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Hi. First time smoker


MikeM
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Hi there. So I think I rushed in to building my first smoker. I had tried to research online but information is few and far between. 
I had just completed my smoker and was looking online to get started but after reading a couple of articles I have been slightly out off cold smoking meats so could be limited to nuts and cheese etc. I don’t think my smoker will reach temperatures to hot smoke. 

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59 minutes ago, MikeM said:

I have been slightly out off cold smoking meats so could be limited to nuts and cheese etc. I don’t think my smoker will reach temperatures to hot smoke. 

Hi MikeM...should the above read..."I have been slightly put off cold smoking meats" ??....if so don't be it's not that hard....all the info you'll need is here.

1 hour ago, MikeM said:

I don’t think my smoker will reach temperatures to hot smoke.

Do you want just a cold smoker or both cold & hot smoke???....you say that you have built the smoker any photos of it would help the guys on here to give their ideas on it.

 

Ice.

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Hi Ice. 
 

thanks for your reply. Yes that was a typo. 
 

I think I was caught up in the romance of having a smoker but not putting much thought into what type or what I wanted to smoke. 
 

I think what I have built will only work for cold smoking. 
 

I have fired her up for the first time and think all went well. Only thing is maybe the smoke is not accumulating in the box for long enough so may have to modify. 
 

i will attach some pics and would appreciate any feedback good or bad. image.thumb.jpg.0ae94020d2ce1182c57d089aa938a85f.jpg

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Hi Mike,

Great looking smoker.

It looks to me like it is good for both hot and cold smoking.

Mine is a wooden smoker I built that I use a pellet maze in to generate the smoke, perfect for cold smoking, you should be able to see the maze at the bottom of the attached photo.  I have an adjustable air inlet vent, adjustable exhaust vent and a variable speed fan so that I can control the air flow.  I would try an adjustable exhaust vent and then experiment, monitoring the smoker internal temperature.

Martin

IMG_3767.thumb.jpg.67f3aebed1e011727bb9b0d663ba7fc6.jpg

 

IMG_3817.jpg

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That's brilliant mate....well done...I see the first photo and thought "yes cold smoke only"  but then from the 2nd photo you can hot smoke easy with the burner being setup separate, no problem at all.

I agree with Ripple about having an adjustable air vent in the roof, that one looks a little too big, by having a way to closed it down you will be able to have more control over the amount of smoke. You don't want the smoke staying too long in the cabinet it can add off flavours, it needs to travel over & around the items then vent.

Add a digi thermo you need to know the temp inside,  I put a probe into one of whatever I'm smoking, fillet of fish or slab of bacon, and another probe towards the top of the box.

 

Ice.

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How could I set up the burner separate for hot smoking?

with regards to the exhaust could I get like a bean can lid or metal disc and put it in the chimney on a pin so I can pivot open/closed?

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Hi Mike and welcome to the forum.

You have built a great looking smoker there and is a classic old smokehouse design. This type of smokehouse was originally used primarily for cold smoking, using the warm smoke as a preservative and to dehydrate, however these were later adjusted for hot smoking when people realised that most meats needed to be cooked for safety. Your design is ideal for "cold" smoking as you have the long tube between your fire pit and your smoke chamber to help disperse the unwanted heat. This may work against you though when trying to "hot" smoke - but that can be overcome.

Some design tweaks that I would suggest to help when hot smoking.

As has been mentioned above, get yourself a twin probe digital thermometer and drill a couple of small holes through one of the side walls (1/3 and 2/3 of the way up) so that you can push the tips of thermometer probes through and know what is going on inside.

It isnt clear from your photo whether the bottom "tray" is a drip tray or a heat deflector. Maybe you are thinking of using it as both. Having this so close to the heat input, if it is solid you will be deflecting most of your heat to the sides as soon as it enters the chamber. This will likely result in the the heat mainly flowing up against the side walls and then out of the flue, resulting in the wood getting hotter than it needs to be and creating a cooler zone in the middle of the chamber - where you are trying to hot smoke the food. I would suggest replacing the bottom tray with a sheet of perforated metal (or a coarse mesh) with a small round plate immediately above the intake. This will act as a baffle plate and spread the heat more evenly across the bottom of the smoke chamber and help avoid internal hot/cool spots.

