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New Project: The Nellie Bly Smoker

Make a hot/cold food smoker from a 55-gallon steel drum.

New Project: The Nellie Bly Smoker

Food prepared in a smoker is always a treat, so building a backyard smoker is a perfect project for those who love to combine making things with eating things.

This project is primarily an exercise in sheet metal work. You may need to purchase some tools and learn some new skills. Fortunately, the tools are relatively inexpensive and the skills not hard to learn. Plus, there’s the benefit that, once obtained, both the tools and the skills will likely be useful for myriad future projects.

This electric smoker incorporates several useful features, including multiple doors and a large smoking area. The most interesting feature is the separate, movable firebox. By adjusting the distance between the firebox and the smoke chamber, the backyard charcutier can experiment with hot, warm, and cold smoking.

Smoking Hot (and Cold)

The Nellie Bly Smoker is an electric smoker, and unlike most drum smokers it’s got a traditional two-box configuration. This design allows excellent temperature control.

Inside the firebox an electric hot plate heats wood chips in a shallow pan to generate smoke. A louver in the bottom controls airflow.

The food box or smoke chamber has 2 sealed doors for access, a grill to support food, and 4 eyebolts for hanging food. Two thermometers monitor the temperature inside.

A flexible, extensible duct carries smoke from the firebox to the food box. The temperature inside the food box is controlled by shortening or lengthening the smoke duct.

To help draw the smoke upward over the food, the food box is raised above the firebox by a stand, and fitted with a chimney (see diagram in Step 1).

  • Travis Whitney

    I’m actually working on this over the course of the next few weekends, so if you don’t get an answer before then I’ll see if i can add it up.

    I am having a little trouble finding a steel pail for a firebox. Every steel pail I find has some sort of chemical lining on the inside, just a quick google on some of the chemicals they use in those linings talks about toxic fumes, etc so it makes me a little wary. I even looked for just a normal metal bucket with a lid, but the only ones I could find were galvanized, which is bad news for food. So the search continues there.

  • Pocha huntas

    Very awesome!!! When I seek for this I found this website at the top of all blogs in search engine.,

    kayfun glass kit

  • Paul

    Hello there, I have recently collected 2 55 gallon oil drums from my local mechanic. The drums where used to hold new engine oil (direct from Castrol). I want use these for cold smoking only, but I have been getting mixed messages via Internet forums regarding the potential for toxins to get into the food. Once I have degreased these drums and burnt them out followed by wire brushing them clean would these be fine to use?

  • Clay Dawson

    Love this smoker. I’m slowly acquiring all the parts. What I can’t figure out how to remove the cooking grates for cleaning?

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