Build a Sausage Smoker
(It's Actually Pretty Easy)
Building a sausage smoker really is an easy DYI project. A home-built unit can give you results just as good as any you can get from the most expensive manufactured models. And, you'll save some money.
If you refer to back to meat smoker basics when you are planning your project, you'll realize that there are many possible solutions.
Remember, a good sausage smoker needs:
- A chamber to contain the heat and smoke. This can be anything. A galvanized garbage can, a steel drum, an old refrigerator, a wood box, or a terracotta pot are all prospects. I've even made a smoker from a large cardboard box, but that was only for temporary use.
- A heat source that can be regulated between 100 and 250 degrees. The very best that I have found is a simple single burner electric hot plate. They're cheap and efficient.
- A rack (or rods) to hold your meat or sausage. You can salvage a rack from an old BBQ grill or refrigerator, buy one at the local hardware store, or dispense with a rack and use dowel rods to hang your links.
- A pan to hold wood chips or sawdust. Any small metal frying pan will work well. You can even use an old 8 inch cake pan.
- A way to accurately monitor the temperatures of the smoke chamber and the sausage. I use a digital thermometer with a heat probe, but a dial type works nicely also.
If your smoker has all of those features, you should be able to turn out great sausage.
- Remove the freezer section and any loose shelving, compartments, plastic parts etc. from the inside until you are left with a single large cavity. You may also want to remove the compressor motor to make the whole thing weigh less.
- Use small L-brackets to build shelf supports in the top half of the cavity. I made supports for 3 shelves, and I also made supports for dowel rods to hang linked sausage.
- Cut a hole in the top of the fridge for ventilation. On my last fridge smoker I actually made a 4 inch hole and fitted it with a short section of stove pipe and a damper. It worked great, but was probably a bit of overkill.
- Put an electric hot plate in the bottom of the fridge. You can drill a hole for the cord if you want, but I just ran it out the door. The fridge door sealed around it nicely when it was closed.
- Drill a small hole in the side of the fridge body for a thermometer probe. Alternately, you can use a digital thermometer with a cable probe and run it out the door. That's what I did.
There you go, a completed sausage smoker. You can come up improvements to the process, but this basic model worked well for me for several years.
By the way, don't worry about plastic interior walls. Smoking temperatures will not be higher than 250 degrees (usually much lower). I never had problems with any refrigerator parts melting in the entire time mine was in use.
Here's another aside: An added benefit of using a refrigerator is the insulated smoke box that you end up with. I used to smoke sausage with my fridge when it was well below freezing outside, and never had a problem keeping the smoke chamber at the temperatures I wanted.
Trash Can or Barrel Smoker
A galvanized trash can or a recycled steel barrel are other good choices for a home-built sausage smoker. Actually, any large, round metal container can be used the same way; it's just usually easier to find one of these two items.
- Place your hot plate in the bottom of the can or barrel and cut a hole in the side of the chamber large enough for the electric cord to pass through. Don't worry about the hole, it will actually act as a fresh air vent.
You can cut the hole in the bottom of the can instead of the side, but then you will need to raise your smoker above the ground to use it (a couple of 2x4's work well).
- Using L-brackets, build supports for 1 or more racks in the upper part of the can. If you plan more than one rack, keep them about 12 inches apart to give the heat and smoke good circulation around your sausage.
Again, you can either salvage your racks from an old round BBQ or purchase them. They are quite inexpensive. You should also consider drilling some holes or building brackets for dowel rods if you want to hang your sausage for smoking
- Cut a hole in the top or side of the can for a thermometer probe, and cut another hole in the top (or in the side, close to the top) for ventilation.
If you use a metal drum to make your sausage smoker, you will need to make a cover of some kind because they usually don't have their lids anymore. You can use a piece of steel or aluminum, but the easiest solution for me was to cut a piece of plywood to do the job.
The only real drawback to a meat smoker made like this is that you have to remove the top and lift out the racks to replenish the wood chips, which you will likely have to do 3 to 4 times during each smoking session.
Terra Cotta Smoker
One of the slickest ideas for a sausage smoker that I've seen in a long time I got from Alton Brown on his TV show "Good Eats". I haven't made one of these yet, but all the basics are there, and it should be simple to put together.
- Find two large clay pots (like in the picture to the right).
- Raise the largest pot off the ground with a couple of 2x4's (or some bricks).
- Put your hot plate in the bottom of the pot and run the cord out the drainage hole in the bottom.
- Find an appropriately sized round grill and put it into pot. The sloped pot sides will hold the grill above your heat source.
- Turn the shallower of the pots upside down and use it as a cover. The drainage hole in the top pot makes a perfect place for your thermometer probe.
This looks like simplicity itself, and I don't see why it wouldn't work, even though it is intended for BBQ smoking and not sausage making.
Again, you have to remove the top and the grill to get at your wood chip pan. Also, if you end up needing to buy pots, a grill, and a hot plate you could probably purchase a more versatile manufactured unit for just a little more. That said, this looks like a good easy solution that would work for the casual sausage maker.
I could go on with more examples, but I'm sure you get the idea:
Anything that will hold heat and smoke will work as a sausage smoker as long as you follow the general guidelines. Give it a try and you'll not only get a huge feeling of satisfaction but you'll be rewarded with some great smoked sausage.
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