9 DIY Smoker Plans for Building Your Own Smoker: Beginner to Experienced

3 different diy smoker designs

SmokedBBQSource is supported by it’s readers. We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page. Learn more.

Building your own smoker is a great project for any pitmasters who enjoy DIY and want the satisfaction of knowing they didn’t just cook the food, they built the smoker it was cooked in!

The first thing you need to do before you get to work is to decide what kind of smoker you are planning to build.

To help you get started, we’ve put together this list of 9 DIY smoker builds.

There’s a variety of different types of homemade smoker. To help you narrow it down we’ve included what tools you’ll need and links to where you can find step by step guides to the building process.

Lets get started.

1) Build your own ugly drum smoker

Popular Mechanics

The ugly drum smoker is about as basic and easy to build as it gets. The plan here is to turn a 55-gallon food-grade drum into a smoker in just a few hours, with minimal work and no welding.

The first thing you need to do is source your drum. You can pick up a brand new 55-gallon drum for around $150 or a used one for approximately $20. 

When you are buying your drum, make sure it hasn’t been treated with an epoxy coating to prevent rust. The epoxy will not react well to being heated up, and the last thing you want is to be smoking your meat in toxic fumes.

Once you’ve got your drum, you’ll need to scrub it down and then buff the insides with fine sandpaper. The rest of the build is as simple as attaching four air intakes using readily available plumbing supplies, building a fire basket from expanded metal mesh, and attaching a handle to the  lid.

Once you’ve sourced your parts and tools, you can have your DIY ugly drum smoker built in an afternoon, and, best of all, you won’t need to weld anything. 

If you like the idea of an ugly drum smoker but don’t have space or the tools needed to assemble one yourself, the PitBarrel Cooker Company’s 18.5″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker makes a great ready-to-use alternative.

Basic materials needed

  • 55-gallon epoxy-free food-grade drum with lid
  • 4x 24-inch-long ¾-inch threaded pipe 
  • ¾-inch threaded 90-degree elbow joints
  • 12 x 48 – inch piece of expanded metal mesh
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Various fittings (see step-by-step guide)

Tools needed

  • Angle grinder
  • Drill
  • Vise
  • Wrench
  • Cutting table

Skills required

  • Angle grinding
  • Sanding

Step-by-step guide

Head over to popularmechanics.com for a full breakdown of this build, including an exhaustive list of all the parts you’ll need and check out howtobbqright.com for free PDF format CADD plans for your ugly drum smoker.

2) DIY flowerpot smoker

If you’ve got a sudden craving for smoked meat but don’t have a smoker, don’t panic. You’re only one quick trip to your local garden center away from making your own out of a pair of clay flower pots.

Yup, you heard right.

The first thing you’ll need to do is drill airflow holes in your clay planters. To do this without cracking your pot, start with a smaller drill bit and work up to the right size. 

To control the airflow in your pot, shave down a couple of wine corks so that they’ll fit in the air holes.

One of your clay pots is going to act as the charcoal holder. Place a brick in the bottom of that pot and put a small BBQ grate on top of the brick to hold the coals.

Your top pot will be what holds in the smoke. Both pots are going to get quite hot, so it’s best to fit the top pot with a handle through the simple method of drilling two holes in the bottom and installing a standard U-bolt.

Once the drilling and cork shaving is done, you are ready to go. If you have access to a roll of BBQ gasket tape, you can use that to create a better seal between the pots, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

Put your started coals on the grate in the bottom of the pot and add the soaked wood chips. Place your food above it on a basic circular BBQ grill grate and pop the top pot on top to seal it. 

Job done!

Basic materials needed

  • Two clay flower planters
  • BBQ gasket
  • U-Bolt (with nuts & washers)
  • Wine corks
  • Circular grill grate
  • Small BBQ charcoal grate

Tools required

  • Drill

Skills required

  • Drilling

Step-by-step guide

The belairdirect blog has a simple guide to assembling a Flower Pot Smoker, and you can watch them building it in real-time on YouTube

3) Offset smoker using an old gas tank

This build is a fair bit more complicated, but if you have the skills and equipment, it’s certainly a budget way to get yourself an offset smoker.

The old gas tank in question forms the cooking chamber of offset smoker, and the DIY part is adding the frame and the firebox. 

A word of warning. Unlike the ugly drum smoker or the flower pot smoker, this is a complicated build that requires specialist tools, skills, and a fair bit of time.

You’ll need to cut and weld together steel box sections to make the frame, steel plate to make the firebox, and steel tube to make the chimney.

There is also some reasonably complicated metalwork needed to fit all the parts together and make sure there are no leaks and that the airflow correctly circulates the smoke in the cooking chamber.

