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Don S

Clay Pot Smokers

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This posting was on the old discussion board, one of our friends asked us to locate it and repost. Perhaps we can get some lively discussion around this one again.

 

 

Posted by JESSIE RUTHERFORD on August 04, 2003 at 14:17:27:

In Reply to: Re: homemade smoker posted by Bob Roska on July 15, 2003 at 10:47:24:

: : : : The show your friend was talking about was "Good Eats" with Alton Brown. It was on The Food Network this past week during their BBQ special. I too was very intrigued. He used a large pot (planter-type), set it up on some rocks/blocks/planter feet, put an eletric hotplate on the bottem running the cord through the drain hole in the bottem. Then he had a heavy-duty pie plate to put the wood and charcoal in, then he used a round grill grate, turned another terracotta pot (bowl-type) upside down as a lid, and finally dropped a little meat thermometer in the top (the other pot's drain hole). I'm pretty sure that's how it went. He said you should be able to buy the material for under $50. Everytime I see pots that big they are at least $25-$30, so I don't know. I suppose it's still cheaper than a regular smoker. I am anxious to start my smoking education, and this does seem cheaper... I don't know. The other advantage he said of this smoker besides the price was the fact it was ceramic and very insulated. Does anyone have any opinions or thoughts on this? Thanks.... Kim K

 

: : : I saw the show too and I'm testing it out tomorrow on a small scale - one slab of ribs - before making the pulled pork. It cost about $70 for all the pieces. Found the terra cotta pots at Home Depot and the hot plate at WalMart. Everything else was easy to find. I'll post a follow-up tomorrow.

 

: : IT WORKS!!! Ribs took about 4-5 hours to smoke and were excellent even without sauce! When you set the pots up, keep the top one off-set a bit to facilitate air movement. The temp went to about 250 at high setting on the hot plate. I'm doing a pork butt today.

 

: I must have lucked out. Found the 2 clay pots I needed at a discount planting supply store for $21 and a hot plate at Walmart for $9.99. The grid came from my Smoky Joe and I already have a digital meat thermometer, so I got around $31 into it and ready to go. Can't wait to try it out.

I HAVE TRIED THIS METHOD THREE TIMES, BUT I HAVE YET TO FIND A HOT PLATE DURABLE TO LAST. I HAVE PURCHASED THE ONE FROM WALL MART TWICE AND IT HAS NOT LASTED PAST TWO SESSIONS. IF THERE IS ANYONE WHO KNOWS OF A MORE DURABLE ONE PLEASE LET ME KNOW?

 

In Reply to: Re: homemade smoker posted by JESSIE RUTHERFORD on August 04, 2003 at 14:17:27:

: I HAVE TRIED THIS METHOD THREE TIMES, BUT I HAVE YET TO FIND A HOT PLATE DURABLE TO LAST. I HAVE PURCHASED THE ONE FROM WALL MART TWICE AND IT HAS NOT LASTED PAST TWO SESSIONS. IF THERE IS ANYONE WHO KNOWS OF A MORE DURABLE ONE PLEASE LET ME KNOW?

 

Yup... same problem. Seems like they are not meant for excessive 12 - 16 hours at a time use. :-)

In Reply to: Re: homemade smoker posted by Lisa on August 08, 2003 at 15:53:07:

I got a 1000 watt hotplate from Walgreens. I took it apart (one screw) and pulled the connectors off of the ends of the hotplate coil, I had to pinch a little flange to get them to slide off. I just ran the wires up through the hole in the botton and reconnected the coil. The pot sits on the hotplate base by gravity alone and seems to be stable. I put some broken up cement block in the bottom of the pot and the coil rests nicely on that. works well.

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Thanks for posting that, Don. I'll be happy to add my $.02 (more like $.01) of wisdom I've gained from my month-old flowerpot smoker.

 

I've used it about 6 or 7 times so far with results varying from good to DELICIOUS according to my wife. I went with the same basic plan that Alton Brown presented on his show, and based on the hotplate experience of the posters above, I'm glad I ended up with the one I did from Sears. It was $12, and is made by Rival. It hasn't shown a single sign of wear yet, but I have noticed that if I turn the thermostat all the way up, that it's actually counterproductive, and the heat level at the grate level goes down.

 

I think this is because there's a rheostat or sensor on the plate, and being in such a constricted space, it senses too much heat at the highest setting and cycles on and off rather than outputting a nice steady heat - it hovers at a too-low 200 degrees. So at roughly "8" on the dial, it seems to maintain a temperature near 225 degrees and throws a LOT of smoke with hickory chunks in the Pie dish.

