Preserve Survival Meat & Save $100s On These DIY Smokers

DIY smokers are clearly the way to go for delicious meats in a survival situation. That’s because smoking meat is one of the most important and essential ways to preserve it for a crisis.

People have been smoking meat for thousands of years. They may not have been using a fancy Weber or Traeger, but make no mistake they were using this technique to stock up on plenty of survival meat for when times got tough.

Sure, it’s 2017 (almost 2018) you can blow hundreds of dollars on a  big-brand smoker. OR you can make your own for WAY less than that.

We’re passionate about saving you money for SHTF situations. That’s why we want to show you how to…

Preserve Survival Meat & Save $100s On These DIY Smokers

The beauty of these DIY smokers is that they work great, and they’re cheap – especially when comparing to a Weber or Traeger. Not to mention, they’re very dependable and can perform just as well – if not better – than the expensive ones from a specialty store. And all it takes is a simple trip to the hardware store (or scrapyard if you’re extra thrifty).

Here’s some DIY smokers to consider making for all your meat preservation needs:

The Clay Pot Smoker

This method proves you don’t need to invest tons of money into either a Traeger or a large smokehouse to get deliciously smoked meat. In fact, this method assembles so quickly you can start smoking your meats tonight!

Here’s the info from Mother Earth News:

Picture courtesy of Mother Earth News
Picture courtesy of Mother Earth News


Picture courtesy of Mother Earth News
Picture courtesy of Mother Earth News
Picture courtesy of Mother Earth News


The File Cabinet Smoker

This is absolute proof you don’t need to purchase an expensive meat smoker to get the job done right. Check out the video below to learn how to make a durable and functional smoker out of an old file cabinet. For more detailed instructions, click the YouTube icon on the bottom right of the video, and you can read more in the video’s description.


The Pallet Smokehouse

If you’ve got extra wood pallets around, this is an excellent use for them! Here’s the instructions from DIY Projects:

How to Build A Smokehouse:

Tools You Will Need to Build A Smokehouse:

  • reciprocal saw with bimetal blade (used to take pallets apart)
  • drill gun, preferably a cordless one
  • drill bits 1/8 bit and countersink bit
  • measuring tape
  • metal/tin snips
  • utility knife
  • Skil saw or table saw
  • Staple Gun
  • Safety Glasses
  • Work Gloves
DIY smoker: Supplies and tools you will need for the project
Deconstructed pallet pieces, cut to size, aluminum mesh screen and corrugated tin for roof. (Only use raw metal, not galvanized.)
Pictured are the deconstructed pallet pieces, both the pallet panels (shown on left) and the 2×4 pieces of pallet, all cut using the dimensions in our cuts list.

Directions and Instructions for Homemade Smokehouse:

Step 1 : Select Your Pallets and Deconstruct Them

There are a few challenges when you use free, repurposed materials. The wood you get is not consistent, often very dry, sometimes warped. It splits easily. It is far from perfect, but it is free. You will need 20-30 pallets for this project. We recommend you spend some time looking for ones without too many broken slats and without wood that is too visibly warped. It is fine if you do not do this or are not able to find perfect pallets (those do not exist) You wood may be a little warped, but that is fine. Your smokehouse will not be perfect, but it will smoke meat. You will want to get a few more pallets than you think you need in order to get the best materials. Pallets usually range from 42″-48″ and 3’x3′ design should allow you to build this when you use pallets in this size range. The 2x4s in most pallets are typically 4′ – 5′ long and they have cutouts for a forklift. The cutouts are fine. If you need to, you can sister two boards together, which we explain further in our DIY Smoker Video.

Pallets come in many shapes and sizes. Each one is little bit different, and some are in better shape than others.

Where To Get Pallets? Check out our article: Where To Get Free Pallets and Reclaimed Wood

How To Know If Your Pallets Are Safe ? How To Tell If A Pallet Is Safe To Use

Deconstruct your pallets. We recommend you use a reciprocal saw with a bimetal blade that cuts through nails to do this. Trust me, this is the easiest way. View our tutorial and video on The Easy Way To Deconstruct A Pallet for step by step instructions.

