Clay Pot Smoker – part 2

Gathering the Parts

First, I found a hotplate at Target. However, the casing was square, making it harder to fit into the bottom of a round clay pot. A round one would have worked better, but at the time I couldn’t find one. I disassembled the hotplate and found that I could take the actual heating element out of the casing. However, the wiring didn’t leave me a lot of slack to play with.

When you read blog postings of a project, it always sounds as if the whole process proceeded smoothly and quickly to its end. That’s not what happened here. After disassembling the hotplate, it sat in a box in the corner for many months while I tried to decide what to do next.

One of the blog postings had shown a variation that I liked a lot. They removed the temperature control from the hotplate housing to a small box that would sit outside of the smoker with wires running out of the box and into the smoker through the pot’s drain hole. A length of wire could connect the existing wiring to the burner in the smoker. I realized that I couldn’t use ordinary lamp cord since I didn’t think the insulation could stand the heat. That meant that I needed wire with high-temperature insulation. I tried Radio Shack, Home Depot, and a couple of auto supply stores, but none of them had any information about what temperature the wire could handle. I didn’t want to risk it (my wife was already dubious about the project, fearing that I was going to either electrocute myself or set the condo on fire).

For a while I was stymied, so I asked a friend who was a commercial electrician. He could advise me on the gage of the wire (he suggested 12 gage), but he wasn’t sure about the heat-resistant properties. (I figured it only needed to be heat-resistant up to 300 degrees – most smoking is done at 250 or below.) Some time later, I happened to mention the problem to the IT guy at my job. He pulled up a website that sold specialty wire. They had wire with high-temp insulation in 25 foot lengths (much better than having to buy a 100 foot roll!).

Note: It later occurred to me that perhaps an appliance repair shop might have wire like that for use in ovens or other high-heat applications.

Once I had the wire, I really didn’t have much excuse to procrastinate. The next problem was getting a terra cotta pot, a grill, and a lid that all worked together.  I wanted as large a cooking area as I could get to be able to handle ribs or a butterflied chicken. However, I needed to coordinate three things: the size of the pot, the size of the grill, and the size of the bowl to act as a lid. The terra cotta bowl only came in a few sizes, mostly small. A 13″ bowl was available at Home Depot, but I couldn’t find a grill small enough to use with it, plus I probably couldn’t cook a butterflied chicken on it. The smallest grill I could find was 13.5 inches in diameter. It was too large to fit inside of a 14″ clay pot, but any larger and I wouldn’t be able to find a bowl to fit the pot.

Fortunately, I found a 16” wide bowl at Pike Nursery. It was kind of heavy and I doubt I could handle anything larger once it was hot from the smoker.

Home Depot carries several replacement grills for Weber kettles. Some are to replace the grate the charcoal goes on and others replace the grill that the food goes on. What it came down to in the end was that all of the grills that I found were either 13.5 inches or 18+ inches. The pots that could fit an 18” grill were huge, heavy, and expensive plus the bowl for a lid were equally huge, heavy, and very expensive. What I settled for was a 13.5 inch charcoal grill that fit about 4″ below the rim of a 16” terra cotta pot and my 16” bowl inverted for a lid.


Clay Pot Smoker – part 1

Clay Pot Smoker – part 3

Clay Pot Smoker wrap-up


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: