Flower Pot Smoker (Improved Lid)

Picture of Flower Pot Smoker (Improved Lid)
There are already quite a few instructables out there for Alton Brown's Little Brown Egg smoker, but I thought I would share my improvement to the lid design.

One of the hardest parts of this smoker is finding the suggested pottery piece for the lid.  I ended up using the drain pan for the pot size that I picked.  I also didn't like the idea of using a Teflon pan sitting on the burner (something about carcinogens being released at temperatures as low as 464°F), so I opted for an 8" cast iron skillet.  I hated to destroy an otherwise perfectly good cast iron pan, but it was worth the sacrifice for a quality wood chunk vessel.

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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Materials Needed:

1    Flower Pot
1    Flower Pot Drain Pan
1    Single Burner
1    Grill Grate
3    Flower Pot Feet
1    Fence Gate Handle
2    Screws Long Enough to hold it the handle through the lid
2    Nuts for the screws
4    Large Washers
1    Grill Thermometer
1    Masonry Drill Bit (of appropriate diameter)
1    Sheet Automotive Gasket Material (Not Shown)
1    8" Cast Iron Skillet

Step 2: Disassemble Burner, Drill Holes

Picture of Disassemble Burner, Drill Holes
I took apart the entire burner and fed the wires through the bottom drain hole of the flower pot.  I think I had to break the white plastic piece to get all the wires removed.  I ended up elevating the burner on the bottom of the flower pot with some scrap steel tubing I had around the garage.

Use the masonry drill bit to drill holes in the lid for the thermometer and the handle mounts.  I tried to widen the holes with a regular bit, but it got pretty hot and I didn't get anywhere.  If you cant make the holes big enough, just wiggle the bit around a little. 

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mike457803 months ago

A couple of things to consider and a couple of suggestions:

You was talking about carcinogens, I would be worried what the warm latex (sealer) would be giving off. The same for the automotive gasket material that you used, the smoke loss would only be minimal. A wet towel in between the two and another over the top and it would be safer and sufficient. Make sure the towel stays wet however, it will dry out and then begin to smolder.

Instead of stressing over the chore of finding the lid, just get a pot of a different size.

Nice job and very ingenious!

PZ456 mike457802 months ago

How about using silicone instead of latex? Would that work?

PZ4562 months ago

I like this smoker! I already have one that a friend gave me. Mine, though, is one pot inverted over a larger pot. While I like mine and use it quite often, lifting that pot off can be a pain. I don't have a handle but I put on a glove, take the thermometer out of the center hole and with a leather glove lift the pot off by sticking my finger into the hole. Not comfortable in the least. I like how you used a drain pan for the lid. I also use a 9" X 9" baking pan. It's not as heavy as an iron skillet but does the job quite well. I too use an electric single burner. It's much easier than maintaining a fire. I have the control outside of the pot so that I can easily reach it for adjustments. Great job. Thanks to you I'll be modifying my lid. Thanks!

SIRJAMES093 months ago

Nice...simple, easy to understand & build....I like it...A LOT! 8 )

For the benefit of those who do not know/do not realize, Galvanized pipe is poisonous...until you burn off the Galvanizing(which usually takes a very hot fire & upto 30 minutes in that fire to burn off the galvanizing....The same goes with ANY steel pipe that may have oil on it(commonly used to keep it from rusting).

Q: would not a pipe cap work in place of the cast iron? I'm talking 8 inch pipe cap, or larger....(I have several laying about the place, hence why I asked)

Teflon Pans:

Like galvanized steel pipes, the teflon can be burned takes a very hot fire, & (usually) the better part of a day to get the job done, but if that's all you have, it can be done.....

another option is, to build a rocket stove using cinder blocks, & place the empty teflon coated pan on top of the stove....since a rocket stove burns hotter than any other home made fire burning device/fireplace/ etc., it shouldn't take as long.....or just take a wire brush mounted on a drill & remove the teflon that way.....

jrobb249 months ago

I would get online to like appliance part company with a model number for your stove. I would order the oven door seal and use that to seal the lid. I have a stainless washer drum for a frontload washer I plan to mod later when I have vacation. I will mark this page for reference when I do my build. Thanks for all the ideas

