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).