What the smoker manufacturers don’t want you to know!
Want to learn how to build a smoker?
With these bbq smoker plans, building a homemade smoker is easy, fun, and affordable. Great if you:
This homemade smoker is built from two flower pots and a hot plate.
Homemade smokers make awesome BBQ at an affordable price.
But before you get started, a few safety tips.
Do NOT use:
These are heavy metals, will not come out of the body, and are extremely dangerous.
Also, beware of hexavalent chromium! This harmful carcinogen is a byproduct of welding galvanized steel. Impurities like lead can also surface from welding galvanized materials.
That said, if the galvanized material has not been welded and does not come into contact with food, it’s probably OK to use in your smoker. Understand that a little zinc may be deposited on the food.
But a little zinc isn’t bad for the body…many people take zinc regularly for their immune system. However, a lot can be harmful and give you flu-like symptoms.
Keep in mind:
Smokers almost never operate above 200 C / 400 F, so the risk of adding significant zinc to food is low. However, if you are still concerned, start a fire outside in that galvanized trash can. That should get the temperature high enough to melt off the zinc. Just don’t inhale the fumes!
Already own a grill? Learn:
Or, learn how to build a smoker out of:
Or…buy a smoker. With so many options available, you can save yourself some hassle by finding an affordable smoker that’s right for you. Check out our smoker review section for more ideas.
Just what is a smoker, anyway?
It’s basically a box that smoke passes through. Learn more about the basics at the smoker guide section.
Most homemade smokers start with a 55 gallon steel drum.
A few tips:
Pick a barrel that is new or food-grade.
Do not use an old gas / oil barrel!
Your food will never taste right.
If there is any sort of lining or residue inside the barrel, burn it off. That’s right! Let out that inner pyro.
With little or no modification, a metal barrel makes a great smoker!
Get out your shovel to build this easy smokehouse-style barrel smoker.
With a little customization, steel drums make amazing smokers and championship BBQ.
Ahh, sticks. They literally grow on trees! Who would have thought they make a great smoker, too.
Smoke freshly caught game in a pinch – build a stick smoker!
They’re not just for flowers anymore! Flower pots offer an affordable, easy alternative to expensive ceramic smokers like the big green egg.
Smoke great BBQ with just a couple flower pots and a hot plate.
Why not!? After all, they keep your cold things cold and your hot things hot!
A cooler makes for a well-insulated homemade smoker. Just take a few precautions not to let the heating element touch the plastic.
Oh, and yes, your cooler will smell like smoked BBQ forever. Benefit or disadvantage? You decide.
Build a simple smoker out of a cooler and hot plate. The only drawback is you'll need 2 coolers – one for your food, and one for your favorite beverages!
It’s not just a smoker – it’s a piece of your backyard.
Brick pits are a unique part of our history and heritage – dating back to the original commercial BBQ pit. Something about them takes you “back to the simpler times.”
A quality brick pit has also long been considered one of the best ways to smoke BBQ. They’re well-insulated and last a lifetime when built correctly.
If you’ve got cinder blocks lying around, you’ve got a smoker! Learn how to quickly and easily smoke any amount of food. (even a whole hog!)
These vertical smokers are easy to build, maintain, and use. Throw together a quick pit or add a lasting piece of art to the backyard.
The Cadillac of backyard smokers - the one that started it all. Build an offset brick smoker and enjoy it for years to come.
Believe it or not, an old refrigerator can make a great homemade smoker with little or no modification.
Unfortunately, new fridges make poor smokers. They are mostly plastic, which does not hold up well under heat. They do, however, make great fridges.
Before we begin, a few words of safety:
Old refrigerators usually contain bad stuff. Really toxic, nasty, bad stuff.
Before using a fridge to smoke food, please do everyone a favor - remove all the bad stuff. This includes:
That’s right, throw away the original shelving.
Don't keep the metal shelving to save money on materials. Sometimes, the old shelving has been plated with cadmium – a highly toxic heavy metal. Aluminum racks will also corrode with salty BBQ.
Don’t let old racks taint your food – toss ‘em!
Instead, try using stainless steel racks from an old kitchen stove.
Connect a firebox to an old fridge for added control and features.
You’ve got to be kidding, right?
Nope! A sturdy cardboard box makes a good smoker.
Great for camping trips - when you’re done, burn the box!
Just know that your smoker is flammable. If it feels like it’s getting hot, spray the edges down with water. Or, line the inside with foil to deflect the heat. As long as your heat source does not touch the cardboard, you’re probably OK.
Also, use a cardboard smoker away from trees or houses, and keep a hose or fire extinguisher handy.
That’s right, wood!
Plywood, planks, or logs – you can build a great smoker out of wood. Here, we show you how to build the basic wooden smoker box. For a bigger (possibly more useful / permanent) wooden smoker, check out the smokehouse construction section. <link>
Also, know that your smoker is flammable. Don’t build it by your house or under trees, and keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby.
Line the insides with thin sheets of metal. This:
Screw liquid smoke! Smoke food in your oven using real wood chips.
