April 22, 2009
Making a Cold Smoker from a Trash Can

In the world of charcuterie, cold smoking is applying smoke to meat without much heat in the attempt to get the smoke flavor into the meat without cooking the meat. The most common examples are bacon and smoked salmon, which are both basically uncooked by the smoke. Ideally you want your cold smoker to be below 100F. This can be hard to do since you need fire to make smoke.

I never had a good way to cold smoke meat since I have a traditional hot smoker. I stumbled into the site of my new friend Nick Dawson and saw his design for a cold smoker from a trash can. I liked the idea and was one step ahead since I had a top vented hot smoker already.

I had pork belly curing to make bacon in the fridge, so I decided to build a cold smoker.

Here is a diagram of the idea behind a cold smoker.

Basically the smoke is made in the hot smoker, then sent via hose into the cold smoker where the meat resides.

I bought most of the gear at the hardware store, trash can, grill, duct take offs, duct adapter, duct collars, foil tape, vent, bolts & washers, and hose ducting.

The top vent of my hot smoker is 6" in diameter, but the duct takeoffs are 4", so I had to use an adapter to make a good seal. Fairly easy to do with the foil tape.

Next, I used tin snips to cut a hole in the side of the can to mount the duct takeoff. The snips cut through the trash can like butter...

Making sure I was wearing gloves, I fit the takeoff into the trash can and used foil tape to seal up the junction and cover any sharp edges.

The vent was mounted on the lid. I used the snips to cut down the vent shaft and make tabs to hold it in place. Again, the foil tape was perfect to seal things up.

Long bolts with washers were installed on the four sides to use as a rest for the grill that will hold the meat. I made a mistake and used carriage bolts, which didn't give me an easy way to tighten them. I should have used hex bolts.

With pretty much everything in place, I did the last step and connect the ducting from the hot smoker to the trash can. Doesn't look great, but it is functional.

The moment of truth. I fire up the hot smoker and hope to see smoke actually enter the cold smoke chamber. After about 15 minutes the wood chips finally catch and smoke appears. I was greatly relieved.

I put the lid ont eh trash can and sure enough, smoke slowly left via the vent. Success!

Here is a short video of the cold smoker in action.

Cold Smoker made from a Trash Can from Michael Pusateri on Vimeo.

Here is the pork belly in place, being cold smoked. Everythign was workign great.

The bacon turned out great. You can read about making bacon from scratch here.

Here is inside the cold smoker after the cooking. A little smoke residue and moisture, as to be expected. Otherwise, in perfect condition for my next charcuterie experiment.

If you want to to this yourself, my advice is to be sure to wear good work gloves when cutting the metal and joining pieces. The edges are sharp and you could get a nasty cut if you aren't careful.

Posted by michael at April 22, 2009 08:21 PM


"I made a mistake and used carriage bolts, which didn't give me an easy way to tighten them. I should have used hex bolts." Very, very JV. Kidding. Looks awesome. How long did you smoke the bacon?

Posted by: Linus [] on April 23, 2009 11:01 AM

That is totally awesome, and the bacon you made with this cold smoker looks great! I have found a new weekend project, and I think it will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Posted by: Coupon Trunk [http://www.coupontrunk.com] on April 25, 2009 12:58 AM

Well written article.

Posted by: Charity [http://floralifa98230.spaces.live.com/blog/] on April 26, 2009 5:26 PM

Are you not worried about zinc poisoning from the galvanized pieces?

Posted by: Barry [] on April 30, 2009 6:42 AM

I agree with Barry. Heavy metal poisoning is no one's friend.

Posted by: Matt Simmons [http://standalone-sysadmin.blogspot.ccom] on May 2, 2009 8:12 AM

The point about the metal is a good one - but the low temps at which cold smoking occurs should mitigate any risks.

Great setup btw!

Posted by: Nick Dawson [http://www.nickdawson.net] on May 5, 2009 8:30 AM

thans for the tip

Posted by: Arianaexex [] on May 13, 2009 4:54 AM

Also remember... the colder the meat the more smoke it will accept!

Posted by: Martin [http://www.martindiggs.com] on May 13, 2009 9:20 AM
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