The wine barrel sat in our back yard for two full years with no purpose other than being cool.
A couple weeks back I decided it was time to do something with it and set off to Pinterest! Wow, there are about a million cool things you can do with a wine barrel!! When I saw a homemade smoker though I was hooked! I always wanted a smoker.
So I set Jonny to work on it. I wanted to be able to hot or cold smoke things, I didn’t want to choose one or the other (“typical” he says). I wanted hot smoke for ribs, wings, and pork roasts.
I wanted a cold smoker for fish, bacon and cheese or cuts of meat I intended to cook in a different method afterward.
The Basics of a Wine Barrel Smoker
First things first he cut the top off the barrel and cleaned it out (there were spiders webs in there, ugh. I’m not good with spiders).
We inserted a large cast iron pan in the very bottom to hold the coals and wood chips. On top of that, a rack to set a pot of water on for humidity.
Then we put in two BBQ grills that sat on top of L brackets so they could be easily removed for accessing the coals. For the record, finding round BBQ racks was a PITA (pain-in-the-a**). Fortunately for me, Jonny sorted that out while I was at work.
There needed to be a decent amount of air flow but we really weren’t sure how much. Enough to keep the coals hot enough to smoke the wood chips without loosing too much heat.
There was an existing hole where the tap had been. This was to be used for a cold-smoke. I would put the heat source outside the barrel with a “chimney” releasing cool smoke into the barrel. That didn’t end up happening and you will find out why later.
Jonny drilled three holes in the very bottom of the barrel and used copper pipe to direct the air flow right at the pot of coals. He then added two copper “exhaust” pipes to the lid.
Wine barrels are HEAVY. So we definitely needed a way to move it around. We had an old dolly that we popped it up on top of.
The lid was also very heavy so a hinge was put on it and a chain to prevent it from falling back and toppling the barrel over. And lastly, a handle was put on the lid.
And for good measure we inserted a thermometer into the barrel parallel with the top rack. We needed to know how hot it was cooking without opening it too often.
The Test Run
That night we had friends over for a fire and smoked meat dinner. Personally I would have tested the smoker before inviting all my friends over but Jonny had more faith in the smoker than I did.
We (I mean Jonny) started the fire a 9am and got a good bed of coals. We transferred those into the smoker, topped with some damp hickory chips and loaded it up with meat. We had a huge pork shoulder, and some pork ribs that we popped in there and got smoking.
About two hours before eating we put a bunch of pieces of halibut on the top rack.
It worked! The meat was smokey and delicious and fall-off-the-bone. I’m not saying we are experts but with a little time and practice we will produce some of the best smoked meats right at our own house!
Two nights later we had it up and running again for another group of friends. Everything I owned smelled like smoke and I loved it. We had ribs again which turned out even better than the time before. There were no leftovers!
The Fate of Our Wine Barrel Smoker
Late that night, I woke up suddenly from my sleep. There was an orange glow out back. I shook Jonny away and yelled “Jonny, the smoker is on fire!”.
I ran outside (in my underwear!!) and started to hose down the smoker. Oh to be one of the cars driving by…
I guess the coals weren’t out as well as we had thought! We got the fire out and turned off the hose to see the damage. Just as I shut off the hose, the smoker fell into a million pieces!
We had to laugh. We were so proud of our creation and now it was just tiny pieces of coal all over the lawn. We laughed and laughed. It’s all we could do.
The next morning we pulled out the pieces of hardware that we could reuse and headed straight into Niagara-On-The-Lake for a new barrel. We are now in the process of building a new, better Smoker_2.0.
Sometimes in life you just need to brush yourself off and start over! Keep on Keepin On!
Hopefully in a couple weeks I will have pictures of our next smoked-meat dinner 🙂
This post can also be seen on: Homestead Barn Hop
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