Did you know that BBQ, at-home eating & entertaining is now the UK's #1 home leisure activity in the summer?
Two thirds of households now own a BBQ grill!
If you’re looking forward to throwing more garden parties for friends and family this summer, why not consider smoking your food rather than grilling it for a change?
In this post I’ll cover:

• What food smokers do (and why they’re so great)
• How to use a smoker
• The best foods to cook in a smoker
• How long it takes to smoke food
• What type of wood chips work best
• 11 great DIY smoker projects you can try yourself
Buying a Smoker vs A Homemade Smoker
If the concept is new to you, don’t worry.
I had no idea what meat smokers were last summer, let alone how to use one!
Now when I know we are going to be entertaining a crowd it’s my ‘go to’ cooking method (weather permitting of course)!
“But I don’t have lots of money to buy a meat smoker!” I hear you cry!
Well, I have some good news.
You’ll be glad to know that smoking food doesn’t require investing a fortune in a fancy new piece of equipment.
Building a smoker can be done at home for as little as £1 (or even free!), by upcycling some plant pots, an old whiskey barrel off Gumtree or even that filing cabinet the boss wants thrown out!
I have 11 really cool ideas for building a homemade smoker you can try out yourself a bit later.
But for now, keep reading to see my answers to some of your most common questions about what smoking is and how to get started.
What Smoking Does to Your Food That Barbecuing Doesn’t
Grilling your food is great.
It’s quick, easy and gives it that perfect gnarly taste and texture we love feasting on in the summertime.
However, if you have time to spare before guests arrive and want to wow at the dining table, then smoking your meat low and slow with wood chips is the way to go.
Here’s why.
Smoking really enhances the natural flavours of your food and tenderises it at the same time.
Meats, cheeses and vegetables all absorb the vapours from wood chips and herb branches , and seal them in for that intense flavour kick charcoal just can’t offer on its own.
(This doesn’t mean you can’t still use a few charcoal briquettes too to speed up the cooking process though).
Check out My Top Food Types That Work Best in a Smoker
Meats that come on the bone are great for smoking at home.
The bone absorbs heat and distributes it throughout the meat, giving it an even cook without drying it out.
Ribs, sausages, brisket, shoulder joints, salmon and chicken drumsticks & thighs, are great choices for beginners.
Avoid very lean cuts of meat.
The lack of fat and connective tissue leads to a tough, dry texture after the slow cooking process.
Smoking food isn’t just for meat eaters!
Foods like veggie sausages, corn on the cob, potatoes, nuts and tomatoes are all great for throwing in a food smoker for a couple of hours with a little olive oil, garlic and some seasoning.
Cheeses like classic cheddar, mozzarella, provolone and gouda all taste amazing when smoked too!
Note: If you choose to smoke cheese, always keep your temperature lower than 30ºC to prevent it from melting all over your grill.
Smoking Food Isn’t Difficult - Here’s What You Need
You only need 3 main components to smoke food:

• A container to hold the smoke
• A source of smoke (hard wood chips are best to use for smoking)
• The actual food to smoke
You can use a bought and ready built BBQ smoker like our Azuma Barrel Smoker BBQ.
The barrel design allows you to smoke and grill food at the same time.
The Azuma Barrel Smoker BBQ comes with a large food grilling compartment and a separate smaller smoke chamber at the side where you add your wood chips and let the smoke funnel through to your food.
If you’re feeling creative, I have some great DIY smoker projects further down the page.
No matter what method you use, the end results all come down to cooking time, your choice of wood, and types of food you choose.
So let’s get to it and find out what wood chips you should be stocking up on and how long those baby back ribs are going to take!

How Long Food Will Take From The Grill To Your Plate

It’s important to remember that you should always smoke your food to temperature, not to time.
This way you can avoid any nasty bacteria and illness caused by raw and undercooked meats.
A digital BBQ thermometer is great to have on hand when smoking at home. This way you can always check the internal temperature of your meat before removing from the grill.
Depending on what you’re serving, smoking food can take anywhere between 1 and 24 hours.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to be slaving over a hot smoker for 12 hours at a time though!
All you need to do is keep an eye on the steady smoke flow whilst turning your food every half hour or so until it’s done.

 VEGETABLES: When it comes to veggies, the longer they are on the grill, the more flavour they’ll absorb. Remove them when they’re cooked to your liking. Whole potatoes generally take around 2-3 hours, and corn on the cob takes around 2 hours.

 CHEESE: Cheese can be kept in the smoker for 1-4 hours. Just remember to keep the temperature nice and low and keep checking on it to prevent it from melting.

