If you covet a ceramic grill smoker such as the Big Green Egg, Grill Dome or Komado Kamado, the initial cost might be standing in your way. If you already have a grill, save yourself a bundle and build this inexpensive electric smoker from a terra-cotta pot!
And don’t worry, this is not a rocket science project. It’s mostly an assembly job that can be done with very few tools.
This smoker is designed to achieve a stable “low and slow” temperature, and will not quickly cook anything. However, since it’s powered by an electric element, it will maintain a stable temperature even after your wood has been consumed. You simply set it and forget it!
Source the Parts
While you may be able to cobble together something functional from pieces you already own, we suggest acquiring new, unused, unglazed terra cotta pots for this job. Even if you buy every component brand new, you’ll still spend less than ¼ of the cost of a new ceramic smoker. Here is what you’ll need!
1 round cooking grate (Weber or similar)
1 stainless steel or cast iron round pie pan
1 cheap single burner electric hot plate – 1000w if possible
1 large, deep terra cotta pot – Should be large enough for the cooking grate to rest inside near the top. Make sure there is a hole in the bottom of the pot. An 18’ pot will allow larger replacement Weber grill parts to fit, giving you more cooking space.
1 shallower terra cotta pot (ideally a bowl) the same diameter as your pot, with a drain hole.
3 or 4 pot feet or bricks to elevate the main pot off of the ground.
1 meat thermometer with corded probe
1 grill thermometer with fixed probe
Chunks of wood suitable for smoking: Oak, Hickory, Apple, Cherry, etc.
1 stainless steel eyebolt, 2 fender washers and 2 nuts for use as a pot lifter handle
1 length fiberglass fireplace gasket and high temp gasket sealant to form a soft and smoke-proof seal between the two pots
1 1000watt dimmer to replace hot plate electrics
1 waterproof outdoor wiring box for the dimmer
1 length flexible conduit for your wiring from the dimmer to the element
2 lengths high temp wire
1 round charcoal grate to hold a drip pan
1 custom-built smoker table
1 outdoor extension cord
Assemble It !
The most complicated aspect of building the smoker is the removal of the electric hot plate coil element from the plastic housing. Make sure the unit is not plugged in, and then disassemble the hot plate. Many models are assembled with just a screw or two. Disconnect the blade connectors to separate the element from the hot plate housing.
Prop the large pot on the feet or bricks, and then place the hot plate element on the bottom of the pot, passing the wires through the hole in the bottom of the pot. Reconnect the blade connectors to the hot plate housing. If the wires do not reach, you may have to extend or replace them. Be sure your new wiring is of the same specifications as the stock wiring.
Place the pie pan directly on the heater element, and fill with several chunks of smoking wood. If you’re planning on a long smoke, soak a few pieces of wood overnight and mix them in with the dry pieces. They will take some time to dry out and start smoking, thereby extending the time between refills.
Place the cooking grate in the pot, and cover with the bowl pot. Pop the grill thermometer in the hole. Smoke will exit around the thermometer. If you’ve implemented the optional handle, there will be a smaller hole, but the thermometer should still fit.
Plug in and turn on the hot plate. Place your favorite meat on the cooking grill, making sure to place the remote meat thermometer probe in the deepest part of the meat. Smoke it according to your favorite recipe. The heat and moisture-retaining properties of the terra cotta will ensure an evenly cooked, juicy and delicious result.
Ed Mostella is a freelance writer based in sunny San Diego, CA. As both a DIYer and manufacturing tools expert, Ed enjoys helping people work safely and effectively. He specializes in training on the electric screwdriver and pneumatic screwdriver.