SparkyP1 year ago
If you don't want to build one of these just get a used oven from the local store & connect a plug on it. You only need the oven to work & if the hob top works its a bonus. Set it up in your outdoor area & get a plug installed behind it & away you go ! Temperature controlled, light, hob top & even a warmer drawer are optional on ovens so find one that will suits what you want to do with it and happy outdoor cooking !
ssj3ricky2 years ago
2 making the same exact thing, except for the thermometer, i've read many instances where the dial thermometer was anywhere up to 25-50 degrees off, so i got the maverick digital, dual thermometer(which actually my local bbq joint uses as well) it has 2 leads, one for ambient air temp and one for meat temp. and the other thing is im using a wood stove door gasket for the lid portion, figure it protects from clanging damage and it seals it up, looking at probably $35-$50 all together for both. im having the same problem as you with the lid, i couldnt find a bowl to fit it, that wasnt online and costs under $50.00 so after doing this several times, do you think it makes any difference? i know that the dome shape is ideal for convection and even heat distribution but does the flat lid make any difference or should i keep looking for the round lid?
chamunks2 years ago
I built one of these and the el cheapo element I bought from walmart made it about 2 hours into a smoking session for a Pork Belly for Bacon and pooched so now i get to Rebuild the thing and pretend it was DOA to get my cash back from walmart anyone have any suggestions about my next hotplate purchase?
schmiez3 years ago
Anyone have suggestions for mounting / regulating the thermostat so that it cycles properly? The first few times I rigged up a foil structure afixed to the bottom pot so that it cycled. took a few hours to fine tune it so it wouldnt get too hot.

I cant imagine it would take much. maybe just an electrical box attached to the bottom pot? Any other thoughts? the hack doesnt address the fact that he thermostat has to cycle and as they have it, it wont cycle, just continuously heat.
joshgoes (author)  schmiez3 years ago
This particular design doesn't use a thermostat. The hot plate has a variable power potentiometer that you set and forget. There is no "cycling" to speak of (cycling power to the hot plate on and off). The grill thermometer is to monitor visually to verify that the temperature is correct throughout operation.

If that doesn't answer your question, please rephrase.
It looks very much like what you have is a bimetal thermostat and not a potentiometer. A bimetal thermostat has 3 parallel stips of metal. 2 for making contact (turn the knob) and a 3rd that is the bimetal. The bimetal bends with heat and moves one of the contacts away from the other to break the flow of current. When it cools the flow is reestablished. It does indeed cycle on and off.

Consequently the thermostat works differently whether in, near or away from the pot. I have the same thermostat from a nearly identical hot plate. Most hot plates anywhere near this price range use the same.

Here is where some folks get frustrated with temp control. The thermostat inside the cooker will get too hot too often and keep cycling off reducing the temp inside. Thermostats that are remote react to heat from proximity or worse reacting to ambient air temperature. Close proximity can create a fortunate situation where the cycling keeps the temp close to desired. Too far away from the smoker and the thermostat never cycles off and the heating coil goes full bore and the internal smoker temp hits 300 degrees and more.

Right now my thermostat is inside the smoker with the heating element. I did some testing and was able to bend the bimetal strip ever so slightly in order to get it to make the disconnect of current at 240 degrees. A bit high but still testing. The smoker gets to 240 and the thermostat shuts off the current. Temp slowly drops to 220 and the current flows again. Time after time. I can tweak it down pretty easily. Remove coil, make adjustment and plug it in. I put my AC current tester on the power cord and watch both the amps and temps to see when the hot plate unit is off or on.

I love this smoker.
Fully loaded with wood and salmon my smoker heated up to 140 rather quickly and the settled into a slower temp climb. The thermostat is cycling every few minutes with a sort of two steps forward and one back. It rises 5 degrees, shuts off and then drops 2.5 degrees before turning on again. About an hour to get to a steady 210 or so. Perfect.
Ahh, gotcha. Mine is an old school thermostat. Just searching for some answers on a quick, easy, and cheap fix to better control the temp.

