Have you ever wanted to give your food that smoky flavor but don’t want to deal with the hassle of a huge smoker? I recently discovered cold smoking food and I’m obsessed! Cold smokers can be made out of anything since they don’t have high heat or a flame. Let’s make one!
DIY Cold Smoker
Materials I Used to Build This Cold Smoker:
Step 1: Preparing Materials for the Build
First know that I have a set of plans for this one plus a larger unit if you’re interested in building your own. The smaller one you’ll see me build has four racks but the larger unit has more.
I have so much scrap wood piled up in my shop that I pulled from it instead of buying anything new. To start, I went to the table saw and ripped down some material to make up the legs. Regardless if you use scrap or buy new, just don’t use anything that’s treated since this will be around food.
I made two sets of legs by using a cross piece to join two legs to each other. On all these joints, I pre drilled first to prevent splitting. Next I laid out marks for where I wanted my shelves on the inside of the legs. These will be what my racks rest on. I went to my scrap bin to find something suitable then chopped them to size before attaching. To attached, I used a little bit of Daps Weldwood wood glue then my 18 gauge brad nailer. I repeated on the other set of legs. I set both assemblies next to each other so I could just make sure the racks lined up with one another.
Next is to flip the assemblies 180 but it’s important to keep them situated so that the racks stay aligned to one another. Now I’ll sheath this side, which will be the outside.
Step 2: Sheathing and Creating the Leg Assemblies
Now the sheathing can be made from a lot of things but since you don’t want gaps, I used a thin tongue and groove pine paneling that I’ve actually had left over from a project I did back in 2013. The tongue and groove feature will allow each piece to connect seamlessly to the next board. Since I have a lot of the same length needed in this next step, I set up a stop block at the miter saw, then made sure to hold the length of board in between this stop and the blade, as this is the point that could kick back, then chopped the needed number of parts.
I took these over to my workbench with my leg assemblies and started attaching them. Again, I’m using a bit of wood glue on each one then throwing in some brads to hold it while it dries. I made sure to keep the orientation of the legs because they aren’t identical, they need to mirror each other but as you can see, it goes nice and quick. After getting the second side skinned I joined them to each other with some cross members at the top. Again, pre drilling and driving in screws.
Step 3: Attaching a Bottom and Making the Back of the Cold Smoker
To attach a bottom, I stood the unit up and grabbed some more cedar scrap since it’s 3/4” thick. I didn’t bother nailing them in as I’m thinking these might need to get replaced in the future.
Next I laid it back down and started making a back. This is also made from that tongue and groove paneling and I just laid the boards out starting from one side and work my way over, then cut the last piece to fit. Once I liked the fit, I flipped it over so that I could attach some horizontal pieces that will keep all these back boards held together. Again using wood glue and brad nails here. Now I could flip it over and secure it in place. To do this, I placed one screw at the top and one at the bottom.
Step 4: Making a Door for the Cold Smoker
Oooook, now lets flip it 180 and repeat almost all the same steps to make a door for the front. The one draw back to this paneling is how thin it is. Actually I like how thin it is because that means it’s light weight, but since a hinge needs meat to attach the door to the body, I built up it’s thickness by grabbing more cedar boards, mitering the ends, and creating a border that I then glued and nailed onto the front side of the paneling. I flipped the door on it’s face to put the brads in from the backside so you won’t see the holes from the front.
Perfect, and now I have a door. To attach it, I grabbed two hinges and placed them near the top and bottom, making sure to pre drill to prevent splitting.
Step 5: Building a Roof for the Cold Smoker
Alrighty, that works just as it should. I’ll worry about a handle and keeping it shut in a few steps. For now, I’m going to build out the roof. The roof is made a little uniquely as it’s important to have adjustable vent holes at the top of the unit. In order to do this easily, I attached one board of cedar with screws, but then grabbed one piece of that thin paneling for the next board. This I brad nailed in place. Then followed it up with another cedar board to finish. Screwing this one down as well.
Ok next, I cut another piece of paneling to the same size as the center board, held it in place, then used a forstner bit to drill two vent holes through both boards at the same time. This will mean the holes line up perfectly with one another when the boards are in line. However, if I want to close off or even partial open or close off the vents, then I just have to slide the top board one way or the other. Cool.
Step 6: Putting Vent Holes into the Side of the Cold Smoker
Ok great, now lets work on the side vent holes. Now remember I’ve just learned about this cold smoking thing so I’m not sure if there are better placement for the holes or not, but I put some up top and some down low. I wanted to utilized some of the paneling cut offs so I made two short pieces for the top. I glued and nailed these in place with my 23 gauge pin nailer. Then I held in place a full width panel then another a bottom rail, if you will.
The idea is the full width panel will slide so I connected the tongue and groove feature to the top rails already in place but then pulled it down just slightly to create some room. I glue and nailed on the bottom rail. I took some measurements and made some marks so that I could drill my two vent holes, again going through both layers at the same time. Now if all is done right, I’ll be able to open or close the vents by simply sliding this outer most board.
Of course that one I pick to show on camera is the hard one. Ha. This center board has a slight bow to it which make it stick slightly, but it’s still easy enough. Here look at the others….see easy. : )
Step 7: Adding Finishing Touches
Ok, now just some finishing touches to the cold smoker! On the outside of the door, I put a handle. Then on the inside, I applied a strip of some foam gasket stuff. My thinking here is to seal the door way off better. I honestly don’t know if it matters because it isn’t like you’re going for 100% airtight here, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. It’s a simple peel and stick process.
Then once that was in place, I worked on a latch. I utilized a clamp lightly applying pressure on the door to get the placement of this latch correctly. This way, when it’s latched shut, the door will be just slightly compressing that foam gasket. Yay!!!
Lets knock out a finish. I need something food safe for the inside and my go to is this Wood Honey by Total Boat. This finish is not only easy to apply, as you can see I’m just wiping it on, but it’s good for anything that will be around food such as bowls or countertops. Then for the outside of the cold smoker I’m going with Total Boat’s Halcyon. This is another one that is really easy to apply, I chose to use a foam brush, but it also dries to a UV stable gloss or stain finish. I recommend five coats of this but don’t worry, it dries so fast, you can easily apply them in a single day
Testing out the Cold Smoker!
Ok ok ok, lets try it out!
Ok so the concept is you place a tube with smoke pellets down here. I went ahead and laid down a piece of steel just in case an ember falls out of the tube. You light up one end….not to where it has a flame, but is just smoldering. This apparently will go for hours and you can buy pellets in all different flavors like hickory, pecan, apple, and mesquite. I made the sizing of my unit fit cooking racks so that I can place whatever I want to smoke, on top and slide them in.
I also bought a thermometer so I can stay in touch with how cool or hot the smoker is. For cheese, it needs to be kept around 80-85 degrees. I’ll tell you right now, this is a blast. The olives and okra only take about 20 mins and the cheese takes 2 hours. It smells great, tastes good, and is a very quick and easy build. I hope you enjoyed following along and remember if you want to build your own cold smoker, I do have a set of plans for a few different sizes.