DIY Smoker




About: built a few things using instructables

Here's an instructable that will hopefully get some of you out there doing it. This is my first, so please be kind. Anyways, this instructable started when I was sitting in the couch watching the food network. The show was on barbeque smoking. I got the thinking, while I don't want to have the oversized 55 gallon smoker in my backyard, I wanted something that was appealing and can serve other functions. I looked into making a keg smoker, 5 gallon smoker, etc. But the one thing was that I had to get those and they actually didn't have the appeal. Then one day, my wife cleaned out our back patio. She emptied out pots that had dead plants. Well, it sat there for about a week. Though it was empty, it still looked okay to the eyes. So I thought, why not make something out of it and this is where the idea came from. I started looking around the internet for ideas. I found some, even instructables, but they didn't appeal to me so I'm creating one that's both easy to make and manage while it's being used. So here we go....

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Step 1: Materials Needed

Here are the tools and materials needed to get it going. Once you have the materials, it's about a 30-45 minute setup.


a drill with a bit (any size will do). This will be used to tap into the top to put the thermometer in. I used a masonry bit.

dremel with a cutter. This will be used to cut the rivet off the handle on the pan.

hammer and tap. To knock out the shaved rivet on the pan

screwdriver. To separate the coil of the burner from the base

needle nose plier. To remove plastic and just in case you need help separating the wires on the burner.


1. Clay pot (not glazed). I used what I had, which was a 15 in diameter clay pot. I've seen people use 18 in. Your choice, but remember, you have to look for a cover or top for it.

2. Top. I scoured around the area to find this. It didn't take me long to find it. I went to a nursery and found a base that would serve as the top. When you're doing this, make sure to take the pot with you so you can see if it fits or not. Cost: $5-12 (got mine for $5 because it had a chip and it was dirty)

3. I could not find a burner in any of the stores that I thought would have it. Even Walmart didn't have it, so I ordered a single buffet burner online at Cost: $10 plus shipping.

4.grill grate. This was easy. Home Depot. Cost: less than $10

5. (Updated) 2 stainless steel pan. This is to hold the wood chunks and water that will do all the smoking. Goodwill cost for both: $3.06

6. Wood chunks. This was again easy. Home Depot. Cost less than $6

7. Thermometer. Again, Home Depot. Cost: about $8

total cost (minus the pot and tools): about $44

Step 2: Taking Burner Apart

This was an easier step than I thought. To take it apart, use a phillips head screw driver and pliers and take the screw placed on the middle of the burner off. Use the plier to hold the bolt down while you take the screw off. Once it's off, notice the wires leading to the burner. Mine was connected with a female connector. Simply remove to separate the burner from the wires, keeping in mind which wire is connected to which part of the burner. You need to do this so that you can put the burner inside the pot and the rest of the burner outside.

Make sure to also remove the plastic that holds the cord in place. I simply twisted the bottom end with the plier until the piece broke. Don't worry, the cord is one piece and it won't hurt it.

Step 3: Install Coil Inside Pot

This is another easy step. Take the coil, place it on the bottom of the pot. Take the wires and put it through the bottom hole of the pot. Connect the wires to the right male ends.

The ends of the coil will be unbalanced when it sits on the bottom of the pot. Use some sort of wedge to balance the coil inside of the pot. Some people have used crushed beer cans. I used a small 1" square tubing.

Step 4: Cut the Handle Off Pan

Take the dremel and cut off the rivets attaching the handle to the pan. Be careful with this one, the dremel may jerk one way or another. Repeat with the other pan.

Step 5: Thermometer Hole

 Take the top cover and using a masonry drill bit, drill a hole big enough to fit the grill thermometer. I used a 3/16 drill bit, but whatever you have should be good just as long as it's big enough for the thermometer to fit in it.

Step 6: Putting It All Together

 Now, put everything together. Place the pan on top of the burner. Put wood chunks on the pan (big chunks last longer). Put the grill grate on. The contour/curvature of the pot will hold the grill grate in place. And finally, put the thermometer in the hole created on the top cover.

Step 7: Turning It On

Make sure before turning it on that it's in an open area. The last thing you want is a smoked filled garage or overhang. Also, keep in mind, this thing will be hot and on for at least an hour or two, so place in an area that it won't be bothered or mishandled.

Put the cover/top on and turn on the burner. Put on medium heat and work from there to get the right temperature. From my research, I found that around 200 degrees is the ideal temp for smoking. You may need to play around with it, so the way it's made, you don't have to worry about opening the cover and adjusting it, all you need to do is adjust from the outside. That's the cool and easy factor in this instructable!!

Step 8: Reflections

 From doing this and immediately putting some ribs on the grill, I noticed a few things to work on.

