How To Make A Smoker (4 Unique Ways)

Thinking about making a DIY smoker? 

You’re in the right place!

In this guide, you’ll learn: 

  • 4 unique ways you can replicate
  • Step by step instructions on how to make a smoker
  • Safety tips
  • And much more!

Because you’ve clicked this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve been interested in adding a smoker to your grilling set up.

Smokers aren’t the most inexpensive additions you can have in your yard or patio.

In frustration, you may have half-meant it when you said, “I might as well just build one!”

Now, that isn’t a bad idea.

Follow our guide for inspiration of building your own smoker.

What’s a Smoker?

One of the most common questions we get asked is what a smoker is and how it’s different from a grill.

It’s important to know the difference, especially now as you try to make the former and not the latter.


A grill allows you to heat your food atop a surface that is left open or often uncovered.

Grilling your food requires that you flip the meat every now and then to avoid scorching one side.

In short, you grill mainly to cook your meat as opposed to a smoker where you get cooking and flavoring at the same time.


A smoker has the same basic components as a grill, such as an area for coal and cooking grates or a grid.

Unlike a grill, a smoker has an area where you can add pellets or wood.

Most importantly, a smoker will likely have a cover over the cooking grate to keep smoke from the wood inside.

The smoke that comes from the wood of your choice gives your smoked meat its flavor.

Read More >> How To Season A Smoker (5 Easy Steps)

fact about homemade smokers

4 Unique Ways To Make A Smoker

If you’re making a smoker at home, you want to at least have some options or inspiration to draw from. 

Here are 4 unique ways you can make one of your own. These are inexpensive and don’t require a lot of skill.

  1. Garbage Can
  2. Flower Pots
  3. Old Oil Drum
  4. File Cabinet
Garbage Can Smoker
Photo Credit: Mighty Man Handyman

How To Build a Smoker Using an Old Garbage Can

You heard it right. You can use an old garbage can to make a smoker.

Of course, if you plan on doing this, clean your garbage can thoroughly.

If you’re buying one, select one that has not been coated with paint or epoxy to avoid making your meat taste like plastic.

You’ll need the following:

  • An old garbage can that has a lid
  • A barbecue grill grate that has the same circumference as your garbage can (can be a bit smaller)
  • A wood chip box
  • An electric hot plate
  • A drill

Here are the steps to creating your very own garbage can smoker:

  1. Drill a hole on one side of the garbage can
  2. Place the electric hot plate at the bottom of the garbage can
  3. Place the wood chip box on top of the hot plate
  4. Add the barbecue grate at the mouth of the garbage can

Step 1: Drill a Hole at One Side of the Garbage Can

The hole should be large enough for your hot plate’s electrical cord to fit.

For this reason, the hole should be near the bottom of the garbage can.

Step 2: Place the Electric Hot Plate at the Bottom of the Garbage Can

After placing the hot plate at the bottom, run its cord through the hole you just drilled.

The hot plate will act as your garbage can smoker’s firebox.

Step 3: Place the Wood Chip Box on Top Of the Hot Plate

The wood chip box is where you can add your preferred wood chips.

The hot plate underneath heats the contents of the wood chip box to give your meat its flavor.

Of course, the flavor depends on the wood chips you used.

Step 4: Add the Barbecue Grate at the Mouth of the Garbage Can

It’s a good idea to get a barbecue grate that’s nearly the same size as the mouth of your garbage can.

You might be tempted to weld this onto the mouth of the can, but remember that your wood chip box is at the bottom.

The grate needs to be detachable for this reason.

If you want to weld the grate in place, create a hole where the wood chip box is. This will give you access to the wood chip box when you need to add pellets or wood for your smoker.

Read More >> Best Pellet Grills Under $500

Flower Pot Smoker
Photo Credit: DIY Joy

How To Make a Smoker Grill Using a Pair of Flower Pots

A pair of unused flower pots can double as a smoker. Of the improvised smokers in this post, this will probably be the one that requires the least handyman skill.

Gather the following:

  • Two clay pots of similar sizes
  • A small cooking grate
  • A drill
  • A cork (or two)

Follow these two simple steps to create a smoker using a pair of flower pots:

  1. Drill a hole at the base of one flower pot
  2. Place the cooking grate at the mouth of the other flower pot

Step 1: Drill a Hole at the Base of One Flower Pot

The flower pot you are drilling will act as the cover of the smoker.

The hole is where you insert the cork for temperature or smoke control.

The other flower pot is where you will cook your meat.

