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How To DIY Your Own BBQ Smoker
A barbecue smoker consists of a drum similar to that of a regular barbecue and that drum is called the smoker and is where the meat is placed to be smoked.
Added to this is a smaller drum which is called the fire box as this is where the fire is and is what provides the heat for the smoke to be generated and pass into the smoker.
- To make both these main and essential parts for a smoker you can use 10-ga steel sheet 4ft x 10ft as this can be cut to make a round smoker box 36” long and 18” in diameter plus a round firebox 12” long and 18” in diameter which will leave you enough steel to cut out 4 x 18” diameter circles for the ends of the two boxes.
- The cut sheets should be rolled and welded in order to make the drum shape and then the ends welded onto them.
- The two drums should then be linked with a 2” pipe, removable but secure when connected to each which will allow the smoke to pass through. A 2” water pipe with collars can be used for this.
- A door on each of the boxes should be cut out and then joined back on with piano hinge riveted to the boxes.
- Wooden handles can then be bolted onto the doors to allow easy access. If you intend to move the smoker and not keep it in the same position all the time, you can add additional handles on both side of both the smoker and the fire box in order to make it more mobile.
- A frame should then be made to set the smoker in and appropriate lengths of 1” thin wall tubing can be used for this.
- The smoker will sit in the frame and the fire box which should be joined at the top to the bottom of the smoker can be bolted onto the side of the frame. For ease of assembly and disassembly it is recommended that wing nuts be used to connect the fire box to the frame.
- You would of course have cut a 2” hole in both the smoker and the fire box in order to connect them with the 2” pipe, but you will also have to cut one more 2” hole in the fire box at the opposite end to the connection and this will act as a damper. The top of a soup can could be removed and bolted to the fire box above the damper hole to allow control of air entering the box.
- Although your smoker may now look ready for use, it is of course bare metal and so it will need to be painted before you use it.
- Prior to painting however, you should fire it up in order to burn off any debris or oils leftover from the welding process.
- Once the drums have cooled you can then wash them allowing them to dry before applying the paint.
- Finally, you will need to cut a grill to size allowing it to fit snuggly into the smoker. If you also want to add fire bricks to the bottom of the fire box, you will extend its life.
What Is The Difference Between A BBQ Grill And A Smoker?
Although at first glance a BBQ grill and a smoker may look the same, but on closer inspection you will see that the smoker has an extra area which is the fire box as foods in a smoker are not placed directly above the heat like they are in a BBQ.
As the food is placed directly over the heat on a BBQ grill, it cooks quickly and efficiently but, even if you add damp wood to the fire, it will not give the food a true smoked flavor.
As food in a smoker is cooked slowly only by the smoke from the heat source, it obviously takes longer to cook but when it is cooked it has a full smoked flavor.
Whilst some people prefer a BBQ grill, others prefer a smoker but this is not just a matter of taste as it also depends on what exactly you are planning to cook.
For instance, if you are planning to cook some vegetables like Corn Cobb on the grill as well as your meats, a BBQ grill will be needed as vegetables will not survive the slow cooking process of a smoker. Also if you are only planning on cooking some hot dogs and burgers, a BBQ is probably your best bet too as on a grill they are quick and easy.
If however you are planning to cook a variety of ribs or perhaps even a whole chicken, they are best cooked on a smoker nice and lowly.
Which Foods Can Be Cooked On A Smoker?
Although a smoker is very versatile and can therefore smoke a wide range of meats, meats and fish are really the only foods which are suitable for the slow cooking process that a smoker provides. The versatility of the meats a smoker can cook though is wider than that of a grill or BBQ.
Whereas a BBQ or regular grill can cook a variety of meats from sausages, burgers to chicken and steaks, a smoker can also cook those but in addition can cook a large amount of ribs or chops and even whole chickens or a turkey.
Perhaps unfortunately though, even if you are just smoking small amounts of meat it will take much longer than they would take to cook on a regular grill and although it can smoke whole chickens, it may take hours not minutes to do so.
What Fuels Are Used With A Smoker?
Today it is possible to buy all kinds of smokers and depending on the one you buy will determine in many cases which types of fuel you use.For instance, as with modern BBQs some smokers are electric but even the electric ones will probably require you to add an additional fuel as electricity only provides the heat and not the smoke.
A traditional two-barrel smoker though with a smoker barrel and a fire box are said to provide the best results if a charcoal and wood combination is used.
In these instances, the charcoal is lit and allowed to get very hot before anything else is done, perhaps 20 minutes or so. Once the charcoal is adequately heated to the point it starts to produce ash and is burning white, wood should then be added.
Some people recommend that chunks of wood are used as opposed to wood chippings as the chunks provide more smoke. The wood will also provide more smoke if it is wet and so if the wood you intend to use is dry, consider wetting it before placing it in the smoker.
Remember, it is the smoke which will be cooking the meat and not the charcoal or wood so the more smoke the better.
It is because the meat is cooked slowly just by the smoke that it, when cooked, has its delightful smoky taste. The actually smoky taste will depend on the type of wood used, as hickory for instance will provide a nice bacon like smoky taste whilst maple will provide a milder, sweeter flavor.
Is It Difficult To Use A BBQ Smoker?
Using a BBQ smoker is perhaps even easier than using a regular BBQ grill as the meat cooks slowly and so does not have to be watched every minute in case it burns.
As meat cooked on a regular BBQ grill is cooked directly from the heat source it cooks quickly and if not watched could quickly and easily burn.
As a smoker cooks the meat by indirect heat, heat from the smoke, the meats take longer to cook and depending on the amount and size of the meat you are smoking can take anywhere from 2 to 20 hours to cook properly.
As with a regular BBQ though you should notice the temperature and try to maintain it at the recommended level for what you are cooking.
With a smoker however, once you have ensured it is the correct temperature before placing your meat inside to cook, it only needs to be checked now and then as the process usually maintains the same temperature only needing the baffles to be adjusted from time to time.
When To Smoke And When To Grill?
Although this is a question often asked, there is no definitive answer as often it is a case of personal preference only. However, if you want to cook large meats like whole chickens you will have to use a smoker.
If you intend to only cook smaller portions you may want to consider if you want to stand over the grill for a couple of hours or just check on the smoker every now and then but, if you do opt to use the smoker remember you will have to start to cook a lot earlier.