Appalachia Appalachian Food

How To Make A Smoker

How to make a smoker for meat

If you guessed The Deer Hunter was building a smoker-you were right! Several years ago, one of Papaw Tony’s friends made a homemade smoker-and after The Deer Hunter tasted what was cooked in it-he decided someday he’d make his own.

The smoker is an in ground design-meaning it uses the earth to insulate it while the meat is cooking. The neat thing about this design-you build a fire and use the coals to heat the pipe-which in turn cooks the meat. In other words you don’t have to worry about keeping a fire going or making sure you don’t run out of gas in the middle of smoking.

Homemade smoker

He got a 3ft long piece of metal pipe-with a diameter of about 24in at a salvage yard. About 10in from the bottom of the pipe, he welded 3 pieces of angle iron to form a seat to hold the grill up off of the coals. He completely buried the pipe in the ground-which = a whole lot of digging! The pipe serves as the main body of the smoker.

Directions for how to make a smoker for meat

Next he dug a hole adjacent to the smoker on one side-so that he could insert a piece of metal pipe under the bottom edge of the smoker. The pipe will allow air to feed the fire.

He built a chimney of sorts to hold the air pipe in place and to block the heat from escaping on that side of the smoker.

Smoker for meat make one at home

The Deer Hunter got a sheet of 1/8in. metal at the salvage yard too. Using an acetylene torch he cut a circular piece from the sheet to make the grill or grate to sit the meat on.

Then as luck would have it-the tank went dry before he could cut out a circular shape for the lid of the smoker. Not wanting to give up on his plan of dining on something good-he deicided to continue and worry about the lid when he got to that point.

Survival smoker cooking in ground

The Deer Hunter got a fire going in the bottom of the smoker-and kept it going for a few hours to get a really good bed of white hot coals.

While the fire was burning, The Deer Hunter went inside and got the meat ready. He took a whole chicken and a pork boston butt-seasoned each up with a tasty concotion-then wrapped each individually in aluminum foil.

How to make a grate or grill

While he was inside fixing up his fricassee-I stood by the fire warming my fingers and toes. Then before I knew it-he was back with the meat.

He carefully placed the grate-loaded with meat-down into the smoker till it rested on the brackets. By this point-the fire had burned down to a good bed of coals.

Survival smoker cooking in ground

Then it was time to figure out how to cover the hole tightly-since torching a lid was out. He decided to just use the entire piece of metal for this smoking session. Using the dirt he had dug out of the holes-he covered the entire piece of metal until the smoker was sealed up tight. It was easy to see if there were any leaks-as smoke would begin to rise out of the dirt.

And that was it. He finished up the project about 5:30pm. We went in-cleaned up-and forgot about the meat until the next morning.

How to smoke meat in the ground for food

At about 8:00am the next morning, we went to check out the meat. The Deer Hunter scraped off the dirt-while I snapped annoying pictures in his face.

Once he lifted the piece of metal off-I couldn’t believe the smoker was still hot. And once we were back in the kitchen-I could not believe how good the meat was! Oh my-talk about melt in your mouth.

The whole process might seem burdensome-but it really wasn’t that bad. And once he gets the top cut out-it will be even easier the next time we use the smoker. But honestly-the meat was so good that I think he’d do it again and again even if he had to cover the entire sheet of metal every time.

The Deer Hunter said he was going to tinker with his design-so stay tuned for updates on the smoker.



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  • Reply
    March 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Uncle Al-he built a fire out of some kindling; then I would guess he used about 4 or 5 pieces of firewood.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    March 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

