Smokers can get quite expensive, but if your budget doesn’t allow for a quality smoker, you can always build one! Yes, that’s true, anyone can build a smoker. In essence, all you need is a closed chamber inside which you can burn charcoal and some wood chips or wood pellets. So, if you don’t want to buy a ready-made smoker – weather you are a creative soul ou you just want to pay less – you can always try some of these 8 awesome ideas: 

1. Propane Tank Smoker 

Using an old 100-lb propane tank to make a smoker is a great way to give new life to something that would otherwise be discarded. Not only this, but you can also build a really good-looking and functional smoker. Now, making this smoker does require some welding and metalworking skills, but if it’s something you’ve done before, making this smoker won’t be terribly difficult. 

Essentially, you’ll only be making slight modifications to the propane tank since the shape is already perfect for a smoker. You’ll need to replace the valve at the top with a chimney, though, and create doors in order to access the inside of the tank. The doors will need hinges, naturally. 

The inside of the smoker is really easy to put together. You will need some cooking racks – and you can use just standard circular grilling racks, or improvise using almost anything you have on hand. In addition to this, there should also be some kind of a cookbox. The effect can be achieved by simply placing a metal plate over the fire so your meat doesn’t get cooked on direct heat. This plate can also be used to add water when you need more moisture inside the smoker. 

And that’s pretty much it! If you install a temperature gauge on the front, you’ll have something pretty similar to the Weber Smokey Mountain. It’s definitely one of our favorite DIY smoker projects. 

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • An empty propane tank (100lb)
  • A steel pipe for the chimney 
  • Cooking racks 
  • Hinges 
  • Temperature gauge 
  • A round metal plate (optional) 

Tools: 

  • Welder 
  • Angle grinder 
  • Drill 

Skills: 

  • Welding 
  • Metalworking 

Video: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBr__bhj3bA

2. Propane Tank Offset Smoker 

Building an offset smoker with an old propane tank is the more advanced DIY offset smoker version. To be honest, we only recommend doing this if you are used to metalwork and know your business. If you are a beginner at metalwork there are easier projects you can do, but if you love working with metal, you can really get creative with this one and we think you’ll really enjoy it. 

The offset smoker made form a propane tank is comparable to ready-made offset smokers, so making it will take some effort. For a start, you’ll need to cut out an opening for the food to go in, just like when building a vertical smoker from a propane tank.

Now, this smoker will also need a stand, which you can build yourself or get one that fits. A firebox on the side is also necessary as well as a chimney. However, if you are skilled in metalworking, you can build all of this by cutting and welding together some steel sheets (and you can use a ready-made steel tube for the chimney).

We will not give you the step-by-step instructions for this one. If you know how to work with metal, you’ll probably be able to create this smoker anyway and if you don’t – this one might be too advanced. In any case, it’s definitely worth a try.

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • An empty 100-lb propane tank 
  • Steel sheeting 
  • Steel pipes 

Tools: 

  • Drill 
  • Angle grinder 
  • Welding torch 
  • Lathe 
  • Vise 

Skills: 

  • Metalwork 
  • Welding 
  • Grilling

Video: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ9YsHysa_E

3. Flowerpot Smoker 

The flower pot smoker is one of the easiest smokers you can build yourself. The process is so easy that pretty much anyone can do it. And, if you have two large clay flower pots lying around  – you can build a smoker and start making delicious meals in no time. Even if you don’t, flowerpots are pretty easy to get and pretty cheap.

The flowerpot smoker basically consists of two flowerpots of the same size placed on top of each other. If your flower pots have holes for draining water that’s actually great –  it means you already got your airflow holes. If not, you’ll need to drill some. In order to control the airflow when using the smoker, you can get some old wine corks to fit in the holes and plug them as needed. And that’s the base of your smoker.

To make the smoker work, you’ll also need a circular cooking rack to place inside. It would also be nice to have another, smaller rack for the charcoal, but it is not a must. To keep all of the smoke inside, it’s a good idea to place a gasket where the two flowerpots meet.

