Smoking is a way of indirect cooking and it usually takes place over extended hours at low temperatures.
Traditionally smokers are of charcoal or wood type.
These smokers are the preferred choice of any seasoned chefs for the delicious flavor they leave behind in any meat.
One of the difficult task people come across while smoking with wood type smoker is that it is difficult to adjust the internal temperature of the wood smoker.
It is a hectic task to master the art of smoking with a wood smoker, many times it kills the excitement of enjoying the smoke-flavored meat.
Here is where the hot plate as a heat source for electric smokers comes into action.
It is most popular among beginners and pro cook alike.
Recently I have got one charcoal smoker from my Granny and tried to convert it into an electric smoker by incorporating a hot plate.
But what size and watt of the hot plates required for the proper smoker operation was the primary question grappling in my mind.
After researching a lot of stuff, I zeroed in on 1500 W size hot plate which served my purpose. Do remember that it depends on lot of other factors which we will discuss further.
If you are also looking for a suitable size of hot plate for your smoker and confused about the size selection, then you are at the right place.
Let us check out how to select the size of the hotplate to maintain the ideal internal smoke chamber temperature for smoker operation.
What is the Ideal Temperature for a Smoker?
Most modern electric smokers come with a digital control interface that controls smoker’s internal temperature until it reaches your specified value.
In a homemade electric smoker, if you are incorporating a hot plate yourself, then it may have only ON, OFF, Min, and Max settings.
Controlling the temperature with these limited settings is difficult, and getting to the ideal temperature to smoke most meats is quite a task.
Adjusting the settings reduces or increases the current supply it allows and changes the temperature accordingly.
While using a hot plate, to adjust the temperature of the smoker within tight control, it is better to use PID controllers and SSR (Solid-state Relay) to switch the hot plate ON and OFF to control and maintain an ideal temperature.
A traditional dial on the smoker would not work well and may shut off.
Smoking is a low-temperature cooking process, unlike grilling where the meat is directly exposed to flame.
Whether you are smoking beef, lamb, chicken, pork, fish, or virtually any other meat, low temperature is what you need to smoke food to ensure tender, juicy, and delicious meat.
Consistent temperature is the key to smoking. The ideal temperature range for most smoking is 225°F to 250°F.
There is nothing magical about the 225°F figure!
It is just the target temp that most people strive for but can be used as a benchmark reference temperature for smoking.
It is worthwhile to remember that outside temperature affects the meat’s internal temperature to a certain extent.
The easiest way to confirm temperature is to place a meat thermometer at the top vent, so the probe hangs down and measures the temperature of the air inside the smoker.
If your smoker temperature is above 250° F, adjust the hot plate settings or at the digital interface to lower it down.
Meat requires different internal temperatures depending upon the source of meat origin.
The Few are listed below.
Perhaps the most difficult part of smoking is not opening the smoker in the mid of smoking.
Every time you glimpse at the meat, you allow the heat and smoke to escape out.
Open the smoker door only when you need to check the internal temperature of the meat or to add wood chips.
How Do You Use a Hot Plate on a Smoker?
A hot plate is a heating element used in smokers to produce heat inside the smoker chamber with the help of electric supply.
When the smoker is turned on, electric supply will pass through hot plate coils and the resistance of the coil induces heat losses which generates heat when the current passes through it.
The hot plates can be installed in any homemade smoker by following below simple steps
Hot plates need to be located at the bottom of the smoker so that your meat to be smoked, will get exposure to radiation heat from the hot plate.
Heated air is less dense and travels upwards where your food should be.
Route the plug of your hot plate through any available hole in your smoker.
Most people keep the smokers in the backyard, so if you are not close enough to an electric power supply, then attach an extension cord to the plug of the hot plate.
Although hot plates are operated by electric supply, you can use fruitwood chunks like apple, peach, and cherry, etc. in a separate compartment or tray to add smoke flavor to your meat while smoking.
