Plans for How to Build Your Own Smoker

Updated June 06, 2018

Slow cooking meat and vegetables with a smoker can add deep, rich flavours to any barbecued meal. Savvy outdoor cooks have plenty of options for do-it-yourself smoker construction. Some homemade smoker projects include items as diverse as plastic coolers, dustbins or old refrigerators, but perhaps the most common DIY plans involve a steel drum, a few parts from the local hardware store and a little elbow grease.

Remove the seal from the inside lip of the barrel's lid, if the barrel has such a seal. Peel the seal off with a flathead screwdriver.

Light a large fire in the barrel using firewood, lighter fluid and a lighter. This burns off any plastic lining or foreign materials within the drum. Allow the fire to burn out and the drum to cool off completely before continuing the project.

Measure the circumference of the steel barrel with measuring tape.

Divide the circumference by three.

Drill three ¾ ventilation holes at equal intervals around the circumference of the drum using an electric drill with a 1-inch step drill bit. Use your measurements to properly space the holes, drilling them 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel.

Divide the circumference of the barrel by four.

Drill four holes at equal intervals about seven inches below the top of the drum. Make the holes about ¼ inch in size.

Screw the four 1-½ x 1/4-inch bolts in the holes from the outside.

Secure each of the bolts with a lock washer and nut.

Place a 22.5-inch wire basket, the shortest one you can find, upside down at the bottom of the barrel. This serves as a platform for your wood chips, allowing the ash to fall to the bottom of the barrel.

Place a 22.5-inch grill grate in the smoker, supported by the bolts.

Replace the drum's lid and put three refrigerator magnets on each of the drum's ventilation holes. Move these magnets on and off the holes to control the smoker's air flow.


Improve the appearance of your homemade smoker with a simple coat of exterior paint. Use a grill thermometer when smoking; your smoker should not reach temperatures above 93.3 degrees Celsius. If you can't find the right basket, get creative with your wood chip platform; it only needs to be a metal surface that is a few inches tall, fits nicely in the bottom of your drum and has holes that allow ash to fall through.


Check the area for dry brush or flammable objects before lighting a fire. Supervise any children in the area when using your homemade smoker, as it will be hot to the touch.

Things You'll Need

  • 55-gallon steel drum with removable lid
  • Firewood
  • Lighter fluid
  • Lighter
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Electric drill
  • 1-inch step drill bit
  • 22-1/2-inch grill grates
  • 4 1-½ x 1/4-inch bolts
  • 4 1/4-inch nuts
  • 4 ¼ lock washers
  • 22-1/2-inch wire basket
  • 3 refrigerator magnets
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About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.