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Smoked meat is fantastic. Smoking meat is a labor of love that calls for lots of patience, but the final result is well worth it. The meat gets infused with the smoke aroma, and the taste is heavenly. Smoking gives you the perfect excuse to try out new flavors as well as recipes!
Traditionally, BBQ smoking is done in a brick pit, and there are all styles and sizes of smokers available in the market. However, you can also build one following easy to do, DIY smoker projects. All you need to do is choose one that fits your purposes.
What is a Smoker?
A smoker is an open-air cooking appliance that allows for the smoking of food at low temperatures. Smoking is thus a way of cooking, flavoring, and browning meat, fish, poultry, and other foods over smoke in a controlled environment. This cooking method not only adds flavor to the meat but also preserves it- mainly when it’s used along with salt-curing or drying.
A smoky flavor is added to the bbq smokers’ foods when you cook and add wood chips to the wood fire. Alder is the old wood used traditionally, though today oak is most common and at times even beech.
A smoker is thus any equipment used to cook, that can maintain a low temperature for a couple of hours and can be used to create smoke at the same time.
How To Build A DIY Smoker
To build a homemade DIY smoker is much easier and simple than it sounds. You can find building plans for DIY smokers ranging from easy to challenging that will fit your skill set and budget too for the particular DIY homemade smoker.
The tools and materials used to build and make a barrel or wooden smoker or DIY smoker, are simple and you may not need any specialized equipment when you want to build and make a homemade smoker. Once you choose your plan, you can then move on to build and make a smoker or smokers that best suits your needs.
At the end of the day, the kind of DIY smoker you choose to build and make will depend on the space you have available, materials available, the fuel type you want to use, and the level of effort you want to invest. Last but not least, you need to consider your budget that will be used during the build of a DIY smoker.
How To Make A DIY Smoker Grill
Consider the following factors when making your DIY smoker grill.
Are you ready to build your homemade smoker? First, you must decide whether you will want to make and build a movable barrel meat smoker around while at home, for example, cannot be moved from one location to another. Nevertheless, you could still make a perfect temporal homemade DIY meat smoker cooker made out of cinder blocks. Fill it in with sand and tin roofing and it’s good to go.
Some materials have a couple of advantages over others. Brick made DIY barrel smoker or drum smoker can hold heat well and for long. Many metal smokers, on the other hand, suffer from heat spikes. You have the leeway to add any extra features you may desire in your permanent smoker, for example, electricity or plumbing. These will add more versatility to the unit.
Try to ensure that the material you choose is strong enough to use when you want to cook and one that withstands the heat. It shouldn’t produce fumes or contain parts that could break down. Opt for either stone, brick, or metal smokers.
Your level of skill is your most important resource. If welding and masonry are right up your alley, then you might just possess all the skills necessary to make and build any type of DIY smoker e.g a barrel smoker. If however, you lack the abilities or access to the tools and materials you might need, then look to make a different type of DIY smoker. You’re better off starting to build with the old materials that you have and what you know then eventually work your way up.
The main thing is to have two areas inside your smoker. In one area, heat and smoke will be created, while the other will hold the food in a smoky environment that’s temperature controlled. Then you will need tents and connections between the two spaces that will provide the air needed to keep the heat and smoke moving. This will make sure that is no excess smoke which may cause the bbq food to get bitter.
The most important part of the smoker is airflow. Using two connecting pipes push smoke and heat from the fire chamber into the food chamber while smokestacks remove hot smoky air from the cooking chamber.
You can achieve temperature control in your drum or barrel smoker at home by using a controllable heat source, for example, using an old electric trash can smoker. In this case, the old electric hot plate will be the heat source while the two wood chunks placed in a pan on the hot plate provide smoke. The hot plate’s temperature enables the cooking chamber to get heated up.
Below are 4 types of DIY smoker grills for your consideration:
The Ugly Drum Smoker
The Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS), is most likely the most popular DIY smoker. It’s made from an old 55-gallon steel drum and is relatively easy to make as well as use. There are many DIY drum kits available for your use while at home or at work. One good thing about making your drum smoker is that you can customize it to suit your needs. You will ea a lot of experience while using this drum smoker.r
You can also build a DIY grill smoker using a new or old charcoal grill. This happens to be the simplest way to smoke bbq meat at home. Moreover, it’s also undoubtedly the most economical since you may already own an old charcoal grill. To use this meat smoker, simply place a drip pan under one side of the grill and then place your charcoal under the other side.
Yet another option is to use two clay pots This unconventional method is a creative way of making a DIY smoker that’s both appealing, simple, and easy to make, and build. The drawback is that you will smoke only small quantities of bbq meat due to the pots’ small size.
If on the other hand, if you have experience with welding, you can build a metal smoker. This is a little more challenging. It requires mathematical precision but results in a meat smoker that can smoke meat in much larger quantities.
