There are two kinds of smokers: hot and cold. Hot smoke is for cooking food — think barbeque. Cold smoke is a way to add smoke to food without cooking it. Think smoked cheese, or smoked salmon. Not the flaky, cooked salmon, but the pink, silky, translucent salmon. Properly cured (with salt, sugar, spice, and booze), it is the ultimate party bombshell. You’ll never go for the overpriced, plastic-wrapped lox again. Cold smoked macadamia nuts are like smokey, salty, crunchy marshmallows. And then there is the variety of meats that benefit from a long hang in the cold smoke before finally moving to the hot smoker to finally bring to temperature, like pastrami, or my favorite — magret fume (smoked duck breast).
Cold smokers are not sold in stores. You have to build your own. The trick to making a cold smoker is, like the song goes, you gotta keep ’em separated. That is, the smoke source and the food chamber. You need distance between the two to allow the smoke to cool before hitting the food. I was first inspired to do this by Alton Brown’s “Scrap Iron Chef” episode from his Good Eats series, where he makes bacon in a tricked-out 3-unit gym locker, with one locker containing the smoke source, the second stuffed with curled up ducting, and the third for hanging the pork belly. I knew I had to do this.
This has a mini weber grill, where I would have an electric hot plate plugged in to a wall socket. On the hot plate was a empty tuna fish can with holes jabbed in the bottom, which I would periodically replenish with wood chips. I cut a hole in the top and taped on (the “T” in the 3000T stands for tape) a duct coupler I found at Home Depot. From there, more tape to link to a laundry duct, coiled up in laundry tub, and on to a galvanized garbage can. The garbage can housed a small computer fan to pull the smoke through the duct. And the tub served as a TTR — a thermal transfer reservoir. That is, I would fill it with sand and ice cubes to make a chilly slurry for pulling heat of the smoke.
When I first saw that smoke billowing out the chimney, it was just a beautiful sight. I ended up throwing our first Cold Smoker Party, which has since become an annual event.
The problem with the 3000T was that it was clugey, and was not going to hold up over time. The cheap ducting corroded in the sand (which is probably acidic), and I had to keep patching it up. So I rebuilt it…