Open Source Smart Smoker Brings The Heat (Slowly)

Conceptually, cooking on a grill is simple enough: just crank up the flames and leave the food on long enough for it to cook through, but not so long that it turns into an inedible ember. But when smoking, the goal is actually to prevent flames entirely; the food is cooked by the circulation of hot gasses generated by smoldering wood. If you want a well-cooked and flavorful meal, you’ll need the patience and dedication to manually keep the fuel and air balanced inside the smoker for hours on end.

Or in the case of the Smokey Mc Smokerson, you just let the electronics handle all the hard stuff while you go watch TV. Powered by the Raspberry Pi Zero and a custom control board, this open source smoker offers high-end capabilities on a DIY budget. Granted you’ll still need to add the fuel of your choice the old fashioned way, but with automatic air flow control and temperature monitoring, it greatly reduces the amount of fiddly work required to get that perfect smoke.

[HackersHub] has been working on Smokey Mc Smokerson for a few months now, and are getting very close to building the first complete prototype. The initial version of the software is complete, and the classy black PCBs have recently arrived. Some simulations have been performed to get an idea of how the smoke will circulate inside of the smoker itself, built from a 55 gallon drum, but technically the controller is a stand-alone device. If you’re willing to makes the tweaks necessary, the controller could certainly be retrofitted to  commercially available smoker instead.

Ultimately, this project boils down to tossing a bunch of temperature sensors at the problem. The software developed by [HackersHub] takes the data collected by the five MAX6675 thermocouples and uses it to determine when to inject more air into the chamber using a PWM-controlled fan at the bottom of the smoker. As an added bonus, all those temperature sensors give the user plenty of pretty data points to look at in the companion smartphone application.

We’ve actually seen a fair number of technologically-augmented grills over the years. From this automotive-inspired “turbocharged” beast to a robotic steak flipper built out of PVC pipes, we can confidently say that not all hackers are living on a diet of microwaved ramen.

18 thoughts on “Open Source Smart Smoker Brings The Heat (Slowly)

  1. besides a smoker this looks like it could be super nice for a coffee bean roaster if one could possibly implement some type of a heating/cooling profile as well. that is if it is not already in there.

  2. Seems like a lot of work to reinvent something that is commercially available from a number of sources (for the same money or less). I’ve seen from lightweight camping size to humongous built in. They call them pellet smokers. It is nearly time for there to be a flood of them available on craigslist for cheap. Love the sort of inventive spirit though.

    1. Even a crappy smoker of this size is going to cost hundreds of dollars, and it sure as hell isn’t going to have automatic anything.

      Maybe you can catch some deals on the second hand market, but I doubt even then you could find something with comparable features for as cheap as what this project is aiming for.

      1. I got an electric smoker with remote and probe thermometer for like $250 from Amazon. I don’t have an app to go with it but that’s not a big deal. If I get around to decoding the remote protocol it shouldn’t be to hard to control from a program.

    2. “Commercially available” options are out there for a lot of things seen on Hackaday. But that kinda goes against the spirit of this website, now doesn’t it? I’ve seen more frequent comments like yours lately on this site, and I have to wonder why you (and others) are even on this site. If you want “commercially available” stuff, go visit Sharper Image or something. Sheesh!

      1. Thousands of owners of pellet grills/smokers may disagree with you, Brent. When you have precise control over temperature even over extended cook times and automated temp adjustment based on meat probe temps, along with a wide choice of woods, pellet smoker chefs can control the level of smoke flavoring as precisely as cooking speed. I’d like to see a competition to settle this tasty question–and I’d love to help in the judging!

  3. I don’t want to burst your bubble because competition is good. However, from what I understand what you’re trying to accomplish has already been done.

    I’ve ordered a kit and built the HeaterMeter a few years ago. Gone thru countless pork butts and Briskets in a Kamado with the heatermeter controlling temps via fan and servo. Pretty much set it and forget it until target temp.

    The Million $ question, is how is your product better than the HeaterMeter?

      1. There continues to be development on the BBQ brethren forums and the heatermeter which the store doesn’t always show. Also, unlike this project, from what I can tell also, the heatermeter allows for servo control which provide much better fine control.

        If you want to have a nice clean package there are plenty of commercial versions of PID Charcoal controllers.

        CyberQ DigiQ
        Stoker II
        Billows & Signals Temp controller

        I’m sure there are more too but these were the only ones that came to mind.

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