1. If you're going to grill more than a couple of hours, make sure that you have some sort of way to lift the grate to put more wood chunks in the pan. The amount of wood chunks I put was plenty for the ribs I made. But for future smoke, I plan on putting handles on the grate so I can remove it as I need to.

2. Make sure that you have a glove on when you're handling the smoker for any reason. That thing can get hot!!

3. I'm going to have this as a permanent smoker, so I'll be looking for something to secure the base of the burner to the pot using the same screw hole I removed to separate the coil from the base so when I lift the pot up, the base comes with it.

Overall, it was good way of spending a few hours and enjoying the ribs (it took me longer to do this instructables than actually putting the thing together). 

What I enjoy the most is that my wife hasn't commented about it being an eyesore in the backyard. It actually looks decent sitting next to my grill. If it wasn't for the burner base, it would pass for a decorative item.

Hope everyone enjoyed it and hopefully it will spark some of you to try it. Thank you for reading and hopefully learning something from this instructable.

Step 9: Update

 Here are a few things I updated since the initial build:

1. Got a larger stainless steel pan for the wood and took off the teflon based pan I originally used

2. Got a water pan (again not teflon based), removed the handle and riveted the holes back in so it can hold meaningful amount of water

3. Placed a wire rack to hold the water pan

4. Vented the top to get more air out. After the second time I smoked, I got some bitter tasting meat and I searched for the reason why and it was because there wasn't enough ventilation going through it.

After it was all said and done, I think I've made some great progress. I want to thank everyone for their kind remarks and suggestions. It was really a fun build and I can't wait to smoke more.

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112 Discussions


1 year ago

Is there an issue with possible lead contamination in the pots being transferred to the food being cooked. In my area most large terra-cota pottery are imported from Mexico or China. Is there a way to know the potery is lead free?

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

As I recall, as long as it is not glazed, there isn't lead in the pots. You can google for more recently made terracotta, but I did this about 7 years ago and at that time the only thing I had to lookout for was if it was glazed or not.


2 years ago

should i light the wood chunk first before put it to the burner pan? thanks

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

The idea is to have the burner get hot enough to be able to get the wood to smoke. You shouldn't need to light the wood


2 years ago

I made a cardboard box smoker, worked out the first time but the second time it caught on fire. Should invest in something more heavy... but im too poor to buy basic supplies even if it only costs like 20 bucks.


2 years ago

I,m just reading this...I see the comments are pretty old, but here goes. Idea, what If you mounted the top "flat base" at the bottom, then put the flower pot upside down. ? pointed in up small base..... anyway just a thought reading you post...... :)


3 years ago

Instead of a water pan, can you set a clean soup can or an opened can of beer in the center of wood chunks? Set the pot directly on the burner. Pots are fired at 2000 degrees. Wouldn't this be much easier? You can use a turkey Baster to refill water pan. Those hard , clear silicone ones won't melt

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

Never tried it, but I think it would work. But setting it directly on the burner may boil it too quickly. You'll just have to refill it often if you choose to do it that way. Good luck


5 years ago on Step 2

I used a different method. I used a cheap($4 at Harbor Freight) 30 watt soldering iron poked into a disposable aluminum bread pan. I cut a pallet in half, screwed it back together with wood scraps and stretched window screen through the slats for five shelves and stapled the ends. Covered with a large cardboard box("Barbie's volkswagen" I found out by the road the day after christmas.). Tied the box front with rope and covered with a beach towel. A small flap cut in the top allowed ventilation. Worked great and I had room to smoke up to about ten lbs of cheese at once. It usually doesn't get too hot, but once the whole pan turned into a bed of glowing coals and the cheese on the bottom shelves sweated and sagged a bit(75 F ambient). If I use this in the summer, I'll add a dryer duct.


7 years ago on Introduction

Great instructable! I understand that not all clay is food-grade quality. Did you have any concerns on that regard? Thank you.

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

In my research prior to making this, I found that clay that is without glaze is the type to use. Do not get the ones that have a shine to them. Those are the glazed ones.

cookin fool

7 years ago on Step 8

awesome instructible, let me say that whether or not you soak your chips it isn't a bad idea to use a water pan because it will help keep the meat moist. You could actually flavor the water with apple juice or whatever you like. Thanks I love the idea of taking the hot plate apart, I am so glad I read this because I am making a smoker out of a commercial food warmer and this will help tremendously.

I've been thinking about getting a smoker. Thanks to this I think I'm going to make one. Thanks for the great write-up, it appears direct and simple to follow.


9 years ago on Step 1

 Yeah, I'd definitely avoid getting the wood you plan on using to smoke food from a general lumber store. There's all sorts of chemicals in it and on it, which when burned, will transfer directly into your food. There IS a reason why they sell wood chips specifically FOR smoking food, apart from capitalist greed and flavor.

3 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Yes, Home Depot sells wood chips made specifically for smoking.....same place in the store where you find the charcoal.