There’s no need to pay hundreds of dollars when you can make a DIY smoker. I’m talking from personal experience here, as I’ve made one myself, and I’ve been successfully smoking food for years.
Today, I’ll explain everything you should know when making a DIY cold smoker. I’ll talk about the tools and materials you’ll need, and I’ll talk you through the step-by-step process so you, too, can start cold smoking.
Summary of the Key Findings
- You’ll need several tools and materials to make a DIY smoker.
- There are helpful tips to know on how to maintain a low temperature in a cold smoker.
- Follow this step-by-step guide to make your own cold smoker.
What Materials and Tools You Need for a Cold Smoker?
Building cold smoke generators is a relatively easy task that can be done in one afternoon, depending on the size of the generator.
The materials you need for a small new cold smoker are:
- An aquarium air pump
- One can
- Two steel tubes
- Smaller pipe outer diameter should be 5 mm, and inner diameter 3 mm
- Bigger pipe outer diameter should be 12 mm, and inner diameter 3 mm
- Wood pellets
You should consider getting new steel pipes to not contaminate the food. Check that the can and the tubes you plan to use can be used for smoking meat and other food.
These shouldn’t have any paint or coating that could cause harm.
Tools that will make the cold smoker creation easier are:
- Metal file
Step-By-Step Guide on Making a Cold Smoke Generator
Here’s how to make a cold smoker step-by-step:
- Drill a hole 20 mm above the bottom of the can. This hole is for the bigger tube.
- Make another hole on the opposite side of the can. It should also be 20 mm above the bottom of the can. This is for the smaller tube.
- Make a hole between these two holes. It should be 10 to 12 mm wide and placed right between the first two holes.
- Use a 4 mm drill and make five holes in the bigger tube. The first one should be about 10 mm from the edge. The holes don’t have to be aligned perfectly, but they should be close to each other.
- Put a mark 25 mm away from the last hole on the big tube. Align the smaller tube with the bigger one starting from the mark. Then mark the smaller tube where it stops touching the bigger one. This is done to know how deep you should insert the smaller tube into the bigger one.
- Push the bigger tube into the can. The holes on it should face the middle.
- Insert the smaller tube into the bigger tube so the marks overlap.
- Connect it to the aquarium.
- Place a metal sheet over the tubes (inside the can) so the holes don’t choke.
- Insert wood pellets in the can.
- Put the cold smoker next to the grill or a box with meat or fish.
You’ll be able to use this cold smoker for about an hour before you’ll have to refill it with pellets or wood chips.
Note: If you don’t want to go through all the trouble with the tubes, you can buy a soldering iron. Place the soldering iron so the tip stays in the pellets. This way, you’ll be able to do cold smoking for hours before having to replenish the wood pellets.
In case you want a cold smoker with a larger smoke chamber, you’ll need different tools and more time to make it.
For a cold smoker with a larger smoke chamber, you’ll need:
- Wooden planks
- Hook for hanging the meat
- Cold smoke generator
- Wood pellets
Here’s detailed information on how to make a larger DIY cold smoker:
- Create a crate. For example, place an old box on the side with the front open for air flowing.
- Make a hole in the sides, top, and bottom.
- Place a generator on the bottom of the box. This is your heat source, so put the pellets here.
- Make sure there’s enough space under the generator to light up the pellets. The smoke should be able to rise nicely.
- Once everything is set up, close the box lid so the smoke doesn’t escape.
That’s it. Your DIY smoker is ready, and you can start cold smoking.
How to Maintain Low Temperature in a Cold Smoker?
If you have smoke, it means there’s some burning going on. The issue here is how to produce smoke and maintain low temperatures.
The temperature can stay at about 40 degrees because you have to balance the heat inside the smoker and the outside temperature, that’s colder.
One thing that can help maintain a low temperature is to use aluminum foil or a drip pan with ice in the smoking chamber. This should be placed between the firebox and the food.
Also, another option is to use two chambers. You should have an unheated smoking chamber, and the heat should come from a separate chamber.
Finally, the weather is a very important factor. The best time for using a DIY smoker is during the cold months. The cold air is extremely helpful in making sure the food smoker doesn’t heat up.
“It’s best to do cold smoking in cold weather. If you cold smoke cheese, and it’s hot outside, it'll melt. The outside temperature should feel like you’re in a fridge, so winter months are the best.” Alchemy Kitchen YouTube Channel
In case you can’t do the cold smoking during the colder months, try smoking late at night or early mornings when the temperature is low.
What Is a Cold Smoke Generator?
A cold smoke generator smokes food at low temperatures — below 40 degrees. It’s different from hot smokers, as they both cook and smoke the food at the same time. A cold smoker only smokes the food.
What Foods Are Good Cold Smoked?
Virtually any food is good when cold smoked. That includes veggies, fruits, and also any type of meat you can think of, especially fish such as salmon, sea scallops, sausages, bacon, and beef.
Give Your Own Cold Smoker a Try
I hope you found my guide for making your own DIY cold smoker useful. Make yourself a cup of coffee, and get to work.
Make sure you have all the parts, such as the aquarium pump, a can with a lid, and pipes.
You can make a smaller smoker that will have a smaller fire and less smoke or a larger one with a bigger fire and more smoke. The choice is up to you and the size of your grill.
A cold smoker is always a good option, and it’s guaranteed to produce the best flavor as long as you follow my step-by-step process.
In case if you find the whole process overwhelming, here are our top 5 picks when it comes to cold smokers.