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Well it's winter where I live, which means that I haven't been able to cook outside for quite a while and I'm starting to miss the taste. So I was thinking of building an indoor oven smoker. I think I've seen them on tv before. So here are my thoughts, any suggestions would be great!

I'm going to get a disposable alumimum tray a few inches deep. Put soaked wood-chips in the bottom, put a metal cooking rack on top of that, and cover the whole thing with foil leaving a little uncovered in the corner to vent. I'll throw the whole thing in the stove at a low temp, maybe 200).

Has anyone tried anything like this before? Does anyone see anyproblems with my plan? If it matters I'm planning on cooking a brisket.

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I just read your profile and FYI, if you want your accounts merged, please flag one of your posts for moderator attention and ask for it (preferably along with a link to the old account). –  Aaronut Feb 21 '11 at 17:21
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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would think that you'd end up baking the item, not smoking it. You need to get enough heat to the wood chips to get them to smoulder, without directly heating the item to be smoked.

All of the times I've seen people on cooking shows attempt to rig up a smoker like you descibe, they've done it stove top, not in the oven, and it tended to be in a pan a little heavier duty than a disposable aluminum tray -- it looked more like a deep hotel pan to me, and I don't think they vented it 'til they were done.

...

That being said, I still occassionally grill outside in the winter. Okay, I admit, it's usually because the power's out, but I did it last weekend as a favor to my neighbor so he could serve steaks to his wife and mother-in-law for the day before Valentine's day ... in that case, it was actually fairly warm (maybe 45-50°F), but I've also done it when we've been buried in snow and ice.

The important thing about winter grilling is to keep the lid down, and not check on things too often. For long and slow cooking (I think I was trying to finish a stew), I've rigged up things to insulate the grill ... although, I managed to cook one of my leather welding aprons last year.

But for cold smoking ... you're all set ... you can get get insulation blankets for your smoker, and then you just need to keep the fire going in the hot box.

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A hotel pan is the common professional way to do it. You put a the wood chips in a deep hotel pan and the food in a shallower perforated hotel pan inside the deeper on, seal the top with plastic wrap & foil, and go to it. –  sourd'oh Dec 3 '13 at 22:04
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if you go over to Instructables.com and search for "smoker", i think you'll find one made out of a flower pot or two. i read about one there and it's been on my "to-do" list forever. : )

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My guess is they're probably making something similar to Alton Brown's - you can watch him build one on YouTube here and read details and get a parts list here - franko, this has also been on my to-do list for at least a year or two! –  stephennmcdonald Feb 21 '11 at 18:15
    
+1 had never seen that site before, am now more than a bit in love with it, thanks! –  boxed-dinners Feb 22 '11 at 15:54
    
you're welcome, @boxed-dinners! careful, though... it's a dangerously fun site. if you're anything like me, soon you will have more projects than you know what to do with. : ) –  franko Feb 24 '11 at 1:09
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In order to create smoke, you need to raise the wood chips to the temperature at which primary (but not secondary) combustion occurs. A very good explanation of how wood burns is here.

Primary combustion happens when the wood is hot enough that gases are released, but not hot enough that all of the contents of those gases completely combust. This material that is combustible (just at a higher temperature) and is released from the wood is smoke, and that's what you want to get released from the wood chips in order to smoke something.

Wood doesn't begin this process until about 540 degrees fahrenheit (282 Celsius) so unless you heat the wood to this temperature you're going to get basically no smoke at all. This won't happen in a 200 degree oven - actually, it would probably be hard for it to happen in an oven at all - and even if you did have your oven hot enough, you'd likely end up overcooking your food long before it absorbed enough smoke.

So since the wood chips need to be quite hot, and the temperature around the food needs to be significantly cooler, in order to smoke something you really need a way to create this large temperature difference while making the smoke travel from the hot wood chips to the cool food. This is why most smokers have some sort of separate burning chamber that produces smoke but doesn't directly heat the meat and thus allows the cooler temperature. This is also why you put the wood chips directly on or over the heat source when smoking on a grill.

Joe mentions that smoking can be done on the stovetop, and this makes sense since you could place the wood chips directly on the bottom of a pan and thus heat them very hot, but put the food higher up (maybe even let some cool air in) in order to keep it at a much lower temperature.

Any other way that you could achieve this high temperature differential could be used to smoke food - for example, you could set up a separate smoking box with a duct (you might need a fan depending on your setup) running into your oven - maybe you could heat this on the stove, or have it outside. If you had an exposed element at the bottom of an electric oven, you might be able to set a little box of woodchips on or right next to that to get it hot enough (you may destroy the element though...). If it's a gas stove, perhaps there's a way you could put the chips directly on or under the flame in order to get the high temperature. If you turn your oven on to around the temperature you would smoke at, you could check the surface temperature of your oven in various places with a IR thermometer and see if there were any extra hot places. These might be good places to put your wood chips. And as an aside, you'll probably want a fire extinguisher handy for most of these just in case.

On soaking the wood chips - The main reason to soak woodchips before smoking is to avoid full combustion. To produce smoke, wood needs to combust inefficiently, and one way to do this is to make sure its temperature stays below ~1100 degrees fahrenheit. The water helps with this because it takes a huge amount of energy to boil off water which must be done before the temperature can get above 212F (the water towards the inside of the chips boils and cools the outside of the chips as they combust - so you'll still have water in the woodchip while the outside is smoking). In order to make it easier to achieve smoke faster, you might want to try not soaking the chips so they get to primary combustion faster, but then limit their combustion in other ways to ensure that they don't produce enough heat through their own combustion to achieve secondary combustion (no smoke). You could do this by regularly spraying the chips with water after they begin smoking, or by limiting the supply of oxygen to the woodchips - the latter might be achievable if you rig up something like a smoking box on the stove with a duct into the oven with vents you can close.

One more note, you're going to end up with a lot of smoke inside, and you really don't want to be breathing this (carbon monoxide, among other things), so please make sure you have a lot of ventilation going on when you try this. And maybe a carbon monoxide detector nearby to be safe.

Edit - Wikipedia mentions in the Wood Smoke section of the Smoking page that the best smoke is produced by wood between 570 and 750 degrees fahrenheit.

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You will find if you look up tea smoking recipes, you can get a great smoking without wood chips(it uses rice,tea ,spices etc) which is great for indoor smoking. Use a wok with foil in the bottom, cake rack for meat and cover again foil so don't smoke out the house. It doesn't need the heat intensity that wood chips need.

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You might want to consider using a stovetop smoker. Here is one particular version, I'm not sure if there are any other manufacturers out there. Essentially the wood chips get direct contact with the stovetop heat, and so they can start smoking. From what I have heard regarding them (anecdote from an owner on another forum), it more or less stays sealed so smoke isn't filling the house.

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Thanks to DHayes and the above. I'm using my stove top smoker as linked above for the first time. It only lets a little smoke escape. Like the side stream of of a cigarette but more pleasant. My stove vent eats that up and my kitchen did not get the least smokey. It's too early in the cooking to say how well it smokes but I have a good feeling about this. I found it on Amazon for a little over 40 bucks. Now that the active smoking is done I'm transferring the ribs to the oven at 225 f for a couple hours then taking them out onto another foil lined pan to brush on the sauce. Good luck and happy smoking. :)

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Be sure to update us as to how the finished product turned out. –  sourd'oh Dec 3 '13 at 22:06
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