Smoking Meat With A Commodore 64

When [Deadline] couldn’t find a replacement control module for his Masterbuilt electric smoker, he could have just tossed the thing in the trash. Instead, he decided to come up with his own system to take over for the smoker’s original brain. Basing it around the nearly 40 year old Commodore 64 probably wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.

Connectors to control the smoker’s hardware.

At the most basic level, controlling an electric smoker like this only requires a temperature sensor, a relay to control the heating element, and something to get those two devices talking to each other. But for the best results you’ll also want some kind of a timer, and an easy way to change the target temperature on the fly. Connecting the relay and temperature sensor up to the back of the C64 was easy enough, all he had to do was write the BASIC code to glue it all together.

This hack was made considerably easier thanks to the fact that the Masterbuilt’s original controller interfaced with the smoker by way of a couple relatively well documented connectors. So instead of having to mess with any of the mains voltage electronics, he simply had to bring a wire in the connector high to fire up the smoker’s heating element. This bodes well for anyone looking to replace the controller in a similar smoker, with a C64 or otherwise.

In the past we’ve seen some very impressive custom smoker controllers that look as though they could easily be adapted for use with these commercial units. Though the true smoke aficionados might prefer building the entire thing to their exacting specifications.

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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.

Oil Barrel Smoker

What would you do with a pair of oil drums and a craving for delicious food? Like any sane person, redditor [Kilgore_nrw] made the logical choice and built a smoker.

To make the build easier, he picked up a double barrel stove kit which came with a door, hinges, legs and flue connectors. While fixing the legs and mounting the stove door — high enough for a bed of bricks in the fire barrel — went as planned, he had to improvise the installation of the smoke flue. It ended up being the exact same diameter as the flue connectors, but notching it enough to slide into place made a satisfactory seal.

Not liking the look of having the stack at the ‘front’ of the smoker, he mounted it above the flue at the rear and added two sandstone slabs in the smoking chamber to evenly distribute the heat. Finishing touches included heavy duty drawer slides for the cooking rack — ensuring easy access to deliciousness — and painstakingly grinding off the old paint to apply a new heat resistant coating. For any fans out there, the finished pictures are a sight to behold.

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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.

Fubarino Contest: Network Nodes, Door Lock, And Smoker Controller


Here’s a round-up of three different Fubarino Contest entries; a video of each is available after the break.

On the upper left are the beginnings of a network node monitoring system developed by [Stephane]. When the network checks the weather, it may determine that it’s far too harsh outside and time to go in to see what’s new on Hackaday. There’s only sparse information available on the hardware. Each node uses an ATtiny84 and an RFM12B—different sensors connected to each are used to build up the network’s data collection capabilities.

In the lower left is [Brett’s] Bluetooth door lock controller. The Arduino, a cheap Bluetooth module, and a relay board make up the base station which will eventually connect to an electronic lock. [Brett] uses a smart phone to punch in the access code, and entering “1337” four times in a row unlocks the Easter egg, displaying our URL on the character LCD. Here’s the code repository for his project.

To the right is the display for [Andy’s] smoker controller used for cooking. He already had some hidden features on the controller used to calibrate the thermocouple. For the contest, he simply added an additional button to extend the original menu access method.

This is an entry in the Fubarino Contest for a chance at one of the 20 Fubarino SD boards which Microchip has put up as prizes!

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Building A Better PID Smoker Controller

[Matt] wanted to have more control over his meat smoker so he built this advanced PID smoker controller. It uses the solid state relay seen in the bottom-right of this image to switch the smoker’s heating element. But all of the other goodies that are included add several features not usually found in these builds.

This is a replacement for the commercial PID unit he used on the original build. That monitored the temperature in the smoker, using predictive algorithms to maintain just the right heat level. But this time around [Matt] is looking for extra feedback with a second sensor to monitor meat temperature. Using an Arduino with an SD shield he is able to data log the smoking sessions, and his custom code allows him to specify temperature profiles for resting the meat after it has hit the target temperature. It kind of reminds us of a reflow oven controller… but for food.

Some Technical Improvements On [Alton Brown’s] Hacked Smoker

Bringing that smoky goodness to your cooking is neither hard, nor is it expensive. [Alton Brown], who we consider to be the MacGyver of cooking, always seems to be able to build cooking contraptions from common items. The smoker he built from a flower pot was the inspiration for [Tom’s] own project. But [Tom] added in PID hardware to smoke at just the right temperature.

The enclosure hides a single electric burner at the bottom. A metal tray full of wood chips sits on top of it, smoldering as the burner gets hot. You could just set it and forget it, but it will take a lot of trial and error to figure out which setting achieves the best results. [Tom’s] additional hardware, housed in the grey electrical box, switches the burner with a solid state relay. The PID controller takes measurements from a temperature sensor inserted in the lid of the smoker, ensuring perfectly prepared food every time.

If you’re interested in making your own you could try building a heating element from toaster oven parts.