Wine Barrel Smoker - WBS?

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Original poster
Aug 26, 2013
Niagara Region Canada
Thank you to Leah for inviting me to this group to share my story after seeing my post regarding wine/whisky barrel smokers, which I will refer to as WBS.

As I am new to the world of meat smoking I am learning as I go. Some smokes have been good and some not so good but I am having fun all the same. The biggest issue I have with the WBS is heat control since they haven't been engineered like the mass production smokers. What this means is that I have to baby sit the WBS more than other smokers to monitor the temperature fluctuations.

I had seen a WBS on YouTube and thought I could make this very easily. I found a barrel on Kijiji for $70, took it home and power washed the exterior and interior after the top had been cut off. The most important thing to do is before you cut anything is to drill the hoops at every stave and put in 3/4" screws otherwise the barrel will fall apart when you cut the top off. I cut a hatch in the back so that I could add more coals as needed and drilled 3 x 1" air holes around the bottom to allow for air flow. I attached hinges to the lid and hatch then chained the lid so that it stays open hands free. I then drilled 4 holes at 90 degree intervals 1/3 and 2/3 the way up, installed 5" carriage bolts in the holes so that I had 2 levels that I could put the round bbq grate on.  Finding inexpensive 22" round grills is not too easy but if you have old charcoal bbqs the grills will do just fine. For venting a found a 4" dryer vent at the recycle store, cut a 4" opening in the lid then installed a 0 to 450 degree meat thermometer you can get at Walmart for about $5. For the heat source, on Kijiji I found a small picnic charcoal bbq and use the pan for the hot coals. All totalled I probably spent around $120 and about 4 hours labour for the WBS.

Like I said there is a lot to learn about using the WBS like how much charcoal to use, how much airflow and distance from the coals. I have found that the staves start to dry out after a couple of smokes so that there is heat and smoke escaping from the gaps. To get around that I have lined the WBS with foil which does a great job of keeping the heat in.

Some people ask me if the WBS will ignite since it is made of wood. That is not really a concern as the hottest my smoker has got is around 375 and wood ignition temperature is much higher, 500-600 degrees. The bottom is lined with foil so any escaped embers will not burn through. I try to maintain my cooking temps between 225 and 275. Once the coals have settled down I can usually maintain 250 for 2 to 3 hours no problem.

I was asked where to buy a WBS but I have not seen them sold anywhere. You can search YouTube for "wine barrel smoker" and there are several out there all hand made. I have friends and family asking me for one so who know I might start building a few of them as a little sideline business. I was shocked when my wife said she loved it when I put it on the back deck during a rain storm. I thought for sure she would say move it back but she said it was very rustic and went well with our 105 year old home. Go figure wives!!!

So far I have smoked ribs, chicken, turkey, brisket, salmon, pork shoulder and "jalapeno buffalo turds" (look them up, so addictive).

Anyways that is my WBS story and I look forward to many more smokes.

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David, thank you so much and WELCOME indeed!

I LOVE your smoker so much and want one, and think your "side business" idea could be fantastic! Maybe the wineries would go in with you if allowing their name on custom ones! I can see this turning into quite the empire!

Regardless, what a talented job you did here and it looks fantastic and is so clever and different!

I'm impressed with all the work and your know how regarding the building or such things and your food looks sensational too!

Please continue to post photos of your smoked wine barrel creations!!! It's really wonderful to see it in action and this is just the best smoker ever!!!!!! FANTASTIC!!!

Happy Wednesday to you, and please know how happy I am that you took time to share this here with all! It's a very creative, and beautiful piece of machinery you've got there! Shall I assume that you and your wife are therefore wine fans?

Fabulous post! Many thanks.

Cheers! - Leah
Hello All

Leah, thank you for the invitation. I've got a crazy start in smoking. When this story gets too long, let me know so I keep 'em short from then on.

My wife and I lived in northern Vermont and anything smoked, is corn cob....anything! Since we've spent 35 years visiting family, we stop and bring home some smoked ham, bacon and cheddar...yep, cob smoked.

