How to build a cheap BBQ smoker

Written by teresa starr | 13/05/2017
How to build a cheap BBQ smoker
A kettle grill like this costs less than £13 and can be built into a BBQ smoker quite easily. (steaks grill image by robert lerich from

Despite what some may think, a BBQ smoker can be built quite inexpensively--you can build one for less than £32. You can build a smokers out of an old oil drum, water tank or even a 55-gallon drum, but these designs cost a pretty penny to build and require experience with welding. You can build a cheap, easy BBQ smoker out of a large metal dustbin or charcoal grill with a minimum of effort and no experience.

Soak the chunks of hard wood in water for an hour. Hard wood such as oak or hickory is ideal, but you can purchase wood that has been infused with flavours such as honey or mesquite as well. Chunks of wood can be found in the grilling section of your local home store. Do not use soft wood like pine, because the wood will not burn clean.

Pour the charcoal into the grill, keeping it to one side. When using a kettle grill, three pounds of charcoal will be fine since the body of the grill is smaller. The charcoal will act as the initial heat source for the smoker.

Pour lighter fluid over the charcoal and light it with a match. You will need to let the fire burn down and wait until the coals are red hot and a greyish colour. Once the coals are ready, place the chunks of hard wood on top. The soaked wood will generate smoke and heat.

Fill the small metal pan with water, 2/3 of the way full. Add your favourite seasonings if you'd like. The seasonings will infuse the food with even more flavour. Place the pan next to the charcoal.

Place the grill rack into the grill and arrange the food you wish to smoke on top, ensuring that the food is placed over the water pan, far from the hot coals. Since BBQ smokers cook with indirect heat, you never want to place the food on top of the hot coals. Cover with the grill lid.

Position the vents on the lid over the food and insert the temperature gauge into one of the air vent holes.

Monitor the temperature of the smoker with the temperature gauge to make sure that the internal temperature stays between 65.6 and 135 degrees Celsius. If the temperature exceeds 275 you will need to remove the lid for a few minutes.

Cook the food for three to five hours until done. Different cuts of meat require a longer smoking time.

Things you need

  • Kettle grill
  • Charcoal
  • Lighter fluid
  • Chunks of hard wood
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Small metal pan
  • Temperature gauge
  • Grill lid
  • Seasonings (optional)

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