How to Make a Trashcan Smoker

About: David is a professional firearm instructor and Emergency Preparedness Author, He has 10 published works and his website is devoted to teaching individuals how to be better prepared for life and life's disast...

Intro: How to Make a Trashcan Smoker

Today we are going to make a homemade cold smoker because being able to smoke foods for preservation was a key pioneer ability. Being able to smoke foods for taste is a prime hobby for many modern men. There is a difference in the times and levels of smoking, but the process is the same, low temperature smoking chambers that surround the meat in smoke from either a small or a separate fire. You can buy smokers, but they typically cost more than my wife will let me spend on a “grill”, this means if I want one I would have to make it.

I happened to have a small kettle type grill laying around, I had broken it, and then welded the leg back, but it was not awkward for tailgating, so I never use it anymore.

Sorry there is not a more pictures, but the video at the end shows the entire process.


Step 1: What You Need

Using the old grill as a base, I went to the local hardware store and bought:

  • a new steel garbage can
  • some steel flexible hose (NOT Mylar dryer vent)
  • some metal duct “starters”
  • a couple hose clamps
  • some metal grill grates
  • some bolts, nuts and rivets.

It basically cost around $50 for this build.

Step 2: Cut the Metal

I cut a hole in the top half of the old grill, and the same sized hole in the side of the garbage can a couple inches from the bottom.

These holes were the same inner diameter of the starters.

Step 3: Attach Duct Starters and the Duct

The starters are round duct that have tabs cut along one side. These tabs can be pulled out 90 degrees to form a flange to attach to a square duct. Then a round duct can be pushed over the starter.

I pulled out the tabs and attached the starter tabs to both the grill and the can (1 each).

I then loosened one hose clamp, pushed it on one end of the flexible duct, and then pressed the duct over the starter tab.

I tightened the clamp over the hose, and then used the metal tape to make the connection airtight (I found this to not be necessary).

Before I did the same with the other end of the hose and the garbage can I needed to be able to attach the grates to the can.

Step 4: Install Cooking Grates

Before attaching the hose from the gill to the can you need to install the grates.

I marked 4 equidistant holes about halfway up the can.

I drilled out the holes and put a stainless steel bolt in each hole. (if I would have run string through the holes, the string would have formed an “X” in the center of the can).

By inserting the bolt, and then tightening a nut on the inside, each bolt formed a stop to hold the bracket.

I did the same thing about ¾ up the can, this forms the upper grill.

I took the grates out (leaving the bolts) and then attached the hose coming from the grill to the can.

Step 5:

Now that the hose is attached the usage is simple.

Light a fire in the grill.

Make a bowl out of heavy duty aluminum foil and fill with wood chips.

Place bowl on the grill grate and close the grill.

Smoke will soon leave the grill, travel down the hose, and start to fill the garbage can.

Place whatever food you want to smoke on the grill gates in the can.

Put the lid on the can and wait as long as it takes to get the level of smoke you desire.

I have a couple of posts on my site showing the smoking of cheese and sausage.

In my book 52 Unique Techniques for Storing Food, I showed how to actually make sausage (and bacon) to smoke in this smoker.

Step 6: For the Nervous Nellies

I do weld on occasion, so I am well aware of zinc poisoning you can get from heating galvanized metal. It gives you a TERRIBLE headache - I have done it and don't want to do that again (though a remedy is to drink gallons of milk).

My trashcan is galvanized, and I am burning things.

You won't get flume poisoning from this, I have been smoking in this smoker for YEARS, and it has never happened. I will tell you why.

You are not burning in the can, you are burning in the grill and only the smoke fills the can.

Its for COLD Smoking meat and cheese - the smoke is between 165 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit

Zinc gives off the noxious fumes at around 932 degrees Fahrenheit - which you would get welding.

It is not an issue, but, if it bothers you use a steel drum - the idea works just modify it to your own needs.

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