Building a Smoker vs Buying a Smoker

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by lordbezoar, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. lordbezoar

    lordbezoar Newbie

    Hi! So I am very new to the forum and kind of new to smoking in general. So, a friend of mine and I were talking yesterday about Salmon season coming up this  year and how we really would like to capitalize on that for smoked salmon. Neither of us own a smoker, or know of anyone that would let us borrow theirs. However, he does have a broken chest-style deep freezer in his basement that he and his wife were about to get rid off. 

    In high school, I worked as a line cook in a BBQ restaurant that specialized in smoked brisket, pork, chicken, and ribs. The owner there had purchased a chest-style smoker and then used that as a model to fabricate two more smokers from what looked like large freezers of some sort. In any event, as I have looked up freezer to smoker conversions, I am finding that it seems to be way more popular to use cabinet-style/upright freezers/fridges than it is to use the chest-style freezers.

    So, this very long intro leads me to my main question: Is it worth the time/investment to set up the chest freezer as a large smoker? or, am I better off purchasing a small smoker from somewhere like Cabela's or online? 

    FWIW, my general thoughts for the chest smoker was to strip any plastics from the interior, have the refrigerant drained/remove all of the cooling bits, and install some steel racks and a hotplate at one end for the wood. Am I missing anything?

    Thank you in advance for any help and advice!
  2. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    If you need a smoker for salmon you can get a MES 30 for a little over a hundred bucks and be in business. Or you can get one of the Cheif smokers either little or big. There are many options for smokers but for fish you want something with low temperature capability. I would not bother with the chest freezer if I were you. There are many Fridge builds documented on this website. The search bar at the top of the page is your friend. If you are handy check out the UDS section of this website. I built one 3 years ago and still use it all the time. Very easy and cheap to build and all you need to get started is a 55 gallon drum. I am sure someone will be along that has done what you are thinking about but it sure seems like it would be a lot of trouble when you could have something that works better for far less.
  3. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I agree with Timberjet, especially if you are planning to smoke just Salmon.  Though I have two Big Chief's for my Salmon smoking, they are quite modified, thus I'd also suggest a MES 30 which would be adjustable in temp as compared to a stock Big Chief which is not. 

    More the reason to consider the MES 30 is that if you start getting back into briskets, pork etc.  Once you have gotten back into it and see you have bitten the smoking bug big time, then if you want you could consider modifying an upright freezer, etc.

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