How to Make a Cardboard Smoker

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Introduction: How to Make a Cardboard Smoker

Feel like real BBQ? Don't have a smoker? Don't feel like spending more than 10 bucks or so? Like Alton Brown? Here's how to make a very serviceable smoker out of a cardboard box and some other things you might have laying around the house.

This rig worked remarkably well. The biggest problem was getting the temperature high enough. You want to cook BBQ at around 225 degrees F. If you can't get your smoker up that high, you can still use it to smoke, then finish whatever you're cooking in the oven.

Step 1: Get a Cardboard Box

You need a box that's big. But not too big or you'll never be able to heat it up. My box is about 4 feet high, and two feed square. This is actually on the larger end of the size you want. Cut a hole in the bottom as shown, so that you can change the wood chips out during the cooking. Its a lot easier if you leave the bottom attached to use as a hinge.

Step 2: Add Dowels to Support the Racks

You'll need at least one rack in the box to hold the food you're cooking. Ideally, you should also add another rack so that you can have a drip pan. This will keep your food from dipping onto the pan with the wood chips, which could start a fire. This would be very bad, since cardboard is pretty flamable. I used wooden dowels stuck through the box.

Step 3: Add the Racks

I used a cooling rack to hold the food, and a disposable baking rack for the drip pan.

Step 4: Add Your Heat Source

For a heat source I used a hotpot. I put an old cast iron skillet I had lying around on it and fill it with wood chips. I tried both dry and soaked chips, and both worked equally well. The soaked chips just took awhile longer to start smoking and brought the temperature of the smoker down.

Step 5: Monitor the Temperature

A probe style thermometer is very useful to monitor the temperature inside the smoker

Step 6: Start Smoking

I smoked a pork shoulder. Google and you can find hundreds of recips for rubs and marinades.

Step 7: Close It Up and Let It Smoke

Close the box and let it smoke. Keeping the box closed will keep the temperature up, which is good since this whole thing is being heated by a hotpot. Ideally, you want the temperature to be around 225 degrees F. When you see the smoke stop, change out the wood chips. For me this was every hour and a half or so

Step 8: Remove Your Food

This is after a seven hour smoke. I would have smoked it longer, but I got started too late in the day to go the full 12 to 14 hours pork BBQ normally takes. I finished cooking it in the oven, until it hit an intenal temperature of 190 degrees F.

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    58 Comments

    0
    AJDonahue
    AJDonahue

    2 months ago on Step 8

    Question: I have a single eye electric induction cooktop. Would this be ok?

    0
    grillmaster
    grillmaster

    11 months ago on Introduction

    Nice job, well done. I have 6 real smokers but this looks like a fun project. I'm gonna try this. I think I can incorporate my smoke generator to work in this as well. Thanks

    0
    wackizacki11

    Thanks for this and also the hints and tips from other commenters. I wanted (and still will get a actual smoker someday still deciding which) to do a project like this as the wife is so frugal she always talks me out of buying or ordering one online etc. Again the perfect substitute btw I was thinking of using an old metal storage box and some extra computer case fans to help with airflow etc instead of cardboard and venting , but all the same got some good ideas here thanks again,nice setup the end product meat looked great imo.

    0
    sharpstick
    sharpstick

    1 year ago

    Some suggestions: Add a small muffin fan to circulate the air and make the temperature consistent. Regulate the temperature with a controller. (Raco and Johnson make brew controllers that you plug anything into.) If your box gets too hot, use that controller to operate a venting fan. Cover the box with old towels or blankets to insulate it if the heat doesn't build up enough. I would not use cardboard for the floor. Just set the box on a non flammable surface.

    0
    FreddyM42
    FreddyM42

    Question 3 years ago on Step 4

    What setting do you have the hot spot at?

    0
    boombam
    boombam

    13 years ago on Step 8

    why the hell is the meat blue??

    0
    omnistructable
    omnistructable

    Reply 4 years ago

    I think it may be the light reflected on it that makes it look blue.

    0
    aesimpleton
    aesimpleton

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 8

    Could be creosote, which builds up on smoked meat if you don't have good enough airflow. It makes the meat bitter and numbs the tongue, though it varies considerably and some people don't notice (likely due to the numbing effect).

    0
    omnistructable
    omnistructable

    4 years ago

    I like this! I like a mans with a plan. Although there is a small chance of catching fire, I'm sure if you have the brains to do this you will also know the dangers and watch it all time. Damp the card box every now and then will help. I have done this many times, cooking fish next to the lake.

    0
    lhau
    lhau

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Ist so ein Räucherofen nicht gefährlich , der könnte sich doch entflammen oder nicht ????

    0
    Boose537
    Boose537

    Reply 4 years ago

    Solange das Feuer nicht die Seiten der Box berührt. Auch das Fleisch sollte nicht auf die Box tropfen. Dann sollte es in Ordnung sein. Viel Glück! C;


    Wen interessiert es, wenn dies fünf Jahre zu spät ist.

    0
    ehmbee
    ehmbee

    13 years ago on Step 1

    There are a few things worth noting for anyone who wants to try this-first off, if you have lined with foil throughout your smoker, there is little fear of fire, IMHO-paper and cardboard ignites much hotter than the 220 degrees considered optimal for good smoking. Also a slow cook with low cooking temp is unlikely to result in grease splatter while cooking-we aren't deep frying here...the most likely spill would be as you are removing the bird or checking/mopping/spraying it to keep it moist. Also I have learned that newer hot plates are often wired to shut off in these homebuilt smoke chambers-something about a sensor or resistor that senses the ambient heat, mistaking it for a short in the plate element (?)-this can be bypassed, or you can search for an older hotplate at your local thrift or yard sales without such ridiculous failsafes, lol. Finally, your smoking should only have to be 10 hrs max-any more and you can bitter the meat. 8 hours with a finish in the oven (wrapped in foil) keeps it nice and moist up til the end-let her sit for about 20 minutes before you cut. Enjoy.

    0
    spark master
    spark master

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Remember the Book FARENHEIT 451, that is the temp that paper bursts into flames

    0
    ClayOgre
    ClayOgre

    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm...they say you shouldn't bake turkeys in paper bags from the store, due to potential toxic fumes from the paper bag, glue, etc. I wonder how safe this is.

    0
    spark master
    spark master

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My plants used wheat glue to make bags, and if NOT PRINTED ON should be fine, if made in USA, if made in China they might be made of used toilet paper, who knows.

    0
    M F
    M F

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I don't think you would have trouble cooking in grocery bags. I am sure the FDA. has rules on chemicals touching the food. But... I hear that many cardboard companies use pesticides in the cardboard. Have you noticed that you never EVER see roaches in boxes?

    0
    chefmaranuk
    chefmaranuk

    15 years ago

    I am an assistant scoutmaster and i also teach cooking merit badge. I have tried this cardboard box smoker at home with the electric burner. I was wondering, does any one believe i could do this on our next camping trip, but instead of the electric hotplate, use sternos (the liquid or gel can fuel from a party store) to get the same effect? I've read previous posts about a possible fire, however, do you think sternos get that hot. ALso do you think a sterno or canned fuel taste will be the outcome on top of the great smoke flavor?

    0
    spark master
    spark master

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I know this was 7 years ago...but alky spirits can leave a taste, esp. sterno which has jelling ingredients,(sodium acetate?) Did you ever try it?