Ultimately, whichever type of meat smoker you decide to build, make sure you plan it out well. Nothing should stop you from enjoying delicious, tasty, and rich-flavored, home-smoked meat from these smokers. Don’t hold yourself back. Experiment as much as you can and have lots of fun using different kinds of smokers available for use.
What Can You Cook in Your Smoker?
Once you build your smoker and is up and ready, you can smoke up an unlimited variety of foods. From fruits like tomatoes and strawberries to vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes, different cuts of meats, and even nuts and cheese!
Pork chops, ribs, and shoulders are bbq favorites but here is your chance to experiment with non-traditionally smoked foods using the non-old meat smoker. You can also prepare a wide variety of smoked meat to enjoy now and even later while at home.
The use of smoke is a very healthy way of cooking. You don’t need to add any oil yet in the meat smoker, it creates very succulent and great tasting food. Cooking temperatures range between 150°C and 200°C, hence food takes twice as long to cook as cooking in an oven when at home.
For the ultimate in great taste for this bbq, maintain lower temperatures and longer cooking times. Lower temperatures mean that the food loses less moisture. Meat smoker can transform some of the toughest cuts of meat into a very delicious meal.
Before placing the food in your smoker, ensure the food is at room temperature. This will prevent any heat loss as the smoker makes up for the cooling effect caused by the food.
Use a good quality meat thermometer to make sure that your food cooks completely. This is because the smoke gives the meat a pinkish hue whether it’s cooked or not.
For more tender results, allow your food to rest. This will redistribute the juices evenly throughout the food, for example in poultry and large cuts of meat.
How to Maintain Your DIY Smoker?
The better the care you give your bbq meat smoker, the better the food you cook in it will taste. After every use, make sure you clean off ashes, bits of food, and all grease deposits from your bbq smoker. This will enable you to increase its lifespan as well as maintain the good taste of your smoked foods.
If you allow ash to sit in your bbq smoker for a long time, it may absorb water and oil which can lead to rusting. Sticky grease can also create black smoke or worse, using the bbq smoker before cleaning, might lead to the sticky grease to drip on your food.
Keep a sharp lookout for mold and rust. Repaint any rust-prone areas with high-quality paint that’s heat-resistant. Grease stains often lead to mold so ensure you scrub out all buildup after use and occasionally leave the vents open.
Cover your bbq smoker and keep it in a garage or outbuilding when not in use. This will protect smokers from the rust or mold.
3.Techniques/Tips To Improve
Best Fuel For Your DIY Smoker
Charcoal is a great old fuel that can be used to smoke and to grill. It’s portable, versatile, and can achieve incredible flavor especially when combined with wood smoke, chips, or pellets. This is particularly so if you are to smoke your meat over long periods.
To prevent your wood chunks and chips from burning, soak them in water. This ensures that they smolder which is required for good smoking. Wood pellets can, however, be used without soaking. They create an intense, enduring flavor when placed in a pierced foil pouch which allows smoke to escape.
For the smoke flavor to develop, you will need to wait up to half an hour. If you add your wood product too early, it will burn up and produce acid burning flavors instead of your desired smoke flavor.
If using hardwood materials, it is vital to soak the wood as mentioned earlier. This is because wet wood takes hours to burn while fresh wood can burn in about 20 minutes.
If you apply wood chips after soaking them, put them in an aluminum bag and drill a few holes. It will secure smoke for several hours.
Note that pine and other treated or resinous softwood varieties tend to release unpleasant toxins that may taint your food. Refrain from using such in your DIY smoker. It’s also best to avoid moldy wood as it may contain viruses.
How to Get the Best Flavour
Want to know the secret to create genuinely delicious results? Use a water pan. It will help you keep your food extraordinarily juicy and tender. It lowers the cooking temperatures by acting as a buffer between the heat source and the cooking food. This helps maintain the required slow cooking temperatures and also generates steam, which works to moisten your food.
You need to use hot water in the water pan so as not to interrupt the heat from the charcoal base. Into the hot water, add aromatic fresh herbs such as rosemary, bay leaves, or mint to introduce lovely aromas into your food.
Alternatively, you can use a marinade instead. This can be any mix of your choice and may include either wine and herbs, cider, beer, or wine vinegar. This will infuse great flavor into your food.
To achieve the best meat flavor, place your chunks, pellets or chips once the charcoal fire is white-hot. However, for a denser smoke flavor, you need to add a lot of these from the very beginning.
How about Temperature Control?
Temperature control in your drum or barrel smoker is vital. Get a smoker that makes it easy for you to control the temperature. You can use air vents to regulate temperature and smoke production too. A top air vent helps the smoke renew itself and maintains the heat levels also. A bottom air vent can help increase the burning rate and, as such, the temperature.
