How to Build a Clay Pot Smoker

Taylor Roatch
By Taylor Roatch August 28, 2017 07:45

How to Build a Clay Pot Smoker

One of the oldest ways to put meat up for later is through smoking. Smoking meat helps to preserve it under less than ideal conditions, like we’re bound to experience in a SHTF situation. Oftentimes in the olden days, the meat would first be cured, usually with salt, and then smoked to create a finished product that would hold up much longer than fresh meat. The combination of salt and smoke work together amazingly well to limit bacterial growth.

Related: How to Build a Smokehouse In Your Backyard (with Pictures)

So how do you do it? You’ll see all sorts of very expensive smokers on the market, but they don’t necessarily need to be that complicated, and you really don’t need to build a whole smokehouse to learn the art of food preservation through smoking. You can build a simple electric clay pot smoker right at home, oftentimes from materials you’ve already got laying around.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large terracotta pot – I used a 16 in. pot from a home improvement store, the most basic style they make to cut down on the cost.
  • A terracotta pot saucer – You’ll need one that fits either over top of the rim of the terracotta pot or fits down inside of it pretty neatly. You could also use a smaller pot that fits well.
  • Brick scraps – You’ll need several chunks of 2 in. thick brick or patio block, at least six of them.
  • Metal grate – Find a circular grill grate that will fit inside your pot. If you can’t find a round one that fits well, you might consider cutting one down to size.
  • Handle – You’ll want a way to easily get a hold of the lid and remove it, so you’ll need a handle. There are several ways you could do this. Just make sure your handle will work with your lid of choice. I used a galvanized handle from a home supply store.
  • Electric hot plate – There are a couple requirements for your hot plate. First, you’ll need to make sure that it fits in the bottom of your pot, so watch the dimensions when purchasing both the pot and the hot plate. Next, you’ll need a hot plate that is at least 1,000w to make sure it can get your smoker hot enough. Last, make sure that the hot plate you’re planning on using doesn’t have an auto-off feature. This will really ruin your day, knocking the temperature down in your smoker and requiring you to disassemble the hot smoker to turn the hot plate back on.
  • Oven thermometer – You’ll need to purchase an oven thermometer that has a decent range of lower temperatures on it. The motto you’ll need to keep in mind for smoking meat is Low and Slow, so a thermometer that starts at zero is ideal.
  • Metal pan – This will be used to hold the woodchips, so any ol’ pan should do. However, the prolonged exposure to high temperatures means you probably want to use a cheap metal pie pan.
  • Drill and drill bit – You’ll need something (masonry bit, glass or tile bit, concrete hole saw bit, etc.) to make a hole in the bottom of the pot that’s large enough for the hot plate’s plug to fit through. You may also need a bag of sand for this.How to Build a Clay Pot Smoker13Related: How to Make Your Own Rocket Stoves (Tin Can & Long Burner Rocket Stoves)

Here’s how to get started constructing your smoker:

  1. First, check the bottom of your pot for a drainage hole. If there is a hole there, answer the next question. Does the plug to the hot plate fit through the hole? If not, or if there’s no hole at all, you’ll need to drill one large enough for it to fit through. Use one of the bits listed above to do this, but first set the pot in a bag of sand to help cushion it. You really don’t want to crack this big, expensive pot, so take care here!
  2. Put the handle on the lid. You can use an eye bolt, washers, and a piece of wood dowel to construct a handle, or you can rig up another handle of your own making. However you decide to do this, once again, take care when you go to drilling. The point of this handle is so that you can get the lid off even while the smoker is hot, and whatever way you find to do that will work just fine.
  3. Now you’ll start putting the pieces together to prepare for actually cooking. First, place at least three pieces of the brick scrap in the bottom of the pot to prop up the hot plate. This will allow for air to circulate.
  4. Next, put in the hot plate. You’ll run the plug out of the hole in the bottom of the pot first. If you’ve purchased carefully, it’ll fit easily down inside the pot with room for the temperature adjustment knob.
  5. Now, place the pan with wood chips on the burner of the hot plate.
  6. Put the grate in. If it wobbles or doesn’t stay up well, you can add some support. To do this, place a few dabs of silicone caulk that’s approved for the heat around the edges to prevent the grate from moving. You wouldn’t want the food you’re cooking to be rolling around in there! Set the oven thermometer up on the grate to keep track of the temperature in your smoker, as well. You may want to bend the little legs around so that it holds on tight.
  7. Now, set the whole contraption up on some more brick scraps to allow for air circulation around the clay pot smoker.Put the lid into place and make absolutely certain it sits well, and you’re ready to get cooking!