    B-making it into the bank sounds like a plan. I don’t do bending over good either. He did say his next design would be not to make it so deep LOL! So well see what he comes up with.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    March 27, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Howland-yes-the elbow was one thing he wanted to add. He swore he should have one-but looked everywhere and never did find one. He just added it to the list of tinkering with his smoker design.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    March 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Tipper, haven’t been on in a few days. I filled my computer so full I had to get another one to get on the net.
    That is a great smoker, think I’ll send this to our son in WI.
    We had 5 or 6 inches of snow this morning and lot of it melted today, but a little is still falling. Supposed to quit and turn to rain.
    Hope the weather is pretty Thursday.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    The Deer Hunter sure is a clever fellow!
    I have fixed meat and other things in a bed of coals, but your smoker would make the job a lot nicer! Can you cook potatoes and roasting ears in there too?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I think the Deer Hunter has built his smoker right next to the bank so that the air intake would also serve as a drain in case of a flood. But if he keeps it covered and since the lip of the smoker is above grade there shouldn’t be any water get it.
    Not everybody is blessed to have a bank. Flatlanders just can’t replicate this feat of culinary engineering.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    March 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I jest reread the comments…mine included! Wow, did I ever spell balony wrong! I think my computer hits a lick wrong once in a while, OK maybe a lotta times.
    So, I went to my back up…little jingle…
    B-O-L-O-N-G-A…Ain’t it a shame them little young’ns spelt hit bettern’ me…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS….I am also thinkin’ that I wonder if one could make a “smoker” into the side of a bank, so’s one wouldn’t have to bend over sa much. Have a air pipe in the side..and a small smoke vent toward the back..A hinge on the front door with a
    latch to batten hit down. The whole thing enclosed in the bank, except the door. So to reach in for the fixin’s! That would also make a long grate for smokin’ long rolls of BOLONGA…AH-HA…I jest know Deer Hunter could design me one. I can’t get on all fours like that Deer Hunter in the picture…Great Pictures by the way!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    The Deer Hunter sure is a crafty
    booger. He and his dad come up with the neatest ideas, especially
    when it comes to cooking meats. I’ll bet that was delicious!
    I came barrelin’ out of my hollar
    after I found my Jeep. I got at least 10″ of snow at the house and
    there ain’t hardly any here at my
    shop…amazing! It’s a different
    world sometimes at Topton…Ken

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I have worked with fire all of my life and I can attest, verify, and make affidavit that The Deer Hunter’s plan is as sound as an ole-time silver dollar!
    I suspect he’s going to put an elbow on the air intake pipe to bring the end above ground, then install a rain cap of sorts, so he can fill in the ditch, huh? (Thinking about how the red clay in East Kentucky would hold rain-water as good as a cup would…)

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    March 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

    How much “smoked” flavor does the meat have with all that foil bundled around the chicken and pork?
    Wonder if he could smoke/make deer jerky in that thar contraption…hummmm!
    Now then, I have to tell you about my betterhalf findin’ a feller that smokes balony. He sells it for $5 for a small one and $10 for a large one. It is a whole baloney roll. Now I know one shouldn’t eat it much! But, law is it ever good! It is much bettern’ those little fancy rolls of “Hickry whatevers” you get for gifts during the holidays…
    The smoked flavor will knock yore socks off. We don’t make sandwichs with it, that just wastes bread. We have little chunks of it with cheese and crackers and such veggies…
    Country appetizers! I say!
    I know you’all don’t fatten up like regular folks so you might want to try one…but is is better if it gets the real smokey flavor.
    I know I didn’t guess what it was, but I am sure glad it were’nt no “Zombie catcher” like Ed aliken’ed to..ewwwww! Scary!
    Thanks, Tipper…..PS You could put in some Basil, Sage, and Thyme plants around the broke ground of the smoker…Brush against it, while stuff was a smokin’, that would for shore starve one to death…..

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    March 26, 2013 at 10:55 am

    This cooker brings back memories about when we were camping we would wrap taters and corn on the cob in aluminium foal then pack mud around that and throw it in the camp fire for a few hours.Food just tastes better when cooked slowly and when cooked outside even better.
    Oh and by the way, why do they call that cut of meat a boston butt when it comes from the shoulder. Other parts of the country call it a blade roast. Maybe people from Boston didn’t know if the pig was coming or going. LOL Have a great day

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    March 26, 2013 at 9:41 am

    great project. we often cooked in pits in college…whole goats and pigs. we used rocks and pipe. good times.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I love this! A perfect smoker with the most delicious looking results! I can imagine how good it must have smelled!!!