Fill a pan or any plate with soaked wood chips and place it on the hot plate. Let the hot plate do its job.
Prepare your seasoned meat for smoking on any of the trays inside your smoker.
In case, if you are not able to attain the desired meat internal temperature and there are 3 to 4 trays in your smoker, it is recommended to keep the meat on the very first tray closer to the hot plate for ensuring tender and thick smoke flavour.
Plugin the extension cord and turn on the hot plate. Shut the smoker door.
As the hot plate generates heat, it shall gradually increase the smoker temperature and heat up the wood chips.
Monitor the meat’s internal temperature by adjusting the hot plate setting.
Be ready! Your mouth-watering tender meat will be ready anytime soon!
One of the dilemmas any beginner would end up with is “what is the size of the hot plate that needs to be selected for a smoker?” Especially when the smoker is a homemade one.
The size of the hot plate depends on a lot of factors like volume of smoker space, insulation of the smoker, and outside temperature.
Generally, when the size of the smoker is around 20” X 15” X 30”, 1200 W hot plate will serve the purpose better, particularly if you are targeting to reach smoker ambient temperature of 225° F and meat internal temperature of 180° F.
If we talk about a sizeable smoker, say 2’X2’X4’ size, then one needs to go for a higher rating hot plate to attain the desired temperature with ease.
Accordingly, a 1500 W hot plate would be a perfect fit.
If you have access to 220 V supply, then you shall go for 2000 W hot plate.
If not, then for 120 V supply, then go for 1500 W size hot plate.
This is because, for the same wattage hot plate, high voltage supply would draw less current.
This would mean that the device heat generation will be less and at the end, you would not get the smoker temperature you are targeting and vice versa for the low supply voltage.
If you have got two different 240 V circuits, then you could use two 1500W hot plates to achieve the ideal smoker temperature.
2 electric heat source hotplates of lower wattage would have issues of packaging.
Make sure that the hot plates are not stacked one above the other, otherwise the plastic parts of the hot plate which is on the higher side may get melt.
In that case, you may suitably fix both hot plates on sidewalls.
You may need to adjust the circuit breaker ampere rating you have, depending upon the supply voltage and hot plate watt size.
The point to note is that 2,000 watts would draw around 17-ampere current at 120 V supply condition.
This will get close to the maximum limit of 20 amp breaker and will exceed the current limit on a 15 amp breaker. Hence the electric source supply would get disconnected.
Lower size hot plate of the order of 600 W is just not enough to get temperature over 140° F.
You need to go for at least 1200W, maybe even more. You can always step it down.
It is always advisable to run something at 75-80% capacity, then to run it at its maximum capability.
Many hot plates are available in the market with size and watt that suits the requirement. The whole idea is getting the right one which suits one’s needs.
While most commercial smokers come with a built-in thermometer, these can be up to 50° F off the actual internal temp of the meat.
That is why we always recommend using a dedicated thermometer to keep track of the meat’s internal temperature.
If you are new to setting up homemade smoker using hot plates and do not want to get into details of size and wattage, then you can straight away choose a 1500 W size hot plate.
It will ensure an ideal temperature range of 225° F for smoking and getting your favorite tender and scrumptious smoke-flavored meat.
The most exciting thing about a hot plate as a heat source for a smoker is that it involves only an enclosure and hot plate.
This completely avoids the hectic task involved in building a charcoal or wood smoker and smoking with one is quite a task.
Hot plates are such a cute invention that you can use them for any applications where heating is required. Of course, it shall get packaged in available enclosure space.
If you are on vacation and want to enjoy self-made smoked food, all that you need to do is, just disassemble the hot plate from the smoker and carry it to the destination spot.
Make a new enclosure using a clay pot, metal can, or pan and any other thing of this sort. And who has the energy to move these huge pieces of the device around with them anyway?
Take out your hot plate and get smoking like a pro! and rest assured that it’s worth trying one.