How To Build A DIY Smoker

Smoking meat is a long process and one that requires a lot of care and patience through the preparation and cooking stages.

The end result is why so many people bother with this style of cooking, as the meat and other foods take on a unique and smoky flavor that simply can’t be recreated anywhere else, but buying a brand new smoker can be expesnive.

Is it possible to build a DIY smoker then and save yourself some money in the process?

There are a few methods you can use to create your own homemade smoker and depending on your skill set and available materials, they could be worth doing. Creating a homemade smoker will take time though, and the task is better left to someone with some existing knowhow for DIY projects.

This guide can you show every step you need to take to make a DIY smoker, the tools and materials you’ll need, and what other options are out there when you consider this project.

With your own smoker, you’ll open up a world of flavorsome choices for your next cookout and be able to wow friends and family with your handy DIY skills.

Can You Build a DIY Smoker?

DIY smoker

It is possible to build a DIY smoker at home, provided you have the tools and know-how available.

Before starting any project like this though it’s important to weigh up the cost and effort of buying a store-bought product and making it for yourself.

When it’s easier to just buy one brand new, this is always the best approach.

Some people enjoy the challenge of a DIY project and regardless of the material costs or time it will take, they’re still willing to give it a go.

Thankfully, there are many variations of methods for making smokers so you have plenty of options to try.

However, for your first attempt, something straightforward and non-technical is best.

With that in mind, we’re going to show you how to make a drum smoker which is the cheapest, and easiest of all of the homemade smoker projects.

This is an easy project that you can create at home and hopefully get some use out of, which might push you to upgrade one day and purchase a professional smoker for even better results.

Making your own smoker does come with some concerns though, mainly because it will be used to cook and prepare food.

Most importantly, you need to make sure that the drum you’re using has been thoroughly cleaned and was not used to store chemicals, otherwise, you can purchase one brand new that’s never been filled.

Drum Smoker DIY: Materials and Tools

55-gallon drums

Before you start any DIY project, you need to assemble all of your tools and materials to make sure you have everything prepared.

To make a drum smoker, there’s surprisingly little that you’ll need, so here are the essentials and what purpose they’ll serve for this project.

  • 55-gallon drum: This size is ideal for smoking meat and if it doesn’t come with a lid, you can cut one off. The drum should have only been used for food grade materials and never harsh chemicals. You can purchase them brand new for a higher price if needed
  • Sawzall: Or other reciprocating saw to make cuts to your drum when required
  • Dishwasher detergent: This is the only cleaning method you’ll need to use to get rid of residue from the drum if you haven’t purchased one brand new
  • Weed torch/flame element: Some way to heat up the drum so that the oil or contents inside are burned off
  • Pressure washer: For cleaning the drum, only required if a second-hand one is used
  • 2 x cans high-temperature Rustoleum primer and 2 x cans grill spray paint: For coating the outside of the drum
  • 1 x large metal lid handle: To attach to the drum so the lid can be removed safely
  • 2 x side metal handles: For picking up the drum by the side
  • Cooking oil and 5lbs bag of charcoal: Used to season the inside of the smoker before you get started using it
  • Drill: To make holes for air flow
  • 3 x 3” metal caps: Caps with a bolt and lock tightened nut to go over the air holes
  • 21” circular metal grate: The cooking grate that will be fastened inside the smoker
  • 4 x 3” L shape brackets and 4 x ¼” bolts: To attach and hold the grate in place
  • Cast iron pan: To act as the water pan for the smoker
  • Chimney charcoal starter: Can be purchased from a hardware store to place inside the smoker
  • Baking pan: Used as the ash catcher

The Step by Step Guide to Making a DIY Drum Smoker

Assemble your tools and materials to prepare for making your DIY smoker.

This project can be completed in just a few hours and will be ready to use as soon as the primer and paint have dried the next day.

Follow these simple steps to make your own DIY drum smoker from scratch.

