Use of an oven thermostat in a smoker


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Old 06-15-07, 08:49 PM
J
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Use of an oven thermostat in a smoker

Hi all.
I started this inquiry in the electrical forum but somehow this forum seems more appropriate.
I am constructing a homemade smoker. Basically it consists of 2 very large terra cotta planters inverted on each other. In the bottom planter is a Walgreen's 1000 Watt, 110 Volt hotplate. On top of that is a cast iron pan that holds the wood chips. Further up sits a rack to hold the items to be smoked.
Don't laugh. It really works well.
However, the Achilles heel of the thing is the thermostat in the hotplate. The thermostats on these cheap hotplates sit underneath the coil and pan. On initial heat-up it works great. But then the terra cotta is such a good insulator that the thermostat doesn't cool enough to cycle back on even though the temperature in the smoke chamber above falls dramatically.
I would really like to install a salvaged bulb and capillary type thermostat from a kitchen range into the smoke chamber and wire it directly to the hotplate bypassing the stock hotplate thermostat. I am assuming that this thermostat would operate on 110V.
A secondary question is, does the probe of the bulb and capillary type thermostat have to rest horizontally (as it was in a stove) or can I install it in my preferred vertical position?
Thanks in advance for any help in this endeavor and, oh yes I know I can buy a smoker cheaper but I'm fixated on this thing and want to finish it no matter how much of my wife's money I have to spend.
 
  #2  
Old 06-16-07, 05:50 AM
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Hello jcaxtell,

In most cases you will want to smoke/cook at 160 degF.
An oven thermostat could work but the proper smoking temperature is at the lower end of its range and depending on what thermostat you get may not go quite that low.

I think your real problem is that you do not have enough ventilation near the hot plate.
By being enclosed you are asking the hot plate to operate in higher temps than it was designed to.
Not only will you have temp regulation problems you will quickly burn up the wiring within the hot plate as well.

You might want to make an opening at the very bottom of the smoker right beside the hot plate so that you will get an air flow going.
You also need this airflow because if you allow the smoke to remain too long your food may aquire a bitter taste.

An opening at the top and bottom with a flap of some kind to regulate the air would be the first place I would start.
You can then monitor the temperature and regulate accordingly.

A short piece of 4" galvanized air duct with a round damper in it at the top and bottom might work well.

Take some pics and post them on a site like Photo Bucket and we'll take a look for some more ideas.


I know what you mean by spending money on this stuff!
We do not do this kind of thing to save a buck.
My wife says we could buy a freezer full of smoked sausage for what it so far cost to build my smoker and it ain't done yet.
 
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Old 06-16-07, 07:17 AM
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Thanks.
I have always smoked at an ideal temp of 210-225F Ribs, pork butt, chicken, turkey etc. Also, I usually need at least 200 F to initiate smoke from the chips. I'm wondering if you are thinking about "cold smoking" like sausage, cheese etc. In the case of meats like sausage, they are usually "cured" first so the danger of salmonella, etc. is not there. 160F for fresh meats is in the dangerous zone. Example: chicken should be cooked to 180 F for safe consumption.
I've tried a vent to the bottom of the plate. That caused too much oxygen to chips and the ignited which, in turn, spikes the temp in the smoker.
That is why I want to directly tie the smoke chamber temp to the hotplate with a ball and capillary thermostat.
The following link will give you some idea of the smoker I am constructing. Mine is just a bit larger with 2 pots. One a base and one a top.
I did a test run on a chicken and it came out perfect. However, I could only maintain about 200F and it was a hot day.
Even with a vent cooling the plate the plate temperature has no relationship to the chamber temp.
 
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Old 06-16-07, 11:09 AM
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Ya, I guess the term "smoking" is pretty vague.

The breakdown is terminology as I know it is that cold smoking is done pretty much at room temperature for periods as long as days and is mostly for preserving food.
Smoke cooking would be done between 160 and 170 degF for things like sausage or other meats that will be cooked at those temps or up to 185 for chicken and similar meats.
The temperature you are operating at would be considered BBQ even though there is smoke involved.

There was no link so I couldn't see what you have there.

I personally spend more time practicing making and smoking sausage where a cabinet temp of over 180 fegF would be a disaster.
At this high a temperature the fat renders out of the sausage and makes the outer surface greasy and the inside dry.

I am using a Brinkman Smok'n pit that I electrified for bbq but am perfecting a smoker cabinet with a hot plate for smoke and a pair of stove elements on a thermostat for temp control.

As you are finding out it takes a large amount of experimenting to get the right combination of heat and air to make it work.
I think that the reason your wood catches fire maybe because you need to have the hot plate too high to heat the chamber but this makes your pan too hot for the chips.
I have overcome this on my new smoker project by using a separate heating element in the cooking chamber and regulating the hot plate to control the smoke................Like I said, cost doesn't matter.

You might also try finer wood chips or what I have done in my Brinkman is make up wood chip packets by wrapping a half cup of chips in foil and poking a few holes in the top surface then throwing these on the pan.
This starves the chips of oxygen and make them smoulder longer.
I also experimented with a small soup pot and a lid with a couple of small holes.

Another option is what I have done in my new smoker is to smoke a chicken for a couple of hours and finish it on a rotiserrie on the BBQ.
 
 

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