 

One other thing I've noticed is that the diameter of the pie dish is such that it might be reflecting more heat than I'd like back down to the hotplate instead of allowing the heat up to the meat where I want it. I've bent the rim of the pie tin up to alleviate that a little bit, and now I think my temperature fiddling is over with. Now, it's just set it, and forget it, and the Boston Butts are coming out great. :D When I was having the initial low-temperature issues (at the end of a cook), I should point out that two Butts were transferred to the oven to finish to no ill effect. After six hours of smoke, plus 8 without before the transfer, I doubt additional smoke would make a huge flavor difference.

 

Regarding getting the parts, I found everything I needed - minus the hotplate - at Home Depot. I did try Lowe's first, but they didn't have the right pots. If anyone has any questions, let me know and I'll reply.

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Hi, just a curious thought. If you were to put a pan with hickory wood in an oven on the bottom and the item to be smoked on the grill higher up, and set the oven to 210 F, would this work as an efficient smoker?

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Hi, just a curious thought.  If you were to put a pan with hickory wood in an oven on the bottom and the item to be smoked on the grill higher up, and set the oven to 210 F, would this work as an efficient smoker?

 

I think the problem would be getting the wood to smoke. 210 isn't hot enough to start the smoke. You would have to get the wood smoking some way. And you probably want to have a really good vent to the outdoors.

 

Jim

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Here Guys,

Maybe this will help for those wanting to do this. Here is a link that shows

how he did it with the clay pot.

 

http://homepage.mac.com/dubmann/PhotoAlbum1.html

 

I'm gonna have to build one of these, the novelty alone is worth the price of building this baby!!! :)

 

Don

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Hi all, this is my first post....excellent forum ya got here!

 

I'm going to be building one of these smokers this weekend but after doing a bunch of research on how to build them, it occured to me that there is no good way to add more wood chips without opening the top of smoker.

 

Is that bad? I mean, with this basic design, you need to take off the top pot, the grill and the meat jsut to get access to the pie pan that holds the wood chips.

 

On the other hand, there is Alotn Brown's Cardbaord Box smoker that has a flap in the side specifically for this. But cardboard isnt much of an insulator.

 

How do you guys get more wood chips into your clay pot smokers? They need more chips every few hours right?

 

Thanks for any help, I really appreciate it!

Rob

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Thanks for posting, welcome to the BBQsource forum!

 

 

I can use one ONE chunk of wood and smoke in my big green egg for nearly two hours. I can't think why you would need to add in any more wood chips/chunks after the initial smoking. Most meat will absorb all the smoke it'll take in the first 60 minutes of smoking, the rest is just cooking...

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Additionally,

 

There is a difference between the meat absorbing the smoke and you coating the outside of it with a layer of smoke. The first will blend in and produce a sweet smokey flavor, the second will turn what you cook into a bitter smokey flavor.

 

As an example the BBQSOURCE only uses one piece of wood when cooking RIBS in his cooker and I belive that is for 22 cases at a time...

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thanks Bluesin! So its not necessary to keep adding wood every three hours or so, even for a 12 hour smoke? I'm trying to do Kalua pork, Hawaiian style, kinda like the recipe Alton Brown has on Food Network .com

 

OH yeah, where does one get the right wood chips?

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There are many folks who smoke for extended lengths of time, however the net affect of this is to create a smoke buildup on the outside of the meat.

 

Think of it like this, if you were to stick a cotton shirt in your smoker with a chunk of wood and remove it you'd notice that the fibers absorbed most of the smoke, however if you keep adding in more wood and smoking it it'll just turn black from the layers of smoke after the initial absorption.

 

I know thats a weird analogy, but meat is the same the pores of the meat will absorb smoke to about 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch depending on the density of the meat, if you keep smoking it, as the pores are already clogged up with all they can take you just start layering on the outside with smoke.

 

The absorption of the smoke will mix with the juices and the natural flavor of the meat and produce a sweet smoky flavor, the layering process will just produce a bitter smoky flavor much the same as if you were to just wipe the residue off of a sheet of glass.

 

If you do this too much then you'll just wipe out the flavor from the absorption process.

 

I'm not sure what kalua pork is, but you will be just fine with an initial pan of smoking and finishing it up without smoking for the remaining time, perhaps basting the meat as you go.

 

I just get wood chunks from the grocery store, they are located in the BBQ charcoal area, the chunks work much better than the chips as the chips have a tendency to catch fire...

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Anytime, let us know how it turns out!!!

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Hi everyone:

 

Well...this morning, I tested my newly-assembled Clay Pot Smoker on a hunk of spice-rubbed flat-end brisket. Unfortunately, the experiment was a complete failure.

