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How to Build a Commercial Meat Smoker

Updated February 21, 2017

A commercial meat smoker is one that has a large cooking capacity for a variety of meat and fish. While it may be the ultimate emblem of a serious BBQ master, purchasing a new commercial meat smoker can be a significant investment, and may be outside of your budget altogether. Luckily, you can turn almost any old refrigerator or large metal drum into a commercial meat smoker, with just a few adjustments and additions.

Locate an old refrigerator or large metal drum, which you can use as the main chamber of your meat smoker. If you use a refrigerator, try to find one that is an old style and does not have a freezer compartment. If you want to use a metal drum, make sure that it is clean, rust-free and was not used to house any dangerous materials like chemicals or oil.

Cut a hole the size of a grapefruit into the bottom side of the refrigerator or drum. The cut does not have to be even or a perfect circle, just relatively the size of a grapefruit, because the purpose of the hole is to draw smoke out of the chamber. You should be able to make the cut with a regular coping saw.

Saw a second hole that is twice the size of the first hole into the top of the refrigerator or drum lid. This will serve as a flue for the smoke.

Cut a piece of wood that is just bigger than the top of the flue hole. You will use the wooden piece as a damper or lid for the flue to help the smoker heat up once you light the wood chips. You do not need to attach the wooden damper to the smoker, just have it nearby so that you can control the air flow in and out of the smoker.

Drill two holes toward the top of the metal drum on opposite sides from each other. Unlike the refrigerator that has racks, the metal drum will need some device for hanging meat or fish. Once you have the holes drilled, you can insert a metal pole from which you can hang meat or fish on hooks.

Set two cement or concrete blocks on the inside floor of the refrigerator or drum.

Place a hotplate onto the top of the blocks and then a large metal pan on top of the hotplate. If you are using a refrigerator, make sure that the pan does not prevent the refrigerator door from closing.

Fill the pan with wood smoking chips. The type of chips is completely up to you, depending on the flavour you want to impart to your meat or fish.

Things You'll Need

  • Old refrigerator
  • Metal drum
  • Coping saw
  • Drill
  • Wood
  • Cement blocks
  • Hotplate
  • Metal pan
  • Wood chips
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About the Author

Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.