How to Build a Cold Smoker From a Refrigerator

B.T. Alo

Cold smokers use low temperature smoke to flavor, dry and preserve different kinds of meats. Most cold smokers have the firebox separate from the smoking chamber, which gives greater control over the temperature of the smoke.

Convert an old refrigerator into a cold meat smoker.

An old refrigerator is an ideal smoking chamber as it is already insulated, has shelf brackets in place and is easily converted for use as a smoker. Older-style enamel refrigerators work best.


Screw hooks into the ceiling of the refrigerator if you want to smoke hanging fish or other hanging meats, including sausages. You can also place a hotplate directly inside the refrigerator chamber without using a separate firebox; however, it is a little harder to control the temperature of the smoking chamber. If the refrigerator shelves are not viable, use L-brackets on the side of the fridge and wire racks to set your meat on.


Cold-smoking doesn’t usually exceed 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, so any plastic components of the refrigerator will be fine; however, try to choose enamel refrigerators, where possible, to minimize risk. You can also remove the plastic lining from the fridge if desired.

  1. Cut a 2-inch diameter hole into the top of the refrigerator with a drill and a 2-inch hole saw bit. This will allow for smoke to pass out of the top of the cold smoker.

  2. Position a metal bucket, bin or drum with a tight-fitting lid next to the fridge; 1 to 2 feet distance is ideal. If possible, set the bucket slightly lower than the fridge, by either sitting it on a lower plane or digging a hole to sit it in. This will aid the flow of smoke up into the refrigerator's smoking chamber.

  3. Cut a 3-inch diameter hole in the side of the fridge, near the bottom on the same side as the metal bucket. Insert a length of 3-inch diameter pipe into this hole.

  4. Mark the place where the pipe meets the metal bucket then cut a 3-inch diameter hole into the side of the bucket. Cut another hole in the other side, large enough for the electrical cord of an electric hotplate to go through.

  5. Connect the pipe between the fridge and the bucket. Seal the pipe connection on the outside of the refrigerator and the outside of the bucket with heat resistant-sealer. Allow it to dry for the time recommended by the sealer packet instructions.

  6. Place the probe of a remote oven thermometer inside the refrigerator compartment then close the door. Place an electric hotplate inside the metal bucket, run the cord out of the hole you made and place the lid on top.

  7. Place your cured meats inside the refrigerator, add wood chips or sawdust onto the hotplate and turn it on at a low temperature. Gradually increase the temperature until the desired smoking temperature is reached inside the chamber.