You know what one of my favorite things about lifting heavy weights is? You get to eat a lot of tasty food afterwards. One of the tastiest types of food is bbq. Let’s get something straight right away: grilling and bbq are two different things. I like both, and am decently practiced on the grill. I’m always up for new challenges and new adventures, so with a couple grills to start with, I set out on a new meat-preparing quest: a smoker.
I have a standard charcoal grill that I use regularly, and I stumbled across my old tailgating grill while cleaning up the garage. I didn’t want to modify the standard grill since I use it all the time, but I had no problem making modifications to the tailgating grill.
The basics of a smoker are simply that there’s a fire, where the smoke gets contained and channeled to a somewhat isolated location where the meat is. The meat is then engulfed in smoke, and in some cases, exposed to a low-to-medium cooking temperature. As such, my plan was to use the tailgate grill as my fire chamber, and the standard grill as the smoke chamber. I’d use simple ducting in between to transfer the smoke and a small amount of heat.
I sketched out my plan, took some measurements and headed off to the hardware store for the pieces I’d need. I got a 4″ duct starter to come out of the top of the tailgate grill. I used an adjustable dryer vent duct to move the smoke from the fire chamber to the smoke chamber, and I got a 5″ to 4″ adapter to connect the dryer vent to the standard grill. All told: $26.
Back home I set out to assemble it. I started by marking and cutting a hole in the top of the tailgate grill. I used a cut-off wheel, but you could get away with a drill and a pair of metal shears if you don’t have a cut-off wheel. I inserted the 4″ duct starter and bent the tabs over to hold it in place. Next, I cut tabs into the adapter, bent them over, and inserted that in place of the ash bin in the standard grill.
I wanted to be able to remove the tailgate grill in order to tend the fire, but wanted the ducting to stay in place. I also wanted to be able to fully disassemble the smoker when not in use. To do this, I drilled through the adapter and the duct so, and straightened some wire to make a pin. While in use, the pin holds the duct in place, and is easily removed for dis-assembly.
On it’s first use, the smoker proved functional. The setup easily channeled smoke, and in adequate quantity. I was able to reach temperatures from 130-200 degrees F. In some cases, that temperature might be a little on the low side. To make it easier to elevate and otherwise control the temperature, I plan to add some intake holes to the tailgate grill. This should allow the fire to breathe a little better, resulting in higher temperatures and a more consistent burn.
If you’ve been considering an adventure into the realm of true bbq, hopefully this gives you some ideas that are functional and cost-effective! Be sure to let us know how your setup works in the comments or over on the Facebook page!