Commercial fridge build.

Discussion in 'Fridge/Freezer Builds' started by sawinredneck, Aug 10, 2015.

  1. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    In a nutshell: buddy owns a bar, had a 53x32x70" commercial fridge go out, now he thinks I need to make it into a smoker.
    At first I was thinking electric elements and using an AMNPS to get the flavor. But then I read on here that some places sell stand alone pellet burners.
    So, for those of you crazy enough to take on a challenge of this nature, how would you approach it and why would you go that route? Where would you source parts, links are appreciated! Keep in mind this is going to need to be as much "set it and forget it" as possible! It will be on a patio with only 110v access, so keep that in mind as well please.
    Thanks in advance.
  2. I haven't worked on anything that big, and I don't know the internal volume of the smokehouse, but I think you might have trouble getting the temperature up with only a single 110V 15A circuit. You might have to draw power from two circuits (fed by different breakers) or upgrade to a higher amperage or 230V circuit.
  3. hank2000

    hank2000 Smoking Fanatic

    I'm going to watching this one real close. 🍺
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    For the size of the smoker I would go with electric, and I would set up a PID to control it. Do a mailbox mod to supply the smoke. Not sure that the pellet add-on would be able to handle the size, you probably would need an electric assist to keep temps stable
  5. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Reading through this site I've seen PID mentioned a lot, but I still have no idea what it is! Remember I'm a newbie at all of this.
  6. PID is a TLA for Proportional-Integral-Derivative. Basically, it means that the controller has some smarts in the form of an algorithm that you can tune, which helps you to prevent excessive oscillation and minimize overshoot as the controller brings the temperature up to the setpoint.
  7. madman mike

    madman mike Smoking Fanatic

    your best bet on a smnoker that size for a restaurant is to go with a hopper assembly like muralboy recommends. it will run off of 110v and its only to run the fan and burner to start the pellets up, t wont blow anything

    If you go electric youll need a few elements and 240v power to run it with a t big. Some guys have built similar with 11v, but its really under powered for the size.

    another bonus to going with the pellet hopper is that it will be easier and faster to build.
  8. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Those look slick, but now for the dumb question of the day, it shows those units at 36,000 btu, I'm roughly calculating 115,000 cu in of inside space, are two of these units going to produce enough heat for this build?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2015
  9. muralboy

    muralboy Smoking Fanatic

    Good question, and one that is above my pay grade.

    Not sure what you would need for that kind of space. But they do have a harness that allows two units to work in tandem. So in theory you would be at 72,000 btu. Is that enough???

    Give Dennis a call. He seems to know his stuff and is very willing to provide assistance to newbies and veterans alike
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2015
  10. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Man, Dennis doesn't mess around!! Sent him an email at 3pm, on a Saturday mind you, and figured I'd hear back next week sometime, no biggie. Nope! Not even ten minutes later he responded! He thinks two units will work fine.
    I'm impressed so far!
  11. madman mike

    madman mike Smoking Fanatic

    that's only 65'sq. You should be able to get away with just 1 hopper. 36000btu/hr is equal to 10550w. Those hoppers pump out way more heat than most realize. I know a guy that has a commercial smoker in his BBQ restaurant and its a big double door smoker, his hopper isn't much, if any, bigger and it only runs 1 hopper.

    this is a commercial unit that is very close to your 68'sq cooler.  It runs off of a 36000btu pellet hopper as well.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2015
  12. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    Here's a link to my build. I went electric and have been happy with it. But you can learn from my mistakes and successes. I think yours may be a bit larger than mine. Some pics would definitely help.

    Also bought one of these PID controlers:

    It is pricey, but worth it in the long run for simplicity and reliability.