Just remember – when smoking indoors, run an exhaust fan or put a fan in the kitchen window. Let’s not set off those smoke alarms!
A modified broiler makes a great smoker! Cook BBQ so good your guests will swear it’s straight from a hardwood pit.
Who says smoking is just for outdoors!?
With a stovetop smoker, you can create awesome smoked foods from the comfort of your own kitchen. Commercial stovetop smokers work well, but it’s fun and easy to make your own from common kitchen items.
Again – don’t set off those smoke alarms! When smoking indoors, run an exhaust fan or put a fan in the kitchen window.
Make amazing smoked food with just a Wok, small rack, foil, and a little time.
Because nothing says you’re a serious outdoorsman like building a house in your backyard for smoking meat.
Just know that if you build a smokehouse, it won’t get very hot.
But that’s OK. Old-fashion smokehouses were originally used to preserve meat. This is best done by smoking very slowly – with little heat, and sometimes for several weeks.
Build a smokehouse if you:
They’re practical, convenient, and are built on 100s of years of tradition.
The original backwoods smoker! Build a great cold-smoker out of wood or logs.
A step up from the wood, brick smokehouses are efficient and built to last. Learn how to build one to cold-smoke large quantities of meat with ease.
Fed up of paperwork?
Build a smoker out of your filing cabinets!
But be careful, that paint can be toxic! Burn off the paint prior to using for food.
Burn some paperwork, smoke some meat. This win-win DIY smoker is both practical and convenient.
Build a great smoker with an offset firebox. This filing cabinet smoker gives you fine temperature control and cool features like a warming surface.
Come on, you never liked that old dresser anyways! Why not make it useful – smoke some meat.
Most old, bare wooden furniture items convert to good homemade smokers.
Just watch out for painted or finished furniture. They can contain harmful chemicals or lead.
With a few quick modifications, that old dresser makes a great home made smoker! Just grab an axe and some chicken wire, then read this guide.
This smoker design comes with easy-access doors. Smoke your latest catch in a wardrobe closet!
When building a new fireplace, why not build in an attached smoker?
The benefits include:
Many of the earliest medieval kitchens (called “smoke kitchens”) often had no chimney. Instead, above the open fire pit hung a large smoke hood – made of wood and covered in clay.
Cooks hung meat in the smoke hood, which was smoked by the cooking fire below. The fire also served as a main source of warmth and light for the house.
Later, smoke boxes were added to chimneys and fireplaces. These were popular in pioneer America and are still quite popular in backwoods / farm areas around the world.
For more about fireplace history, see:
Now, you too can enjoy this ancient tradition from the comfort of your own home.
Building a custom smoker box into your hearth adds a rustic feel to the living room, and will surely get plenty of use.
Smoke meat the old fashion way – climb up on your roof and hang the food in the chimney!
A step up from hanging meat in the chimney, build a smoker box into your chimney to smoke delicious food while controlling the temperature and smoke flow carefully.
With a few quick modifications, turn that wood-burning stove into an indoor BBQ machine!
Just be careful when installing a new wood-burning stove. It’s like putting a new furnace in your house!
Any wood burning stove can be easily converted into an efficient meat smoker. Stay warm this winter, BBQ indoors!
Because nothing says “classy” like cooking food in a trash can!
If using a galvanized trash can, see the advice at the top of the page.
They’re not just for trash anymore! Metal trash cans make great smokers…just do everyone a favor and use a new one!
Some of the best homemade smokers start with a large gas cylinder.
Whether you mount it to a trailer or build it into a backyard setup, these smokers produce great BBQ and can even get large enough to hold 2 whole hogs!
Keep in mind, when it comes to modifying these big tanks, some assembly is required.
BEFORE YOU MAKE A CUT, PURGE THAT TANK!
Propane tanks store propane – a highly flammable gas. Put that inside of a metal tank, and you’ve got a bomb.
Assume that any propane tank you get still contains gas – no matter how old or how long it’s been out of use. Before you make a cut, purge the gas.
The easiest way to purge is to fill the tank with water and let it sit for a week or two. For added cleaning bonus, add soap.
Then, make your first cut into the water-filled tank with a cutting torch or Sawzal.
Drain the water, blow out the tank with an air compressor, and you’re good to go.
Build your dream backyard setup – just don’t expect to move it any time soon!
You spent all that time making a smoker that can cook for 100 people. Give it wheels and take it to the cookout!
The sky’s the limit!
Build a steel bull that smokes out of its nostrils, or a replica NASCAR car front / hood of your favorite driver. With the right materials and skill, the only thing holding you back is your imagination!
Coming soon…custom fabricated smoker ideas, designs, and plans.
Build your own smoker! It’s a fun and affordable way to get started.
Or…buy a smoker. With so many options available, you can save yourself some hassle by finding an affordable smoker that’s right for you. Check out our smoker guide section for more info on types of commercial smokers.
Or, check out the smoker reviews section for tips on specific models.