This is based on the Alton Brown (Good Eats is my favorite cooking show!) Terra Cotta smoker featured in the Good East episode "Q". I have found several sites featuring variations on this simple smoker. So I thought I would share my high-tech approach. Unfortunately, I don't have the steps it took to make the final product, only the finished components.
Step 1: The History
I have actually made a terra cotta smoker before. It was just like the one Alton Brown made on his show. It worked well enough, but it was difficult to control at first. I only used this one a few times before it found its way to the attic. Fast forward a few years and I found myself wanting to get it back out. I wanted to make it easier to control though. I googled "terra cotta smokers" and found several great sites. Most were the same design as Alton Brown's original. I remember seeing one that stood apart though; it had an external control. That was it. Just the thing to make temperature control easier!
Step 2: Gatget Guy Modifys the Old Terra Cotta Smoker
First, a little about me. I am a machine designer and gadget guy. I design assembly equipment for an automotive supplier. This is where I had a stroke of genius with my smoker.
It came working on new project at work. Hot plate welders. Basically you take a piece of metal, heat it to a certain temperature, bring 2 pieces of plastic into contact with it, remove the plastic and press them together. Sounds simple enough. The hard part is controlling the heat. So we have temperature control units.
Then it hit me, why not use a temperature controller with my smoker. So that's exactly what I did.
Step 3: The Guts of the Smoker
I hacked apart my hot plate and removed the heating element. I was worried about having the heating element laying directly on the bottom of the pot, so I just add 3 crushed pop cans to serve as spacers. I added a quick-disconnect cable so I could easily take the electronics inside when finished smoking. This cable runs back to the control box. I put a hole in the lid to accommodate a temperature sensor that also runs back to the control box.
Step 4: THE CONTROL BOX
Ah yes the control box. Its what sets it apart from the others I have found.
Inside the box are the following:
temperature sensor plug
Being a machine designer, I was able to scrounge up some old parts at work (the electrical enclosure, temperature sensor w/ armor cable, various cables and connectors). The controller I found on eBay for $50. They normally sell for about $200. The other stuff I found at my local hardware store.
Once assembled this makes controlling my smoker extremely simple. Turn it on! It retains the last programmed temperature setting. If I did want to change the temperature, all I have to do is push the up/down arrows. Talk about easy.
On this controller, the red display is the current temperature and the green is the target temperature. Once the controller reaches the desired temp, it will switch on and off to maintain a constant temperature.
Step 5: The Final Result
I have used this smoker a few times to great success. My co-workers really enjoyed the pulled pork and smoked chicken I have made with it.
Step 6: The Parts List
2 terra cotta pots, one was slightly smaller than the other
hot plate, only used the top heating element
smoker box, stainless steel vented box for smoking in gas grills
replacement round grill grate
throw away foil pie pan, used as a drip pan
metal coat hangers, used to hold the drip pan and to make grate removal handles
Step 7: Whats Next?
I have thought about making a roll around cart for my smoker, so it would almost look like a grill. I thought it would be nice to raise it up a little to make it easier to work with. It took me a few months to complete this project, mostly because I was too busy to stay focused on it. Maybe I will have more time to do this cart. Who knows... I hope this helps anyone interested in making a unique diy smoker. Enjoy!
Some great sites that inspired me on this project: