Smokers or Smokehouses, as they were called back in the eighteenth century, were commonplace and born from a necessity to kill and cook their meat quickly so that it didn’t go off, especially in the hotter months.
Smokehouses were, then, small enclosed shelters, normally made from bricks or stone. They would leave the heavily salted meat inside, hanging close together, and close the doors so that the meat and smoke were trapped inside. The fires were lit and rekindled over, sometimes, a period of two weeks.
The result? Tender, dried, long-lasting, and especially smoke-flavored meat.
If you love your meat soft and juicy, then a Smoker is the way to go. And if you fancy yourself as a die-hard DIY kinda guy or doll, then this is for you. We don’t expect you to go build yourself a huge old-fashioned smokehouse like back in those days, but you can attempt a smaller, homier version.
From the 1930s, a brick smokehouse at Shirley Plantation. The cement stucco skin protects the bricks from salt damage.
There is something about a smoked and cured piece of succulent meat, served straight from your very own Smoker. While you can go out and purchase a decent Smoker pretty much anywhere nowadays, they can prove to be expensive. You will see if you take on this challenge that there is nothing more satisfying than producing a tasty meal from your own homemade oven.
Why not let your next project be to build a brick smoker? Too much work? Would you just rather buy a griller? Naa! Take a moment right here and read all about how to build a brick smoker.
The Materials You Will Need
- 8 paving slabs
- A cement spatula
- A stick to mix
- Spirit level
- One Charcoal Tray (Stainless Steel is best)
- One Grill Tray (again, Stainless Steel is best)
- A Pipe or flat piece of wood
What’s The Best Position For Your New Smoker
Scout out your garden and decide on the perfect spot for your new Smoker, taking into account the size that you want, which can be determined by the size of your cooking tray or grill. I.e., The cooking tray will be a little smaller than your actual smoker oven as it needs to slide in and out easily.
With regards to the location, as this is a Smoker, you want to make sure the position of the Smoker doesn’t interfere with your indoor life. While you want to be able to include the Smoker cooking experience into the whole social outdoor gathering, it really isn’t necessary to be near the Smoker all the time. Smokers are meant to be left alone whilst the cooking process is underway. If you want a social fire, then gather around a portable fireplace or pit.
So, find a spot in your garden or backyard that is protected from the wind to minimize the smoke blowing indoors.
What Size Do You Want Your Smoker To Be?
You need to decide on the size of the actual brick smoker that you want, and that will depend on what you intend to cook and for how many. The size will determine the size or number of paving slabs as well as the number of bricks you purchase. The paving slabs forming the base of the smoker as well as the roof.
So you have found the exact perfect spot in the garden, have decided on the size, bought all the required materials, and you are ready to go. So, let us continue with how to build a brick smoker.
Prepare the Mortar
Take five parts of sand to one part of cement. Start with a little and mix more as you go. Mix the two ingredients together with the water to produce a stiff, pasty mortar.
Build the Smoker Base
- Measure out the dimension of your smoker base and mark this out on the desired ground area (this needs to fit your 4 paving slabs when laid in a square
- We suggest using pieces of string with nails to mark out the area
- Lay your first square of mortar to fit the marked out area
- Lay your first layer of bricks on the mortar, checking afterward that the bricks are level using your spirit level
- You want your bricks to be laid in such a manner that the one end of the brick meets the middle of the sidelong brick and so forth. See the picture to the right.
- Build up your mortar and bricklayers to about 4 to 5 layers, dependent on the height of your bricks, of course. If your bricks are higher than normal brick height, then you may only need 3 layers.
- Check, as you go, with your spirit level, that each layer is level
- Lay another icing of mortar over the bricks
- Position the 4 paving slabs on the mortar
- Check that your corners are at right angles
- Check that its level again
Start Creating your Layers of Bricks
- Start creating your square of bricks, placing mortar on each brick and laying it down, lining each brick up till you have your square wall.
- Remember to leave the front area of your smoker open for the entrance, so in effect, you are building a U-shaped structure.
- Keep layering till you reach about 7 layers high, again dependent on the height of your bricks.
- You want to create a square that is high enough to have space in between your charcoal tray and the cooking tray and then more space above the cooking tray.
Creating your Ledge for the Charcoal Tray
- To create the ledge, you need to turn a few bricks on the left and right inner walls to the sides so that they stick out towards the middle.
- This will provide a ledge for placing the charcoal tray
- You will need to ensure that your charcoal tray is slightly smaller than the outside oven diameter to allow an easy in and out
Creating your Ledge for the Grill Tray
- Stack three more layers of bricks and position the next layer as above by turning the bricks to create your ledge for the grill tray
- As with your charcoal tray, ensure the grill tray is small enough to fit inside the oven, and on the ledges you created
- Continue building up your bricklayers till desired height; about 5 more layers should do
- Then take your 4 paving slabs and place them on top of the last layer of bricks, sealing them down with the mortar.
- Make sure the slabs are sealed airtight by filling in with mortar between each slab.
- Take the pipe or flat piece of wood, place it on the bricks and scrape it down from top to bottom to get rid of the excess mortar. You may want to do this as you layer, as the cement will set pretty quickly.
- Do the same to the top paving slab roof.
- This top piece can dual as your working space counter, but remember it will get very hot.
- Once all is dry, you can give it a good watering down
As you will notice, this is a very basic and simply designed brick smoker. For more elaborate brick smokers, you will need a plan.
We found this very cool and cleverly put-together video of a photo by photo, blow by blow (627 photos to be exact) of how this gentleman built his Brick Smoker and Argentine Grill. It’s quite elaborate but gives you a good idea of the possibilities:
Homemade smokers, as you will see, come in all shapes and sizes. If you feel you have a creative twist, then try your hand at some elaborate designs. If this all sounds a bit much, consider choosing a smokeless option such as a fire pit.
So, now that you know how to build a brick smoker, we are sure you will love the delicious creations your smoker will produce over the years.