4.Correcting Common Problems
To avoid ruining your barbeque, you will need to take note of the following:
Use the Right Cut of Meat
Make sure you go for the best quality of meat available. If smoking ribs, for example, the bones ought to be well covered with flesh. It’s also best to avoid too much surface fat.
Get the Right Type of Wood
You will need to find out the best wood type for your DIY smoker. Cherry or apple are usually safe bets. You may also use coal or wood pellets. Note, however, that your smoker won’t be able to produce the smoker’s taste if you do not use hardwood.
Use freshly cut wood because it produces pleasant and moist steam, and this is what will make the meat flavor. Dry wood gives out a smoky flavor. Hickory, for instance, gives off a very smoky flavor that reminds you of bacon. Maple, on the other hand, wood produces mild and sweet smoke when using the barrel or drum smoker.
Use the Right Temperature
Maintain the temperature between 107 – 121°C. It will help you to avoid severe and dry meat caused by too much heat. Wait until the heat is stabilized before you add your meat in the drum or barrel smoker.
You will need to keep a steady, low heat over a long time to get the perfect barbeque. You also need to control heat absorption. Have a good quality thermometer to enable you to keep the temperature under control.
Take Your Time
Here are a couple of don’ts you to make sure you note; don’t rush the cooking time. If you have to go somewhere, please shelve the barbequing for another weekend when you will have more time. Don’t get impatient either and increase the heat.
Lastly, don’t keep opening drum or barrel smoker lid to check on your meat – you will let out heat and lower the smoker temperature. Use your thermometer instead. Remember, a tasty barbeque takes patience.
Too Much Smoke?
We did mention that DIY smoke makes the meat flavourful and delicious, but too much smoke has quite the opposite effect. It makes your food taste bitter. To avoid this, make sure the vents are slightly open and use the right amount of wood.
Let Your Cooked Meat Rest
Once cooked, allow your meat bbq to rest. This will result in tasty meat bbq. You could be dying to start chopping away – after all, the wait has been extended, and you are practically drooling. Big mistake. Furthermore, for best results, ensure to cut your meat against the grain.
Industry Best Practices
This video shows you a simple way to build a smoker from two flowerpots while at home. A bbq gasket prevents air from leaking, and wine corks placed in the ventilation holes control the circulation. Just a little welding to fix a barrel or drum handle, and you are good to go. The smoker takes minimal space in your backyard.
This video shows you how to make and build a simple, economical drum or barrel smoker that will allow you to smoke lots of meat. This smoker uses hardwood. Clean up the cabinet thoroughly before use. Vent holes are placed at the top and air holes on the side for ventilation. The bottom drawer next to the heat acts as an air space to block some of the heat.
Watch this video to see how to make a smoker with an old fashioned trash can. Here you require minimal components – no drills! Easy to build and assemble too. This is probably the cheapest DIY smoker you can make.
This video details how to build a metallic DIY smoker. The smoker is fitted with wooden handles, a fire grate, ventilation, and DIY meat smoke extraction control. The result is a beautiful, portable smoker – you cannot believe this guy has not done any welding before. He even mounts a thermometer!
Standard Tools You Can Use To Improve your Experience
When you invest in quality tools and materials for your smoker, your smoking will be a breeze, and the quality of your smoking will be significantly enhanced. Get ready for your weekend barbeques and family cookouts with these essential grilling tools:
Always use a smoking thermometer. This will ensure that you get the perfect temperature to smoke your food. Low temperatures are best since the long period taken allows the smoke to penetrate the meat and make it soft too.
Heat Resistant Gloves
Get yourself a pair of heat resistant gloved made with insulating rubber. They are perfect for holding hot meat without getting your fingers burnt from inside the drum or barrel smoker. Note that smoked foods can get extremely hot, which could pose a significant danger if you are not careful.
Quality Long Handled Tongs
Stay away from aluminum tongs, which are light hence tend to bend. Instead, get stainless steel tongs that have insulated handles to keep your hands safe.
A good set of tongs is a beautiful thing to have, but a full toolset is even better. If you wish to take it seriously, consider getting yourself one. A good set comes with a variety of stainless steel tools such as spatula, tongs, and skewers, among others that you can use for years before they get old.
These are useful for basting your marinade or spice rub over your meat. A mop is especially ideal due to its long handle.
These are convenient and simple for loading up your ribs when you smoke your food. The racks are widely spaced to allow proper airflow within the drum or barrel smoker
Quality Cutting Board
A good quality old wooden board is an essential tool in any kitchen. It’s not advisable to be using a glass cutting board as it will make your knife blunt. A wooden board is a simple one and will also last longer than a plastic one.
This will help keep your DIY drum or barrel smoker clean after every use. Opt for one with a long handle to make it simple when you’re cleaning a hot surface.
No more bland meats and vegetables. Using marinades, spices, herbs, seasonings, and rubs to add delicious flavor and enhance your cooking. Complement your meats too with the right seasonings such as rosemary with chicken and potatoes.
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