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You can use a setup like this to hot smoke too, though. Mine just doesn't like to do that because I used a weak heating element. Hot smoking, which is what most smokers you find at places like Home Depot were made to do, is kind of like crock pot cooking only without the mandatory Man-Card revocation. Hot smoking generates enough heat to not only burn the smoking wood, but also to slow cook the food (165 to 185 degrees F). It's a great way to save time but there's no guarantee you'll get nearly the richness of smoke you get from cold smoking. The process can also cause food to shrivel and burns off tasty fat. Many hot smokers are also water pan smokers—you place a pan full of hot water on hooks a few inches above the heat source. The heated water generates steam to reduce drying and keep food moist. You can also put potatoes in the water during the last hour and a half of smoking to boil and sop up the falling juices from the meat. I mean, if you're the sort of weirdo that thinks vegetables have any place near a barbecue. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Construction time is about an hour, painting it is a four hour spray-and-wait process over two weekends, but that’s optional. Tool-wise, it’s a pretty basic project. You’ll need a cordless drill with various sized bits, a tape measure or ruler, crescent wrench, screwdriver, and duct or electrical tape.
I didn’t shoot a picture of the garbage can, since I figured you’ve probably seen one before (hint: it’s that thing Oscar lived in on Sesame Street). I did, however, get a shot of the guts. You’ll find most of this stuff at a hardware shop or Home Depot. A couple of these parts I transferred over from my dead smoker.
Home Depot coats the inside of its cans with protective resin, so I cleaned that out with some solvent, washed that out thoroughly, then marked some holes for drilling. I’m putting the thermometer eight inches down from the top so it sits a couple of inches above the rack. Ten inches down from the top, I marked off holes for the hook brackets. I dotted one, then marked off two other holes equidistant from it at the same level. Then, I used the brackets themselves as templates to mark the second hole for each of them in turn. My rack is 22 inches (the one in my smoker, gutter brain); if you're running a smaller one, you'll want longer hooks than these. Once all the proper holes were marked off, it was drill time. I compared the diameters for the bolts on the thermometer and brackets with the sizes of my drill bits to get the right size holes, then got down to business.
But I’m still not ready to cook anything until I have a hole for the electric cord. I measured the plug width, then marked off a hole slightly larger than that on the outside. It’s best to use a power saw to cut a hole like this but if you don’t have one, you can drill a series of holes and use a pair of wire cutters to clean out the Swiss cheesed metal.
Either way, you don’t want sharp metal edges slicing through the cord on your hot plate. I wrapped my cord in a ton of duct tape to protect it.
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