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DanCole42 Builds a Cold Smoker


DanCole42
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Presenting my Memorial Day weekend project: Lucille, a homemade cold smoker I built out of a metal trash can and some cheap ductwork. It's big enough for pork bellies, charcuterie, cheeses, and if you're a hobbit, hotboxing.

If anyone wants to make use of her for your own smoking projects, feel free. There's plenty of room and I always enjoy company. We can kick back for a few hours with some brewskies whilst Lucille puffs away.

And now, without further adieu, my lovely metal lady:

The Parts:

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The rest of the Weber is still on my backyard deck. I just brought the lid in so I could make a docking collar. I had to use a 6" piece so there would be enough room to still use the damper, and then a 6" to 4" converter went on the end of the actual piping.

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Here are all of the final assembled pieces. I wanted to stay as modular as I could. When not in use, the 25 feet of pipe can be stored inside the can. It's not permanently affixed to anything, so it can easily come off the grill lid for when I want to use the Weber for actual grilling (which is most of the time).

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"Storage mode." Note the smoker basked for holding cheeses, peppers... anything... and the six hooks beneath for hanging pork bellies, cured meats, etc.

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The "belly of the beast" is a 12 volt, 4-inch PC fan hooked up to a lantern battery and run through a satisfyingly robust toggle switch. The battery is kept in a sealed, foil-lined box to prevent the smoke from corroding the leads, which is itself only held in place by some tape to facilitate easy removal for battery replacement.

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Lucille, in all her glory (minus the rest of the Weber):

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The piping extends to 25 feet, so the smoker can be kept in the cool shade under my deck while the Weber provides the smoke topside. Most of her is sealed with ducting putty and actual duct tape. I did a test, just burning some newspaper under the lid, and it was a resounding success! Reports to follow once I find the time to cure something.

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Dan,

Really great job. I will assume that you gave it a trial run as well.

1) Did you consider running the fan leads to a plug so you could power the fan by hooking a external battery, power supply or solar panel to the fan? Does it matter how fast the fan runs? Does it make sense to also put in a variable resistor to regulate fan speed?

2) How cold is the smoke? I have seen some setups that have the duct go through a cooler so the smoke can be cooled down via ice surrounding the duct.

3) Not that the construction is finished, any "lessons learned" to help the rest of us? How did you cut the trash can? Would a dremmel tool help?

Thanks!

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Dan,

Really great job. I will assume that you gave it a trial run as well.

1) Did you consider running the fan leads to a plug so you could power the fan by hooking a external battery, power supply or solar panel to the fan? Does it matter how fast the fan runs? Does it make sense to also put in a variable resistor to regulate fan speed?

2) How cold is the smoke? I have seen some setups that have the duct go through a cooler so the smoke can be cooled down via ice surrounding the duct.

3) Now that the construction is finished, any "lessons learned" to help the rest of us? How did you cut the trash can? Would a dremmel tool help?

Thanks!

I wanted to eschew external power sources. Keeping everything contained in the trashcan makes it easier to transport. The idea of a solar panel gives my inner geek warm fuzzies all over (the world's first solar-power cold smoker!), but that and variable resistors really go beyond the training I received as a psychology undergraduate (12 volt fan, 12 volt battery... I guess that will work).

I haven't done any actual smoking yet, so I haven't done any thermal testing, but if need be it should be a simple matter to water proof a portion of the smoke duct and run it through a cooler of ice water. My only concern there would be losing some of the flavor-carrying colloids to condensation in that portion of the duct. I purposely bought relatively un-insulated ducting, so my hope is that 25 feet of air cooling should be plenty.

The trashcan was cut using a combination of metal drill bits, pliers, files, and sheet metal shears (mostly shears). It's not very thick, so plenty easy to work with, although a dremmel would have come in handy. As far as lessons learned: cut metal is SHARP, and recently drilled metal is HOT! Lucille is more than just my brainchild - she carries enough of my blood that I'm considering listing her as a dependent.

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This is so inspiring. Our gas grill died this year, well, crumbled to pieces, really. I contemplated getting a Weber grill-but then thought of how lazy I am! I really admire you doing things the "slow" way. Please keep us updated on Lucy (may I call her Lucy? :lol: )and how she smokes.

