Cold smoking at home: Convert your Weber for $10

I seem to have infected my friends with the charcuterie virus.

What started with the occasional foray into a simple pork and garlic sausage is now ending in converting garden sheds into full-sized smokehouses to smoke lanjager and prosciutto. I had a recent discussion about the feasibility of airing ham beneath your average Australian home. It’s utter madness. The only thing that keeps my psychosis from blossoming is limited space in my apartment.

A limitation that I’m learning to overcome with ingenuity.

Converting your BBQ into a cold smoker

Cold smoking (smoking foods below 37°C/100°F) can be achieved through a few different methods: lighting a fire in large room to disperse the heat; cooling the smoke on the way into wherever you are hanging the food to be smoked; or generating as little heat as possible to create smoke. Smokehouses are the first tactic some of which include refrigeration to cool the smoke on the way in. Various barbecue forums mention using trays filled with ice to cool your backyard smoker (or smoking outside in the snow, further north), which constitutes the second method. The third method just needs a hot and very concentrated heat source

All you need to provide that heat is a brand new soldering iron ($9.99!). An empty tin can with the lid still partially attached will suffice for a smoke box, along with sawdust and a barbecue with a lid. A Weber-style kettle barbecue is ideal. Don’t use an old soldering iron: lead solder and food do not mix.

Cold smoking with a soldering iron

Punch a hole in the tin can, stick the soldering iron in and fill the can about a third full of clean sawdust. Turn on the soldering iron and smoke away. That’s all. I burnt the can over an open flame just in case it was lined with a lacquer but I doubt that it was.

The smoker maintained temperature in the barbecue at 18 degrees Celcius (64°F), 4 degrees above the ambient temperature. At that temperature, it’s cold enough to smoke butter. After two hours, two thirds of the handful of sawdust had burnt down to charcoal suggesting that for longer smoking, the smoker will need to be refilled with sawdust every three hours or so.

Smoking Coon Cheese: Tasty

My test cheese to cold smoke, alleged to be “Australia’s tastiest cheese”; definitely Australia’s most inadvertently racist cheese. I used hickory sawdust.

Cold smoker

After two hours, the cheese had taken on a heavy hickory smoke flavour but hadn’t developed the reddish color that comes from longer smoking. It is by far the best thing that can happen to Coon cheese.

More testing to come.

14 Comments Cold smoking at home: Convert your Weber for $10

  1. Craig in NZ

    Wow this actually works!! I made one up over the weekend (it was snowing and there was little else to do). After a bit of decision making at the electronic store I settled on a 25 Watt soldering iron with a 370deg C operating temp. which was also the cheapest. I removed the end tip so it fitted better into the width of my can. I’ve just smoked a batch of Pam’s Tasty cheddar (no coon’s in New Zealand) for 1 hour with a fine chipped Cherry wood in my Weber. It came out with a mildly smokey taste, will try longer next time (2 hours?) and then onto smoking tofu!! Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Terri

    Awesome idea! About what size is the can you used, as in 1 pound size or larger? I had no cans available, so am trying to make use of my metal smoker box, but have to keep moving sawdust down periodically as even w/it at a tilt, can’t get the osmosis working for me as well as using can wd. (BTW, cheapest I could find soldering iron out here in California was $13.50, so you got a bargain in Australia.) I’m attempting to smoke jalapenos now. Also, is there any concern w/keeping the 25watt soldering iron on for hours and hours? Thanks, Terri in CA

    Reply
  3. Phil Lees

    Terri – The can was about a 1lb size. I think that the trick is to keep the soldering iron in contact with the side of the can, so that radiant heat also burns some of the sawdust. I’m not sure if there is a concern in keeping a soldering iron on for that long.

    Reply
  4. marg

    Just wondering if any one has had a chance to smoke jalapenos yet? How long did you smoke them , what type of wood did you use, did you dry them after? Want to try this but would like some direction.

    Marg

    Reply
  5. A Cajun Down Under

    Thanks for this idea. I used this method to cold smoke some home-cured bacon on the weekend. This price of soldering irons has gone up though as I paid $15 for mine. However, I was trying the smoke the bacon for at least 6 hours, but after 5 hours the soldering iron died and tripped the circuit breaker. Guess I will have to go for a better model next time.

    BTW, bacon was delicious!

    Reply
  6. Sean

    I smoked garlic cloves. I bought a large Costco tub of peeled whole garlic cloves. tossed them with some pickling salt and laid them on some foil that I had spread over the smoking rack. I poked small holes all over the foil to let the smoke thru. i smoked them for about 8hrs and then finished drying them in a dehydrator. they turned out excellent. i think I will try smoking them overnite to completly dry in the smoker as the smoke flavor was not very intense.

    Reply
  7. Justin

    I have (warm) hickory smoked sweet yellow onions that turned out great. I think cold-smoking onions or garlic would be good, but I like having them cooked and smoked (takes about an hour).

    I live in Montana in the northern US and we have snow on the ground right now, so my 1960s-era Little Chief electric smoker won’t get up to temperature for regular smoking. Instead, I ended up sort of accidentally cold smoking some pork for the first time. I am definitely going to try out your can and soldering iron method once it warms up around here. Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
  8. Craig dyer

    A 25 watt soldering iron will only cost a few cents to operate for 8 hrs.
    Generally speaking the light in your oven is rated at 15watts, mere milli amps to run

    Reply
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