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Thread: DIY smoker question

  1. #1
    Member aces-n-eights's Avatar
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    Default DIY smoker question

    I'd like to construct my own smoker and have a couple of questions for the experts out there.

    We are fairly new to our current home and one of the features of the home is a sauna. We have found that we do not use the sauna enough to keep it. It is off our master bath and we want to use the space for a walk-in closet - which we will use much more than the sauna!

    I'd like to use the cedar lining from the sauna to line a smoker. I think it is aromatic cedar, but is at least 20 years old, so the "aroma" is largely gone - just a faint hint.

    I'd also like to build this smoker into my garage. My thought is to build a brick enclosure, line it with the cedar and vent it to the outside much like you'd vent a wood burning stove.

    So a couple of Q's...

    Do you think the cedar would be a suitable material for a smoker? I will primarily smoke fish, but would like to get it hot enough to smoke turkeys or roasts.

    Any concerns or considerations to building this in my garage? Construction code issues? I don't want to burn down my house!

    Thanks for any and all comments!

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    Member Mudcatak's Avatar
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    Default smoker

    I would not attach a smoker to my house for the simple reason that there would be a chance of a fire. so that is the thing that stands out to me. the use of the sauna is a good idea since im sure it is well insulated and you could use the ceder planks if you wanted too, just remember to keep an eye on your temp so it does not get so hot and dry in the smoker, i wouldnt want my meats to get too dry that i could not eat them for sure.
    just my two cents. mud

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    If properly constructed it should be plenty safe in the garage. Why do you want to line it with wood?

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    Member aces-n-eights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait 1 View Post
    If properly constructed it should be plenty safe in the garage. Why do you want to line it with wood?

    I think if i constructed it similar to installing a wood burning stove in my garage it should be fine.

    Why wood lined? I don't really know other that i think it would look better and there is something about the smell of an old smokehouse - my uncle had one at a lake home in Montana and it still had a great smell 50 years after the last smoking. I guess i think there is that "warmth of wood" that i like, but perhaps it's not necessary.

    Thanks for your comments!

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    What is the mission of your smoker? There are two primary ways to smoke hot and cold. A smoker can be both. However, I have not seen many that are both. For example the Lil Chief is a hot smoker and does a very acceptable job. I'll bet your uncle's smoker was a cold smoker. To turn a cold smoker into a hot smoker you need to have a heat source to bring the heat up to around 130F consistantly. I would not have a smoker attached to the house simply because the smoke will get into the house. Smoke is heatseaking and will find a way into the house. A simple airway between the house and smoker will help. The fire issue is VERY credible. A couple of years ago I had a smoker fire. My smoker was a cold type and the fire was a classic stack fire. The fire was hot and violent. The cause was the build up of creosote. Once creosote catches fire it burns hot. The build up is caused from a low temprature fire. Now I change the pipe on a regular basis. Smoker fires are not uncommon.

    The cedar issue is moot. Any wood will absorb the smoke. I would keep the cedar for my closets and drawers, simply sand it and the aroma should return. My new smoker is plywood on the outside and lined with wonderboard all the racks are framed with pine or what ever I had at the time. My smoker is a cold smoker. Venting is important in the smoker. Condensation is hard to control especially if smoking at lower tempratures. Enjoy your new endeavor, smoking is fun.
    Pete

  6. #6
    Member aces-n-eights's Avatar
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    Great comments, Pete, thanks!

    Does anyone have any websites or references that might be helpful for my smoker construction project? I've googled around the internet some, but mostly what i come up with is the "build a smoker out of a trash can" sites.

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    PM me your e-addy and I'll send you a pic of my smoker.
    Pete

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    Default Cold smoke in the hot grill...

    I have one of those larger grills that has the fire box on the side that is attached to the interior.

    I have found that if I simply put an electric hotplate in the fire box, it produces enough temperature for a cold smoke.

    I simply use an an old 2 quart metal pot whose lid has been drilled with quarter inch holes to contain the wood.

    It works perfectly...

    http://www.alaskanauthor.com

  9. #9
    New member AKDSLDOG's Avatar
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    I would not use cedar in my smoke house for a liner, but that is you preferance.