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I wanted to eschew external power sources. Keeping everything contained in the trashcan makes it easier to transport. The idea of a solar panel gives my inner geek warm fuzzies all over (the world's first solar-power cold smoker!), but that and variable resistors really go beyond the training I received as a psychology undergraduate (12 volt fan, 12 volt battery... I guess that will work).

I haven't done any actual smoking yet, so I haven't done any thermal testing, but if need be it should be a simple matter to water proof a portion of the smoke duct and run it through a cooler of ice water. My only concern there would be losing some of the flavor-carrying colloids to condensation in that portion of the duct. I purposely bought relatively un-insulated ducting, so my hope is that 25 feet of air cooling should be plenty.

The trashcan was cut using a combination of metal drill bits, pliers, files, and sheet metal shears (mostly shears). It's not very thick, so plenty easy to work with, although a dremmel would have come in handy. As far as lessons learned: cut metal is SHARP, and recently drilled metal is HOT! Lucille is more than just my brainchild - she carries enough of my blood that I'm considering listing her as a dependent.

The amount of tubing between the source and the can should be enough to cool the smoke sufficiently. You will most likely have to experiment with smoke source size and length of tubing, but that should not be too hard. You may find that the battery has a limited life if it get too much heat. Speaking of that, you may want to see how long the battery will power the fan so that you don't lose the fan half way through the smoking process. (One good reason for putting the battery outside the can)

BTW, did you create the plans on your own or did you find a similar thing on the Interweb?

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I used to play around with Ham Radios quite a bit. Towards Y2K I converted all my 12v connections to a common one that the hams use for emergencies. Thus the idea that you could have a plug to input a battery (which like your tubing could be stored inside of the trashcan). I have a couple of 12v rechargeable bricks (batteries) that I picked up from an alarm company. I think these would power a fan for a couple of hours and could be swapped out for a new one if the fan turns off. OK, the geek in me would also install a 12v indicator to show battery strenght. The variable resistor would be very easy. I would also add a fuse.

There are a couple of dual temp probes out there (one for the meat and another for the inside of the can. Some of these are also wireless and can be monitored from inside.

Alton Brown used a single burner with a cast iron pan to make his smoke. You could easily put that in the weber.

The real geek would also add a infra red webcam, temp probe and a usb port to monitor the whole thing via a wireless connection to a computer inside the house:)

I wanted to eschew external power sources. Keeping everything contained in the trashcan makes it easier to transport. The idea of a solar panel gives my inner geek warm fuzzies all over (the world's first solar-power cold smoker!), but that and variable resistors really go beyond the training I received as a psychology undergraduate (12 volt fan, 12 volt battery... I guess that will work).

I haven't done any actual smoking yet, so I haven't done any thermal testing, but if need be it should be a simple matter to water proof a portion of the smoke duct and run it through a cooler of ice water. My only concern there would be losing some of the flavor-carrying colloids to condensation in that portion of the duct. I purposely bought relatively un-insulated ducting, so my hope is that 25 feet of air cooling should be plenty.

The trashcan was cut using a combination of metal drill bits, pliers, files, and sheet metal shears (mostly shears). It's not very thick, so plenty easy to work with, although a dremmel would have come in handy. As far as lessons learned: cut metal is SHARP, and recently drilled metal is HOT! Lucille is more than just my brainchild - she carries enough of my blood that I'm considering listing her as a dependent.

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The amount of tubing between the source and the can should be enough to cool the smoke sufficiently. You will most likely have to experiment with smoke source size and length of tubing, but that should not be too hard. You may find that the battery has a limited life if it get too much heat. Speaking of that, you may want to see how long the battery will power the fan so that you don't lose the fan half way through the smoking process. (One good reason for putting the battery outside the can)

BTW, did you create the plans on your own or did you find a similar thing on the Interweb?

These are my own "plans." Just spent twenty minutes staring at the heating aisle at Lowe's. Good thought about the battery... Maybe I'll make a plug-in version :lol:
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How about configuring the fan in a draw-through arrangement instead of blow-through (i.e. use negative pressure inside the can)? It seems to me that this would minimize the temperatures the fan mechanism sees, and as an added benefit it might clear the smoke out of your way when you open the lid to inspect the contents (if mounting the fan to the can body). One downside is that it would make the system more dependent on a decent fit between can and lid.

Also, you wouldn't be able to use the fan to form the pellicle, as ferment everything did. Hmm.

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