The smell of meat cooking slowly in a smoker is a very appealing one and can bring to mind pleasant, warm-weather days and nights. Though smokers are available for purchase, it's also possible to build one yourself using old appliances, including old freezers. Though you'll need to retrofit a freezer that has plastic components, either a more modern freezer or a truly old, metal freezer should work for this purpose.
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Important Safety Considerations
Before you get started, you should carefully consider the following for your own safety. Never attempt to move an appliance like a freezer on your own. You should always do this with the assistance of another person. Freezers are large and heavy, and you could injure yourself seriously by attempting to lift or tip it on your own.
Be sure appliances are unplugged and, ideally, that the power is turned off at the circuit breaker. You don't want to have an accident with electricity while moving your freezer.
If your freezer has plastic shelving, panels or trays, you'll need to remove them to build a smoker that's safe to use for meat. Having anything plastic inside that would then be exposed to extreme heat is unsafe since food will be involved. In addition, freezers made before 1960 can contain cadmium, so don't use these to make a smoker.
Freezer to Smoker Conversion
To start converting your chest freezer into a smoker (you can also make a mini-fridge smoker), you'll need to completely gut the freezer. Remove all racks, shelves, compartments and drawers. Remove any coolant or refrigerant lines. Replace any screws that were used to hold these components in place so that there aren't any holes in the smoker.
Next, take all plastic panels out of the freezer. Remove all insulation and discard it. Replace the plastic panels with metal panels of the same size. If the gaskets around the edge of the door aren't in great shape, replace them with new ones to seal in the smoke for your new appliance.
If you'd like shelves inside your smoker, use iron brackets attached with screws to mount them. You should be sure the bottom shelf is at least two feet above the bottom of the freezer. If your freezer had metal racks or shelves originally, you can reuse these now. If not, find metal grates and use those as shelves for the smoker.
Adding Vents and Hot Plates
To make the freezer function as a smoker, it will need vents. Use a drill to carefully add six holes on the top of the freezer, as well as three on each side.
To create heat, put a double-burner hot plate at the bottom of the freezer. You'll need to create a hole large enough for the cord and plug to exit the freezer. When using the smoker, you can turn the hot plate on low.
Take a wood chip box or a metal pan and fill it with the wood chips you'd like to use to smoke meat. Place this pan or box on top of the hot plate in your new smoker, and use a match to light the wood chips. You can then place the meat you plan to smoke on the shelves or racks of your new smoker and close the door to get started.