How to Build a Hot Smoker


Not only does a hot smoker cook food with indirect heat at lower temperatures, it also adds a great taste to meats. These smokers use aromatic woods such as hickory, barbecue and cedar. Two main smoker types are available on the market–wood-burning and electric. Both give the same results, but an electric smoker doesn’t require a lot of clean-up because the wood chips are kept in a wood chip box, rather than left open in the base of the smoker. An electric smoker is also probably the easiest smoker to build, using minimal materials–which makes it an easy build for someone who's never built anything.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal trash can
  • Trash can lid
  • Drill
  • ½-inch drill bit
  • Electric hot plate
  • Metal wood chip box
  • Wood chips
  • Round grill grate
  • Temperature gauge
  • Drill a 1-inch hole near the base of the trash can. You'll pull the electrical hot plate's cord through this hole. Drill four holes in the lid of the trash can. Use the ½-inch drill bit to drill one of the holes. This hole will be where the temperature gauge will rest. Drill three more holes, all 1/4 inch in diameter. These holes are where smoke will escape.

  • Place the electric hot plate in the bottom of the trash can and pull the cord through the hole near the base of the trash can.

  • Soak the wood chips in water for approximately 45 minutes. If you don’t plan on using your smoker immediately, skip this step and do it later. The wood chips must be quite damp to smoke correctly.

  • Place the wood chips in a metal wood chip box made specifically for wood smoking. These wood chip boxes come in a variety of sizes, but a medium-size wood chip box with a depth of at least 6 inches will do for this smoker. Place the wood chip box on top of the electric hot plate.

  • Insert a round grill grate. Since the circumference of a trash can generally gets smaller near the base, it is best use a grate a little smaller than the total circumference–at least 2 inches smaller. This will allow the grate to rest near the top of the trash can and keep it sturdy.

  • Plug in the hot plate and close the smoker with the trash can lid. Insert the temperature gauge and wait until the temperature reaches at least 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at this desired temperature, remove the lid and arrange the meat or other food you plan on smoking on top of the grill grate. Cover the smoker.

  • Smoke the food for approximately three to four hours. It’s important to check the temperature occasionally to ensure that the temperature stays between 240 degrees and 280 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature ever exceeds 280 degrees, remove the lid until the temperature returns to the desired temperature.

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