How to build a vertical charcoal BBQ smoker

Written by teresa starr | 13/05/2017
How to build a vertical charcoal BBQ smoker
Charcoal like this can be used in a vertical charcoal BBQ smoker. (charcoal on fire image by jedphoto from

There are a wide variety of vertical smokers on the market today designed to smoke food using gas or charcoal. However, a vertical charcoal smoker is probably the easiest to build as it can be made from a large vertical charcoal grill so even beginners with no construction skills can make one. The downside about charcoal smokers is that they require the user to keep a close eye, adding wood chips to the charcoal every hour throughout the smoking process. Even still, a charcoal smoker will infuse the food with flavours that an ordinary grill doesn't.

Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes. Wood chips can be found at any home store in the grilling or outdoor section or at a variety of online retailers.

Add charcoal to the vertical charcoal grill. The charcoal should be placed on one side of the grill and filled about halfway to the top of the grill opening.

Fill the porcelain bowl with water and place the bowl on the opposite side of the grill. If you don't have a porcelain bowl (which will withstand the temperatures inside the smoker) you can use a small disposable aluminium pan.

Light the charcoal with matches. Let the charcoal burn for approximately 15 minutes until the coals are hot and a greyish white colour.

Place the soaked wood chips on top of the hot coals.

Soak two to three more handfuls of wood chips in water. When using a charcoal smoker you will need to add wood chips to the coals almost every hour, so it's best to have them soaked and ready to go.

Replace the grill grate and arrange the food that you plan to smoke on the grill grate. The food should be arranged on the grate above the porcelain bowl and away from the hot coals. Smoking is done by using indirect heat, so it's important to keep your food from being directly on top of the coals.

Cover your new vertical charcoal smoker with its lid. Every grill has a vent on its lid, so it's important to position the vent in the area where you have placed your food to smoke. This will force the smoke from the coals and wood chips to pass over the food, infusing it with flavour.

Insert the temperature gauge inside one of the vents on the lid, or place inside the smoker next to the food. Throughout the smoking process you will need to check the interior temperature to ensure that it does not exceed 135 degrees Celsius. If the temperature ever rises above 135 degrees C remove the lid until it's back within range.

Smoke the food for three to six hours until cooked thoroughly. If you are smoking vegetables they will be done in a short period of time, within one hour you will want to add vegetables to your smoker when the rest of the food is nearly cooked.

Things you need

  • Standard vertical charcoal grill
  • Bag of charcoal
  • Matches
  • Wood chips
  • Water
  • Porcelain bowl
  • Grill grate
  • Temperature gauge

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