See a few months ago, we were watching an episode of Good Eats on the Food Network, where Alton Brown makes a smoker out of a trash can. Once we bought the house, the boy knew one thing he wanted to do was make one himself. The fact that the Saints were going to be in the Superbowl, produced a perfect moment for it to happen.
Alton Brown's homemade smoker was pretty simple. In the bottom of the trash can (or terra cotta pots, which we used) you place a hot plate. On top of the hot place goes a pan filled with wood chips. You put a grate over that and smoke the meat for about 10 hours at 200 degrees. Not to hard right, and all the pieces you needed were readily accessible. Except not so much...
On Wednesday night we decided to test the set-up. (Again we is used in the general sense.) And while it was working in theory, we couldn't get the smoker anywhere near to 200 degrees. After listening to the hot plate automatically click off inside the smoker and doing some research we discover the problem.
It seems all readily available hot plates are made to be "safe." Meaning that as soon as they hit the temperature where water boils (around the 200 degrees we were going for), it would turn off to cool down and then turn back on. Yes, this would help to prevent a fire, but makes it almost impossible to use in a smoker. At the rate we were going we'd need 12 hours just to get the smoker up to 200 degrees, and then top that off with 12 hours of cooking time.
The solution we found was to return the "safe" hot plate, and buy a Coleman burner powered by propane. That could fit in the smoker, and get the temperature up and keep it up. Which means we now own a working smoker. Since I know you want to see it, here is the official smoker in action.