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    March 26, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I am always amazed at how hard men will work for meat! The end product looks delicious, Tipper. I bet if my son sees this he’ll want to give it a try too.
    I wondered about rain–will it get into the smoker?
    We used to have a real smokehouse that we built. The principal was the same–we used a barrel buried longways in the ground with the mouth open and a hole in back. We ran clay pipe underground to the center of the building, then a metal stovepipe up through the floor. Inside the building we had wood boards stacked with concrete blocks for shelves. It worked beautifully. We cured the meat (pork, we never tried anything else)first with salt, then smoked with apple and hickory wood. Best ham and bacon ever.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 26, 2013 at 9:02 am

    We do something similar to roast a wild boar, however ours is just a hole in the ground and we cover with palm fronds, no elaborate chimneys. Love yours though so much nicer to look at.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    March 26, 2013 at 8:54 am

    That meat looks larrapin but I’d need an engine hoist to get up off the ground.
    I don’t know about western North Carolina, but in south-central Arkansas we would say about the Deer Hunter ” ‘at boy ken do inythang”.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Isn’t it amazing, Bradley….they cook they eat and nobody is even 5 pounds overweight! Yes, the Deer Hunter is able to build anything he sets his mind to. I love working with him because he is so open to ideas as well as skilled.
    That meat looks so good. Digging that hole in your yard is certainly a labor of love.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    March 26, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Very interesting design indeed. I guess a question I’d have is how much wood/charcoal? Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    March 26, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I am intrigued by the Deer Hunter’s smoker. I like the design and might just build one of my own.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    March 26, 2013 at 8:03 am

    I’m gonna show my husband this post. Bet he’ll be burying his own pipe soon : ) That meat looks delicious!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 26, 2013 at 7:56 am

    This then begs the question “How to clean it out? He could build an ash pan with a bail to help lift it and a hook to grab it. But it would have be smaller to get passed the three tabs that hold the grate. Post hole diggers would get the ashes that missed the pan.
    He could put more tabs at different levels to hold more grates. He would need to cut notches to match the tabs then turn it a little.
    I wonder how many grates he could make from that picnic table top.
    My brain is just a whizzing this morning!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 26, 2013 at 7:44 am

    This begs the question “How does he plan to clean it out?” He could build an ash pan with a bail but it would need to be small enough to clear the tabs that hold the grate. Then use post hole diggers to get ashes that missed the pan. he could put a bail on the grate too to help lift it out. He could put in more tabs at different levels to hold more grates. He would just have to cut notches that match the tabs then turn it when it went by.
    You have got all the gears in my little brain a turnin this morning.
    I wonder how many grates he could get from that picnic table top?
    Have a good day! I know I will!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    March 26, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Better get a patent on this! Thanks fo sharing.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 26, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Interesting design. Never saw a smoker buried in the ground before.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 7:41 am

    My son has a smoker and perhaps some day if he owns land he will be able to make a version similiar to the deer hunters—and you are quite right ===mmmm there is nothing like the taste of meat cooked in a smoker for hrs and hrs—enjoy your new toy—and how I wish I lived close enough to stop on by for some of that savory meat.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Amazing what one can do with determination! It reminded me of how the Hawaiians cook their pig for a Luau when I was in the Islands. However, they only had a pit covered with volcanic stones and banana leaves. This was very interesting! Can’t wait for Chapter 2.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    March 26, 2013 at 7:31 am

    That sure looks like a great smoker. Sure would hate to do all that digging here there is so many rocks I would have to get a backhoe to dig all the rocks out. How about gardening this year doesn’t look to promising here,Harriett has planted most of our onions between wet spells but that is all we have been able to do so far.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2013 at 5:26 am

    I didn’t have a clue what that was. The Deer Hunter seems to have the knowhow to do just about anything. Also, this smoker looks like it is built to last.
    Now, here is a question. I’ve seen all the things cooked on your blog, cakes, pies, biscuits, meats, gravy, biscuits, cookies, you name it, but, one thing escapes me. From all the pictures I’ve seen there ain’t an ounce of fat on none of you folks. How do you do that?

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