    Just tell me one thing, why would you use old cedar out a sauna that someone else has sat in a sweated their gonad's on? Not my idea of a "flavor" I want in my fish or meat. Buy new wood if that is your true intent.

  10. #10
    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Traditionally smoke houses were lined with hardwood, usually maple or beech (I'm from NY) so as not to impart any flavor on the meat. I would strip the cedar from the sauna if it were my project. You could replace it with T&G pine but you would want to weather it first or hot smoke it for 10 or 12 hours (not necessarily all at once) to season it.

    My grandfather's smoke house was 6'x8' all maple, and used a concrete lined trench about 10 feet long, and deep and wide as a cinderblock. A series of 3/8" steel plates covered the trench. What he was smoking determined where along the trench the fire was built.

    Granted that's more elaborate than most of us need.

    Why not just sell the sauna and build a smoker? My guess is it's worth far more than the $100-$150 it will take to build one

  11. #11
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    Aces I mean this respectfully so please don't take it the wrong way.

    1) Cedar or pine for a smoke house! YUCK! If you must use wood for your smoker please for the sake of your taste buds use a hard wood! Oak maple and beech are fine choices.
    2) All of the finest smoke houses Ive seen have been made of brick or stone without any wood lining. The stone/brick holds temp better and allows you to spend a little time away from the smoker instead of sitting there watching a thermometer and feeding wood to a fire.(Yes I know if you use an electric heating element you don't have to sit with the smoker at all but using an electric smoker is like kissing your sister too me, just plain wrong!)
    3) If your planning on truly smoking meats wood would probably be OK but most "smoked" meat is actually fire roasted at low temp and is too hot for a wooden smoker.
    4) As stated by others having it in or attached to the garage/house is a bad idea. Smoker fires are very common, the smoke will find a way into your house, carbon monoxide is a by product of wood combustion and a deadly gas and finally simply building it could very well void your home owners insurance! Whether you ever use it or not!
    5) Smoking meats and fish is indeed great fun but please be safe about it. No fish or meat is worth risking the safety of your family or your home. Have fun experiment and good eating!

    Just this Alaskans opinion
    Rick P

    PS As a former RN who has worked in burn units and ICU's trust me you never want to visit one!! And almost all of the folks I took care of beleived they were in no danger when there life was painfully changed forever!
    Last edited by Rick P; 10-04-2007 at 23:37. Reason: Added PS

  12. #12
    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Default

    You want to use what you got? You aim to be safe! Time to think outside of the box (pun intended).

    Just build a 55 gal. drum stove put it on a stand out side and 48" or more away from the outside of the intended smoke area. Use a 90 deg ell from the stack opening, a short piece of stove pipe to a Tee then run the remainder of the distance to the smoke house.

    Turn the Tee up so you can put a flat piece of metal to regulate and get a venturi effect, cut a hole in the wall and cut a vent in the top of the smoke room, and you are good to go.

    Remember that smoke rises. NOW you have a fire source outside your house and away from the structure.

    Can you see this project done for under a hundred bucks?

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    Member aces-n-eights's Avatar
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    Al and Rick, thanks for the informed response. You have convinced me to build something away from the house and i think brick is going to be the deal. The 55 gal drum is clearly an option too, but i think i want more of a smokehouse type affair.
    Thanks again for taking the time to share your expertise!

  14. #14
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    No problem Aces drop me a pm if I can help with the design and again have fun

  15. #15

    Smile Smoker

    My old smoker holds about 30 sockeye when I make salmon strips. I have a single electric burner at the bottom and a old iron pot that holds a half a bag of chips. I had a 4x8 foot piece of stainless expanded metal cut ibto 2' squares. This gives me 8 racks. I can pull the 2 sides off and let the fish dry after I have smoked it for a while. I have screens under those sides to keep bugs out. My method is a cold smoke and drying process. The wood is tounge and groove cedar. If cedar is such a bad wood for a smoke house then why is Cabela's and some gourmet cooking places selling cedar planks for cooking salmon on? The natives off the North West cooked on cedar planks long before it became popular. Years ago folks built smokers out of the material they had on hand. I have been using this method for years with great results. This smoker will be in use by my children after I am gone.

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