Who hasn’t walked around a BBQ contest and stared at some of the coolest smokers you have ever seen? Maybe now is the time for you to join that club by building your own custom pellet smoker. This blog will help you get started.
Why build a custom pellet smoker? There are a number of reasons:
- You can build a smoker out of just about anything metal
- Kits are available to help with the critical construction features
- Pellet smoker construction does not require as much heavy-duty steel to contain the burn chamber
- Pellet smokers are easy to use and produce fantastic results
Choosing the theme for your smoker is the first and most important step. If you are going to go through the work to build your own smoker you might as well make it really cool looking and an icon for your team. My team, Skull and Bones, cooks on a converted full-size metal coffin. Because a coffin, in case you don’t already know, has single wall construction with an area much large than what I wanted to cook with, I decided to design and have an interior liner fabricated out of stainless steel sheet metal. There are a lot of fabrication shops around that can help you with this. Or, you can choose a design that already has a suitable interior design like a propane cylinder, a refrigerator, a drum, or even the trunk of your car (I might be reaching here)! Let your imagination guide you.
I strongly recommend that you buy a pellet kit from one of the available companies (Smoke Daddy is a great place to start). It is important to understand how a pellet smoker works so you can factor in the location of the hopper and auger assemblies into your design before you start. You are going to need a good sketch with good dimensions of your proposed smoker before you start.
· Make sure the burn pot is centrally located
· Make sure the pellet hopper has easy access
· Make you have a plan for airflow
Airflow is the area that needs good consideration – you can’t stick the chimney just anywhere. It starts at the hopper, moves through the auger, then through the burn pot. From there it is up to you where the smoke goes. Most pellet smokers that I have seen have straight-up vertical flow design. Your design may differ, maybe you go horizontal, or reverse flow. Because pellet smokers used forced airflow, uniformity is a goal rather than air control. Your first design may not be optimal, but you’ll have fun and learn a lot along the way (not to mention eating a lot of BBQ). Keep on it, it will be great!
Paul Dahlstrom is a NEBS BOD member, Master KCBS Judge, and pitmaster for Skull and Bones competition team.