A very handy project to tackle on the homestead is building your own meat smoker. Over the last decade and a half I have built many smokers. I lived on the B.C. coast for a few years and nearly lived on salmon.
My first three smokers were built out of old refrigerators gutted and turned upside down. I liked using the small freezer compartment door at the bottom for adding chips to the fire, it’s great because you don’t lose your smoke while adding chips! Another innovation was to cut in a sloped roof. I would use a piece of plywood angled so that any condensation will run down it to the back wall rather than dripping on to your meat. Shingle it and add a vent for the steamy air to escape and your have a perfect shell.
To hang your meat or racks to lay it on I drilled holes in the sides every few inches and added ready rod. You could use dowels or square strips of wood. Cedar would do well. On my original three smokers I laid used oven racks up cycled from the local landfill on the rods I ran through the sides. I even used nuts and washers to secure the rods and added a meat thermometer through an extra hole to gauge internal temps somewhat. These turn into fantastic smokers and I intend to make another soon, I have given all my old ones away to a local friend each time I move.
To get heat and smoke going in the smoker I have used electric elements up to 1500W. I am not a fan of them though as they just don’t pump out the heat enough for the good hot smoked, chewy jerky that I like. I’m not a fan of cold smoked mushy fish either. So to improve on that I now use the side burners of old used bbq’s destined for the scrap yard. Much cheaper and easier to acquire than a hot plate anyhow. If you do like the cold smoked meats it is easy to add an external firebox and pipe it into a hole cut in the rear bottom of your smoker and smoke your lox up too.
My current smoker is a Cadillac. I was given an old pizza warming oven when a restaurant closed down and I immediately saw gold haha. I had to do very little to it and use it exclusively for red meat and pork. I want zero fish flavour in my chops and sausages, who’d want fishy deer jerky? Not me!
I added a whole bunch of oven racks from the scrap yard again, added the old meat thermometer from our kitchen and cut some wood strips to hang sausage from. Another bbq side burner fitted into the bottom, my cast iron skillet salvaged from a flea market and voila, smoker #4. It came with ledges for shelves built in and some awesome adjustable vents on each side of the top. I swear this thing is meant to be a smoker, quickest and cheapest build yet.
I will build my new fish smoker yet but in all honesty I doubt I can make it for the $4 price tag (meat thermometer) of my jerky smoker. You can bet I surely will try. For a better look at my jerky smoker featured in this post please check out my new YouTube video about it at NorthernWilds Lifestyle. Remember to hit like and subscribe if you enjoyed it and leave any feed back you come up with. Enjoy! ~ Scott