 BEEF: Beef brisket and roasting joints can take anywhere from 12-20 hours on a steady heat of 87-93ºC. Short ribs should take around 6-8 hours and back ribs 4-5 hours, both cooking at 107-115ºC.

 PORK: A pork tenderloin can be cooked in as little as 2 hours, and spare ribs in 6 hours by smoking at around 107-115ºC.

 POULTRY: You can expect a whole chicken to cook in your smoker in 3-4 hours at 121-135ºC. Legs and thighs will take around 2 hours, and wings 1.5-2 hours at the same temperature.

 FISH & SEAFOOD: Salmon fillets will cook in as little as one hour, and scallops 45-60 minutes at a temperature of 104ºC.

Tips On Picking The Right Type of Wood Chips For Flavour

If in doubt, or if you are new to smoking, then always opt for oak wood chips. Oak wood chips give a nice medium to strong flavour to your food without being too overpowering.
Works best with: lamb, beef and sausages.

Hickory wood chips give a gorgeous sweet and strong flavour to your food - a taste almost like bacon. (And who doesn’t like bacon?)

Works best with: beef, lamb and poultry on the bone.

If you are a lover of fruity and sweet glazes, then opt for some pecan wood chips.
Pecan chips infuse meat with strong, sweet smoke, making it perfect for foods you’d accompany with the likes of pineapple or chutney.
To make the taste less overpowering, mix half pecan chips with half oak wood chips.
Works best with: pork cuts like gammon steaks and sausages or beef brisket.

If you want a light, mild smoky flavour that’s not too intense, then maple wood chips should be your number 1 choice.
Maple chips are nice and sweet without being overpowering - great for beginners or fussy eaters!

Works best with: chicken, pork and gamey meats like venison or duck.

Applewood is gorgeously mild and sweet, giving a light, subtle smoky taste.
It takes a while for apple wood chips to smoke to penetrate meat and food, so allow extra time to smoke.

Works best with: chicken, pork and cheeses

You can easily pick up these types of wood chips online, at selected supermarkets during the summer, and also in most garden centres.
Top tip: Soak chips in a little water before scattering inside your burner to prevent them burning too quickly!
When You Should Cure Meat (And Why It’s Important)
If you are going to be eating the cooked food immediately then you can skip the curing process.But if you are planning on preserving any type of meat after smoking to eat at a later date (like homemade bacon, meats that are generally eaten raw etc), then curing it beforehand is crucial to avoid nasty bacteria. 

You can find some expert help and advice on curing over on Lucas Ingredients, or follow this simple Wiki How guide for curing meat at home.

What You Can Do To Stop The Wind Affecting Your Smoker

“Will the wind affect the cooking process”?
In a nutshell, “yes”!
Even a light breeze can draw heat from your smoker if it’s not positioned correctly.
To minimise the effects wind can have on your smoker, always place it near a corner of your garden with a fence or plants for shelter.

A similar position to where you’re likely to place your patio furniture is ideal.

If you are using a horizontal smoker, you want the path of airflow through your smoker to be in the same direction as the wind.

Always be mindful of the smoke slowly dying out and the amount of oxygen that enters and escapes the smoking chamber. This will affect the temperature inside, cooking times and flavours.

11 Creative Meat Smokers You Can Build Yourself

Here comes the exciting bit!

Now you know what foods work best smoked, what wood chips you want to try out and how long to cook everything for, it’s time to get your builder’s hat on!

Check out some of my favourite tutorials on how to build a smoker at home.

Points to note:

  • Some of these meat smokers will be a lot easier to build than others depending on your DIY skills and budget.
  • Any smokers built at home are made at your own risk.
  • Please always be safe and responsible around flames, heat sources and smoke, especially in the presence of pets, children and the elderly.

1. DIY File Cabinet Smoker

If your workplace or office is having a clear-out, or you have access to the likes of Gumtree look out for an old filing cabinet getting thrown out.

Their tall, slim shape with multiple drawers, make them ideal for turning into a homemade food smoker!

A word of warning:

This can be quite a tricky project, as you’ll need to make sure you remove all plastic parts and replace them with metal.

You will also want to remove the original paint and recoat with a high heat resistant paint instead, along with some other important tweaks to make it safe and to use and food friendly.

Take a look at this step by step guide for making a filing cabinet smoker over at Instructables.com to see what materials and tools you’ll need to get started. 

2. DIY Metal Trash Can Smoker

Metal dustbins and American style trash cans are great for building a smoker, as they only need a few small changes to make them food friendly.

You can build your own like the one pictured above for as little as £50!

