Well, just for the record, there is nothing wrong with the hot plate or the thermometer. That thing got up to, maybe over, 300F in no time flat. That's all my digital goes up to and I took the dial thermometer off once I saw it climb over 275.
So, it could be that it just won't heat the inside of a metal garbage can, or it might be in the foil container I used for the smoke chips. Maybe the container is acting like a heat sink and dispersing the heat off the plate. When the plate cools I will put it in the can without anything on it and give it a try.
Give us this day our daily bacon.