Remember how we talked about Low and Slow? It’s time to put that motto to work. Do a little experimenting to find which setting on your hot plate will keep your smoker at the appropriate temperature. Usually, you’ll aim for between 210° F and 220° F, but that could vary slightly depending on what you’re cooking. Check out this chart to see what temperature you need to maintain and for how long. You can cook most any meat that will fit inside of your smoker with ease!

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Taylor Roatch
By Taylor Roatch August 28, 2017 07:45
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21 Comments

  1. J Babb August 28, 14:28

    How would the meat then be stored after smoking?

    Reply to this comment
  2. Daniella Boone August 28, 15:15

    So: I’m confused. What good will an electric hot plate do after the SHTF?
    Who thinks up this stuff?

    Reply to this comment
    • wa2qcj August 28, 17:59

      Daniella, interesting name, many people are thinking of these things. It does not, I am sure, all come from Claude. Yes, there are holes in some things, to be sure. That however, is actually a good thing since it causes people to reply, and to think of answers. One source I highly recommend is the disk set from Mother Earth News, from their first 20 years of operation. It was an excellent teaching magazine, in effect, to help people with home steading, having a better suburban life, or, for us, prepping. The website still has this set available, just go to Mother Earth News, and look up the set. One thing I would recommend is learning how to make a Faraday cage, to protect sensitive electronics. Get at least 2 of the DC to AC Converters that you might need. I recommend 300 watt, 700 watt, 1000 watt and a good set of 2000 watt converters. These wattage ratings need to be running power output, and not start up watts (surge power). Solar panels, solar cells to make solar panels, and deep discharge 12 volt batteries. If you can find them cheap enough, such as electric forklift batteries, get some of those. It is going to be expensive, true, but these are 1000 to 2000 amp continuous battery cells. That is a lot of “juice” for long run periods. Whatever you do, do not buy vehicle batteries. That 600, or 800, or 1000 amp rating is for start up use. It is only good for a few seconds. The rating to look for is reserve amps, which is only going to be 120 or less amps. Buy deep discharge batteries, such as golf cart batteries, or trolling motor batteries, or deep discharge RV batteries. If you can find them, Iron plate railroad locomotive batteries are also good to have. For the rest of the 2 of everything, laptops, flat screen TV’s, yes, cell phones as well, and other modern gizmos, such as games, music players and so forth. Why, they are going to break, and we will not be able to go online or to a store and buy more.

      Reply to this comment
    • Datman August 28, 23:19

      You could always put a small metho camp stove in the bottom

      Reply to this comment
    • Cowboy Drummer August 29, 00:05

      It is always a good thing to start prepping and storing long before actually necessary. Use what’s available for as long as you can for quicker results. Then you will have these goods on hand while building survival essentials after SHTF.

      Reply to this comment
    • Shirl August 31, 07:51

      I was thinking the same thing….why not just use a hibachi?!

      Reply to this comment
  3. left coast chuck August 28, 16:09

    Now, construct something really useful, a claypot smoker that doesn’t use electricity. Otherwise, why not just buy an electric smoker and save the extra labor?

    Reply to this comment
  4. Rocky August 28, 17:07

    Good idea if you still have electricity which you probably won’t. Something cheaper to make would be nice.

