Update, 2/27/13: Like this post? check out the 250-page, 65-recipe book full of DIY hacks like this one.
Up until very recently, “nightlife” for human beings consisted of sitting around a fire, basking in its warmth and glow, enjoying the companionship of family. It’s no wonder that the scent of smoke, the gaseous embodiment of fire, evokes feelings of contentment deeply rooted in our combined psyche.
There isn’t a sound biological reason for why humans enjoy the taste of smoke. Nutritionally, smoke provides us with almost nothing. Yet, the whole race seems to have acquired the flavor of smoke, even become addicted to it. From smoked salmon to barbecue brisket to bacon, there are few foods smoke doesn’t improve.
Given our long history using smoke for culinary purposes, it should be clear that the Smoking Gun™ by Polyscience (famous for their immersion circulators and other high-end kitchen/lab equipment) doesn’t offer the home cook any new process or concept. But, it does make an ancient one more accessible.
If you have the means, we definitely recommend you buy a proper Polyscience smoking gun, since it looks like it’s soundly constructed and probably easier to clean and use than our ghetto one.
But, if you only have $20… What we have here is a “hardware recipe” for our own DIY smoke gun. Use it how you would a normal recipe: read it, think about it, and feel free to modify as you see fit.
- 1 mini vacuum, $7.80
- 1/4″ diameter vinyl tubing, $3.11 for 10 ft. (I measured this, and the outside diameter should be about 3/8″. But I think it was labeled 1/4″ OD)
- 1 pipe bowl screen (get these from a local cigar shop or pharmacy), $1.99/5
- 1 1/4″ barb x 1/4″ FIP pipe adapter – $2.10
- 1 1/2″ flex pipe tee joint- $0.57
- duct tape (gorilla tape works best) – hopefully you have some of this at home already…
Total cost: $15.57 + shipping and gas money
(see pictures at the end of the post)
- Remove mini-vacuum from package. See figure 1.
- Cut the “blower” tube in half (this is optional, but I thought it was was silly to have the pipe go out so long.) See figure 2.
- Insert half of the pipe into the “blow” end. It should only fit one way, so this *should* be self-explanatory.
- Stuff one of the pipe screens into the barb/FIP adapter. It should just barely fit. This sucker will keep burnt ash from getting down into the tubes and the vacuum. See figure 3.
- Cut a small section of the vinyl tubing, then cut it lengthwise so that it becomes a flat piece of plastic. Wrap this around the barb end of the barb/FIP adapter. See figure 4.
- Stuff the adapter with tubing into the top of T joint. The brass of the adapter gets hot; the vinyl insulates the rest of the smoker.
- Cut a 1 foot section of tubing (or however long you want it).
- Trim off one edge of the tubing at an angle. Stuff this end into the “blow” end of the smoker. Cutting the angle into the tube makes this easier. See figure 5.
- Tape cardboard all over the thing to make it sturdy. See figure 6.
- Tape off as many seals as possible to keep the smoke from escaping. See figure 7.
- Tape off approximately half of the end of the T joint. Letting some air helps to propel the smoke out the blower tube. Let in too much and the “suck” end won’t draw enough air through the fuel to generate smoke. Some trial and error may be required. See figure 8.
How to Use it
Some Important Warnings
- The metal of the pipe adapter gets HOT! Be careful.
- Since the adapter gets hot, its best not to do more than one to two batches of smoke at a time. You really don’t want the vinyl tubing that surrounds the adapter to melt.
- I’ve read concerns that the temperature of the smoke itself might cause deterioration of the plastic of the vacuum. I didn’t experience this in my limited use, but I guess it might be possible. However, note that Polyscience’s professional version of their smoking gun is probably made out of the same material, so I would guess that it’s safe.
- It looks like Polyscience uses some type of silicone tubing instead of the vinyl stuff I found. I would definitely use silicone tubing if you can get your hands on it. If anyone can find a good source, please let me know in the comments.
Inspiration and Recipes
- Awesome blog Molecular Recipes overviews the smoking gun technique and serves up several recipes.
- Jet City Gastrophysics on How to Smoke Your Drinks.
- Jose Andres smokes oysters.
- Seattle Food Geek writes about Sous Vide Raw Instant Smoked Salmon.
- Eat Foo overviews Smoking Gun technology and uses it to make smoked aioli.
- The original inspiration for this post: Medellitin builds a DIY smoking gun using a mini vacuum.
Figure 1. Vacuum and parts that come with it.
Figure 2. Cutting the “blower” tube in half.
Figure 3. Smoke screens – 5 for $2 bucks.
Figure 4. Wrap some tubing around the barb to get a snug fit and insulate the plastic from heat.
Figure 5. Cut the tubing at an angle – this will allow you to wedge it into the blower tube.
Figure 6. Tape cardboard to the base to make the smoker stable.
Figure 7. Tape these vents and seals to trap smoke.
Figure 8. This much air going through the T joint worked best for me.
Please leave questions and your experiences in the comments.