How to Make Your Own Meat Smoker

Written by shannon kempe
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Slow cooked meat flavoured with smoke from various types of wood is a long time tradition celebrated by many cultures worldwide. In the United States, Hawaii is known for its smoked pig, the Northwest is known for its smoked salmon, and the South is famous for those slow smoked ribs. Smoking meat is for the beginner and for the hard core competitor alike. For the purpose of this article, we will build a simple smoker from a dustbin focusing on each element so you can expand upon the concept as you broaden your smoking skills and knowledge.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • New galvanised dustbin
  • Single burner electric hotplate
  • Extension cord
  • Drill
  • Metal file
  • Round grating
  • 2 ¼ inch steel rods ½ inch longer than the diameter of the top of the rubbish bin
  • Woodchip box or cast iron skillet
  • Woodchips
  • Temperature gauge

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  1. 1

    Use the dustbin as the body of your smoker. The body is responsible for holding in the smoke and heat, and keeping the heat even throughout. Homemade smokers have been made with cardboard, coolers, and the hardcore swear by heavy-gauge steel.

  2. 2

    Add heat. Take the lid off the rubbish bin, and put off to the side. Place the hotplate inside, on the bottom, and in the centre of the rubbish bin. As close to the bottom as you can from the outside, drill a hole in the side of the rubbish bin to run the electric cord out of the rubbish bin enabling you to plug it in. Ensure the edges of the hole aren't so sharp they will cut the cord. Smooth them out with a file if you need to before pulling the cord through. Use the extension cord, if necessary, to reach the nearest outlet. The single burner electric hotplate will providing a reliable, steady source of heat that will require little to no maintenance.

  3. 3

    Add smoke. Fill your wood chip box with wood chips, and place it on top of the electric hotplate. Wood chip boxes are inexpensive and hold more wood chips than the other options enabling you to cook longer without having to add more. If a wood chip box isn't readily available, anything which will hold a few good handfuls of chips and can sustain the heat from the hotplate and chips can be used.

  4. 4

    Add the grating. Often times the round grating will fit right down into your rubbish bin and hold steady from the trashcan's own design. If your grating will not hold firm and steady, drill four 1/4 inch holes evenly spaced around the rubbish bin about 1/3 of the way down from the top. Slide one of your 1/4 inch steel rods through one of the holes and through the hole opposite the first. Slide your second 1/4 steel rod through one of the remaining open holes and through the other side, creating a cross for your grating to rest on. Place your grating on your steel rods.

  5. 5

    Add ventilation and temperature control. Drill three to four 1/4 inch holes in the lid of the rubbish bin spacing the holes apart from each other. Place your temperature gauge through one of the holes enabling you to monitor the temperature of your smoker.

  6. 6

    Test your smoker. Plug in your electric hotplate and turn it onto medium heat. Ensure your wood chip box is full of your favourite smelling wood chips. Ensure the grating is secure in its place inside the rubbish bin and place the meat of your choice upon the grating. Close the lid and as your meat is cooking, monitor the heat of the cooker to determine if you need to adjust the temperature of your electric hotplate. You will want to keep your smoker between 220°F and 230°F for optimal slow cooking. Open the lid once an hour or so to determine if more chips are needed. Cook the meat to the proper internal meat temperature or per the instructions of your recipe for smoked meat.

  7. 7

    Experiment with different types of wood chips from hickory to apple wood. Try different meats or different rubs and sauces on the meats in your smoker. Enjoy the product of your skill and patience for perfection.

Tips and warnings

  • Soak your chips in water 30 to 60 minutes before using to help keep your meat moist, and to help provide maximum life to your woodchips.
  • Have a receptacle nearby to dump the ashes of used chips while you are cooking and want to change the old for the new quickly.
  • The longer you leave the lid off your smoker, or the more often you open the smoker, the more heat you let out.
  • Charcoal and your standard fire techniques are used in other smokers depending upon preference, but require more attention, a separate contraption for the heat, and skill to keep the smoker at an even temperature during the cooking.
  • This is an outdoor project, and not meant to be used indoors.
  • When your meat smoker is not in use, unplug your hotplate and keep the plug end safe and dry.

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