However, if you are the kind of person that relishes a challenge and has a workshop, this is an excellent way to recycle an old gas tank into something useful again.

Basic materials needed

  • An old gas tank
  • Steel box sections
  • Steel sheeting
  • Steel pipe

Tools required

  • Lathe
  • Angle grinder
  • Welding torch
  • Pivot drill
  • Vise

Skills required

  • Welding
  • Drilling
  • Lathe use
  • Advanced metalwork

Step-by-step guide

You can see a full video of this kind of smoker being built on the TJMake channel on YouTube and a much larger version being created by Taste of Texas Barbecue.

4) DIY file cabinet smoker

Compared to building an offset smoker using an old gas tank, this build is about as easy as it gets. All you need is an old metal filing cabinet, a drill, and some spare time.

You’ll need to get yourself an unpainted filing cabinet because, as with the ugly drum smoker, the epoxy paint used on the painted ones to prevent rust releases toxins when heated up.

Once you’ve got your filing cabinet, which you can get for around $110 brand new or for about $60 second hand, you’ll need to coat it in heat resistant BBQ paint.

Once you’ve done that, drill air holes in the top of the cabinet and through the bottoms of the draws. Then fit your new smoker with two temperature gages on the side, one near the top, one near the middle.

The lowest draw will act as your firebox, and you can put standard BBQ racks in the other draws to hold your food. The build time for this project is about 30 minutes, if that. 

Basic materials needed

  • An unpainted filing cabinet
  • BBQ racks
  • Two temperature gauges
  • Heat resistant paint

Tools required

  • A drill

Skills required

  • Drilling

Step-by-step guide

You really don’t need much of a guide to drilling holes in a filing cabinet, but if you want to see this kind of smoker in action, check out this video by Broke Yakin.

5) DIY smokehouse built from pallets

Unlike a lot of the smokers on this list, this project is both very large and made entirely of wood. 

The build part of this project is quite simple.

You deconstruct old wooden pallets to get the raw materials to build a simple outhouse design, which you then line with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Pallet wood and aluminum screen door material are used to make the shelves that the food sits on and the bottom is a firebox made of aluminum flashing.

You can buy used pallets for this project, it is also possible to find free pallets for reclaimed wood projects. If you can get your pallets for free, you can quickly turn them into a smoker that is big enough to smoke a whole animal carcass for less than $100.

Basic materials needed

  • 20-30 pallets, deconstructed
  • 2 1/2 inch screws 
  • 1 1/4 inch screws
  • Aluminum flashing
  • Corrugated tin roof (4’x3′) *this must be raw metal, not galvanized
  • Heavy-duty tin foil
  • Roll of aluminum screen
  • Handle (for the door)
  • Hinges (3)

Tools needed

  • Reciprocal saw with a bimetal blade (used to take pallets apart)
  • Drill gun, preferably a cordless one
  • Drill bits 1/8 bit and countersink bit
  • Measuring tape
  • Metal/tin snips
  • Utility knife
  • Skil saw, or table saw
  • Staple Gun
  • Safety Glasses
  • Work Gloves

Skills needed

  • Woodworking 
  • Drilling

Step-by-step guide

You can find a detailed guide on how to disassemble your pallets and how to build them back up into your smoker over on diyprojects.com.  

The site also features a three-part video showing you how to do it in real-time.

6) Trash can smoker

Cruftbox

The trash can smoker is a great way to turn a commercially available hot plate and an aluminum trash can into a perfectly serviceable electric smoker.

You simply cut a hole in the side of the trash can so that the flex from the hot plate has somewhere to go.

You then place the hot plate in the bottom of the trashcan, and your wood chip box on top of it.

A standard circular BBQ grill grate holds the food at the top of the trashcan, and when the wood starts to smoke, you put the lid on.

You’ll need to drill some air holes in the lid to improve circulation and a hole in the side for a temperature gauge, but the whole process should take you around 30 minutes and cost less than $50!

Basic materials needed

  • Trash Can w/ lid
  • Electric Hot Plate
  • Grating
  • Wood Chip Box
  • Temperature Gauge

Tools required

  • Drill with metal nibbler bit

Skills required

  • Drilling

Step-by-step guide

You can find a full step-by-step guide over at cruftbox.com, although, since you’re just drilling a few holes in a trash can, you might not need one.

7) Wood and cinderblock smokehouse

atcnick at https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/

If you are looking to build something more permanent to smoke your food, a wood and cinderblock smokehouse lets you make a good-sized smoking area without breaking the bank.

The design of this project is basically a cinder block base with a wooden smoking cabinet on top of it. The smoke comes from a small heat brick-lined firebox that is separate to the smoking cabinet.

