See a Cheap Smoker get an Automation Power Up

[Jason] learned a lot by successfully automating this meat smoker. This is just the first step in [Jason’s] smoker project. He decided to begin by hacking a cheaper charcoal-fed unit first, before setting his sights on building his own automatic pellet-fed smoker. With a charcoal smoker it’s all about managing the airflow to that hot bed of coals.

Custom mount for servo was actually one of the more challenging things to get just right.

[Jason] started by making sure the bottom was sealed off from stray airflow, then he cut a hole into the charcoal pan and attached a length of steel pipe. The opposite end of the pipe has a fan. Inside the pipe there is a baffle separating the fan from the charcoal pan. The servo motor shown here controls that valve.

The pipe is how air is introduced into the smoker, with the fan and valve to control the flow rate. The more air, the higher the temperature. The hunk of pipe was left uncut and works fine but is much longer than needed; [Jason says] the pipe is perfectly cool to the touch only a foot and a half away from the smoker.

With the actuators in place he needed a feedback loop. A thermocouple installed into the lid of the smoker is monitored by an Arduino running a PID control loop. This predicts the temperature change and adjusts the baffle and fan to avoid overshooting the target temp. The last piece of hardware is a temperature probe inside the meat itself. With the regulation of the smoker’s temperature taken care of and the meat’s internal temperature being monitored, the learning (and cooking) process is well underway.

There are many, many smoker automation projects out there. Some smokers are home-made electric ones using flower pots, and some focus more on modifying off the shelf units. In a way, every PID controlled smoker is the same, yet they end up with different problems to solve during their creation. There is no better way to learn PID than putting it into practice, and this way to you get a tasty treat for your efforts.

Hackaday Links: September 7, 2014

Like Adventure Time? Make your own BMO! It’s a little more expressive than the Adafruit version we saw earlier due to the Nokia LCD. It’s got audio playback too so it can talk to football.

A few years ago, [Matt] made a meat smoker with a PID controller and an SSR. Now the same controller is being used as a sous vide. PID controllers: the most useful kitchen gadget ever.

[Josh] keeps his server in a rack, and lacking a proper cable management solution, this means his rack is a mess. He adapted some Dell wire management arms to his system, using a PCI card bracket to attach the arm to the computer.

[Dr. Dampfpunk] has a lot of glowey things on his Youtube channel

Another [Josh] built a 3D tracking display for an IMU. It takes data off an IMU, sends it over Bluetooth, and displays the orientation of the device on a computer screen. This device also has a microphone and changes the visualization in response to noises.

Remember the pile of failure in a bowl of fraud that is the Scribble pen? Their second crowdfunding campaign was shut down. Don’t worry; they’re still seeking private investment, so there’s still a chance of thousands of people getting swindled. We have to give a shout-out to Tilt, Scribble’s second crowdfunding platform. Tilt has been far more forthcoming with information than Kickstarter ever has with any crowdfunding campaign.

Custom heaters for a DIY BBQ smoker

Spring is in the air, and with that comes savory meals cooked over the course of dozens of hours. While preparing for your yearly allotment of pork and beef, check out [Brett Beauregard]’s custom heater elements he built for a DIY wood smoker.

This build follows the very successful smoker [Brett] built last year. This year, he’s using the same toaster oven heating elements, only cut down to make the heater smaller and more efficient. Basically, [Brett] is making a small cartridge heater out of the equipment he already has.

After cutting the toaster oven heating elements to length, [Brett] reamed out the ends to expose the nichrome wire. A short hit with a TIG welder bonded the lead to the heating element. Insulated with furnace cement, [Brett] had a custom heater perfect for charring chunks of mesquite or hickory.

Meat smokers aren’t very complicated – they can be built with a flowerpot and a hotplate, and will still cook up a delicious dinner. We might have to borrow [Brett]’s technique when we build this year’s smoker.

Kitchen Hacks: Home made meat smoker


[Matt] noticed an overabundance of sous vide builds in the past week, so he decided to throw his Home made meat smoker into the ring. There’s not many things more delicious than a nice cut of smoked meat, and the fact that it’s very similar to the sous vide hacks we’ve seen is an added bonus.

[Matt] decided to build a ceramic smoker like a Big Green Egg. He took a cue from [Alton Brown] and used two terracotta planters and a hot plate for the smoker. For controlling the hot plate, the cheap $35 PID controller we’ve seen in a few sous vide builds was used. The PID can’t control the 7 amps of AC that the hot plate needs, so [Matt] used a solid-state relay he had lying around.

A stainless steel mixing bowl was placed on the hot plate for wood chips. So far, [Matt] has run his smoker for more than 12 consecutive hours, and the results are really promising – there wasn’t much change in temperature between the chill of the morning and the heat of afternoon. [Matt]’s build is great and perfect for venison jerky now that deer season is coming up.