rest of my idea, it must be a pretty bad one. :(
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Is your smoker gas.... if so, the flame is consuming the oxygen and the pellets will not burn......

    You also talked about disposable aluminum pans....  if they are too big, they block the air flow, so no oxygen and the pellets won't burn...   

    More air vents, smaller pans, and then dry pellets will work.... I guess....  I do know the pellets have to be dry... real dry to continue to self ignite and smolder .....  any moisture and it don't work....    

    water expands something like 1600 times it's original volume displacing everything else... oxygen included......    propane and nat. gas. give off water when they combust... thus snuffing the pellets and the flame also burns the smoke, like an afterburner when used as pollution control device to eliminate smoke....  

    I hope that helps... i'm still confused as to what type smoker you are using or are gonna use...  or gonna build...   lets work on one thing at a time....  

    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
  6. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    Hi again Dave.  Thanks again for replying.

    My current smoker is a 2012 MES 40, the newer one.  It's the one that is near impossible to keep the AMNPS lit.  If I don't build or buy a new smoker, I will do the mailbox mod with it because I am sick to death of babysitting that thing and having to open the door to grab it and relight it, and then open the door again to put it back.

    *Question about the use of drip pans.  What do you do if there is more things on the rack dripping than a small pan will catch?*

    I am toying with the idea of building a smoker out of a used upright freezer, but it would actually be laid down as if it were a chest freezer.  It would be gas because I want to get the temperature set, the smoke going, and forget about it.  My main question is if anyone thinks lining it with stainless steel will prevent the plastic from releasing anything that would flavor the products being smoked, and prevent the insulation from catching fire, though I only plan on smoking everything at around 220-240 degrees.

    *If I build this "freezer" smoker, I envision being able to smoke two pork butts, one above the other, and at least 5 or 6, possibly more, across.
  7. frosty

    frosty Master of the Pit

    Sounds interesting.  DaveOmak is the master so he will be your best bet for getting things moving along.  [​IMG]
  8. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I am toying with the idea of building a smoker out of a used upright freezer, but it would actually be laid down as if it were a chest freezer.  It would be gas because I want to get the temperature set, the smoke going, and forget about it.  My main question is if anyone thinks lining it with stainless steel will prevent the plastic from releasing anything that would flavor the products being smoked, and prevent the insulation from catching fire, though I only plan on smoking everything at around 220-240 degrees.

    The plastic will get hot even if you line it with SS.... The plastic has to go....  Dave
  9. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    So, I guess that kind of defeats the purpose of using a nice insulated freezer to keep the temps up, especially in the winter months, huh?  Or just remove the plastic and hope the insulation doesn't catch fire?
  10. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If the insul is foam, it has to go also.....
  11. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    Well, this has turned into me making more plans than I should if it can't be insulated.  Nuts.  I was really looking forward to doing this, too.
  12. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    In my MES 30 I just place a piece of foil on the rack a few inches over my ANMPS. Works fine.

    And Dave is right. On any newer (post 1960) fridge or freezer, you need to remove the plastic and any polystyrine or polyurathane foam, unless you plan to only cold smoke.
  13. scootermagoo

    scootermagoo Smoking Fanatic

    Check this out, its my fridge to pellet pooper smoker conversion,  Don't let your dream die.  If you want to use a freezer, strip out all of the plastic and old insulation, use Rockwool for new insulation and fab up a stainless steel interior shell (or mild steel. Once it's seasoned, it won't rust).

    Also, here is a link to my post with a video on how I light my AMNPS,  I realize that that this is an ongoing issue with the MES 40, but maybe this will help a little bit.

    Good luck.
  14. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    Thank you Scooter, I appreciate the time.  And the links.  Your pellet smoker lighting was interesting to say the least. :)  I have no problem with mine staying lit and burning while outside of the smoker, but once it goes in and I shut the door, all bets are off.  Even with the chip loader completely out, the chip tray pulled out quite a ways, and building a chimney for the exhaust.  Sometimes (rarely) it works, most times, it doesn't.  Even after nuking the pellets, heating them in the oven, lighting them for over a minute, and letting them burn for at least 10 minutes.  Very frustrating.

    In regards to your build, it looks amazing, but I am an idiot mechanically, and have no tools.  It's bad enough I will have to rely on others to make this happen.  If I proceed, that is. Part of my reasoning of doing the build like I described is that I don't want temperature fluctuations from one rack to another, if they are stacked vertically like yours.  How are your temps in your build?

    Thanks again for the feedback, I appreciate it.

    Frosty, if you see this, I'm sorry that I didn't see your comment before.  Dave definitely seems like he knows what he is talking about. :)
  15. Why not look around for a Commercial Holding unit instead of a freezer? Use the AMNPS for smoke and the heating element on the unit for heat.
  16. scootermagoo

    scootermagoo Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks for the compliment.  I appreciate it. 

    This is the perfect project to get your feet wet, then.  These things are not complicated.  There are plenty of people here to talk you down if you get in a bind.  Get the tools you need and go for it.  You don't need expensive Snap-On tools here.  Go to harbor freight and get some El-cheap-Os's.  They may very well do what you ask them to, even if you never use them again.

    Now, I am not exactly sure about the temp fluctuations.  I only use the display on the burner as a guide to what the temp is.  I have done 6 butts at a time in my smoker and, quite honestly, don't care if there are fluctuations.  Are there fluctuations?  Probably.  But, the butts are never a uniform size or weight anyways and might finish at different times just because of that fact.  I usually probe the smallest one of the bunch.  When that one reaches the IT I like, I remove it and probe the others.  If they are done, they come out, too.  If not, they stay in there.  As far as ribs go, they're done when they're done.  Pork is pretty forgiving, and I never wrap or foil or nuthin'.  I just stick em' in there and let her go and have never been let down yet.  Reasonable spikes in temperature, emphasis on reasonable, have little effect on the outcome, if you ask me.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
  17. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    You're welcome.  It's well deserved.

    Something I don't think I have said in any of the posts I have made on this forum since joining it is that I am very anal.  When I read a recipe or steps to follow to do something, supposedly "right", I try to follow said instructions to the letter.  When people say to cook your pork butts at 235 until the IT temp reaches 200, that's what I try to do.  I don't care how long it takes, just that it's done right.  Todd, the creator of the AMNPS did a thread awhile back that tested temperatures in my specific smoker, and the differences from rack to rack, left to right, are substantial.  I don't like that.  I REALLY don't like that my chips actually catch on fire if I try to smoke with them, or that my AMNPS will RARELY stay lit if using it.

    The design I have in mind, I believe will eliminate those issues.  Now the problem appears to be that I would have to completely take apart the used freezer, removing everything from it that would help keep the temperatures up in colder weather or require less gas or electricity (I'm not really keen on the idea of using electric for this because I don't think I could find an element that big) during warmer days.

    Thanks again for the input.  Have a great holiday!!
  18. id2nv2nj2ca

    id2nv2nj2ca Smoke Blower

    Thanks Michael.  I'm sorry I missed this comment of yours.  That might be a good idea, but sounds expensive.  I also have to wonder if the heat would come from the right direction with what I am trying to accomplish with this particular build.

Share This Page