All you need is a trash can and 12 other cheap materials including 6 cat food tins, a grill thermometer, a round grill plate and some nuts, bolts and washers.

Amanda over at Domestically Creative has a great DIY smoker tutorial with plenty of pictures and words of advice.

She does say that there may be a few concerns with using galvanised metals as a grilling method for food so I suggest you read her findings.

In her post, she goes on to explain that she coated the inside of her smoker with creosote to prevent the leakage of any potential fumes.

3. DIY Terracotta Pot Meat Smoker

This is definitely the easiest, cheapest build on the list and can be fully assembled in less than an hour!

Mother Earth News’ method of building a smoker calls for an electric hot plate for the base, but you can just as easily leave this out and replace with smouldering wood chips or coals instead.

Just make sure to place a grill or some foil at the bottom to prevent them all falling out the base of the pot!

4. DIY Whiskey Barrel Smoker

Full-size whiskey barrels aren’t so easy to come by in our neck of the woods without spending around £60-£70.

But if you live near a local distillery or happen to have one of these lurking at the back of your garden shed then this is a great way to upcycle it.

The guys over at Instructables have a great step by step guide on how to build a smoker from an empty whiskey barrel - the longest part of the project is making sure each plank of wood is nailed securely to the metal bands.

This project takes around 1-2 days to complete.

After that, it’s simply sawing off your lid, treating the wood, and drilling holes for vents and the grill temperature.

5. DIY Kettle BBQ Smoker

If you already own a kettle charcoal barbecue, then you pretty much have everything you need to smoke your own food!

All you will need to add is some coal briquettes, wood chips and a couple of tin foil trays.

Hank over at Simply Recipes has a great guide to turn your kettle barbecue into a smoker BBQ.

A few great tips include soaking your wood chips for around 2 hours before use, (keeping the meat as far away from the coal and chips as possible), and checking on the internal temperature every 90 minutes or so.

6. DIY Brick BBQ Smoker

A well-made DIY smokehouse will be sturdy enough to last for years with regular cleaning.

You can find most of these materials absolutely free, or a very low price from scrap yards, builders merchants and places like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace.

This 6-minute video shows you how to assemble blocks so you can use the finished product as a charcoal barbecue grill or homemade smoker for meats and other food.

7. DIY Cardboard Box Cold Food Smoker

Surely there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have an abandoned cardboard box in the garage or taking up space in a cupboard?

You could make this really easy and free cold smoker yourself!

All you need is:

• a cardboard box
• a box cutter knife
• a drill for drilling holes
• a rod of wood cut into mounting rod
• an empty toilet roll tube that works as the vent

It’s that easy!

Take a look at this DIY tutorial from Cook With Meat on how to build a smoker from a cardboard box.

This won’t cook your food - but it is a great inexpensive way to add a subtle smoky flavour to cheese, veggies and cured meats.

8. DIY Oil Drum Smoker

If you work in the food industry, or know someone who does, then you might be able to get your hands on one of these huge metal drums.

They are perfect for building a DIY smoker for the garden.

Building an oil drum smoker will require someone who is really confident with power tools and metal work. If you don’t fit the bill, ask for some help or get someone who is more experienced to do the labouring.

9. DIY Wooden Pallet Smokehouse

This is a great garden project for those who are a bit more experienced with building and woodwork.

To make your own DIY smokehouse from wooden pallets, you will need to source your wood carefully to make sure it’s in good quality, before cleaning and treating it to be safe to use around food.

There’s a full building guide with a tutorial video over at Homesteading.com, which also has more information on all the materials you’ll need - and a full cut list too!

10. DIY Portable Camping Fish Smoker

If you love smoking fish and vegetables when you’re out on camping trips, then take a look at this great homemade portable fish smoker!

All you need is a small saucepan, a grille or cake cooler that can fit snugly inside the pot, and some basic hand tools.

It’s quick, super cheap to make, and will make meals outdoors so much tastier.

And finally...

11. DIY Keyboard Hoover Cold Smoking Gun

One word for this - genius!

With a couple of quick tweaks, you can turn an ordinary office keyboard vacuum into a homemade mini cold smoker!

Cold smokers are great for adding a subtle smoky flavour to food without cooking it.

As you can see in the video, it works brilliantly on oysters, deli meats, cheeses and seafood.


I hope I have cleared up any uncertainties or questions you might have had about smoking food at home.

If you have any tips or suggestions we’d love to hear from you.

Send them over to me on instagram #xsstockcom, and tag us in any photos of your DIY builds this summer - we’d love to see them!