Saturday, December 17, 2011

Homemade Meat Smoker - Thermostically Controlled

I like both eastern and western styles Carolina BBQ, but I don't like spending too much time futzing around with cooking something. So I made a dedicated smoker from some junk heap parts using my welder. This smoker can not only smoke meat, but it can slow cook a boston butt so it forks apart by just looking at it.

The most irritating thing about doing "low and slow" is controlling temperature over the course of 8 hours. I found this to be important when I previously was doing this on the grill.  You get wide outdoor temperature variations - the wind picks up, a cold front moves is, the sun shines, etc. Thus constant tweaking is required to keep the temperature in the correct range, around 212-250 degrees. Since babysitting a pork shoulder is on the lower end of my list of fun things to do, I wanted to automate this.At the most I'd only like to have to change the wood chips a few times towards the beginning, and come back 6 hours later to some succulent, delicious pork.

Notice the combination of the digital  PID controller and the welded air tank for a pleasing combination of high and low technology.

The PID controller, hot plate coil and a thermocouple give thermostatic control for unattended operation. The PID along with the solid-state relays that switch the current are enclosed in an old computer power supply. The unit as well as the air tank are grounded for mains safety purposes.

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