One thing to keep in mind is that both flowerpots will get quite hot when you are using your smoker, so it can be quite difficult to lift the upper pot. To make your life easier, you can install a simple handle on the top by adding a simple U-bolt.

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • Two large clay flower pots
  • Gasket tape
  • A U-bolt with nuts and washers
  • Corks
  • Grates for cooking and for the charcoal

Tools: 

  • A drill

Skills: 

  • Drilling

Video: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjV0qlVho6k

4. Repurposed Drum/Barrel Smoker 

The smoker made from an old drum or barrel is one of the most popular DIY smokers out there, and that’s because it’s super easy to build. Moreover, this smoker is not only made with cheap materials and easy to build, but also works quite well. Most directions recommend a 55-gallon drum, but other sizes can be used as well. However, it is true that the 55-gallon drum is the easiest to find. In addition to this, when getting a drum (or using an old one you have), make sure it hasn’t been treated with epoxy or other coatings that are not food-safe. 

Once you have your drum – which is the main part – make sure to clean it well and finish the process off by brushing the inside with sandpaper to get it really smooth and remove any remaining dirt particles. 

When this is done – the rest is easy. You just use the plumbing supplies that you can buy anywhere to create the air intake and vents for your newly-built drum smoker. 

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • A large food-grade drum with lid 
  • Threaded pipe with fittings 
  • Elbow joints for the pipe
  • Expanded metal mesh

Tools: 

  • Angle grinder 
  • Wrench 
  • Drill 
  • Vise
  • Fine sandpaper 

Skills: 

  • Angle grinding
  • Sanding 

Video: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMoYWrwMpBo

5. DIY File Cabinet Smoker 

Your company is getting rid of old office stuff? Make sure you get your hands on a file cabinet, as this thing can be tweaked into a smoker. What a great way to turn such a boring piece of office furniture into something all of your friends will be jealous of.

Besides looking cool, this smoker is easy to make. First things first, you should thoroughly clean the file cabinet – who knows where that thing’s been throughout the years. Plus, the paint used on it is not fire-friendly. It would be best to sand off the old paint and then dye it with the heat-resistant color of your choice.

Next, you need to drill the holes which will allow the air to flow throughout the smoker. You should make a few holes on the bottom of every drawer. The more, the better – we’d advise making at least 10 on each one. After that, you need to make two openings on the outer side of the cabinet – one for the air to enter and the other for the smoke to leave. The entry hole should be at the bottom, while the exit hole should be located at the top. Finally, make a few openings on one side of the file cabinet, where you’ll install temperature gauges. 

The bottom drawer will be your firebox. Set the fire grate slightly above the air hole created earlier – this way the air comes in under the coal all goes all the way upwards. Place the BBQ grates in meat drawers. 

Remember that handles on the drawers will get hot. You can wrap them with metal coils or replace them with heat-resistant ones.

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • Office file cabinet
  • Heat-resistant paint
  • Temperature gauge(s)
  • Fire grate and BBQ grates

Tools: 

  • Hole saw
  • Sanding machine

Skills: 

  • Drilling
  • Sanding

Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiAmZeqcW2Y

6. The Good Old Trash Can Smoker 

Imagine the look on your friends’ faces when they see a bit of smoke coming out of your trash can… But that’s nothing compared to their expressions once you open the lid and they can see all the juicy meat you’re smoking in it. The element of surprise is our favorite thing about this DIY smoker. The second would be the ease of making. 

Start by drilling a hole lower on the side of the trash can – this is where the cord will go through. Place the burner inside, and pull the cord through that hole. Then, put the wood chip box over the burner.

You need to find a round grate for this smoker. Weber sells these for their grills separately, so you can get those. It needs to be a bit shorter in diameter than the trash can so that it can fit well. Next thing is to make grate holders. Drill 4 equidistant holes up to 10 inches from the top of the trash can. Put in bolts and secure them with nuts and washers. 

The grease pan should go slightly above the wood chips. Take two long threaded rods and run them parallelly through the trash can, then secure them with nuts and washers on the outside. They should be close enough to support a grease pan – for this, you can use any disposable aluminum pan.

