Build your own trashcan smoker

I once saw Alton Brown build a smoker out of a cardboard box on an episode of Good Eats. It seemed relatively inexpensive and easy to make. Sure, it’s a great for packaging and you can create pretty nifty cutouts of your favorite celebrities… but my biggest concern with cardboard is that it isn’t a very durable building material for BBQ’n.
I have recently found plans that take Alton’s smoker to a new level with the use of a garbage can. Yes, garbage can. For about $50 you can follow the step-by-step instructions, which are documented very well, and build your very own trashcan smoker.

The plans

…also check out other BBQ smokers here

13 thoughts on “Build your own trashcan smoker”

  1. I have years of training in haz-mat and DaHeathen does NOT know what he’s talking about. Galvanized steel is not made with flux. It’s hot dipped in zinc or electro-galvanized. It’s not going to vaporize or fall off during the low heat of smoking. Small amounts of zinc are actually essential to good health. People have been known to take 150 mg as a supplement for years without ill effect. That’s 999% of the adult daily requirement.
    The people who keep spreading this lie about galvanized are usually ignorant welders who are basing their posts on classes they received about vaporous zinc poisoning. It’s real but it will NEVER occur in a smoker.

  2. Consuming Zinc is not harmful unless you eat more than 300 mg at one time. This is the size of an average aspirin. If you find that much zinc on or in your food, I”m pretty sure you would notice. Zinc is a nutritional mineral and people have taken as much as 150 mg. a day for years. I took a college course in Nutrition and also Toxicology (3.7 GPA in both) and I assure the poisonous nature of Zinc is overstated. Unless you’re breathing Zinc vapors or eating fistfuls of it, it won’t harm you. Zinc is sold as an over the counter supplement and a lack of Zinc is actually more harmful than a slight overdose.
    There’s an old saying in Pharmacology; the poison is in the dose. Iron is a natural supplement but if you eat enough, you’ll die. Too much vitamin C or A will kill you too. The amount of Zinc that comes off a galvanized steel smoker is harmless.
    Please stop propagating these myths. They were started by welders who were too incompetent to have proper ventilation when working with Zinc. They’re not Doctors, Biochemists or even Dieticians. They’re guys often with nothing more than a high school diploma who took a class on it given by one of their own.

  3. I tried this with the hot plate as suggested, but it wouldn’t get over 165 degrees. So i got a coleman propane single burner(the kind that sits on top of the small propane bottle) I cut a 4.5 inch hole in bottom of the trash can and mounted the burner in the hole with 4 screws. Then I put a 8 foot hose onto the bottle, and set the “smoker” on 3 cinder blocks to hold it up off the burner and hose.The hole I had made for the hot plate cord made a good air hole, plus you can peek in at the fire. On the lowest setting it got to 235 degrees in just a few minutes, you have to put in a water pan though, the gas heat tends to be dryer than electric heat, but it works great!

  4. Wait! The Fumes from galvanized Steel is ABSOLUTELY poisonous! The harmful effects of its specific gravity on your stomach lining are enormous. It can’t be digested. Look up zinc poisoning on WebMD. It is poisonous. Galvanized metals give off zinc oxide when heated. Zinc oxide causes metal fume fever.
    I understand the hot smoking process, air temperatures in the can should never exceed 275 F. With a 1200 V hot plate in the bottom of the can, I would expect the highest temperatures to be in that immediate vicinity. This is way below the melting point of the Zinc coating,(787.15 °F), but not of the flux used to get it to stick to the steel. This will lead to failure of the Galvanizing and it will get into the food. With that in mind, the food Should NEVER come in direct contact with the can! This will poison you.

  5. I built this smoker to design. I added two racks in the upper chamber as an extra cooking area. I used the single hot plate (electric) from a store and cannot seem to get the smoker much past 150. On one occassion, I got it up to 200 but as soon as I opened the can to check on the internal temp…150 again and that is where it stayed. I wonder how I can get a higher temp? Also, what about cooler months when I want to smoke food?

    Would a double burner work better?

    I dont want to use charcoal in this can.

    Please help

    [email protected]

  6. Garbage can smokers are great. I made one and here’s a few helpful hints:

    Drill at least 8, 1/2″ holes in the bottom below the fire grate and 8 in the lid. My first attempt was poorly ventilated and the fire kept going out. I then use aluminum foil plugs to cover the holes to regulate air flow and control temperature.

    Season your smoker before you actually put food in it. Get a rip roarin fire going to evaporate all the coating off the inside.

    Definitely use a water tray between the food and the fire. It catches grease, keeps the smoker humid and prevents flare-ups.

    Get a $7 candy thermometer at a place like Bed Bath and Beyond, drill a small hole in your smoker and stick that baby in there. It’s the best way to monitor the temperature

    Experiment and have fun, cause that’s the whole idea anyway!

  7. Water is good, and a flavored liquid (wine mixed with wine, bourbon, cinnamon, etc.) is even better.

    Have a look at the above link for a trash can smoker that incorporates a water tray.

  8. Hi –

    I couldn’t help but post after checking this article out. Very well done with great pictures and detailed descriptions. I came across your blog on the hunt for BBQ ideas for BBQ with Bobby Flay. I would like to get in touch with you but cannot find any contact information on your website. Can you please email me at… I’m a producer for BBQ with Bobby Flay and am in the process of finding interesting BBQ stories in Los Angeles. I’d love to find out more about your experiences with the lovely world of smoked meat.




Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.