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Your Best Kitchen Hacks: Bronze Medal

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For the next two weeks, we're hosting our own Summer Food Fights on FOOD52 -- come play along! Big prizes await.

bronze le creuset   


We're always looking for ways to get better in the kitchen -- to do things more efficiently, to try something crazy, to make something out of nothing. Last week, in honor of the Summer Food Fights we asked you to send in Your Best Kitchen Hack -- and we promised you some glorious, drool-worthy prizes.

Today, we're presenting our bronze medal to the one and only hardlikearmour. Her award-winning entry: How to Hack a Cold Smoker. Check back tomorrow and Friday to see the silver and the gold!

Cold smoker supplies:  New 30 watt soldering iron, "tin" can w/o BPA in the lining (I used Native Forest coconut milk), keyhole opener, safe edge can opener, pliers, wood chips, and a grill with a lid.  You may also need a screwdriver to change the tip of the soldering iron, and an extension cord to plug the soldering iron in.  A new soldering iron and a bag of chips will cost in the ballpark of $15, and I suspect if you're embarking on this endeavor you'll already have the rest of the supplies.   

Step 1

Shiny new soldering iron, with tip that looks like a flathead screwdriver.  This tip has a larger contact area than the pointy one that was originally attached.  Note the screw that holds the tip in; it can be a little tricky to fit it through the keyhole you'll be making in the can later.

Step 2

Cut a large keyhole in the can.  The business end of the soldering iron needs to fit through the hole.

Step 3

Use can opener to open the can, and the pliers to pry the lid outward.  Imagine the top of the can as a clock face.  If the keyhole is at 6 o'clock, the opening should extend clockwise from 8ish to 4ish.  You need to be able to easily get the wood chips into the can once the lid is pried open.

Step 4

Empty and rinse can, then make a small ventilation keyhole in the bottom.  The hole should be a bit up from the bottom, say the 5 or 7 o'clock area.  A little cross breeze seems to help generate more smoke.

Step 5

Partially fill the can with wood chips.  1/3 full will produce about 30 to 40 minutes of smoke.  You can also add some spices to the wood chips - broken star anise and bits of cinnamon stick are especially nice.

Step 6

Insert the tip of the soldering iron into the large keyhole.  The screw will most likely need to be pointed toward a lower corner to fit.  Lay the can sideways on the grill with the keyhole at the bottom.  Make sure the tip of the soldering iron is buried in the wood chips.

Step 7

Get ready to smoke!  Here I've got olives, ice cubes, and blue cheese.  It's best to keep the grill in the shade to help keep the chamber cool.  Melted smoked cheese is not the goal!

Plug the soldering iron in, and wait.  It will take about 5 or 6 minutes for the chips to start smoking.  If you're not getting smoke within 10 minutes you probably don't have good soldering iron to wood chip contact.  Carefully wiggle the soldering iron, making sure to grasp only the plastic base and not the metal parts or the can.

Step 10

Close the grill lid, and set a timer for 30 to 40 minutes (a good amount of time for adding some smoky flavor.)  Buckley is in charge of keeping interlopers away from the grill.

Step 10

After a short while you will see smoke wafting out from the grill.  It can get pretty smoky, so if you live in an apartment you may need to warn your neighbors or cover your grill.  If it's not breezy you may want to use a box fan to help direct the smoke in the least objectionable direction.

Step 11

Here I've just finished smoking some country pork ribs with wood chips and broken star anise pods.

Step 12

When you've finished, unplug the soldering iron.  Let the can and iron cool fully before handling them.  The christened soldering iron; no longer bright and shiny!

Step 13

Enjoy the smoky fruits of your labor!

Step 14

Tags: food fights, hacks, your best kitchen hacks, cold smoker, how to, diy, how-to & diy

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