You can also install a thermometer gauge on the lid. You don’t want to open the lid every time check the temperature inside the smoker. 

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • Steel trash can with lid
  • Electric burner
  • Round grate
  • Wood chip box
  • Disposable aluminum pan

Tools: 

  • Drill machine
  • Steel bolts
  • Threaded rods
  • Nuts and washers

Skills: 

  • Drilling

Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUS1jeTGc68

7. Wooden Smoker From Deconstructed Pallets  

This smoker is definitely a bit more challenging than other smokers on this list, but the end result is worth every drop of sweat.

This project requires a lot of pallets. Plus, you need to reconstruct them first in order to start making this smoker. Try finding pallets that don’t have many broken slats and visibly warped wood. But even if that’s all you can get, don’t worry, those can still work. In order to deconstruct them, you can use a pry bar, but it’s much easier to use a reciprocating saw with bimetal blades and cut through the nails.

Now comes the hardest part, and that’s cutting the pieces. First, you’ll make a smoker body frame as well as the door frame. Then, you should cut pieces to fill those frames. These boards should have as clean ends as possible.

Screw the frame planks together – this will give you an overall idea of what you’re going for. Now it’s time to place rack holders inside the frame. For that, you should use thinner boards that you’ll screw on both left and right, while making sure they’re parallel. 

Now it’s time to add paneling. Start from the back, working upwards. Once you’re done, screw in hinges and hang the door frame. Add the paneling to it then finish up the roof. Don’t forget to add the handle.

You also have to make the frame for each rack. Then, cut aluminum screen to fit each rack and staple them. Cut two vent holes and line the whole interior with duty tinfoil, which you’ll secure with a staple gun. Attach a tin roof over the smoker and your work is done. It was quite a work but now you can smoke whatever you want.

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • 20 to 30 pallets
  • Tin roof
  • Tinfoil
  • Aluminum screen roll
  • Handle

Tools: 

  • Screws
  • Hinges
  • Reciprocal saw with a bimetal blade
  • Screw gun
  • Skil saw
  • Staple gun

Skills: 

  • Drilling
  • Woodworking

Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG4AjonYgZA

8. The Ultimate Budget Smoker With Aluminum Pans 

It doesn’t get any budget-friendlier than this – the materials for this DIY smoker cost no more than 10 dollars, plus, you can buy them all in a local store. This is a perfect smoker on the go and it’s assembled in a few minutes. Basically, you put two aluminum pans together and smoke food in it. Simple, right?

The first step in making this smoker is to create air openings on the smoker’s body. Take a pan that will be the bottom part of the smoker and make a squared hole on its left side. This is where the air will come in. For the upper pan, make a hole in the top right corner. The smoke will exit there.

Pour two cups of wood pellets into an aluminum foil and fold it. Basically, you’re making a tight burrito out of it. Then, pluck holes onto it with a skewer. Don’t go wild and punch a million holes since the burrito might fall apart. You’ll make more holes later throughout the smoking process. Open up the ends a bit, so that more oxygen comes in and you get a better fire.

Place a burrito inside a bottom pan on the left side, where you already made an air hole. Place two bricks in – these will serve as props for a cooling rack or searing grates, whichever you’ll use. Place the racks/grates, and put the top pan over it. Then, take bulldog clips and connect both pans with it. Light the burrito through the air hole. And there you have it – the ultimate budget smoker!

What You’ll Need

Materials: 

  • 2 aluminum cooking pans
  • Aluminum foil
  • 2 bulldog clips
  • Wood pellets
  • Cooling rack or searing grates
  • 2 bricks

Tools: 

  • Scalpel

Skills: 

  • None

Final Thoughts 

As you have seen, there are plenty of ways to build your own smoker. So which one should you try? Well, the choice will probably depend on what kind of materials you have lying around. If you are building your first smoker, go ahead and use what you have, whether it’s an old file cabinet or a discarded propane tank. We’re sure you won’t regret it!