It has been a while. My Weber hobby has started to spiral a bit out of control, but with the patience* and love of my family, they have come to accept me for the addict I have become.
*Patience may be wearing thin…the eye rolling from my wonderful daughter is a bit much.
I’ve learned a lot this year about smoking and grilling meat, and I plan on sharing more on that in the future, but today I’m going to share an easy project to build a homemade meat smoker for less than $100**.
**I try to tell myself that I am partaking in a cheap hobby that is not taking food from the mouths of my children and not jeopardizing their college education. I’d love to collect classic cars…but I couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on an old car…plus I’d probably horribly injure/burn/electrocute myself or my family…
The Weber Smokey Mountain meat smoker is the Cadillac of home smokers. Weber introduced it in 1981, and although it is a small part of their overall business, they have a very devoted following. If you buy one, GREAT! It will serve you well and last forever.
Anyway, the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) you buy in the store has three sizes. The 22.5 inch “Behemoth” smoker, the 18.5 inch “Bigger than Usually Necessary” smoker (I picked up one on Craigslist for $40 last summer), and the new 14.5 inch “Reasonable Human Being” smoker. The Behemoth costs $400 new, the 18.5 BUN costs $300, and the 14.5 incher costs $200.
All of those numbers are larger than I like to spend. So a few years ago, the good people of the Internet introduced the Mini WSM. It is the marriage of a Weber Smokey Joe grill to a 32-quart tamale pot. If you have those two items, you are 90% there to making yourself a pretty sweet homemade smoker that will take up very little room in your yard, and very little money out of your pocket.
Smokey Joe Grill: These are $30 new in the store, BUT you can ALWAYS find them on Craigslist or OfferUp for CHEAP near you.
IMUSA 32 Quart Tamale Pot: Available at Walmart. I loathe Walmart. However, they are the only ones who have this pot for the ridiculous price of $21. Search online to see if any stores near you have it, otherwise order it off their website. A Walmart near me had it. If you live in the non-tamale belt (AKA the Midwest) this might be a bit harder to find than in Vegas.
Nuts and bolts:
THREE 3/4″, size 8 screws.
THREE 1½ inch size 8 screws.
Each bag of screws was 97 cents at Walmart. I also bought the matching size 8 washers. You only need six screws total, but you might as well buy the whole bag.
A 12 inch terra cotta saucer. I got it at Home Depot. Walmart didn’t have this. Mine cost $6.
OPTIONAL: Extra grill grate from a Smokey Joe, or a 18.5 inch charcoal replacement grate (if you want to have two cooking levels)
A cordless drill.
Metal drill bits.
Ruler or measuring tape.
Seriously, that is it. I cannot stress how UN-HANDY I am. However, over the past few months, I’ve gotten pretty skilled with Weber restoration, but I’d never used my metal drill bits. I was curious how it would go. Would they work? Will I horribly injure myself doing this? Can my son help with this? (Yes, NO, Yes)
WHAT YOU DO:
- Get that Smokey Joe. You can find it at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Seriously though, find one on Craigslist. You’ll save money and you will rescue a sad, lonely, unloved Weber grill***…CUE Sarah McLachlan Sad Dog Song.
*** I got this grill for FREE from our friends Steve and Thea in California. I explained my new hobby to them, and he was more than glad to give me this grill that had been sitting there neglected for YEARS in the lonely shadows of his house. It is from 1988. I cleaned it up inside and out (just use an SOS pad) and then made a homemade ash catcher from an old paint lid…this is not my standard procedure, but I like that it still has the name “Ramon” on the lid. I needed to add the ash catcher to stabilize the legs. Come to think of it, “Ramon” is a good name for this grill.
- Bring home your IMUSA 32 Quart Tamale Pot. Check to see that it fits snugly in your Smokey Joe. Sometimes the top of the pot doesn’t fit snugly with the Smokey Joe lid. If this is the case, you can crimp it, or check to see if either your lid or the pot is out of round. Many people suggest taking your Smokey Joe to Walmart to find out which IMUSA pot fits best inside. Apparently not all IMUSAs are created equal…Imagine that, Walmart products not having standard quality!
- Drill a bunch of holes in the bottom of your IMUSA pot. This does not have to be precise at all. The holes allow the smoke from the charcoal chamber (the bottom of your Smokey Joe) to enter your smoking chamber (the pot). The important thing is to not drill too close to the curved edge of the bottom of the pot. We used the steamer insert that came with the pot as a template. I have a 7.2 volt Black and Decker drill. It is not the most powerful. Start with a smaller drill bit, the expand your holes with your largest drill bit. AS A SIDE NOTE: SOME PEOPLE JUST CUT OUT THE WHOLE BOTTOM OF THEIR POT USING TIN SNIPS. I do not own tin snips, and did not want to buy a set for this (see my cheapness). If you do have tin snips, first off, congrats. Second, make sure you leave space around the edge of the pot.
