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How to Make a Trash Can Cold Smoker


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Today we are going to make a homemade cold smoker because being able to smoke foods for preservation was a key pioneer ability. Being able to smoke foods for taste is a prime hobby for many modern men. There is a difference in the times and levels of smoking, but the process is the same, low temperature smoking chambers that surround the meat in smoke from either a small or a separate fire.

You can buy smokers, but they typically cost more than my wife will let me spend on a “grill”, this means if I want one I would have to make it.

I happened to have a small kettle type grill laying around, I had broken it, and then welded the leg back, but it was not awkward for tailgating, so I never use it anymore.

How to Make a Trash Can Cold Smoker

Using the old grill as a base, I went to the local hardware store and bought a new steel garbage can, some steel flexible hose (NOT Mylar dryer vent), some metal duct “starters”, a couple hose clamps, some metal grill grates, some bolts, nuts and rivets. It basically cost around $50 for this build.

I cut a hole in the top half of the old grill, and the same sized hole in the side of the garbage can a couple inches from the bottom. These holes were the same inner diameter of the starters. The starters are round duct that have tabs cut along one side. These tabs can be pulled out 90 degrees to form a flange to attach to a square duct. Then a round duct can be pushed over the starter.

I pulled out the tabs and attached the starter tabs to both the grill and the can (1 each).

Next, I loosened one hose clamp, pushed it on one end of the flexible duct, and then pressed the duct over the starter tab.

After that, I tightened the clamp over the hose, and then used the metal tape to make the connection airtight (I found this to not be necessary).

Now the Grates

Before I did the same with the other end of the hose and the garbage can I needed to be able to attach the grates to the can.

I marked 4 equidistant holes about halfway up the can. I drilled out the holes and put a stainless steel bolt in each hole. (if I would have run string through the holes, the string would have formed an “X” in the center of the can). By inserting the bolt, and then tightening a nut on the inside, each bolt formed a stop to hold the bracket.

I did the same thing about ¾ up the can, this forms the upper grill.

I took the grates out (leaving the bolts) and then attached the hose coming from the grill to the can.

Now that the hose is attached the usage is simple.

  • Light a fire in the grill
  • make a bowl out of heavy duty aluminum foil and fill with wood chips
  • Place bowl on the grill grate and close the grill.
  • Smoke will soon leave the grill, travel down the hose, and start to fill the garbage can.
  • Place whatever food you want to smoke on the grill gates in the can
  • Put the lid on the can and wait as long as it takes to get the level of smoke you desire.

I have some recipes for sausage and cheese.

Published inKitchen & Farm


  1. Hey,
    I have that same little grill and its really useless for grilling. really like your idea for the smoker,i will be making one it wont go to waste now. really like your design for the smoker,should be able to smoke quite a bit of food with that can. have you tried smoking raw chicken or rabbit anything like that with it yet? if so about how long does it need to smoke for?
    thanks John

    • I have not tried smoking anything for preservation, so I have not done any raw meat. But for preservation it needs to build a think coat and that takes a couple of days.

  2. Rev. Tony P Rev. Tony P

    Just a quick question did the adhesive for the Mylar tape on the lil BBQ melt? How about the Mylar tape? Thanks

    • It did, I was told to get metal tape, but got confused – That part was a disaster – however, besides smoke coming out, not having tape did not prevent the smoker from working well

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