A reciprocal saw with a bimetal blade makes pallet disassembly much less work than a pry bar.
You place the blade under each slat and cut, leaving you with the 2×4 planks that are between the slats.


Step 2 : Cut Clean Ends on Board and Make Cuts Below

Once you have your pallets deconstructed, you need to make your cuts. Start by making clean cuts on the ends of all your pallet boards. You should only need to remove a little bit. We chose our 3′ design to accommodate for this loss of wood from your pallets.


Cut these from 2x4s

(part 1) 2 top braces front and back @ 33”

(part 2) Door frame 2 pieces @ 70”

(part 3) Door frame 2 pieces @ 29”

(part 4) Wall frame front 2 pieces @ 6’

(part 5) Wall frame back 2 pieces @ 5’ 6”

(part 6) Back frame 2 pieces @ 5’4”    1×1

(part 7) Shelf supports 8 pieces @ 33”

(part 8) Shelf frames 8 pieces @ 32 ¾”

(part 9) And 8 pieces @ 30 ½ “


Cut these from Pallet Panels

(part 10) Left side @ 36 ¼ “

(part 11) Right side @ 34 ½ “

(part 12) Door @ 35 ¾”

(part 13) Back @ 35 ¾”

(part 14) Roof @ 38”

(part 15) Vent covers 2 pieces @ 18” to 24”

(Part 16)  Bottom front brace 1 piece @ 36”

Corrugated Metal roof 4’x3’

You will want to make clean cuts on the ends of your pallet boards. You should not need to cut too much off the ends.
When you remove the split ends of the wood, you should have a clean cut that looks like this.



Depending on the condition of your wood you may need to pre-drill and counter sink ALL screws to ensure the wood does not crack. We highly recommend you do this when using repurposed wood.

Step 3 : Layout and secure racks and frame for left and right sides

You will be making two sides frames here that also have cross pieces that will hold your racks. This DIY smoker utilizes  a neat design – the racks make the structure itself, and you can even easily adjust the rack heights in the design. The parts that hold the racks in place end up being the ribbing that holds the frame in place. We marked ours at 24″, 36″, 44″and 52″ so we could place bigger meats close to the fire and smaller meats further away. You can even add hooks at the top for sausage if you allow enough room to hang. The only important consideration is your firebox, which we set at 24″ NOTE: Make sure your fire box fits under the 24” bracing. Adjust your shelves as needed. These measurements are not set and can be placed at any useable height as long as you allow ample room for your firebox.

Assemble and secure:

Take one each of (part 4- Wall frame front,  6’)and (part 5 – Wall frame back , 5’ 6”) square the bottoms, and secure 4 pieces of (part 7- Shelf Support, 33″) at 24”, 36” 44” and 52” When securing parts 7 to part 5, leave a 1 ½” gap for part 6. You will repeat these same steps for the second side, leaving you with the frame for the right and left side of your smoker.

Measure and mark part 4 and part 5 at 24″, 36″, 44″ and 52″ These measurements are adjustable if you wish your shelves to be at different heights than this.
Lay out one each of parts 4 and part 5, then mark your measurements one both at 24″, 36″, 44″ and 52″
You will secure your shelf supports (part 7, 4 pieces, 33″ for each side) at the four measurements you marked.
You will want to square up the ends to make sure your racks and your smoker is level.
Your will attach four shelf supports (part 7, 33″) to each side
We countersinked our screws before attaching these pieces. We highly recommend you do this so your wood will not split.

Step 4: Build frame for door

Take parts 2 and 3 (part 2 – Door frame, 2 pieces @ 70”) and (part 3 – Door frame, 2 pieces @ 29”) and screw them together to create door. We used a homemade jig so we could easily get our screws in at an angle. Use four screws on each corner.

Take two of your 70″ pieces (part 2) and two of your 29″ pieces (part 3) and screw them together to make your door.
We used a homemade jig to get our screws in at an angle on the frame.
The jig allows us to get the screws in at an angle. Use four screws on each side.
Our finished door frame looks like this.

