Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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Terracotta Smoker

Having a bit of time on my hands, I decided to take up smoking. No, Mom, not cigarettes… food! I’m using a terracotta smoker, which (hopefully) will not make my picky German neighbors insane at the first whiff of charred mesquite.

I got the idea from Good Eats (Alton Brown), though now you can find dozens of pages explaining how to make a terracotta smoker, so I won’t go too much into detail. The basics: buy 2 flower pots, an electric burner, a heavy duty pie pan, and a round grill grate. Slap a thermometer on there and fill it with hardwood, and you’re smokin’! Here it is:

Terracotta smoker

Smoking MUST be done outside. Preferably far from anyone’s house windows! If you do try this on an apartment balcony like me (disclaimer: I’m not responsible, blah blah blah, not recommended), read these

6 Tips for Balcony Smokers / Grills

  • Tell your neighbors first so they don’t think someone’s places is on fire
  • Promise your neighbors some of the finished product as payment for putting up with your smoke
  • Don’t use too many wood chips, or any sawdust – they make massive amounts of smoke FAST
  • Try chunks of wood and longer cooking times to minimize smoke output
  • Keep your windows/door closed, otherwise your own apartment will smell like smoke
  • Use a meat thermometer to measure the smoke temperature, as it’s more accurate in the narrow range where you want to be smoking (up to about 230F / 110C)

Fueled-up Smoker

Below is my first attempt: smoked jalapeños and habaneros. Note the former are not chipotles, because I used green jalapeños; to make chipotles you need to find ripe red jal’s. Weighing in at 308 grams before smoking…

Peppers pre-smoking

Here are the peppers mid-smoke. I smoked ’em for about 12 hours on low heat (70-80C).

Peppers smoking

And the final product: note they only weigh in at 28 grams! >90% weight loss…

Peppers post-smoking

I’ve made salsa and Texas-style BBQ sauce with these babies and they are deliciously smoky. Just one pepper adds huge flavor to a bowl of fresh salsa!

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Posted in Cooking 9 years, 12 months ago at 11:26 pm.


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6 Replies

  1. Michael Sep 15th 2012

    What kind of hot plate did you get? I’m in the process of sourcing parts for my smoker as well, but I somehow can’t seem to find the coiled hot plates here in Germany. Any advice? Thanks!

  2. Hi Michael, I did not get a coiled one, that isn’t really necessary. I got one of the flat plate ones, which have a BIG square housing that won’t fit into a terracotta pot. I dismantled it (that was hard and not really recommended for those without MUCH electronics experience) and rebuilt it inside the terracotta including the thermocouple. It doesn’t work quite perfectly but it’s ok.

    I suggest to cut a BIG hole in the bottom of the terracotta pot that’s large enough for the round plate burner and just set the pot on top of the standard square hotplate housing. Maybe you need some bricks as well to prop it up if it’s looking unstable. If you get masonry bits for a drill you can do this without too much trouble, drill many holes and then break out the remaining bits with some pliers.

  3. Michael Sep 30th 2012

    Thanks for your reply! I’ll have to dismantle the hot plate as well, since I want to controll it with a PID controller. Then I can dial in any temperature I want. I have a background in electronics (mostly theory so far though).
    If you’re interested I can keep you updated on the progress (might start a blog about it haven’t really decided yet).

  4. Hi Michael,

    OK, if you’re electrical minded it might be possible. However, I might still recommend to leave the hotplate in one piece and just control its standard power cord directly from the PID. You can leave the hotplate on full power, then buy a *real* thermocouple and use that as the control of the PID. In that configuration the hotplate’s on heat control / fuse would only kick in for over-temp situations. The hotplate would also remain very drip-proof, unlike my current setup where I need some foil to protect the exposed parts from drips (but whole NOT shorting anything out!).

    I definitely want to hear more about your progress! I’m in the middle of buying a house, and if that all works out then I foresee making a Gen2 smoker this winter. I am thinking to use a rectangular terracotta with a bit more space, and a standard rectangular bbq grate instead of a round one. Might even do a dual hotplate, to allow for medium temp smoking (with 1 hotplate on, not directly under the food) or hot smoking (with 2 hotplates on). And for really cold smoking, may put a closeable hole in the side for a pipe to lead smoke into another pot, e.g. for cold smoking salmon or cheese.

    WordPress makes a simple blog really easy, most web serving ISPs have it as an auto-install.

  5. Hi Dave,

    my blog is now up: http://electronicsnbbq.wordpress.com/ – albeit still lacking in content. I took your advice and got a hotplate/pot combo that doesn’t require me to disassemble the hotplate. In the coming weeks there will be more content coming, if you have feedback and comments you’re more than welcome to chime in!

  6. Awesome, I will check it out! I will move to a new house in about a month. I am planning to setup a Raspberry Pi controller for it, with a webcam posting pics and temps to the internet. There are some nice DIY projects on the web, saw one that allows the controller to be remotely accessed by mobile device!

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