Got extremely lucky the first two times i used it as it was hot and calm outside, so a foil housing did the trick. But I'd like something more permanent.
linuxuser003 years ago
Well i really like this build, being from Texas I BBQ with my family alot but we rarely ever smoke anything so I want to give this a try at the next BBQ competition even if its just to sit out and make something for us to eat for ourselves at the end of the day. I am pretty good at modding things but I need a little bit of guidance. What size flower pots did you buy I just need the size of the one on the bottom I can just go and look for a drain after that. Also what size grill did you end up using. I plan on rewiring the control into a project box about a foot or more down the power cord for easy adjustments. I can make an instructable on the wiring I suppose if anyone is interested.
joshgoes (author)  linuxuser003 years ago
Hey, thanks for the comment. I'm also in Texas, and this makes some decent BBQ. Really, I just wandered around Home Depot picking up pieces that fit together until I had something that looked serviceable. There really aren't many rules here. If you really want a size reference, the tiles on the floor are 12"x12". If I had to guess, I would say the bottom diameter of the pot is 8-10", the grate is maybe 14". Good luck!
jshank4 years ago
Anyone looking to build your own flower pot smoker or discuss design and mods is welcome to join It's a community of people who love the DIY smokers.
Instead of ruining a good cast iron skillet look for a cast iron pie plate. Camp Chef has one.
joshgoes (author)  lovindutchovens4 years ago
I got my skillet at Walmart for $12, and it fits perfectly. I dont understand how something that is harder to find, more expensive, and not the right size would be an improvement. Could you explain further?
gnawlej5 years ago
I'm happy to see someone else drilled the floor of their smoker to run the hot plate wiring on the outside. This really makes breaking it down to move, store or clean a lot easier. However, I left the burner housing (I have the same model you used) intact and set the bottom pot directly on top.

To drill the terra cotta, I just turned my garden hose on to a trickle and set it on the surface while the masonry bit did it's job.
joshgoes (author)  gnawlej5 years ago
I didn't actually drill through the floor of the smoker, I only drilled through the top piece for the thermometer and the handle screws.  The flower pot I got already had a large enough hole in the bottom (which would ordinarily be used for drainage).  

Good idea with the garden hose, I used the same technique recently for drilling through some glass - definitely don't want to be breathing that dust.

Post some pictures here of your smoker, I'd be interested to see it.

IMG_5325 copy.jpgIMG_5330 copy.jpgIMG_5331 copy.jpg
I see. Since I left the hot plate housing intact, routing everything through the drainage hole put stress on the wires. If the coil teetered when dumping ash and adding chunks, the contacts could come undone. Needless to say, reconnecting these in the middle of a 12-hour smoke was not fun. Now I understand your steel tubing standoffs (I had thought those were acting as a conduit, routing the wiring through the floor), which seem to achieve the same goal as my drilling through the floor, keeping the coil level and stable. I've also noticed the wires take a bit of a beating, even with the thermal insulation, when they are routed inside the smoker.

I'm planning to smoke a brisket Saturday, so I will take and post some pictures then.
spylock5 years ago
Where did you get your replacement grill grate if I may ask,that is the only thing Im lacking at this point,my hotplate isnt the coil type its flat,and looks as though it were made for what im doing,it has one bolt to where the burner can be raised off of the base about an inch or so,it was $18.00 which I thought was kinda high for a single burner hotplate,but what the hey it should work well.
joshgoes (author)  spylock5 years ago
The replacement grill grate came from Lowes in the grill section.  Its actually supposed to be the grate that you put the coals on on the bottom of the grill, but its the right fit for this application. 

$18 is a little steep for a single burner hotplate, but if it works I say go for it.  I think mine was $7 with a coupon at CVS, but I got the incredibly cheapo version that I had to rig to work properly.

