Dr. Otis Lansa wrote:On a related note, any tips for creating a little homebrew smoke generator?
I am a fan of propane grills, too.
I've used very small, well-watered chunks of wood directly on the smoker plate (or on the lava rocks if you have that version). Use 1.5" (3 cm) chunks or smaller. If sufficiently wet/green, they will sit there and smoke for a long time before finally lighting and burning. At that point, add more chunks, if needed.
Obviously, you'll need a grill that you can lift, withOUT dumping your food. I use a pair of sturdy pliers, lift up one corner, toss a chunk or three and lower the grill/grate into place, taking care not to dump the food.
If you cut your wood chips long and thin, and if your grill has wide enough spacing, you can sometimes drop the wood between the wires on the grill/grate. You'll need to watch closer, though, as the thinner wood will start to burn more rapidly. (the burning wood should not harm your propane cooker in any way: there is a HOT propane fire just below the smoker plate/lava rocks anyway ... )
I've seen folk use a very small cast iron skillet - they make them over here in 6" diameters sometimes. I suppose that would work.
Or a small cast iron loaf pan.
Alternatively, you could use a modified coffee can, knowing you'll just replace it every 3 or 4 times of use.
Or, I suppose 3 or 4 tuna cans* would work, strategicly placed about the meat to be smoked ... these should last several times as well, and are already low-cut. Shouldn't need any other modification (other than removing the lids and the tuna, obviously... <heh>)
Keep a pair of pliers handy to move'em around. AND a bucket of water nearby, to drop'em in when you're through smoking. Remove after cool, and allow to dry. Should last several times.
** chemical note **
most food cans are coated with lacquer and other anti-rust coatings. I strongly suggest you pre-prepare your smoker cans ahead of actual cooking: fire up the grill on high, and put your cans around the grill top. Cover. Allow the cans to come up to temp, while empty
. When they stop smoking, the protective finish will have been burned off, leaving only the steel behind. Now, drop into that water bucket to cool, and remove any residual traces of ash.
Note: cans so treated will rust VERY quickly. You can reduce this by keeping them in plastic bags and/or you can coat lightly with food-grade grease or cooking oil (JUST like cast-iron cookware). Or, you can just prepare them ahead of time, use once and toss into the recycle bin.
* use STEEL cans only. Aluminum will NOT be a good idea, as the aluminum can melt, flow down onto the flame and CATCH FIRE. An aluminum fire is NOT a trivial thing it CAN NOT BE PUT OUT WITH WATER OR HOUSEHOLD FIRE EXTINGUISHER. CO2 ONLY!
Remember that lovely thermite explosive powder? One of the main ingredients is ALUMINUM!