    Last edited: Aug 19, 2015
  13. madman mike

    madman mike Smoking Fanatic

    yours is going to be a little smaller than swain's. I would guess swawin's is a double door vs your single.  Electric would work, it would need to be 220v to be efficient though.

    for his available power he is better to go pellet pooper with a PID. toss an amizn smoker tray in for added smoke when needed and cold smoking.
  14. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You are probably right. I don't have any experience with pellet poopers, but it seems to me that it'd take a lot of pellets to heat something that size. Not sure how economical that would be, either.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2015
  15. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Yes, mine is twice that size with the doule doors. Getting 220v is possible, but I really like the pellet feeder, the control unit, everything, in one unit. It just makes it simple and easy.
    Ii looked it over a bit more the other night, the grates are plastic coated so will either have to be burnt or replaced.
    The inside is galvanized, so lots of cans of high heat paint are in my future to cover that.
    Then, this is where I'm unsure, I see most people remove the factory insulation. I found this link, and, to my thinking at least, with temps around 225ish, the metal shouldn't get hot enough for melting to be an issue? Where am I going wrong there? Seriously, I'm asking to learn.
    Then, again just asking, what does it hurt if it does melt in the first few trial runs? The inside is pretty much sealed and we are going to have to work with it quite a bit before we'd even think about serving out of it!
    Again, just my thinking, please feel free to correct what I'm missing!
  16. One man's extreme is another man's barely good enough. I've tasted jerky one time that clearly tasted like it was cooked in a refrigerator. It was unpleasant, and I have no idea where he skimped in the prep of his smoker. You want to bake any foul smells out. I personally would try to get the smoker temp up to 400 for a while before even thinking about using it for cooking. You want to get any plastic out. I wouldn't worry about galvanized walls or fiberglass insulation, but I would remove any foam insulation, because you never know for sure what solvent will be wafting out of it forever.
  17. madman mike

    madman mike Smoking Fanatic

    the galvanized isn't an issue. I've seen commercial units that are safety approved, I even bought a very old used one that ended up too used and in tha garbage, that are made entirely out of galvanized sheet.

    the issue will be the insulation. The polyurethane spray foam used in refrigerators are not safe even at the low temps under 300f. I pulled a cooler apart and found polyurethane and blocks of regular Styrofoam, like you would find packed around something in a box for protection. That styro foam is definitely an issue.

    You will destroy the inside trying to get it opened up to get the insulation out. its very thin sheet inside and the polyurethane insulation is very well adhered to both the inside and outside of the cooler.

    this is the 1st two attempts, I scrapped both. one was worn out beyond repair and the second, the coke cooler, was not financially feasible due to the amount of work that was required to make it properly. And if its going into a restaurant, its got to be built well and properly.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  18. madman mike

    madman mike Smoking Fanatic

    and if the insulation can melt, and in a fridge with polyurethane or polystyrene it will, that means it can start a fire.

    some polyurethane has a high fire rating, but that is not the type used in  building units designed to keep things cold. ive called manufacturers to find out and they said it will definitely not hold up to the temps.

    now what you can do is leave it as it is and turn it into a cold smoker. It will be very easy and cheapo to make it into a cold smoker. Then they can cold smoke anything and then slowly cook it inside the oven in the kitchen.

    I have a customer who bought a smoker off me and the element burned out last week. They are cold smoking all their pork butts, briskets and back ribs the cooking in the ovens afterword's, their customer cant tell the difference, and they don't need to use any cure. but that's a convo for a different thread or a PM.
  19. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Good points, thanks! I'd overlooked "burning it in" which I'll have to do if I paint the interior.
    As for finishing in the oven, no way we can do that with the size of the oven and amounts he's thinking about turning out.
    I guess it was wishful thinking on my part to not have to mess with the insulation. Anyone have any luck using a "hot wire" to cut it out? I can easily get kanthal wire and batteries to heat it, thoughts?
  20. I would be curious about how you could get a hot wire down the back, especially if there is anything it would catch on. But if you can do it in a well ventilated fire safe area, you might be able to just heat the metal lining enough to melt the insulation. I think an electric "heat gun" paint stripper might be safer than a torch for heating galvanized.

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