How to build a homemade cold smoker for under $50

When it comes to grilling, what do perfect, fall-off-the-bone ribs… melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork… smoked cheeses… and home-smoked bacon all have in common? Two things. You prepare all of them using the ‘low and slow’ method. And you need a high degree of low temperature control. Adding this little, homemade low-temp cold smoker set up to your existing Big Green Egg or charcoal grill will get you there for under $50.

Please note: the demonstration video and parts list below are tailored to adding the homemade cold smoker to a Big Green Egg because that’s what I happen to have on hand…

With a little creativity and just one or two more parts though, you can attach it to just about any type of charcoal grill. For example if you have a second 4″ dryer duct collar with a butterfly flap – both of which can be found at Home Depot for $2 or $3 – and attach it to the bottom of your grill the same way you attach it to the smoker (see the video and instruction below) and you’re good to go. Simply open the butterfly flap when you’re smoking. Close it when you’re grilling normally.

Alright, let’s get down to business…

Parts needed (Again, this is for attaching to a Big Green Egg. Adjust the list as necessary for your particular charcoal grill.):

  • Weber Smoky Joe or similar small kettle grill – ~$34
  • 1  4″ diam. aluminum duct starting collar – ~$4
  • 1  4″ diam. x 4′ long flexible aluminum dryer duct – ~$8
  • 1  4″ diam. hose clamp – ~$1
  • 1  12″ piece of felt weather stripping – ~$2.50 (per roll)  IMPORTANT: Must be felt.  Not foam or plastic. Only felt.

Tools needed:

  • A dremel tool, jigsaw (with metal cutting blade), or a pair of tin snips
  • A drill
  • A flat blade screwdriver

Assembly steps:

  1. Drill out the rivet holding the vent to the top of the Smoky Joe lid and remove the vent.
  2. Using a crayon or white grease pencil, trace a 4″ circle around the vent holes in the Smoky Joe lid.
  3. Using the jigsaw, dremel tool, or tin snips, cut out the 4″ circle you just traced on the lid.
  4. Loosely position the 4″ duct starting collar in the 4″ hole you just cut so that the locking tabs are inside the lid.
  5. Wrap a strip of felt weather stripping around the collar so that it will act as a seal between the collar and lid once the collar it tightened in place.
  6. Press down on the collar so that it seats all the way into the hole and the felt seal is snuggly secured between the collar and lid.
  7. Reach under the Smoky Joe lid and bend over the collar tabs to secure it to the lid.
  8. Loosely slip the 4″ hose clamp over one end of the flexible 4″ diam. dryer duct.
  9. Slip this same end of the dryer duct onto the starting collar and tighten the hose clamp.
  10. Extend the dryer duct and shape the remaining end to fit into the bottom vent on your Big Green Egg. OR, if you’re using a standard charcoal grill, attach a second 4″ duct starting collar – WITH a butterfly flap/valve – to the bottom of your grill the same way you attached the first collar to the Smoky Joe… then use a second 4″ hose clamp to connect the remaining end of the dryer duct to it.

And there you have it – your existing charcoal grill can now be used for low temperature barbecuing or as a pure cold smoker.

For low temp grilling burn a very small amount of charcoal in your grill to get up to heat while using a good bit of charcoal and your wood chips in your new, homemade smoker to generate smoke and maintain heat.  Thanks to the external smoker, adding charcoal and wood chips throughout long cooking sessions will be easier than ever before – no  more having to remove your meats and racks in order to replenish the coals.

For cold smoking simply burn charcoal and wood chips in your new, homemade smoker while leaving your main grill cold. Now you can smoke nuts, cheeses, or bacon without actually cooking (or melting) them.