A Cheapskate Cuts the Wrong Corners (and Holes) on His Smoker

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Smoking chicken

You know you are a real Cheapskate when you are trying to save $10 on building a $60 smoker that does the job of a $1000 smoker.  Well, that’s me.  As you already know, I am building a smoker.   The barrel that I am using to build this thing cost $8 on Craigslist, so needless to say, this is a cheap venture.  Starting out that cheap really got something going inside my competitive head and I decided I was going to build the cheapest smoker I could build.  As I started to add up the cost, I realized the tools needed to do this might cost more than the components that will live on the smoker.  In particular, the step drill bit needed to drill 1″ holes in a steel barrel.  I headed down to my favorite (cheap) hardware store and they had a 3/4″ step drill bit on sale for $6.99!  The 1 inch step bit was sold in a pack of 2 for $16, so I somehow lost all of my math skills at that very moment and convinced myself that 3/4 inch was “close enough” to 1 inch and bought the cheaper bit.

For those keeping score at home (like my lovely wife), this is the tally for my little smoker project:
1 steel barrel – $8
1 step drill bit – $6.99
1 Weber grill grate – $16
1 pit thermometer – $13
Misc. hardware – $5

So yeah, I am still under $50 for this thing!

Using my new bit, I quickly drill the holes needed at the bottom of the barrel for ventilation.  Again, if you want details on any of these steps, I can not explain them any better than the Pickeled Pig, so head on over there.  At this point, I can seriously taste the BBQ, I can’t wait to fire it up so I loaded up the charcoal basket with a chimney full of burning coals, threw on a few chicken breasts I had brined for 30 minutes and sealed up the smoker.  According to the Pickeled Pig, I should get around 300 degrees with everything wide open so that is where I start.  After sitting there for 10 minutes, I topped out at a little over 200 degrees and held steady.  So I am still 100 degrees shy of where I should be and I have no other holes to open to allow for more ventilation.  That’s when I started doing the math and realized that yeah, I really was missing out on some serious air flow by using that smaller bit!  I decided to drill another 3/4 inch hole and sure enough, my temps shot up to between 275 and 300.  Bingo!

Of course, all of this is assuming that the thermometer I found on sale for $13 is actually accurate, hmm, better check that thing next…


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