Step 5: Stand sides and door up, then secure

Stand the walls and door together and temporarily screw the door to the face of the walls so you can hold them together.

Temporarily screw the door to the frame so you can hold it together.

Step 6 : Cut angle for roof

Using a piece of panel, set against the top of the left and right wall, draw a line to create the angle for the pitch of the roof, and cut off excess to create the pitch of the roof.

Use a piece of panel to draw a line for the angle of the roof. Cut along this line on both sides, making them even.

Step 7:

Screw in part 1 (part 1 – two (2) top braces for front and back @ 33”) at the top of the walls front and back.

Attach part 1 (2 top braces for front and back, 33″) to the top of the wall, along the angle you cut in step 5.

Step 8 :

Add in part 6 (part 6- Back frame 2 pieces @ 5’4”    1×1) to the back of the frame, screw into part 5 (Wall Frame Back).

Place the back frame piece (part 6) next to the back of the wall frame(part 5) like this.
Secure back frame piece (part 5 ) to wall frame (part 6 )with screws.


Step 9 : Add paneling

Paneling. Add the back paneling first from the ground up. Repeat for the right and left sides.

Remove door from frame. Screw in hinges and re-hang the door. Leave at least a ½” gap at the base of the door.

Add paneling to door, then add paneling to roof last.

NOTE: Right side is shorter so that hinges have space to rotate. Also, Left side is longer so the door sits inside the paneling.

Starting from the ground up, add your paneling to the sides of the smoker.
Continue adding paneling until you get to the top.
Repeat and add paneling to other side.

Step 10 : Attach wood for roof

Screw roofing materials (part 14 Roof @ 38”) onto top to make roof.

Place roofing boards (part 14)  on top and secure with screws.
Screw the roofing materials onto the roof so they look like this.

Step 11 : Finish door

Put door frame back in place. Attach hinges to one side of door frame. Add pallet panels to door. Attach handle to front of door on opposite side from hinges.

Attach your door frame to the smoker and add hinges on one side.
Starting at the bottom, attach the pallet panels to the door.
Continue attaching the pallet panels to the door like this.
Attach panels until you get to the top. In this photo, we have already drilled the vent holes.
Attach your handle to the door on the side opposite from the hinges.


Step 12 : Construct racks

Screw rack parts together. (part 8 – Shelf frames 8 pieces @ 32 ¾”) Staple screen onto rack. Once you have two sides stapled, be sure to pull the screen tight as you staple the other two sides.

Screw the pieces for the rack frames (part 8,) together to make your smoking racks.
Lay a piece of screen over the rack to get the right size.
Cut the aluminum screen to size using your metal snips.
Staple the screen onto each rack.
After you staple two sides, be sure to pull the screen tight like this as you staple.


Step 13 : Cut vent holes

Select 2 panels from the door, one at the base and one at the top. Remove the panels, screw part 15 (part 15 – Vent covers 2 pieces @ 18” to 24”) to the face and drill holes using a hole saw. Make sure to leave enough space between the holes that they will be able to be closed off. Remove screws and build a brace to hold part 15 in place.





Step 14 : Line inside with foil

Line the interior of the smoke house with heavy duty tin foil. Make the structure as air tight as you can. Expect to use 2 to 3 rolls of foil. Use a staple gun to secure the foil to the walls.

NOTE: do not use any galvanized metal in the smoke house as it is toxic.

Line the entire inside of the smoker with heavy duty tin foil. Secure foil with your staple gun.
Insert your racks into the smoker.
Just imagine what you can smoke in here.


Step 15 : Attach tin roof

Attach tin to roof and secure with screws.

Your cut piece of tin should fit nicely on the roof. Secure it with screws.

Step 16 : Admire your finished smoker

Your DIY smoker is complete and ready to smoke meat!

Your DIY Smoker is complete and ready to smoke meat.