Years back my grandmother showed me how to make wine and we made a few seasons of 55+ gallons. In Italy, her family made violins, guitars and oak barrels. She showed me how to rebuild and seal a barrel to hold wine when she was 82. We made 50 gallons of wine each year with these whiskey barrels. The last time I used these barrels was about 17 years ago and the poorest one was starting to rot on the bottom just sitting outdoors.

As you see in the pictures, I was able to rebuild the barrel including a few new staves and get things going. The top loaders are good looking and keep the barrel looking like a barrel. I preferred not to have a face full of smoke when I opened the lid so made a front loader. The door and frame is made of good old Vermont maple about 1 1/4" thick.

As mentioned, the staves were all screwed together through the hoops to prevent the collapse but once the hoops were reset, I could have actually removed the screws. The door frame is also glued to the barrel staves and it just drilled a hole thru the frame to a T-nut to seal the door. The carriage bolt has a small handle welded to it and acts like a speed screw. 5-6 turns and it opens

I am using the amnps tray on the bottom with a steel stand made from scrap steel inside to catch any embers that may fall and it elevates the tray about 3" inside. The intakes are 7 3/4" holes bored into the staves at the very bottom edge and the top exhaust is a 3" hole. When it is burning, I place an 18" long pipe into the hole to keep the smoke above my head and the barrel is set on a 24" stand. I have to thank Mr. T for his tremendous informative post on cheese smoking. It is a must read

To date, it has been 5 weeks. I have smoked loads of cheese and eaten a few... did a few more pounds today. Hard to get away from cob smoked taste but I've now used pecan, oak, Apple, hickory and cherry. The fridge in the garage has the entire bottom drawers filled with vacuum sealed aging cheeses. There appears to be a solid demand (family) for the smoked cheese and it takes a few weeks minimally in order to enjoy it, so, I'm getting a big jump on the demand.

We now live in NJ. You can find stores in overcrowded NJ that sell left handed monkey wrenches but it took me a month to find pork bellies ... Bacon starting up next week. This wine barrel smoker is a dedicated cold smoker only.

We always enjoy several different wines but if you have an opportunity to enjoy a terrific dessert wine, try Sauvignon Blanc by Honig of Napa Valley, Ca. I've never tried something this tasty. Apparently it's made every other year.

Now that is fascinating and I appreciate the wonderful photos and love the front loader idea to cut back on smoke!

And Vermont? Please see your other wine group thread post, where I remarked on that! Small world.

Thank you for this fabulous shard info and please never worry about length or such here, as it's so interesting and helpful, and I want everyone to share!!! Nobody will be graded on what they drink, and so here's to everyone feeling more comfortable about sharing their sips and sentiments, as you did so wonderfully!

Cheers! - Leah

I had posted this on another thread, but I thought it might fit here.

I thought I should post pictures of my Jack Daniels barrel top loader cold smoker I built 35 or so years ago.  Someone was selling them off a trailer for $20 on the corner of the Safeway parking lot.  They were fresh, it sure smelled good on the deck in the summer for several years.

I have three perforated metal racks with 3/8 SS tubing rack holder pins that I can slide out to access the lower racks.  The smoke generator is an old metal milk box with a hinged lid vented on the end with a single wall 6 in metal stove pipe feeding into the bottom of the barrel.  I have a small 220 V electric cook stove element inside and at 110V it heats the small chunks of hickory placed on it, I unplug it when it seems to be getting too hot to prevent flaming.  I also have a small propane burner I can add to the bottom of the barrel if I am smoking jerky to help dry it.  I use larger wood chunks to cover the bung holes.  Yes it has dried out and leaks smoke most everywhere, but still does the job.  I try to remember to pour some water in it every once in a while.  Can’t begin to guess how many hundreds of pounds of bacon, cheese, and jerky have been smoked in it.

Doing 5 lbs of packaged bacon with extra ground pepper, 4 pounds of cheese sliced about 3/8 in from bricks, and a dozen pealed eggs with hickory today. 

We are having fun and making good stuff.
Hey 801Driver; this is INCREDIBLE!!!

I adore these barrel smokers and am so impressed by your doings!!!!

This is just so innovative and fantastic!!!! 

Thank you for sharing!!!!

Please continue to post the creations you smoke on here, as it's a treat to see it done on such a masterpiece!!!


I am just so happy you posted this!!!!!

Cheers!!!!!! - Leah is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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