Step 1 in my smoking odyssey was to get myself a cold smoker. I spent a little while researching cold smoker plans online and can generally summarise the options as follows:
- A ‘proper’ set up involving a hot smoker connected to a separate cabinet by a piece of pipework that cools the smoke down
- A smoking cabinet containing a cold smoking device
- Chucking a cold smoking device into the bottom of your BBQ
Straight away I ruled out option 1. I figure at this stage attempting this at home is going to be expensive as I’d be bound to overspend on a hot smoker, and besides; I simply don’t have the room for an elaborate set up.
In all honesty I probably could have been convinced by option 3, but when I dreamt up this plan I didn’t actually own a BBQ. The gas BBQ I have subsequently bought would not be suitable because there’s a big gap that runs along the top rear side between the lid and the back of the BBQ, so have a look at your own and see if you also have that issue. An old towel might solve it.
I also have a Weber Smokey Mountain which I ave successfully cold smoked in, but I strongly believe that a wooden cabinet would provide better results. I read somewhere that smoke is attracted to cold surfaces, and I suspect this means you lose a fair bit of smoke to the Weber’s shell in anything but June to August!
Anyway, option 2 it was. The goal was to nail it for under £100.
The Cold Smoker
To begin with I had stumbled across a video touting the use of the Amaz-n-Smoker. This device is basically a tube that you fill with wood pellets and light with a blowtorch. Bad news is they’re only available in the US of A.
However, I figured it looked a lot like this bit of exhaust pipe, so ordered up a length and closed one end by using a jubilee clip to clamp a tea light casing onto one end. “Genius” thought I, so after investing in a blowtorch imagine my confusion when the wood chips I had been soaking failed to stay alight! Wood chips…? Oh, hold on, the bloke in the video is using wood pellets. Turns out there’s a significant difference.
Chips and chunks are usually soaked and used on a hot smoker, dust is used in a cold smoker, pellets can be used in either (and also gas BBQs) but need to be kept off the direct heat source.
Anyway, I digress. The point is that my invention wasn’t suitable for dust, and pellets seemed hard to find and expensive in the long run, so I decided to stop messing around and get myself a Pro-Q Cold Smoker.
Looked at loads of designs for the cabinet, everything from modified filing cabinets to hand crafted wooden boxes. Then, rather fortunately, I was wandering around Homebase looking for the materials for the latter when I spotted this untreated pine chest.
It’s a really great size, and when I put it together I just made a few simple alterations:
- Cut off the feet and screwed them into one end so I can sit the trunk upright (like a cabinet)
- Added some magnetic door clasps
- Cut a hole in what became the top to use as a vent (trying to find an old BBQ vent to put over it)
- Popped a handle on the top for easy transportation
- Screwed a hook into the inside top to hang some meat from
Build complete in a couple of hours, generally I’m very happy with the result, the only thing I struggled with was finding shelves to fit. Cake cooling racks and replacement oven shelves were not the right size and were mostly over £10 a pop, which didn’t seem value. In the end I found some cheap cooling racks in Wilkos at £1.50 each and took the Dremmel to them to cut them to size. Decided 2 shelves were enough, so added some internal supports and Bob’s your uncle:[Picture to follow]
A square of tin foil stuck to the base and your Pro-Q cold smoker and you’re ready to go.
Rough cost breakdown:
- Homebase Heavy Duty Pine Chest: £26
- 2 x wilko cooling racks: £3
- Few off cuts of 38mm timber for shelf supports: £0 (had them in the shed)
- Hook (plus a couple of meat hooks): £5
- Handle: £3
- Pro-Q Cold Smoker: £35
Approximate total: £75
Happy with that – with the possible exception of the Pro-Q, which seems expensive for some shaped wire mesh and a candle, but it’s well reviewed and the alternative is arsing about inventing stuff for the next few weeks instead of getting my smoke on!