Here’s the step-by-step videos to help make your DIY smoker a success:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:


The Trash Can Smoker

This one might seem a little…well…you know. But this is the perfect smoker for SHTF situations, when you have few supplies and need to start cooking meat pronto. Check out these instructions from Cruft Box:

How to make a Smoker from a Trash Can
October 2003


First of all, the idea for doing this comes from Alton Brown and his show Good Eats.  Without his inspiration, I wouldn’t have even considered making this.

Recently my good friend Martin moved back to Kansas from LA.  When he left, he took his smoker with him.  This left me without access to a smoker.  This is A Bad Thing.  Smoked food is one of life’s great pleasures.  I decided that I need to make my own smoker.

I should explain the basic differences between grilling, BBQing, and smoking meat.  Each is a way of cooking meat, but they differ in methods and results.

Picture courtesy of Cruft Box

Grilling is cooking meat by the direct application of high heat with a gas burner or an electric heater.  Grilling is simple since temperature is easy, but doesn’t bring any new flavors to the party.

BBQing is cooking meat by the direct application of heat with charcoal or wood.  The burning of the fuel adds flavor to the meat.  BBQing requires more skill since the flames must be managed to prevent burning or low temperatures.

Smoking is cooking meat by the indirect application of heat with wood at low temperatures.  Low temperatures are considered around 225°.  The smoke of the burning wood adds significant flavor to the meat.

Due to the lower temperature, smoking meat takes a longer time than grilling or BBQing.  Using different woods leads to different flavors being imparted into the meat.


This is the basic design of smoker.
See how the smoke created by the wood chips rises and slowly cooks the meat?
So the plan is simple, use an electric hot plate to heat wood chips inside a metal trash can.
I picked up a trash can at the hardware store and ordered a single burner hot plate.
The first issue is getting the power cord out.
I used a drill and metal nibbler to open a hole in the trash can.
Be sure to file down the edges so that the power cord can’t get cut.
I had a small wood chip box that I had previously used with my gas grill.
Here’s the general setup with the hot plate powered.
The wood chips are easy to find at any BBQ supply place.
For my test run, I used hickory wood.
The wood chips in position, ready to burn.
After a few minutes the wood is starting to smoke.
The first sign of success.
With the lid on top, the heat and smoke build up rapidly.
I decided to use top sirloin with a dry rub.
The traditional meat to smoke is a tri-tip, but the supermarket was out.
I got the temperature to 227°, right on target.  Keeping the temperature
between 220° and 230° is optimal for the long slow cook you are looking for here.Once the smoker is going, grab a beer and a good book and have a seat.The wood chips seems to last 60-90 minutes before they need to be dumped and
replaced with fresh chips.  Cooking the beef took about 4 hours to hit the target temp of 145°.
The next day I decided to make a few additions.
I went to the Barbeques Galore and picked a temperature gauge.
I also drilled another airhole in the lid.
For the second run, I decided to try chicken.
I sprinkled a little Old Bay seasoning on the chicken and
soaked the apple wood chips in water.
You can see the smoke particles on the sides of the trash can.
Here’s the chicken ready to go.
The water soaked wood helped the smoking go longer and kept steam in
the smoker to keep the chicken moist.

So there you have it, a working smoker made from easily available parts.

Here’s what I spent:

Trash Can w/ lid:  $12.00
Electric Hot Plate: $13.00
Grating: $10.00
Wood Chip Box: $10.00 (actually, I already had this, but they are cheap if you need to buy one.)
Temperature Gauge: $9.00

So for just over $50, you can build a smoker.

Now that I’m a very experienced smoker with two days of smoking, here are my suggestions:

1) Soak the wood chips in water for 20-30 minutes before using them.
2) Keep an ash can ready to dump the ashes into when you put new chips in.
3) Take your time.  Smoking takes a while.  Don’t be in a hurry.
4) After taking the meat off the grating, wrap it in aluminum foil and let it sit for 30 minutes before eating.

Thanks to Martin for his support and answers while I got rolling on my smoking career.


Here’s an instructional video on making a similar trash can smoker:

The Cardboard Box Smoker

This is easily the cheapest smoker on this list. And, although it may not be effective for years on end, it will certainly work in a pinch! Check out the video below for details:


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