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Smoker made from old metal items

If you’re interested I will tell you how I built a really good smoker out of a stainless steel ice cream fridge and a steel barrel. All smoking techniques can be done in this, cold long term smoking, or 1 hour intense hot quick smoking and eat.

Okay, now how I made my smoker:

You need a steel barrel, cut in 1/2 width wise. Therefore, you have a solid, round bottom and the height is about 2 1/2 ft. Cut 2 holes in this barrel, one about 3-4 inches from the top, big enough to receive a standard 4″ fitting for heat ducting ( galvanized or certainly rust resistant. ) The other hole should be away from the first hole 90 degrees. In other words, if you were standing in front of the barrel and looking directly at the 4″ hole, this second hole would be to the right or the left side. This second hole is smaller, to receive a 1 1/4 or 1 1/2″ steel pipe fitting.

Dig the barrel into the ground so only a couple of inches are above ground surface. Buy the steel pipe and fittings to make a 90 degree elbow, and get the elbow from the inside of the barrel to above the ground surface. Sort of like a snorkel. This is to provide fresh air-inlet to inside the barrel, so the mini fire won’t go out completely while your smoking. Make sure the pipe fitting gets inside the barrel ( 1-2″ through inside is good enough). Seal the hole around the pipe with high temperature silicone to prevent ground water from migrating in. Or weld the snorkel to the metal barrel. I also bought a metal cap that screws onto the top of my pipe to prevent rain water and melting snow to go into my barrel. The smoker box should be made of metal. Preferably stainless steel with an insulated wall. You need to keep the heat in. You need access in the front to load and a vent in to let the smoke out. Also I drilled a little hole on the top to push a metal thermometer into the box so I can monitor internal temperature. What I found was an old unused ice cream freezer that was about 2 1/2 ft square and about 3ft high. It is the perfect “smoker box” done! It has a door on the front to put in ice cream tubs and a hinged top to go into scoop out the ice cream. It has insulated space cavity double-wall all around. Really I think you could use any/only fridge but be careful of plastic interiors that melt – so remove the plastic first. You don’t want plastic dripping on your food. If you use a bigger fridge than I have, it may just take longer to heat up, that’s all.

Channeling smoke from fire box into smoke box:

Cut a hole in the floor, close to the front door or near centre of the floor of the fridge. This hole also has to receive 4″ metal ducting. Position the fridge on the ground about 2′ directly back of the barrel and connect the 4″ hole on the top of the barrel with this hole in the bottom of the fridge with the metal ducting (aligning to of the openings to fit). They have this thin sheet metal in shops now you can cut with a tin snips then roll it and it will lock into itself at the seam and make the 4″ tube which fits into the elbows. Work with a couple of 45’s here and move your fridge back or forth to make the tube a solid and somewhat straight conduit for your smoke to enter into the fridge > smoke box. Insulate this tubing by wrapping it with fiberglass insulation and heat resistant tape. Duct tape comes off in a few weeks!

I nearly forgot to tell you, your barrel needs a removable lid. Obviously! I went to a place that reconditions steel barrels and they gave me one. Forget the gasket, it melts off in the first 10 minutes! I drilled 2 holes in the lid to attach a metal handle. Wood burns off. This is so you can easily take the lid off or slide it around with one hand. I also made three racks inside my fridge so when needed I could do multi levels of pans being smoked at the same time. And I drilled a metal rod through close to the top, side to side, so I can hang something, like sausages or a chickens, ducks or a whole leg or ribs.

The construction is basically done. Get some good hardwood. Only a little amount of fuel is needed for each batch. Cherry is the best I have found, but oak and maple are good to. Light a fire in the barrel with this wood and once it is really going nice and hot put the lid on the barrel and open your top vent slightly. Smoke will start coming out of the vent very quickly. You are now filling with smoke and also heating up your smoker box (the fridge). The temperature can be regulated and also total cold smoking technique (long term even for weeks per batch) can be easily achieved! Put your thermometer into check inside temp. Open the lid of the barrel about 6″ to allow the flame to return and start putting up more heat and less smoke into the box, until you get to desired temperature to suit to item types being smoked. I like to smoke nuts such as almonds at around 185-200 degrees F. Salmon a little lower and cheese of course around 100F.

A good fire in the barrel will produce a high volume of smoke, so you can count on an intense smoke, unlike commercial smokers which give a light smoke. Usually, for making fish or poultry in the hot smoking, you will find 1 hour in the smoker is adequately long enough.

We usually finish cooking meats or drying out the nuts in a conventional oven for about 20 minutes on low heat. You will figure this out to your taste. I also bought some literature on smoking techniques. It is all pretty straight forward easy.

I found a photo of a similar smoker on the web by a guy in Vermont who built this smoker for himself. I improvised with building my smoker and it does everything I need from a smoker.

Best Regards,
Ron in Hillier, Ontario, Canada.

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