How to Build a Cold Smoker in 8 Steps (Simple DIY Cold Smoker)

Have you ever wanted to build your own cold smoker at home?

Maybe smoke a few of the fish you caught?

Recently we had a wonderful reader of the blog, Doug (an avid fisherman and chef) contacted me.

He had tried our cold smoked salmon recipe and had great success with it

He has put together his own cold smoker and wanted to share the journey. See his story below.

home made cold smokers in the shed
This is a brisket Doug is cold smoking to make pastrami!

How to Build your Own Cold Smoker in 8 Steps

I wanted to pass along a homemade version of a cold smoker that anyone could build for home or hobby use.

So I won’t waste any more time.

Professional smokers have temperature-controlled hoppers, feeding temperature-controlled environments, that require little attention or maintenance.

But doing it at home requires a little more devotion, and love for the food, and certainly the results!

Step 1:

First, find yourself a container to cold smoke your meat. I would suggest finding a tub that is 24” long, by 16” wide, by about 12” deep.

Find, or buy one that has a snug-fitting lid.

my diy cold smoker in the backshed

Step 2:

Next, find a grate, or wire grill that just barely will fit inside the top of the tub.

I found one that fit very snug, and in fact, didn’t have to modify at all. But if you can’t find an ideal one, here is what to do:

Drill two holes at each end of the tub, possibly 3 inches lower than the top.

These will support the grill or grate. In my case, I used fiberglass fencing rods, about 3/16 in diameter. But you could use a couple of 1/4 to 1/2” pieces of dowling to support the grill.

Step 3:

Now, I wired the grate to the dowling at one end. This, in effect, created a “hinge” to lift the grate to get at the bottom of the tub, which you will need to do.

my cold smoke generator diy

Step 4:

Equally important is the apparatus that goes on the bottom of the smoker.

First of all go to Can Tire, or whatever hardware store, and buy the most powerful soldering iron you can get your hands on.

Don’t cheap out on this: you will regret it and have to go back for a more powerful one. Trust me, I know from my mistakes. It has to be new because you don’t want any lead solder on the iron.

OK, now you will have to find a small drying rack or whatever to keep the iron from melting the plastic on the bottom of the tub.

Good old soldering iron for my homemade cold smoker

Step 5:

Now for the smoke, you will be using. Open a 16 oz. Can of chickpeas, soup, or fruit can (bigger than a Campbell’s soup can )

DO NOT Take the lid right off! Leave an inch or so of the lid still attached to the can – sort of a Hinge!

Empty the contents, and rinse the can. The “hinge” should be at the bottom of the can.

Bottom of can, hole cut to shove in good old soldering iron

Step 6:

Now, align the can so that you can cut a hole on the bottom of the can on the opposite end as well, just big enough to allow half of the soldering iron to fit inside the can. Just use a knife you don’t care about, or that you can easily resharpen.

Step 7:

OK, now drill a hole in the bottom of the tub to pass the A/C wire from the soldering iron through.

Snip the A/C line from the soldering iron, and re-connect on the outside of the tub using marretts. 

If you want to be fussy, fill the marretts with silicone. Also if you want to be fussier, drill two smaller holes to split and pass the A/C wires through the tub to prevent less smoke from escaping. Heh.

Step 8:

So you are almost ready to go! The smoking chips you use can be purchased at most hardware retail stores.

Pre-soak the chips for twenty minutes before filling the can. There are a lot of varieties to choose from, but make sure you have enough for your recommended smoke time.

Pre-soaked mesquite chips - 20 minutes is fine ready to cold smoker

Also, have at least a couple of bags of ice on hand. Charlie recommends that the temperature stays rather constant, at about 86 deg. F. I found that I had to not only keep adding wood chips to the can but also toss in handfuls of ice to keep the temperature within spec. How I did this was to drill a small hole in the lid of the smoker, and stick an instant-read in there.

Sincerely hope this is helpful, even to one person!


It’s wonderful hearing from my readers! I am looking forward to hearing what Doug smokes next! Hopefully, he can get his hands on some more fish!

Smoke on


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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