 

After two hours with my German-built 1500-watt hotplate set to its max setting, I couldn't get it to generate any smoke. Nor could I get the internal temperature of the smoker above 150ºF. I ended-up abandoning the experiment and moving the brisket onto my trusty Weber Genesis Silver A for 90 minutes of smoking, followed by two foil-wrapped hours in a low temperature oven.

 

This was disappointing, because I live in Spain and there's no BBQ culture here. Weber doesn't even import its SMC here. I had high-hopes that this Alton Brown clay pot smoker would save the day. Sniff...sniff...

 

Anyway, a full write-up with photos is published on my blog. If interested, here is the URL:

 

http://saldetraglia.blogspot.com/2005/08/s...ay-morning.html

 

I love to hear about others' (hopefully better) experiences with the clay pot smoker; as well as any theories as to why mine fizzled.

 

Cheers!

Sal in Spain

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Hey Sal,

 

It seems that your problem migh be related to the hotplate. How hot is it supposed to get?

 

Looking at the first reply to the orginal post,

 

I've used it about 6 or 7 times so far with results varying from good to DELICIOUS according to my wife. I went with the same basic plan that Alton Brown presented on his show, and based on the hotplate experience of the posters above, I'm glad I ended up with the one I did from Sears. It was $12, and is made by Rival. It hasn't shown a single sign of wear yet, but I have noticed that if I turn the thermostat all the way up, that it's actually counterproductive, and the heat level at the grate level goes down.

 

I think this is because there's a rheostat or sensor on the plate, and being in such a constricted space, it senses too much heat at the highest setting and cycles on and off rather than outputting a nice steady heat - it hovers at a too-low 200 degrees. So at roughly "8" on the dial, it seems to maintain a temperature near 225 degrees and throws a LOT of smoke with hickory chunks in the Pie dish.

 

I'm not sure about a hotplate, I'm wondering if you might have much better luck using a single electric burner?

 

http://housewares.hardwarestore.com/38-200-hot-plates.aspx

 

It looks like from your blog that you also suspect the hotplate...

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Thank you, Bluesin.

 

From day 1, I feared that the hotplate would be the weakest link. And based on your opinion (and others from my blog), it does seem that the hotplate is the culprit behind my smoker's failure.

 

My hotplate has settings from 0-6. I started on 3, then moved to 5, then finally to 6. So...no matter what the setting, it didn't help. My original intent was to buy a coil-type burner, but couldn't find one here (Spain). That's why I settled for the iron hotplate-type.

 

One of my readers recommended using a propone gas burner (or, in my case, a round paella burner...similar to the type used in the US for turkey deep fryers). I think that's a damn clever idea.

 

It surely would generate enough heat to generate smoke, and is easily controlled by manipulating the valve. It would require cutting the bottom off the lower flower pot...but that's not such a tough task. Of course, the trick is to find a ring-burner with a sufficiently small diameter to fit into the bottom of the pot...but I'll try.

 

I'm still a believer in this clay pot smoker-thing and I don't intend to give up. But to be perfectly honest...if I lived in the US, I'd just go out and buy a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.

 

Thanks again.

Sal

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The turkey burner will create much too much heat even at the lowest setting I think.

 

You also might want to try an electric charcoal starter, you'd probably have to cut a slot in the clay pot, but it might just work great.

 

I wonder why you can't just use a pot drain tray, fire up some charcoal, set the pot on top of it and put the wood chunks in the pot and go that route. I would purchase an oversized tray and set the pot in it and put the charcoal around the outside, thus will heat the pot up quite a bit and you should be able to keep the temp right by adjusting the amount of charcoal you use.

 

You could also just purchase one of those cheap round charcoal grills they sell at the grocery store and just put the pot in it and add the charcoal around the outside.

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Hola gents:

 

Just an FYI. I've just returned from the US, and brought back a turkey deep fryer. I also bought a cast-iron smoker box for holding wood chips.

 

My intention is to cut the bottom out of my lower flower pot, set the smoker box on the burner's platform, and set the bottom-less flower pot over the the smoker box.

 

Bluesin may very well be correct that it will generate too much heat, but I figured I'd give it a shot. It only cost $25 at Menards and if it fails, then I can still deep-fry a turkey (te ONLY deep-fried turkey in Spain). Besides...I couldn't bring myself to buy another hotplate.

 

I will post my results on this board. Probably within the next couple weeks.

 

Sal

 

BTW...all you US-based BBQ'rs should count your blessings. I could not believe the sheer quantity of BBQ paraphanelia for sale (and cheaply!) at US hardware stores. It made me very homesick.

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