If you want to add a drip tray then make it thinner and smaller and place it on the bottom shelf - or the shelf immediately below the food that is cooking. A large foil cooking tray would be ideal for this. Alternatively place the food on a cake cooling rack that is resting over a roasting pan.

To help too much heat from being lost through the connecting pipe make sure that it is sheltered from any wind and also have some insulation to wrap around/over it. Pipe lagging would work and so would a couple of cheap fire blankets (~£6 each) loosely wrapped around the connecting pipe.

You seem to be using standard 4 inch (110mm) flue pipe. In addition to using the air intake on the stove, you can also use a standard in-line butterfly valve to give you finer control of the temperature. You could also add one into the top flue to manage the air flow through the smoke chamber.

Metal Chimney Pipe Rotary Blade Duct Tube Damper Non-Return Valve Flue Liner

I hope this helps and we are looking forward to seeing it in action :thumb1:

Wade

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Hi Wade. Thank you so much for your helpful comments. 

you are quite right I was using the tray to act as a drip tray and thought it would help disperse the smoke but will change that. Could I drill lots of holes into it or should I use the mesh? I take it anything but galvanised?

Would you recommend a digital thermometer or would any do?

with regards to the inline valve are you suggesting I fit that on the length of straight pipe coming from back of burner and a second on the chimney?

I have also use a roof and gutter sealant on the chimney which afterwards thought I shouldn’t have. I have covered with tin foil but unsure of I should try and remove. 

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Hi Mike

15 minutes ago, MikeM said:

you are quite right I was using the tray to act as a drip tray and thought it would help disperse the smoke but will change that. Could I drill lots of holes into it or should I use the mesh?

Yes, drilling holes in it would work, however the tray seems quite deep and you really need to raise the bottom of it a little further away from the inlet pipe to give the hot smoke a chance to spread. A flat perforated sheet/mesh at the height of the top of the tray would be better. It can be standard steel - it does not have to be stainless. A local steel fabricator would probably have something this size as an off-cut.

21 minutes ago, MikeM said:

 I take it anything but galvanised?

Galvanised is fine for anything that is underneath the food. There is a lot of urban myth spread about not using galvanised in smokers **. The only restriction is that it should not come into direct contact with the food or juices/liquids from it should not be able to drip back onto the food.
** The only advice the EU/UK and USA food safety authorities give about using galvanised surfaces with food is not to allow the food (or juices from the galvanised surfaces) to come in direct contact. The only comments that warn that galvanised surfaces should not be used anywhere in smokers come from people posting quoting from other people posting - chinese whispers. There can be a problem from the inhalation of zinc vapour when welding zinc/galvanised metals - however this is only are at temperatures over 800 C. I think you would have bigger problems to worry about if your smoker reached anywhere close to these temperatures !!

25 minutes ago, MikeM said:

Would you recommend a digital thermometer or would any do?

So long as the probe tips are inside the smoking chamber then any thermometer would work. Digital would be more accurate (and they are not expensive) however standard bi-metal rotary thermometers with long probes will give you a good indication of inside temperatures.

29 minutes ago, MikeM said:

with regards to the inline valve are you suggesting I fit that on the length of straight pipe coming from back of burner and a second on the chimney?

Yes. The valves usually have a female connecter both ends so the existing pipe can be cut and the valve slotted in.

The chimney valve should ideally not be galvanised as there will be some condensation dripping down from it. I would use a vitreous enamel coated valve here.

31 minutes ago, MikeM said:

I have also use a roof and gutter sealant on the chimney which afterwards thought I shouldn’t have. I have covered with tin foil but unsure of I should try and remove. 

If it has set then leave it but if it is still soft then try to remove it. In future use high temperature silicone sealant (available online or from stove shops). If it is exposed inside the smoker then just ensure that amy moisture cannot drip from it onto the food.
There are plenty of silicone sealants available but here is an example. Just make sure that they are usable up to ~200 C
https://www.cateringhardwaredirect.co.uk/products/silicone-sealant?variant=30892467028029

If you use a galvanised valve in the chimney or are worried about drips from the gutter sealant then fix a small removable tray directly underneath the flue hole.

Cheers
Wade

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