Finished building my first smoker, tested with a chicken, and now the main event! PORK!!

Discussion in 'Pork' started by andrew lb, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. A few weeks ago I decided to build myself a smoker after a rather unpleasant experience at a Southern California BBQ spot I had lunch at, so I found a 55 gallon drum on Craigslist for $15 that was used for food grade glycerine and the work began. I cut off the top so I could keep it as a lid, and stripped the drum inside and out of all coatings followed by a bonfire and a coat of high temp paint, then welded up the fire basket, pegs for the grill, and drilled the appropriate holes for ventilation. Made a chimney out of PVC, a couple hard maple handles, and two 3" casters with a couple of support legs so I can move it around easy.

    Here was the work in progress

    So to test things out, the other day I decided to go cheap and buy a chicken which I smoked for about 3 hours @ 250'f with some cherry and apple.

    Action shot:

    And the results were quickly devouered. Man that was some good chicken! I had read it's easy to get rubbery skin, but it turned out great.

    Happy with the trial run, I decided to set my ambitions much higher and smoke a pork butt. And considering the long cook time, I searched the net and discovered many people use thermally controlled fans to keep the smoker fed with oxygen as needed to avoid stalls or going out completely if by chance one were to doze off on a nice day. I didn't want to spend $100+ on a commercially sold controller, so I put some of my electronics knowledge to use and picked up a $15 Temperature Controller with thermal-couple, installed it into a project box along with a small AC to DC power adapter, and attached a 16cfm blower fan out of an old PowerMac G5 to a 90' PVC threaded pipe, and here is the result! I think I spent a total of $22 on the whole controller setup. :)

    Looking at the clock as I type this, it is reading 12:10am... and in probably 2 hours I'll be firing up the smoker for this 10.8lb pork butt which I coated with a rub I found online consisting of brown sugar, sea salt, black pepper, chile powder, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder.

    Here is tonight's victim

    I just loaded up my fire basket with almost 10lb of kingsford original along with some chunks of hickory and apple... and I've got about 25 pieces in my chimney starter ready to light. The basket is pretty big. Roughly 18" across and it's got about 7 inches of coals in it.

    .Now i know this was a long read, but if anyone has some good advice before I light this off? From what i've read, I'm looking at about a 15 hour cook time at 225'f-240'f with such a large butt. My smoker has a total of 4 vents that are 3/4" and can be capped off. The temperature controller is set to activate the fan until the temperature reaches 225'f, then shut off. It wont kick back on until the temp drops below 220'f. I did this so it wont keep clicking on and off if the temp is hovering around the 225'f mark.

    Is there anything I'm forgetting or should be warned about? Any and all advice, criticism, etc will be appreciated.

    I think i'll light this off at around 2am which should give me enough wiggle room to ensure i'll have the butt cooked and ready in the late afternoon for Sunday dinner.


  2. Well... it's been on for about two hours and I think i've got the temperature dialed in pretty good. It's been bouncing between 105'c and 106'c which is spot on 225'f. My little temperature controller seems to really lose accuracy over 100'c, so I'm going to probably replace the thermo-couple this week and see if that helps next time I do some smoking. More than likely though, it's because the maximum temperature the controller handles is 120'c or 250'f and most sensors tend to have their accuracy drop off when nearing it's limit.

    Another action shot:

  3. joopster

    joopster Smoking Fanatic

    Nice setup.  Can't wait to see the butt.
  4. ^^^ I will definitely take some photos of the finished product. The smell of smoke is making me so hungry. I have a feeling i'll be making breakfast much earlier today.

    I'm beginning to see why people spend a bunch of money on those high tech controllers with remote monitoring. A few minutes ago I heard a sizzle sound out my bedroom window so I took a peek and saw the digital display was flashing HHH, so I ran outside to see what was going on and the temperature had spiked to almost 300'f. Luckily it was only for a few minutes. I think the way to go is to cap three vents and only leave the one with the fan open. That should prevent another runaway temp spike and if it ends up dropping too much, the fan will kick in and breathe some life back into the fire.
  5. Hmm... Well that cooked MUCH faster than I had anticipated. I'm kinda scratching my head as to how an almost 11 pound butt managed to be done in under 10 hours. The heat was kept at a very steady 210-225'f except for that 15 minutes or so at the very beginning when it ran up to 300'f. Im sure the temps were accurate since i monitored them two ways. Would it be because I didn't have a heat shield between the fire basket and the meat? The fire basket had 4" feet and I have the grill 6" from the lid. 

    Cook time aside, I must say that the flavor is amazing! Since I have a few more hours before my brothers family get here, so I wrapped it in foil to keep it from drying out.  

    Heres a pic. 

  6. joopster

    joopster Smoking Fanatic

    Nice BUTT
  7. Anyone know how and why this thing reached temperature so fast? I just tested my temp controller and the BBQ temp gauge in boiling water and they are both accurate. 

    I found via the site search engine some other people who had similar overly fast cook times but didn't find an answer other than they were told their temp probe was bad. 
  8. Almost all of my food in my UDS seems to cook way quicker than what most people post as average cook times. I prefer using a heat shield in my UDS. Otherwise it tends to get way hotter dead center than around the edges. The trade off is the edges run hotter with the heat shield. Granted, I am using 12 or 14 inch pizza pan with holes drilled in it as a heat shield. It works nicely as I generally don't stuff my UDS to capacity. I also trimmed the edges from the top of my barrel and used a Weber 22.5" grill lid. I added a 2nd grate at the top so I effectively doubled my cooking area.

    You did a awesome job on yours. I really like that charcoal basket too. I don't have a welder or access to one so I had to make due with stainless steel zip ties and some nuts, bolts and washers. As soon as I find someone who is good at welding, I am going to build a new charcoal basket.

    I did just order a new heat shield off of Amazon. It's a lot large and the holes are more uniform than my haphazard drilling of the old heat shield.

    $17 on Amazon

    I should've used thicker hardware. The legs bent when I dropped the basket once. 

    I really like the added space using the Weber kettle lid. I found a busted up rusty grill on Craigslist for $20 or so. I used the main grate for the smoker, the smaller grate for the charcoal basket and the lid for the UDS.

  9. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    How many therms did you have in the UDS ?  Where are they positioned ?  Is it just the one in the lid that shows in the pics ?

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