How to Build a Homemade Smoker


With a homemade smoker, you don't need a grill to cook genuine barbecued ribs and chicken. Take a portable cooler and a hot plate, add some wood chips suitable for smoking food, a pie tin to burn the wood chips in, and a rack to put your meat on, and you've got a homemade smoker large enough to smoke ribs and chicken at the same time. The hot plate will cycle on and off, so the temperature in the cooler will stay in the perfect range for smoking, about 200 degrees. It would have to get much hotter for the plastic cooler to melt, so there's no danger of that. You'll need a full-size cooler, the kind you'd take on a weekend camping trip---this is no job for a lunchbox cooler.

Things You'll Need

  • Portable cooler or ice chest (not styrofoam) Portable electric hot plate Three-tiered metal cooling rack Large cake pan or small cookie sheet Metal pie tin Wood chips
  • Put the portable hot plate in the cooler, near one of the sides. Lay the electrical cord over the top of the cooler so the plug is outside.

  • Set the cake pan or cookie sheet on the floor of the cooler, near but not touching the hot plate. Make sure the cake pan or cookie sheet is large enough so the rack can sit inside of it. Put the baker's cooling rack inside the cookie sheet or cake pan. Place the rack so it is not touching the sides of the cooler or the hot plate. The meat goes on the rack, and the cake pan catches the drippings.

  • Put the food you want to smoke on the shelves of the rack. If you're smoking multiple items, put the smaller items on the top shelves. When they're finished, you can easily remove them without taking everything out.

  • Put the pie tin on the burner of the hot plate, fill it with wood chips, and plug in and turn on the hot plate.

  • Close the cover of the cooler, but don't lock the latch.

  • Do not open for at least 3 hours. If the wood chips are almost all charcoal or ashes after 3 hours, add more. Otherwise, replace the cover and check in another hour.

Tips & Warnings

  • Arrange your items to be smoked so air can circulate freely around them. If you can't find a three-tiered cooling rack, put four empty soup cans in the cake pan or cookie sheet and set a single rack on them. Wood chips for smoking are available at supermarkets and home improvement centers.
  • Do not use the smoker indoors. Do not use wood from pine or evergreen trees; it will make your food taste really bad. Do not open the smoker frequently to check your items; it will take longer to smoke them.

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