For the last 10 years I’ve dreamed about making a cold smoker. Bacon, ham, sausage, pork chops, fish & chile peppers oh my! Cold smoking ain’t quite as straight forward as hot smoking, plus the equipment is different. This coupled with being dead lazy, I’m only now taking the project on.
The cold smoking thing all came together when Salvage sent me a link to a Cold Smoke Generator on ebay, I bought it that moment. The wheels spun and I posted last week about making a cold smoker out of a 55 gallon drum. I thought I had it made, but I was wrong. The drum was “lined”, that means it’s bad for food related craft projects. The protective coating keeps organic solvents from attacking the steel, good for them, bad for us. You want an unlined, clean, steel drum for such things and this was not it. And then? Creepy E took the week off so it was going to be 9 days before the new drum could be ordered. I have an attention span of a gnat and I needed satisfaction, needed it like now.
I figured I could use my hot smoker and talked to Salvage about it. Sure, not a problem, but you have to be very careful about Ptomaine and Botulism. See, with a hot smoker you got fats/juices all over the darned place and they’re generally cleaned up by a good hot fire. But cold smoking rarely goes above 120 degrees F. This means whatever nasties are there, they incubate. Here’s what he has to say on the subject.
Ptomaine is the enemy you can smell. Botulism is the real culprit in this realm. It wants 3 things, the spores, absence of Oxygen, and temperatures between 70 deg and 140 deg F. You are building the Botulism incubator. Hmmmm It is odorless and tasteless. The good thing is that Botulism and Ptomaine do not get along at all. So, if it smells rotten it will only make you very sick. If it smells good it can kill you dead. Heat botulism to 265 deg F and the organism dies, but the poison remains and you still die. So the moral here is to never grow Botulism. Like genital warts, you have to catch it from somewhere.
Saturday morning’s ToDo List:
Clean up a few grates, drill a hole for the generator and find some smokable food stuffs.
Early Saturday morning found me at my place of employment bead blasting a few of my smoker’s grates to get the grease/bits off. Cleaning each and every angle on those things was quite tedious, I got it done though.
Between errands, and a few other things I didn’t get back home until the afternoon. I needed to sit and rest a bit, the smoker would have to wait until I was ready. Besides, Salvage and I were still firing off emails to each other discussing what I should smoke first. Something fishy? It sounded the easiest and quickest way, but fish needs to be brined first. Or something along those lines, so I headed off to see Omar about a load of jalapenos, simple yet easy.
Time marches on. I finally mustered up enough umph to drill a hole in my smoker and install the generator, it had to be a 5/8″ hole. Yeah well, it turns out the bit I borrowed was dulled, stripped to the bone and pretty useless. It’d have to wait until Sunday, I could go buy me a new bit. Time for the internet, oh joy of joys.
Damned that internet, damned that craigslist.
Picture the Biggles perched at his computer, in a dark room, pouring through Craigslist. Fingers twitching, mouth opening, closing, lick those lips. Yeah, that’s right I was at the General section searching for the word, “smoker”.
I found a professional, old, fridge sized rig in Berkeley and it was still available. I made an appointment to go pick it up first thing Sunday morning. What have I done now. Third time’s the charm? The last time I did this I wound up with a 2100 pound rig that I never did have the time to restore. I gave it to Omar and it’ll be moving to El Salvador here pretty soon.
As you can see, it’s got all the racks in there and is pretty much ready to go. Again, the racks will need to be cleaned, but their all stainless steel, so should clean up quite easily.
Wanna see that badass smoke generator?
Salvage pointed me to this rig on ebay, the seller’s username is fiddler252. That’s the best I can do at the moment, no other contact information is available. Here’s the scoop, listen carefully. It’s a smoke generator, all is does is slowly pump smoke in to your smoker. It’s made from solid machined aluminum with a cap on the bottom and a cap on the top. You fill it with little compressed wood squiggles or dust or really small chips. Light from the bottom with a propane torch for about 40 seconds. Install the lower cap and attach the supplied air pump. Then put the top cap on and the smoke begins to flow in to your chamber.
Last night I finally got my 5/8″ hole drilled, installed the unit and took it for a test run around the neighborhood. The little s.o.b. works like a charm and apparently only needs to be filled every 12 hours! Not bad for only a hunnerd bucks.
The downside? My smoker ain’t tuned, yet. At first the smoke only pooled, then poured out the bottom, too many holes. Good thing I have two little boys, with socks. Or they had socks anyways, heh.
My Leatherman made quick work of a few of those socks and was able to plug the 13 holes with ease. At this point the smoker filled with smoke, just as it should. Very little escaping from the top, Salvage says this is how it’s supposed to be. Not like my hot smoker with a steady waft of blue smoke hitting the neighborhood. Here’s my fancy exhaust dampening system.
Um, it’s a plate, sitting on the hole.
Of course I installed a remote temp gauge, and it read about 58 degrees. That’s not hot enough, am going for a cold smoke between 90 and 120 degrees F. A dual burner electric hotplate sitting on the bottom raised the heat a bit. I think I got it up to about 76 degrees in about 45 minutes. Not sure if that’s going to fly or not, I’m going to say NOT.
Okay, so where are we now? On the 3rd attempt, we’ve got a box with a door and some racks. We’ve got the smoke generator installed and working properly. It looks as though the smoker itself only needs some fine tuning and we’re good to go. What’s next?
I need to clean the racks, bring the smoker up to temp in a reasonable amount of time and be able to maintain that temperature for as long as I want to (up to about 48 hours). Once I bring the temperature up, need to fire up the generator and see how all the air & heat flow, make appropriate adjustments. Once I can do all this, I’ll be ready to cold smoke something, anything!
We’re getting there.
ps – This post was supposed to go up early last week. But it turns out the browser I was using was getting more and more incompatible with my blogging software. It came to a head last week and wasn’t able to post, nearly at all. In fact, it was removing large amounts of text, this post had to be rewritten 3 times before I figured out what was going on. I’ve switched to Firefox, removed Opera and we’re on our way!