People have been smoking meat for centuries — as far back as the cavemen! There was often no ventilation in the caves where they cooked their food, so smoke accumulated inside the cave. It is assumed the cavemen left meat out to dry, and they noticed a difference in the flavor between meat left to dry in the presence of smoke versus meat not exposed to smoke while drying.
Fast-forward to more recent times, and you will find people smoking meat for more than just a way to preserve their food. There are restaurants devoted to the smokey goodness and even smoked meat competitions held around the world! A quick Google search of “smoked meat competitions” will yield literally hundreds of thousands of results!
I was researching smokers a while back because I wanted to figure out how to build my own. Most of what I found required welding — which I’m not very good at, nor do I own a welder. I was just about to give up the search when I found information on a no-weld, double-barrel smoker! I was more than interested!
When people smoke meat, aside from the finished product, they are proudest of two things: their recipe and their smoker (also referred to as a “rig”). You would be hard pressed to find a true barbecue fanatic that will give you even the slightest hint of what’s in their recipe, but most any of them will give you a tour of their rig.
Why This Design?
When it comes to good smoking there are two major factors involved. The first factor to consider is the temperature. Good temperature control is a must when it comes to smoking foods. You don’t want your heat too high, otherwise you’re grilling more than you are smoking. The meat cooks too fast, and the taste and texture are different than truly smoked meat. For this reason, firebricks are used to help stabilize and maintain the temperatures in the cooking area. This is also the reason for the double-barrel design. If you need to throw extra coals or extra wood on the fire, you won’t have to open the container with the meat and upset the temperature.
The second factor is the smoke itself. You will want to keep the smoke in contact with the meat as much as possible, particularly during the first hours of the process. This is why we’ll use a low-set chimney, instead of the chimney sticking out of the top like you’ll see in most low-end ($600 or less) smokers.
The entire unit is held together with just a dozen bolts, not counting those on the hinges or handles. The hinges worked out to two dozen bolts, and the handles are only 4 more. Add one more bolt for the Oxygen Vent, and you’re looking at just over 3 dozen bolts, nuts, and washers. The vent pipe is just regular galvanized piping, and the rest, we’ll get to later. But all said and done, not counting the barrels, you shouldn’t be out more than $150 in parts.
In order to make a double-barrel smoker, one might naturally conclude that you need some barrels. For this build, though, you’re going to need three, not two. The reason for this is that you’ll want to get a very solid seal between your lid and your barrels, so you’ll have to create some over-sized lids. This means getting a third barrel to act as scrap.
I HIGHLY recommend you ONLY use barrels that are food grade! DO NOT use anything that has ever contained any kind of chemicals!
The Shopping List
- 3 – 55 Gallon Steel Drum Barrels
- 28 – Fire Bricks
- 4 – Square Aluminum Tubes (96″ long, 1″ square) (Image 3)
- 1 – Flat Aluminum Bar (to make the handles)
- 4 – Stainless Steel hinges for the doors
- 1 – Tiny hinge for the damper
- 2 – Thermometers. (Optional if you’re going to do the digital thing I show later.)
- 2 – Tubes of pure silicone caulking (rated to 500 degrees minimum.)
- 2 – Tubes of high-temp stove sealant (rated to 800 degrees minimum.)
- 3 – Cans of 1200 degree stove paint.
- 1 – Large duct cap (to use as a damper)
- 1 – Chimney pipe (I used 5″ duct pipe)
- 1 – Elbow for chimney (I used… Don’t know exactly what it’s called. Look at the picture.)
- 8 – 1 1/4″ long bolts (stainless steel) for attaching barrels to frame.
- 4 – 2 1/4″ long bolts (stainless steel) for attaching frames to each other.
- 38 – 1″ or shorter bolts (stainless steel) hinges, handles, etc.
- 50 – Stainless steel nuts (one for each bolt)
- 100 – Stainless steel washers (two for each bolt, except the damper hinges and bolts on the wooden handles, but the extras will be spacers under the hinges on the doors).
- 9′ – Lightweight chain. Holds the chimney in place, as well as operates the damper.
- 1 – Tube of JB Weld. Somehow I always find a use for this stuff.
- 2 – Grids to put the food on, and to make the fire basket out of.
For full directions on Instructables including more pictures and detailed information, click HERE.