    Reply to this comment
    • wa2qcj August 28, 17:38

      Electric power is one thing a lot of people are concerned about. I recommend getting the CD packs for the first 20 years of Mother Earth News. The latter years are packed with ideas for making energy sources that will provide fuel, and electricity. Methane gas is easily made, just keep it properly contained, or it will either singe your feathers, or kill you. Wood gas, turning smoke into a fuel gas is an option as well. Our farmers, and in Europe used wood gassifiers during the Second World War. This will keep your electricity needs available, and make some good hot water as well. “MEN”, Mother Earth News, is packed with good to know stuff. A pile of green wood, properly chipped up, will make heat, and eventually a nice pile of mulch. That is in MEN as well. I think everyone who is serious about prep should have that disk set. As for power after SHFT, provided the laptop was kept safe from EMI, or worse, a large 5 volt battery would be just right to run the laptop. If you have a small 300 or 400 watt DC to AC Converter, and a 12 volt source for it, that will do as well. We are all better off, if we plan right, than our fore fathers were because of what we have learned, thus far. Use it wisely, plan now, live in better comfort.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Jt August 28, 17:15

    I thought it was pretty ingenious at least until the end of time.some people need survival tips now. y’all can figure something else out when the balloon goes up. and you’ll have the basic supplies.

    Reply to this comment
  6. wa2qcj August 28, 17:27

    How about using charcoal in place of the electric plate. IF you still have power, no need to make a hole for the plug. Snip the plug off, pass it through the hole that is there, then put another plug on the cord. There are many plugs that are crimp type, push the wires in, and push the crimp down and you have a new plug. As for the charcoal, carefully make a hole in the side of the pot, and use it to put in more wood, if needed. The volume of space the electric heater takes just might be enough for the needed amount of charcoal to do the job of making heat, and smoke. Keeping the process down to as simple as possible might save a lot of head aches should a lack of power happen. DC is a thought for a replacement power source if AC is not available.

    Reply to this comment
    • johnny3h September 14, 01:16

      There’s no need for ‘another’ plug; simply carefully splice the original plug back on the cord after passing it through whatever hole is there!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Jan August 28, 17:34

    What kind of wood chips?

    Reply to this comment
  8. Eddy B August 28, 20:45

    You’re missing the point of the article. Smoking the meat is for storing for later use. If you lose power the smoked meat won’t go bad very fast. You make the meat ahead of time.

    Reply to this comment
  9. S-Dawg August 29, 16:09

    How long is smoked meat good for? What is the best way to store it without freezing it?

    Reply to this comment
  10. OldandGray September 1, 03:26

    K.I.S.S.

    Based upon responses to this post and responses to those responses, I’m going to dare to go ahead and insert something here:

    Smoked meat has a lot of variables: Type of meat?, thickness?, jerking it or hamming it?, Cold smoking or hot smoking? Geographical location? Time of year? What wood you can use and what wood you can definitely not use? Etc., Etc.. What does this all mean?

    Simple, Get an expert in smoking meat to write this post. Why? So none of you will end up getting sick from eating improperly smoked/cured meats. Better yet, be smart and buy some 25 year survival food stocks that are guaranteed to be safe, nutritious and easy to prepare. Better than flirting with disaster and you can stop worrying about generating the darn electricity.

    Otherwise, you all can just go ahead and have fun in the chemistry lab.

    Best regards,

    Reply to this comment
    • Ben Leucking September 4, 18:15

      I’m with you on this. I’m not going to smoke up a lot of meat (with questionable safety and shelf life) in advance of an unforeseeable calamity. What I WILL do is cook up all of my frozen meats if there is a long term grid down situation. Naturally, that means using non-electric sources.

      The notion of an electric clay pot smoker, with incredibly limited capacity, makes absolutely no sense.

      Reply to this comment
  11. left coast chuck September 1, 03:51

    Some woods that I know are good for smoking meat: hickory, apple, mesquite, oak, maple.

    I suspect any of the nut woods, pecan, walnut, chestnut, hazelnut etc.

    Obviously, as someone mentioned, stay away from soft woods such as pine unless you like the turpentine flavoring pine imparts.

    I have two persimmon trees. The wood is quite interesting. It is very soft and breaks easily when green, yet when it dries it is a very hard, dense wood. I don’t know how it would smoke. After I trim my trees in early winter, I will set aside the persimmon wood and try smoking with it next summer when it has dried. In Japan the wood is used to make a dark fabric dye. I don’t know how to do that, I just know that is one use for persimmon wood.

    There may be other woods that are good for smoking meats and fish, but I don’t know of them.

    Reply to this comment
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