Cooking with Cold Smoke

Take your culinary know-how to a new level by creating your own DIY cold smoker at home.

| March/April 2020

Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cold smoking is easier to manage than hot smoking because you don’t have to worry about maintaining a consistent temperature; in fact, you don’t even want heat from the fire to enter the smoking chamber — hence the name “cold smoking.” Once you’ve established a strong burn and a nice, steady stream of smoke, the process requires little attention.

However, building a cold smoker is a little more complicated than building a hot smoker, because you need to create two chambers: one that holds the food and smoke, and a separate chamber that holds the fire that generates the smoke. The two chambers must be connected to each other so the smoke can travel from one to the other while losing the heat of the fire.

The following instructions result in a smoker that’s great for making cold-smoked bacon, fish, sausage, and smaller pieces of cured meat. It calls for using a 55-gallon drum, but any number of other objects will work, as long as they can safely hold a fire over a long period of time, are food-safe, and can be vented to exhaust the smoke. I’ve seen people use old garbage cans, kegs, large pots, terra cotta planters, cast-iron wood-burning stoves, and even a simple hole in the ground for a firebox. One creative and simple solution I’ve seen is connecting two grills together with piping — one grill serves as the firebox, and the other as the smoke chamber.

Tools and Materials

  •  Power drill with 1/4-inch step bit
  •  Reciprocating saw with metal-cutting blade
  •  Metal file or metal grinder
  •  55-gallon steel drum with lid
  •  Paint, optional
  •  1-1/2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-diameter, 20 TPI bolts with lock washers and nuts (4)
  •  Standard gate pull handle with appropriate hardware
  •  Fireproof vessel (woodstove, steel drum, etc.)
  •  4 feet of 6-inch-diameter stovepipe
  •  6-inch-diameter stovepipe elbows (2)
  •  22-1/2-inch-diameter grill grate

1. Prepare your drum. Remove any old paint or rust inhibitors from the drum. Once prepped, you can repaint the drum if desired. High-temperature paint isn’t necessary, as your drum will never reach a high heat in cold smoking.

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