5 Tips to Building a Barbecue Smoker

A barbecue smoker can be a great addition to any outdoor grilling area. The aroma will be inviting to barbecue guests, and the smoked meat can be stored and eaten later. Building a meat smoker isn't a terribly difficult job. Still, there are things that need the be thought out before and during the process. Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind.

Bigger Isn't Always Better

When you start drafting the plans for your barbecue smoker, many people will automatically jump to designing a massive smoker worthy of superstar status. This is not only going to be costly, it's going to be a huge eyesore in your backyard. Storage is going to become a pain, and unless you plan on smoking half a cow, it isn't necessary. Think instead about the average amount of meat your family can consume in a matter of days, and stick to a smoker that meets these needs. After all, it's the flavor of the food that matters, not the size of the appliance used for it.

Welding Skills

If you have little or no experience with welding, it's a good idea to call in a friend who does. If you don't know anyone who can weld, a professional may be required. Even the most basic DIY smokers will require a small amount of welding. Understand that this project may not be something that can be done alone. You may need to solicit friends for help.

Consider Paying for Plans

There are hundreds of great free barbecue smoker plans online. There are also many that aren't free. Free isn't always better. Many of the free plans are not clear or will assume you already have a certain level of knowledge when it comes to the anatomy of a smoker. You may want to think about purchasing plans that you can print out. The paid plans will generally have more detailed diagrams and technical information that will be extremely useful.

Storage Considerations

Are you wanting to showcase your barbecue smoker or just pull it out of a shed occasionally for family functions and activities? Portable smokers will be small enough to easily store in a shed or garage. You can also decide to go all out and create a permanent structure with brick and mortar. This is going to be more costly, but it can work well with grill pits. If you do a lot of entertaining, a permanent smoker can be a nice addition to your grill area.


When you start looking to build your barbecue smoker, you will find plans that utilize spent propane tanks, old fireplace boxes, as well as countless other materials. Making a smoker with an old propane tank is one of the more popular options. This needs to be done carefully. Even an empty propane tank can contain residue that is flammable. You will need to fill the tank with water before you start cutting and welding, and even then, it could be dangerous. You can also choose to purchase the elements separately. In the end, the material won't matter as long as the smoker works. It's just a matter of what you want the smoker to look like.