Come back and post some pictures when you get yours up and running!
Great,thank you,yea my hotplate came from walmart,I wouldve got the coil type had they had it,but Im really making it for my brother as a birthday gift so I wont complain too much,and like I said it looks as though it were made with this project in mind,we shall see,and I will post some photos when finished,but Ill have to get my brother to show me how to do that,Im pretty O.K. with my hands but my computer skills are lacking to say the least..Thanks again for the info.
spylock spylock5 years ago
That hotplate I got woudnt work with having to cut and extend wires,a whole lot of extra work,so I did like you and got the cheaper one,which is what I should have done to began with.
joshgoes (author)  spylock5 years ago
Too bad... did you keep the receipt for the original one?  Hopefully the new one you got will work out better for you.
Yea,but I took it apart,Ill put it back together and use it in hot water blueing smaller gun parts,I needed another for that as far as apperance goes.
  I was going to ask,how important do you think the temp.guage is,and if its a have to,can I get that a lowes or home depot?
joshgoes (author)  spylock5 years ago
The temp gauge is fairly important, you want to keep the temperature right around 200.  The actual temperature inside the smoke will be slightly higher (210 - 215), but I think its a little cooler near the lid where I put the temp gauge. 

I got mine at Lowes in the replacement grill parts section, so you should be able to find one there.

You should post an instructable about hot water blueing, that sounds interesting.
Hot water blueing requires equipment and cemicals that are fairly expensive  ,to do things like gun barrels and receivers anyways,to tell you the truth nowdays there are cold blue solutions that do just as good of a job if instructions are followed,but certianly if I get one to do,Ill get my brother to help me download an Instuctable on it.Thanks for the info on the temp gau.,I guess Ill get this smoker done one of these days.
kill-a-watt5 years ago
looks yummy!

If I could make a plea, please don't cut the handle off a vintage cast iron skillet, at least not until the Chinese learn how to machine the insides smooth.

Import cast iron is all over the place and you can tell by the fact that it's got a rough, as cast, finish in the cooking area. Heck even recent domestic pans skip that step nowadays.

I can tell from your photo (besides the fact that you said it was new), that the inside surface has not been machined. I'd hate to see a classic Griswold destroyed, even if it was for the purpose of creating 'q
joshgoes (author)  kill-a-watt5 years ago
You can specifically see the "Lodge" label in the picture on the materials page (made in Tennessee!).  I bought it at Walmart for $10 or so.

I also am not concerned about the cooking surface being machined smooth, since this is just used as a firebox. 

Thanks for the comment and general cast iron knowledge, but I'm not sure what your argument is. 
not an argument.

I'm asking other people to not ruin quality cast iron.

I've got a few Wagner's 1891 Original cast iron pieces myself, and they're unfortunately nearly useless for cooking anything except deep-fried because of a lack of a smooth cooking surface

I got 'em cheap at a a yard sale. The former owner looks like she tried them once or twice, and then gave up. If I don't use them for casting lead or pot metal, they may be smoothed via power tools (though I'm afraid that's going to be a crap load of work) and pressed into service.
You can reface them,it is a little bit of work,or if its not pitted too bad you can clean it ,season it and use it for frying foods that produce their own grease,such as pork,even beef as long as its got a good amount of fat.It may take a year or so depending on how often its used but it will fill in,you just have to be careful in how you clean it,useing and caring for cast iron cookware is an almost lost art form.Im also glad to know there is at least one other who knows and appreciates fine cast iron cookware.
There is a world of difference between my antique cast iron dutch oven (which is finely finished on the bottom and sides, and then I seasoned it well) and this newly produced cast iron made here and abroad.

As I said, the newer pieces work great for deep-frying, but you will never, no matter how well seasoned it is, get an over-easy egg to cook right in that pan.

Totally agree the new mass produced stuff leaves a whole lot to be desired,the iron itself isnt nearly the quality of the older,say before the turn of the century iron,and its not just with cast iron cookware,its woodstoves,railings, furniture you name it.
Oh, you said "reface them". Do you have any hints for what power tools to use?

I was going to start with a random orbital sander.
That would be the way to go,if pitted really bad you could use a handheld grinder to remove the pits and then go with your sander with a course grain and step down to a finner grain to finish up,then as you know seasoning it is an important step,but you sound like you have seasoned one or two in your life.If not pitted bad than you could use your sander with course down to finer paper and it will turn out well.
Youre right about the cast iron coming out of china,I have very old pans and dutch ovens that have been in my family since well before I was thought of,and Im forty something,I wouldnt take anything for mine,once seasoned ,they very rarly have anything stick and dont you just love the way they hold heat..
Sassy Cat5 years ago
Thank you for the added pictures.
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