How To Build A Reverse Flow Smoker

A reverse flow smoker is a type of barbecue smoker that allows the air to delve deeper into the chambers to achieve a more consistent temperature throughout the entire smoker. This prevents cold spots and therefore your food cooking at different times. 

Reverse flow smokers are becoming more popular thanks to their intriguing benefits – how much better could a reverse flow smoker be than your current smoker? There’s only one way to find out! 

How To Build A Reverse Flow Smoker

However, this interest has allowed manufacturers to hike up the prices considerably from a normal smoker. This is enough to put a lot of potential customers off ever trying the phenomenon that is the reverse flow smoker. 

Don’t worry, though, as we have the ideal solution for you. You can actually make your own reverse flow smoker! This is going to save you a lot of money, as long as you have the correct supplies needed and enough time on your hands. 

How a reverse flow smoker works

First, let’s take a look into how the reverse flow smoker actually works so that you have a better understanding of what your smoker can do for you.

The heat generated in the smoker exits the firebox on the side of the contraption, entering into the smoking chamber. 

However, the heat is now moving through the cooking chamber in the opposite direction to how it should be. Once it gets to the end of the cooking chamber, the heat exits the smoker on the firebox end. 

This allows the heat to travel both ways through the cooking chamber so that every area of it experiences the same level of heat. By doing so, any cold pockets of air are quickly eradicated to prevent them from disrupting your cooking process.

How to make a reverse flow smoker

If you’re relatively new to the smoking game, you might not understand all of the terms we are about to mention in this section. Below is a quick explanation of some of the important terminology we’re using. 

Products of Combustion: Anything created by the fuel combustion in the firebox. These might be solids, liquids, or gases.  

Firebox: Space where the fire is built within the smoker. There are controlled air inlets found here, with the firebox needing to be large enough to work properly with the cooking chamber.

Cooking Chamber: The area of the smoker where the meat cooks. This can be found after the firebox in the order of flow. 

Baffle Plate: A solid steel plate that controls the flow of heat through the cooking chamber. It can also absorb heat to radiate it more consistently through the cooking chamber. 

Stack: Refers to the exhaust stack that leads the smoke from the cooking chamber to the outside of the smoker. 

What You’ll Need: Parts

  • A cooking chamber. This could be an old air tank, water tank, expansion tank, etc. 
  • Firebox
  • Baffle plate, around ¼ inch thick
  • Angle iron
  • Casters
  • Vents, from bolts and sheet metal
  • Exhaust stack
  • Thermometer
  • Hinges
  • Expanded metal for the fire basket and cooking grate
  • Wooden handle 
  • Shelf 
  • Paint for high temperatures

What You’ll Need: Tools

  • Welder 
  • Mini grinder, with cutting and grinding discs
  • Pliers
  • Chipping hammer
  • Wire brush
  • Safety equipment, such as gloves, welding shield, safety glasses, face shield, etc.

Making Your Reverse Flow Smoker

If you couldn’t tell already from the extensive list of things you’ll need, building your own reverse flow smoker can be time-consuming and strenuous. If you’re up for a challenge; however, it can be an extremely rewarding process. 

Step One: The Cooking Chamber

You’ll need something large enough to use as a cooking chamber. We like old tanks due to their shape and size, but you can get creative if need be. Make sure that the interior of the tank is cleaned properly and free of rust. 

You can weld some legs onto your cooking chamber. Add some casters to these to make it easy to move the smoker around once it’s up and running. 

Cut an opening into the cooking chamber and save the metal for the door. Weld two hinges to the door and chamber so that you can open and close the chamber while using. 

We added some aluminum stock around the opening of the door so that it could rest somewhere when open. This also allows a gasket to be added without the smoke escaping. You can use a cotton gasket, or one made from silicone or felt.

Step Two: The Firebox

It is important that your firebox is the correct size for the cooking chamber. You’ll need to measure your cooking chamber and use a firebox calculator to make sure that you’re using the correct size.

You can make your firebox slightly oversized for a better-maintained temperature – just make sure it’s not too small.

A firebox is made from a ¼ inch steel plate to maintain the temperature. Create a square or cylindrical box and weld some hinges onto the door. Drill holes for ventilation, then bold some sheet metal on for vent control. 

Add a handle from a chipping hammer and create a latch from some scrap metal and washers. Attach the firebox onto the cooking chamber or the legs. You can either bolt this on to make it removable or weld it to make it non-removable. 

Step Three: Baffle Plate and Cooking Grate

The baffle plate is made from steel and keeps the direct heat away from the food. It should cover the majority of the cooking chamber in length and be welded in its place.

The baffle plate allows the smoke to go from the firebox to underneath the baffle plate and exits through the chimney. 

Weld the cooking grate above the baffle plate for the food to rest on. 

Step Four: Stack and Fire Basket

The stack also needs to be the correct size for your cooking chamber. Weld the ventilation pipe onto the cooking chamber above the baffle plate for somewhere for the smoke to exit. 

Add a thermometer to the side of the cooking chamber and add a fire basket made from expanding mesh. Here’s where your hot coals will sit. 

Step Five: Finishing Touches

Clean your entire smoker before using it, and take it for a test run. You might find that you want to add any other finishing touches. 

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