Pellet grilling has become all the rage lately, with big names such as Joe Rogan regularly promoting their use. If you currently have a traditional smoker and don’t want to make the switch, you’re in luck. We’re going to cover how to build a pellet smoker using a conversion kit.
- Building a pellet smoker involves using a conversion kit, measuring and cutting the grill, and installing the kit, allowing for both pellet and traditional smoking.
- Building your own pellet smoker saves money and offers versatility in cooking methods, using pellets for slow cooking or wood/charcoal for traditional BBQ.
- Top DIY conversion kits like Direct Igniter, Pellet Pro Patriot, and Smokemeister include a complete hopper and auger kit with a PID controller and heat sensor for accurate monitoring.
What Is a Pellet Smoker?
A pellet smoker is a different type of grill that uses wood pellets as the main fuel source.
Complete pellet smokers consist of a grilling chamber and a hopper that holds the pellets and slowly pushes them through using an auger into the cooking chamber.
The pellets are generally made from compressed wood and can be made from various types of flavored woods, including hickory, mesquite, applewood, and others.
A grill will generally be electric though some new types are gravity fed without any added electric parts.
What Are the Benefits?
Pellet grills have become popular owing to beliefs that they burn cleaner and because it’s easier to monitor the temperature using the grills pellet grill control system (1). This makes it easier to slow cook food such as brisket, barbecue ribs, and other larger meat cuts.
Though studies are inconclusive, many also believe that you are getting cleaner meat if you grill pellet smoking. The idea behind this is that there is less cancerous byproduct being produced from a pellet grill than from a traditional barbecue pit.
The evidence for this, however, is inconclusive, so for now, this has not been proven (2).
“I've been cooking a lot lately on the pellet grill... It's really versatile.”
- Joe Rogan, Podcaster and Avid Hunter and Griller (3)
Buying vs Building
When it comes to whether you should buy a or assemble one, many people opt to buy a new smoker. However, there are two main benefits to building your smoker.
The primary drawback of buying a new grill vs building your own to smoke meat is that you can’t use the pellet grill for traditional smoking.
However, if you build your own using a conversion kit, you can use pellets for slow cooking or use wood or charcoal for more traditional BBQ meat.
The second benefit of building your unit is that you can save money. Pellet smokers can traditionally run from the mid-hundreds into multiple thousands of dollars.
Added conversion kits can be much cheaper, and because you can still use your smoker for cooking BBQ the traditional way, you don’t need a separate grill.
What Do You Need To Build a DIY Smoker
Thankfully, you don’t need to get too much to build one, and assembly is relatively easy. The most expensive part is obtaining a top DIY conversion kit that will fit your smoker. You ideally want to get one with a container that will store enough pellets for a long BBQ smoke session.
Some of the best brands for DIY conversion kits include:
- Direct Igniter
- Pellet Pro Patriot
- Pellet Hopper Pro Original
These kits consist of a complete hopper and auger kit, which is everything you need to attach to make your current smoking unit a pellet smoker. They also will have a PID controller with a heat sensor. The heat sensor is important for accurately monitoring your meat.
What are the steps to build a pellet smoker?
It isn’t too much work to create a great pellet smoker. With that said, there are a few steps to the process that you need to understand before you get started.
It is best to make sure that you have everything initially, or you may have issues. So, get your screwdriver and saw ready before you get started.
Step 1: Decide Which Option You Want
We mentioned above that this article is going to cover creating a conversion kit. This is by far the most common method of creating a pellet smoker. It allows you to make your smoker while still keeping your traditional grill. However, there are a few other methods, such as a smoking tube.
We recommend if you aren’t comfortable cutting into your grill that you use a smoking tube as this is the easy way to convert your grill into a pellet smoker. The downside to this is that there is no easy way to control the temperature of the grill.
Step 2 Measure and Cut
Once you have everything assembled, you need to prepare your grill to attach the conversion kit. The first thing to do is measure the conversion kit to see how big the hole you will cut in the side of your grill will be.
After you have measured this, you will then mark your lines on the grill to cut accurately. Ensure you have the proper saw for cutting metal, or you may risk leaving jagged edges or messing up your smoke box. Go ahead and cut the side section out for installation.
Step 3: Install The Conversion Kit
For this step, you must consult the manual for your meat conversion kit to correctly install the unit. Each of these conversion kits is different, and the instructions for installation will be different.
If you have a new smoker, you must also season your unit, which can be accomplished with two simple steps. You want to season everything properly so that your meat doesn’t turn out with any funky flavors.