The benefit of building a wood and cinderblock smokehouse is that it is quick and easy to build, and once you are done, you have a permanent smoking location with a large amount of space in it.

This added space is ideal for smoking whole carcasses, huge links of sausages, large chunks of ham or beef, and your own cured meats.

Basic materials needed

  • Trash Can w/ lid
  • Electric Hot Plate
  • Grating
  • Wood Chip Box
  • Temperature Gauge

Tools required

  • 2 x 4 cedarwood
  • Black stove pipe
  • Stove door
  • Concrete blocks
  • Clay bricks
  • Fire bricks
  • Fire clay mortar
  • Bolts
  • Door hinges
  • Doorknob
  • Bolt lock
  • 2-1/2 inch deck screws
  • Wood screws
  • Three pieces 16 gauge steel plates
  • Metal mesh

Skills needed

  • Woodwork
  • Bricklaying

Step-by-step guide

You and find a blow by blow account of how this kind of project goes together over on the smokingmeatforums along with loads of helpful advice from other forum posters.

8) DIY smoker on a budget 

Some of the DIY smoker projects on our list are quick to build and cost under $50, but for the ultimate in low-cost DIY smokers, here is how you can create one in five minutes for around $10.

All you need for this build are two aluminum foil baking pans, some stainless steel cooling racks, wood pellets, bulldog clips, and some heavy-duty aluminum foil.

The body of your smoker is made of two aluminum foil baking pans, one on top of the other, held together with bulldog clips. Inside the pans are your stainless steel cooling racks, ideally propped up on a handy brick.

Wrap your wood pellets in foil until you have a pellet burrito. You then cut an air hole in the side of the lower pan and the top of the upper one. 

Light your pellet burrito with a blow torch and place it in the lower pan, next to the airhole in the side. Put your food on the steel racks, clip the pans together, and you’re done!

Basic materials needed

  • 2 aluminum foil baking pans
  • Stainless steel cooling rack or searing grates
  • Bricks (optional) 
  • Bulldog clips
  • Hickory pellets
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Tools needed

  • Utility knife

Skills needed

  • None

Step-by-step guide

You can find a quick and easy guide to this simple smoker over at the Sous Vide Everything channel along with a great recipe for smoked burgers.

9) Building a smoker from a propane tank

This is  an excellent example of how you can take something that would normally be discarded, like a 100lb expired propane tank, and turn it into the DIY bigger brother of the always popular Weber Smokey Mountain smoker

The first thing you are going to need to do is add a little water to your propane tank through the valve. It doesn’t have to be a lot of water, just enough that it will sit inside the tank where you are drilling or cutting and prevent the ignition or any residual propane.

Drill a hole in the bottom of the tank, then fill the entire tank with water through the valve to displace any remaining propane. When it’s entirely full, just let it drain out.

Using an angle grinder, cut the top with the valve on it off the tank. Then you’ll need to draw out two doors, one for the firebox and one for the meat shelves. The sections you cut out will just need to have hinges welded on and then reattached as your doors.

You’ll need to cut an air intake on the front of the firebox door and remove the valve at the top of the tank, replacing it with a steel pipe chimney.

The grates can be standard circular BBQ grates, if you can find ones that fit, or they can be made from expanded metal mesh. Then all you need to do is cut a hole for a temperature gauge and you are basically done.

The original builders suggest using a round metal plate and large water bowl above the wood fire to both protect the meat and retain and moderate the internal temperature.

Basic materials needed

  • Expired propane tank
  • Steel pipe
  • Expanded metal mesh
  • Hinges
  • Heat resistant handles
  • Temperature gauge 

Tools needed

  • Spot welder
  • Angle grinder
  • Drill

Skills needed

  • Metalworking
  • Welding

Step-by-step guide

Andrew W has an excellent step-by-step building guide to how to turn a discarded propane tank into a smoker on YouTube and he even throws in his recipe for ribs cooked in his DIY device.

Wrapping it up

As you can see from our list above, getting a smoker doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make one from a trash can, flower pots, or even just aluminum pans and some stationery. 

Do you have a DIY smoker you’d like to show off? Maybe you’ve built one of the ones we’ve listed, and you have some advice for other pitmasters? We’d love it if you told us in the comments below!

John McCloy

John McCloy

Formerly a brand manager for the UK high street, John gave up that life for the far less stressful job of running his own business. He now likes to spend as much of his free time as possible hunched over a grill, reading about grills, or staring forlornly out of a window as the British weather makes it impossible to use his grill."
bbq brisket sliced open
Barbeque Guides
Joe Clements

Barbecue brisket [checklist]

Mastering barbecue brisket is a badge of honor for the home pit master. It’s not about finding the perfect recipe either. By learning the right

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *