Can You Really Make Your Own Cold Smoker With A Trash Can?

Brisket inside smoker
Brisket inside smoker - VDB Photos/Shutterstock

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There's no denying that cured meat is a wonderful thing. The human love affair with smoked meat is so longstanding that we've even published magazines dedicated to the salty fare. So how do you harness the power of smoke for yourself? Well, you could spend a pretty penny on a top-of-the-line smoker. But if you don't have the expendable income or are a bit of a DIYer, you might be ecstatic to learn you can make your own cold smoker for under 100 bucks using not much more than a trash can.

Yes, you read it right: A trash can for cold smoking. It's actually pretty easy to use once you've assembled the rig. This setup consists of a galvanized metal trash can (never use plastic for obvious reasons), an incinerator bucket, a bit of appliance duct tubing, and a few pieces of hardware. It can be assembled in a weekend and provides endless smoking possibilities, all for a fraction of the price of one of a large commercial unit (you know, those black tanker truck-looking things).

Read more: What These Imitation Foods Are Actually Made Of

Safety First

Smoked meats
Smoked meats - Global_pics/Getty Images

There are a few safety precautions you should always observe when dealing with cold-smoked food. After all, cold smoking is not cooking, otherwise it would be hot smoking. Cold smoking is a process of introducing meat (or just about anything) to low-temperature smoke. This imparts delicious woody flavors to the food — think smoked salmon. Whatever you cold smoke is not going to be cooked, though, so it's important to cure your meat beforehand to remove moisture (the salt also inhibits food-borne bacteria like listeria or botulism, which are no joke).

There is also the issue of choosing the right material for your DIY trash can smoker. Be sure to buy one that's galvanized — most metal trash cans are (at the very least) coated in zinc alloy. There is always going to be a risk when using something for an unintended use, and you should know that while there are generally only trace amounts of cadmium and lead in galvanized steel, you're still taking a chance. The one upside to using the metal trash can for cold smoking is that the metal doesn't get very hot, and through the smoking process creosote will coat the inside of the bin and help reduce the chances of leaching.

How It Works

smoked fish
smoked fish - Harald Lueder/Shutterstock

If you've decided you want to cold smoke using the trash can method, author Charlotte Pike recommends using an incinerator bin and flexible duct tube to connect the two (via "Smoking Hot & Cold"). This process will require you to be familiar with a few power tools, depending on how elaborate you want to get with the construction of the smoker. You'll also need some wood chips to smoke your food. Start by placing them in food-grade tins like clean soup or vegetable cans. Now you need to connect the smoking unit (the incinerator bin) with the burning wood chips to the trash can. Afterward, place a metal grate on top of the can — this is where your food sits while being smoked. You can use your grilling grate or pick one up at the hardware store. A similar approach is outlined in the video above.

The smoke will travel into the trash can, where it should be left for a while — how long exactly is up to you. But remember that this food will be sitting in the "danger zone," or the temperature where bacteria can grow: 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If your food isn't cured prior to smoking, it's important to keep an eye on the temperature inside the trash can. If you're up for it, you can go the distance and install a grill thermometer. If you're not a seasoned smoker, it's advisable that you start off with foods that have a lower risk for bacteria, like cheese or veggies. Be sure to play it safe — then feel free to smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.