Build a Barbecue Smoker for $9


Introduction: Build a Barbecue Smoker for $9

I've made a cardboard box smoker before, but I wanted something a little more sturdy, so I made one out of a mini grill and some air conditioning ducts. The total cost for this project was $9 since I got the duct for $3 and the riveter for $6 at the flea market, and I found the mini grill in a dumpster (it's amazing what people throw away in rich neighborhoods). The hot plate belongs to my roommate, but you can use a charcoal or wood fire instead.

Step 1: Materials

1. A piece of sheet steel about 4 foot by 2 foot. Thickness isn't too important, as long as you can bend it into a circle. You might want galvanized or painted steel to prevent rust. I got my sheet metal by tearing apart a duct.
2. Mini grill, or a full-size grill for a larger-capacity smoker.
3. Rivets or screws to hold everything together.
4. Electric hot plate.

You will also need these tools:
1. Power drill.
2. Riveter or rivet gun.

Step 2: Build Process

1. Find the circumference of your grill to make sure the metal is big enough to make a full circle, then add a few inches for the overlap of the joint. Mine came out to about 4 feet.
2. Cut out the metal in the right size.
3. Bend the metal around a pole or other round object to make it into a cylinder.
4. Make sure that the cylinder will fit inside the grill, and that the grate will fit inside the cylinder, then tape the cylinder together.
5. Drill holes through the metal where the two sides of the cylinder come together and rivet these holes together to make a complete cylinder.
6. Add screws or rivets to hold the grate up inside the cylinder.
7. Add a coat of paint if you like.

Step 3: Fire It Up!

My favorite type of meat to smoke is pork ribs, but you can smoke all kinds of meat. My next project is to make elk jerky.

Add a sauce or dry rub of your choice to the meat (good recipes can be found here:,1977,FOOD_9936_11125,00.html and here: )

Place the electric hot plate in the bottom of the mini grill and turn it up all the way. Put a pie plate or other pan full of wet wood chips or sawdust onto the burner, then put the cylinder and the lid on top.

Put the meat on the grill and let it cook for a long time (I would cook it for at least 8 hours). Check on it every 30 to 60 minutes and add more wood chips as needed. You can adjust the vents on the bottom and lid of the grill to allow air in or smoke out.

When the meat is fully cooked, take it out and enjoy!



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    60 Discussions

    Sure, if you don't mind early onset alzheimers ...

    I am also a sheet metal worker and I totally agree with AbraxialF, You would never use galvanized tin in an environment that would pump zinc gas into your food. the reason why all the roman emperors were nuts like Caligula, and Nero, was by drinking wine made in lead coated copper pots..

    Find a piece of light guage black Iron pipe, or have a sheet metal shop make you one, build your smoker and heat it up to 500 degrees for at least an hour, then paint the inside and outside with pitt bull barb-b-que paint, then heat it up again, then you can use it.

    Better to use type 316 Stainless steel, type 304 won't do the trick, it is not food safe.

    type 316 is very expensive because of the high nickel content, and because it is hard on the machinery used in cutting it.

    A piece of 24 inch round pipe would use over half of a ten foot sheet of 24 guage type 316 so plan on buying the whole sheet, plus labor

    One sheet of 316 type b stainless steel 48 inches x 120 inches would cost about $440.50

    i am a sheet metal worker by trade.

    Absolutely do bit use galvanized or coated metal.

    Get uncoated steel, remove the oil and other contaminants from the factory, generally by heating and/or scrubbing with a solvent and then heating to remove solvent, then use high heat special purpose barbecue paint like Pitt Bull paint, if you want to prevent corrosion.

    Yep, I just checked Craigslist. I'm in the Bay Area (SF/Oak) and found 3 available $0 FREE!!

    How about go on Craigslist and search for a used smoker for $20 and not risk poison or developing cancer? Probably even one for FREE out there if you are patient in your search.

    DO NOT MAKE THIS!!! Galvanized piping is poisonous. The sheet metal is galvanized with a coating of zinc. Heat releases the zinc in a gaseous form which will penetrate the food you are smoking. BAD BAD BAD IDEA!!!

    You MUST remove the galvanization from the sheet metal, or use stainless steel.

    I don't have the expertise to comment, but while looking up other smokers, I found this on the Popular Mechanics website:
    "We had a local sheetmetal shop cut the pieces to size and then roll the drum sections for us, which cost about $200. You can use just about anything made of steel--as long as it's not galvanized. If you can find one, try a food-grade steel barrel."

    Read more: Build Your Own Backyard Smoker - Popular Mechanics
    Here is the link:

    1 reply

    Disect a 20gal steel drum (salvaged for $0.00). Apply paint stripper to sheet material according to directions,including cleaning procedure.Rinse after stripper process with cheap store-brand charcoal starter.Allow to dry,then assemble smoker...

    This is extremely hazardous! The galvanized metal is extremely dangerous when it is heated to these temperatures and is a carcinogen! I highly recommend you do not use this until you do some research and use another metal!