Step 2: Place the Cooking Grate at the Mouth of the Other Flower Pot

Simply add the cooking grate on top of the pot to create the grill portion of this DIY smoker.

As with the garbage can smoker, you don’t have to permanently fix the grate onto the pot as you’ll need to lift the grate to be able to place your coal or wood underneath it.

Read More >> The Best Smokers

DIY Drum Smoker
Photo Credit: 247 Sports

How To Make an Ugly Drum Smoker

If you want to make a cheap smoker and put your handyman skills to the test, make an ugly drum smoker your next weekend project.

You’ll need an old oil drum, its lid, and these other tools and materials:

  • Bolts and nuts
  • A threaded pipe with a valve
  • An elbow pipe
  • A sheet of expanded metal
  • Two cooking grates
  • A drill
  • A welder
  • An angle grinder

You’ll have to assemble the different parts of the drum smoker. The parts are:

  • The lid
  • The air intake
  • The drum smoker’s body
  • The fire basket

This inspiration came from Popular Mechanics.

You can assemble the parts in any order.

We prefer prioritizing the drum smoker’s body, which is why its assembly is the first step.

Step 1: Assemble the Drum Smoker’s Body

Assembling the drum smoker’s body involves creating holes for the air intake.

You’ll also have to drill holes for the nuts and bolts that will support the cooking grate.

You need to drill a holesat the side of the barrel that is as big as the elbow pipe you have. This will be the site of the air intake.

Also place one cooking grate at the bottom of the drum, while the other goes on top where you have screwed on the nuts and bolts that will support it.

Step 2: Assemble the Fire Basket

The fire basket ensures that the flames at the bottom of the drum do not spread to the sides. Only the heat will spread via convection.

To assemble the fire basket, cut it with your angle grinder to your desired size.

Roll it and place it at the bottom of the drum on top of the first cooking grate.

Step 3: Assemble the Air Intake

Take the threaded pipe and tighten it onto the elbow pipe.

Once you’ve done this, weld the elbow pipe onto the hole created specifically for it.

If you want, you can mount a thermometer or temperature gauge beside the air intake.

Step 4: Assemble the Lid Handle

You can find ready-to-mount lid handles in any hardware store.

Drill a few small holes on the drum lid that can accommodate the screws of your lid handle.

Given the size of the lid, you may need to mount more than one handle.

Read More >> Best Smoker Grill Combos

File Cabinet Smoker
Photo Credit: Michigan Sportsman Forum

How To Use a File Cabinet To Make a Smoker (3 Easy Steps)

Do you have an old file cabinet lying around? You can actually use it to make a smoker!

The multilevel design of a file cabinet takes out most of the work.

In fact, making a file cabinet smoker is much easier than using a drum.

You will need:

  • An unpainted file cabinet
  • A drill
  • A couple of barbecue racks

Simple to build, a file cabinet smoker only requires you to:

  1. Drill holes on the sides of the cabinet
  2. Drill holes on the upper drawers
  3. Mount barbecue racks on the drawers

Step 1: Drill Holes on the Sides of the Cabinet

You want to drill holes that are about two inches in diameter.

For each side, you want to drill two to four holes, with at least 2 at both sides of the cabinet’s base.

The other holes can be on the same level as the upper drawers or the top of the cabinet.

Step 2: Drill Holes on the Upper Drawers

Remove the upper drawers and drill holes at their bases.

The holes will allow heat and smoke from the bottom drawer to reach your meat.

The bottom drawer acts as your charcoal or wood feed box, so you don’t have to do much to the bottom drawer.

Step 3: Mount the Barbecue Racks on the Upper Drawers

After you’ve made holes on the upper drawers, put barbecue racks on them. This is where your meat will sit.

You can secure the racks by welding them on or sitting them on top of bent nails.

Read More >> Best Propane Smokers 

Safety Tips When Making A DIY Smoker

When it comes to using tools, safety is always a top priority. That’s no different when making a smoker that you intend to put food in or on.

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

There are so many other ways to make a DIY smoker and we’ll continue to add to this list. 

If you have an idea, let us know by dropping a comment below.

If you want to learn more about grilling, check out these other helpful resources!

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Shawn Hill

Hey, I'm Shawn and I love this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family. I'm here to help you learn more about grilling, smoking, and backyard BBQ! With almost a decade of manning the grill and helping over 25,000 aspiring grill masters, you're in great hands! I've tried just about every type of grill, accessory, and gadget you can imagine. Because of that, I am here to help guide you to the best of the best and help you save time and money by avoiding the junk.

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