Author’s note: The DIY smoker described below has produced delicious jerky and countless hours of family fun!
The frame for this smoker is constructed of:
- 3 5-foot pieces of rebar painted with BBQ paint
- a length of chain
- a small metal ring
- three hose clamps
- a small grill (secured with s-hooks).
To construct the tripod, place one hose clamp near the end of each piece of rebar (about 3 inches from the end.) Insert the rebar into the ring. The hose clamps prevent the ring from slipping and make the tripod more stable. Wrap the chain around the top of the tripod and secure the grill with the s-hooks.
A layer of parachute is all that is necessary to enclose the smoker, though I added a blanket for extra heat retention. Layers of blankets would have worked, as well, without the parachute.
My Lodge Cast Iron Sportsman’s Grill serves as a smoke pot. I use the base with the grill grate removed. Heat is generated by a combination of coals from the fire and commercial charcoal.
The cast iron smoke pot is easily transported using the wire handle. (Caution is advised, though!)
Stir-fry beef from the butcher shop (on sale!) looked perfect for jerky. Each piece was sliced in half. My goal was to create pieces the size of thick-cut bacon, though many pieces ended up being just a bit thicker.
Once the grill was loaded with meat, I added water-soaked hickory wood chips, one hand-full every 30-45 minutes. My chips were purchased at Ace Hardware, though I have whittled and used green chips before.
Half a day later and we had dried meat!
This survival project was a big success, with a few lessons learned. In the past, I placed the coals and chips on the ground. The addition of the cast iron smoke pot created more heat (a good thing). In the future, I will use less charcoal and coals. I will also use the chain to raise the meat higher and further away from the smoke pot. In this instance, I sensed that the meat was a bit over-heated rather than simply dried.
Smoker purists prefer a slower process, and I agree, but in this case we enjoyed the jerky for several days, stored in unrefrigerated Ziploc bags.
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