    7 replies

    The smoker only gets up to about 200 or 250 degrees F, so I don't think this is much of a problem. If it is really a problem, how would you remove the zinc?

    Do Not use the zinc. You don't know how they applied the galvanized metal. Also Most places i know used Aluminum for their venting now. The problem is that you won't get poisioned right away it will build up in time in your food.

    I make bird cages and have to deal with this all the time. Your best bet is just get aluminum Or steel drum. Just make sure to oil the inside of your smoker well too.

    Ye the air you breath will also eventually kill you.. lol Where we live in Africa the air is so polluted that the sink can not do me more harm.. lol

    Hey Guys,
    First off let me say that I like this idea and think with a slight change to materials it could be awesome. Perhaps someone can offer a cheap alternative to the galvanized stuff.

    I'm a chemist and deposit zinc oxide on surfaces at many different temperatures (25C to 300C). As the comments above state, galvanized metals should NOT be used in food applications. Zinc oxide will contaminate food, even at the temperatures for this application, particularly given the long times involved smoking. It is not necessary to reach the melting or boiling point of a substance in order for it to have a vapor pressure. This is why water will evaporate out of a cup left on the table. Just to make sure I'm not crazy, I checked the MSDS for zinc oxide and have a few numbers/facts for you.

    The OSHA limit for exposure (8 hour work day) is 0.9 BILLIONTHS of a pound/cubic foot of air. (9.36E-7 lbs/ft^3)
    The chronic toxicity exposure is 0.1 THOUSANDTHS of a pound per day. (1.1E-4 lbs/day)

    I know people have commented below about things such as heating ducts etc. I will admit that I am unfamiliar with the details of an HVAC system. However, if galvanized duct is used between the heater and the chimney then any possible contaminates will be vented outside. Also given what I know of environmental rules and those who make them it doesn't mean it's a good idea just because they have approved it.

    Thank you for reading all this. It's just my two cents so feel free to ignore me.


    Fill it w/ wood and light a match. When it gets hot, the zinc burns. It has to get super hot, though.

    I am not sure. See, the problem is price... stainless steel is really pricey but if you get steel sheeting like the stuff you already have, you can paint it with high temp grill paint and that should do the trick. Perhaps you could just use the paint on what you have?!

    My question would be, how toxic is painting the inside? granted it can be done, brake caliper paint is good for about 900 degrees or better and some enamels will be good to 1400 I think...the cheap option is to line this with aluminum foil, no? or rivet on lots of soda cans! I also agree, however, that at true smoking temps (under 300 degrees) this is probably not an issue. Good trick, I used the vents from a Weber grill like this to upgrade my water smoker (Free from a friend)after converting it to propane, a very easy mod as well-I use lava rocks warmed by the LP and drop my wood chunks/chips on the rocks...mmmm smoky meat!

    Just a brief bit of research yielded:
    Lowes sells 10' x 20" aluminum flashing. Its thin material and you can use a standard paper hole puncher to punch for rivets.

    Circumference = Pi x Diameter
    Ex. 14" Grill top diameter requires about 44" of the rolled up flashing. You can get two smokestacks, 38 or so inches tall.

    You can use a yard stick as a guide and a cheap razor knife to cut it. Its lightweight, but can very easily be reinforced. If you want, and at the cost of a little material, you can reinforce it to hold a tank.

    If you "bend" it, you can clamp it between two pieces of wood..... again, a little research on a redneck bending brake...

    I have a son who is allergice to milk, soy, peanuts, and eggs. I make him biscuits, pancakes, cobblers and all kinds of things that he would otherwise not get to experience in life if it was left to commercialization products only. Plus i love to go camping. Through instructables, ive made aclohol coke can burners, Joule thief and fuji camera lights, solar battery as well as peltier devices that, when placed over a cup of boiling water, will keep some leds running for a long time with the simple burning of a tea light candle. I have a weber, table top grill not unlike the one in your instructable. I keep all my cooking supplies inside.

    An additional idea or two.
    Make a spit:
    Rivet a couple of washers, opposite from each other near the top of your smoker. Then devise a "spit". Second hand stores sell oscillating fans for 3 or 4 dollars. The small electric motor generally has a 5 or 6 rpm rating. Use a counter weight to offset the amount of torque required to turn your spit, and it would expand your options. Most come with a capacitor, and through experimentation or research you will have a really cool conversation piece :)

    Make it collapsible:
    It may not interest you, but by thinking out of the box, other people doing other things might would benefit if you were able to "undo" the stack, then re-roll them back up.

    Make it shorter by half and you have the ability to "roast" things at a temperature above 250 deg F. I use open pit cooking to cook briskets, butts and shoulders, but as Charlie Daniels would say, "boy lemme tell you what!", if you take a big ole ribeye thats been covered with your favorite concoction, get you a stoking fire and that smoke stack will trap the heat around that steak and the top will be open. There is a differnce between cooking on the grill top and cooking with the meat an inch or two below the surface. I dont like cooking steaks "covered". I like my meat to be marbelized and not the same temp all the way through.