NOTE ON PICTURE: My son only drilled a few holes under reasonable supervision while I took pictures…
- Now for some measuring. Using a ruler or measuring tape, measure down four inches from the top of the pot. Make a mark. Then about 14.5 inches away around the top of the pot, measure down four inches again and make a mark. Go 14.5 inches away around the top of the pot, measure down, you guessed it, four inches and make a mark.
- Now at the bottom of your pot, measure up 1.25 inches from the bottom at ROUGHLY the same places you made your top marks. Make three marks 1.25 inches up from the bottom.
- Using a 1/8 METAL drill bit…Oh, you’re not sure what a metal drill bit looks like? Neither was I! Google it Dear Reader! I can’t do all your work for you…Anyway, drill holes at each of your marks.
- Once your holes are drilled, insert your screws. Put the ¾ inch screws in the top holes you drilled. Just to be clear, insert the screw, place the washer inside the pot, tighten the nut on to the washer. Put the 1 ½ screws in the bottom holes you drilled. Insert the screw, place the washer inside the pot, tighten the nut on to the washer. This is what it should look like when you are done:
- CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve done all of the hard work. Now, you may have been wondering about that terra cotta saucer. Smokers usually have a heat diffuser or a “heat sink.” Large Weber Smokey Mountains have water pans, but clay works as a great heat absorber. This terra cotta saucer will keep your smoker from getting too hot. However, all the meat juices will drip on it as well making it kind of nasty. So, double wrap it in aluminum foil before putting it in your pot. You’ll need to rewrap each time you smoke. You will place the terra cotta saucer on the bottom screws.
THE TERRA COTTA SAUCER:WRAPPED UP:
- Place the grill grate(s) in the pot. I have two Smokey Joes. I placed one grate right on the terra cotta saucer THIS GRATE IS OPTIONAL. NOW TO WARN YOU, you may have to use a little effort to shove the grates in place. My IMUSA pot must bend in a bit in the middle. Place your top grate on the three screws you inserted near the top of your pot.
- Put the Smokey Joe lid back on, and take a step back to admire what you have accomplished. You have created your own meat smoker. Congratulations! If society collapses, and we no longer have access to electrical refrigeration you will now be able to preserve meat and game for your family. You go Backwoods Doomsday Prepper!
Seriously, it is a fun little project. I did it all after work on Friday evening. AND NOW FOR THE COMPLETELY SUPERFLUOUS WORK YOU ABSOLUTELY DON’T HAVE TO DO.
Many people who have made Mini WSMs online decorate them with their own personal touch. I love my St. Louis Cardinals****
****TOTAL ASIDE…Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams is THE WORST. I will keep this blog family friendly and call him that. The Worst’s argument that St. Louis is a baseball town that would never love football was hilarious. The NFL ran away from a city because they WERE AFRAID OF A BASEBALL TEAM. Big, bad football…losing to a baseball team. The Cardinals have to convince local consumers to come buy their product (tickets) 81 TIMES A YEAR, often on weekday afternoons, weekday evenings, and in the god-awful St. Louis heat. The Rams had to convince consumers to see “America’s Favorite Game” 8 TIMES A YEAR, on the laziest day of the week in a climate controlled building. And they failed…probably on purpose…but still…I’m pretty sure I could do a better job selling that.
ANYWAY…I LOVE THE CARDINALS. To commemorate that devotion, I printed out a STL logo, cut it out using the Exacto knife and taped it to the pot. Make sure to tape some plastic bags to the top of the pot so you don’t get paint inside the cooking chamber!!! Once I was ready, I went over the entire pot with Duplicolor HIGH HEAT Red Engine Paint. You must use high heat paint for this part (At least 500 degrees). After it dried, I took off the stencil, and there you have it. Although it is not perfect, I love it. For a more polished look, you could buy one of those window stickers and put it on your grill, then go over it with the paint. Being here in Las Vegas, Cardinals stickers are hard to come by.
Overall, this is a GREAT project. My cost came to $30. I was planning on giving it a test run this last weekend, but I got rained out yesterday. I’ll fire it up next weekend for the “Stupid Big Game that the NFL Won’t Let You Write About Without Official Permission.”
If you have any questions about this project, let me know!
No. I don’t have a problem.