  • ​If your 55-gallon drum doesn’t already have a lid, use your reciprocating saw to cut one by measuring 3” from the top and making a clean cut. Hammer the edges of the lid so they stretch out and that it can then be used to sit on top neatly
  • ​Drums that have been used previously and still have contents inside need to be cleaned thoroughly. You can do this with dishwashing detergent and warm water which helps to break down the oil. Make sure it’s a drum without a liner, like one used for organic oil
  • ​Once clean, you need to apply heat to the drum to get rid of any remaining materials and remove paint from the outside. This can be done with a weed burner or you can simply start a safely controlled fire inside the drum, as long as you can ensure no cold spots during heating
  • ​Clean the drum with a high powered pressure washer to get rid of any final debris or burnt areas. You can take it to a car wash for this if you don’t have access to one at home and let it dry before the next step
  • ​Use your two cans of Rustoleum high-temperature primer to coat the outside of the drum including the lid. Do not spray the inside of the drum at any point
  • ​For the outside, use two cans of Rustoleum grill spray paint to cover it. You can also make any other artistic touches you wish to on the outside
  • ​Once dry, drill the top handle into the lid directly in the middle and in the position you want to hold it
  • ​Coat the entire inside of the drum with cooking oil to protect the metal from future corrosion. Take the bag of charcoal and light it before placing into the drum and let it smoke and season over time
  • ​Once cooled down, choose three spots on the bottom of smoker for your air holes and make sure they’re evenly spaced. Using the drill, make 3” holes and then cover them with the metal caps you purchased
  • ​Near the top of the drum, drill the four brackets and bolts in equally spaced positions to hold your grill in place. Sit the grill on top of the brackets to make sure it fits
  • ​Place the old baking pan down first on the bottom of the barrel smoker, followed by the charcoal chimney starter, and then the cast iron pan on top. Fill the pan with water if you plan on using the smoker right away
  • ​Install the final two handles on either side that will allow portability when you want to move the drum. Your homemade DIY smoker is now complete and ready to be used

​Using Your Homemade Smoker

With your DIY smoker complete, you can get started right away using it to cook.

There are a few things to think about when making smoker recipes and it’s a method that requires preparation and patience regardless of what meat you plan on cooking.

  • Choose the right cut of meat: The meat you choose will have a huge impact on how it smokes, with the higher fat content cuts being better options for smoking due to their ability to absorb the flavors
  • Select your wood: The wood can impact the final taste and should be paired with the meat and recipe you’re trying to create
  • Understand temperatures and cooking times: All meat should be cooked with the use of a temperature probe to get them perfect, and you need to understand the cooking time per pound for each cut

​Other Types of Homemade Smokers

The internet is full of projects for people who want to experiment with DIY smokers.

The key to a good DIY project is one that will cost less than purchasing the item brand new and can hopefully be done with materials you have handy at home.

With that in mind, here are some other options for a homemade smoker that can be made relatively easily at home.

Pallet smoker

A smokehouse can be built using old pallets in conjunction with a barrel or drum.

They can range up to 3 feet in size and are ideal for people who want to smoke large animals or excess amounts of meat at once.

Barrel smoker

Just like a drum smoker discussed earlier but harder and more expensive to make, these require welding and additional materials.

A barrel smoker has the meat and wood fire separate which means greater control of the temperature, but a lot more work.

Filing cabinet smoker

One bizarre item you might have at home that could be fashioned into a smoker is an old filing cabinet.

The drawers can be used to place the meat and with some adjustments, you can add a fire box, but good luck trying to regulate the temperature on them.

Clay pot smoker

If you happen to have some large terracotta pots at home they could be repositioned on top of each to create a smoker.

You’ll need to install a grate on the inside to place the meat and insert a heating element in the bottom so that the wood chips can get heated to the ideal temperature.

Brick smoker

Almost like making a brick house, these smokers require a little more effort and know-how.

A brick smoker usually comprises of two parts; a grill and a smoker to the side, but you can make just the smoker if you wish.

You’ll need some sort of burner in the back and a wood chip tray, as well as adequate space inside the brick house for your meat.

Related Questions

Nothing compares to the flavor of smoked meat and this flavor alone is what draws so many people to invest in or make their own DIY smoker.

These are some frequently asked questions and answers about smoked meats to give you some insight into this traditional delicacy.

How Much Does a Meat Smoker Cost?


There are many different styles of smokers on the market today and a quality one can range in cost from $150 and easily into the thousands.

Depending on their size, materials, and the manufacturer, this price can vary quite a bit.

Making your own DIY smoker can be done for under $200 if you have some tools available to start with.

Can You Smoke Food Other Than Meat With a Smoker?

The most common way to use a smoker is for meat but you have other options for how to cook with it.

Cheeses, bread, tomatoes, oysters, nuts, and fish are just some things you can smoke for the unique flavor that this style of cooking offers.

What Is Cold Smoked Meat?

Cold Smoked Meats

Cold smoked meat is where the meat goes through a curing process first to dry it out and prevent bacteria from growing.

It does not essentially cook the meat like it does with a hot smoking session and is not ideal for all types of meats and seafood.

The temperature remains between 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit and cooking times generally take a few days to complete.

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