Beer Keg Smoker. This is how we do it in New Hampshire.

Discussion in 'Other Builds' started by beard, May 22, 2011.

  1. beard

    beard Newbie

    In my first Roll Call post I mentioned what I use for smoker and people requested pictures. Someday I might do a step by step video, but for now I think the pictures do it justice as it is frighteningly simplistic.

    1.) Find a keg. I luck out here, because I work at a brewery! You'll want to be sure and utilize a half barrel keg. Which is your standard size. When you think keg, this is what you think of. Just be sure. A couple fun facts; it holds 15.5 gallons and an old school, legit wooden barrel holds 31 gallons... thusly, these kegs are "half barrels." But if you don't have a connection on getting a freebie, you could always bite the bullet and throw a keg party one weekend -- not return it, eat the deposit -- and build your smoker the following weekend. Find a super cheap deposit, fill it with the cheapest stuff possible.

    2.) HAVE YOUR KEG DE-PRESSURIZED AND REMOVE THE SPEAR. Even after one of these ponies is empty they can pack a punch. I'll say this once: this is borderline dangerous without the right tools. That said, I'm not even going to explain how to do it because I refuse to be responsible for people losing teeth or taking a stainless steel rocket to the sternum. Do yourself a favor, find a local brewery and take them an empty keg. Explain what you're doing, they'll think it's bad ass and high five you and stuff. If you're going to the effort of all this, you're probably super righteous and I'd bet you leave near a brewery anyway. And if you don't, head to your favorite restaurant that you have a repoire with. Talk to them about this project, someone will know someone that can do it -- either a distributor or a SOMETHING, somebody will have the tools.

         2a.)The mechanism inside a keg that pulls the beer up from the bottom, if not removed with the right tool can come shooting out at about 10-15psi. Not awesome. This is what it looks like as I still have mine. Working on finding a usage, but I've yet to come up with anything.


    3.) So you've got an empty, de-pressurized keg. Get your hands on an angle grinder and 3 or 4 cutting wheels. Stainless steel EATS cutting wheels. Most half barrels have two bubbles, or "seams" around the circumference. What you need to do is cut all the way through and all the way around the bottom half, of the bottom seam. Once cut, use pliers and a ton of elbow grease to bend the top half OUT and the bottom half IN. What all this does is allow drippings to fall nice and cleanly across the bottom third of the smoker while at the same time creating an air tight seal. You want the two pieces of your vessel to kiss together, not lay on top of each other. It'll take a little while, do several test fits. When you put the top back on and it grabs a nice seal, you'll know.



    4.) On the bottom of the keg there are 4 small notches in the metal from the factory, right at the bottom weld. You'll want to drill one small air hole on top of each of the factory notches. The drill holes should be a solid 1/4''.



    5.) You'll need a dinner plate rack. I don't have the packaging anymore but I'll ask my guy who showed me all of this and get that info. He finds them at Target and they cost about 10 bucks.


    6.) Grill grates, three of em'. They are 13.5 inches across and fit perfectly. One on the bottom to keep your fire up and get some air under it. The middle one will be your water pan holder and the top is for the meat. The water pan rack needs 2 notches cut in it to fit on the rack.





    7.) Temp gauge with a short probe and a wing nut. Drill a hole, drop her right in the top.


    8.) Drill a bunch of holes in a veggie can for all-weather smoking! Water won't get in the top, and smoke can still escape! I also find that if it's riding a bit high, the can on top can act like a small damper and drop your temp about 15 degrees.


    Simple, cheap, bad ass. A bitching conversation piece. Nothing quite like drinking beer outside, while smoking meat outside... in something that used to hold beer! Oh and did I mention it's 100% PORTABLE! The bonus to putting it in your trunk is that it smells like bacon all the time. I've used this thing about 15 times so far and only twice have I smoked at my own home. My apologies for the poor quality phone pics but here's samples what you can get out of her:

    I know it may not look like much room but this is a 9lb brisket.



    ONE of TWO simultaneously-cooked 6lb pork butts.


    She's money in the Winter too. Oh and here's some short ribs... which I used to make "Viking's Pie." Smoked short ribs, chopped up fine with some sauteed onions, put that in a pie crust, then corn, then a layer of sweet potatoes, then yukon goldies. Throw it in the oven fora bit to crisp it up... ridiculous.



    So there it is, my first official post. If anyone decides to build one, let me know I'd love to see one out in the wild having never seen another one. Not even the guy who helped me build this, he gave his original to his brother because he bought a big ass Brinkmann. I'll get a big boy someday, but this'll do the trick for now without question! As far as running her, I use Cowboy lump charcoal. Never had an issue. I know some people frown upon Cowboy but like I said it works for me and I can always get it around here. What I do is fill a whole chimney to the tip top, get her going real good, dump the coals onto the bottom half and put the top half on. Now she's going to ride high around 300-325 for a bit while it settles in. At this point I fill my water pan. Typically I just use beer and water. Once your coals have been going for a few, take the top off and put your water pan in. Temperature should slowly creep down and ride perfectly between 200-250 for a good for a long time. I've had days where I need to add a couple pieces of charcoal/wood. But she's really consistent for the most part. Just gotta watch it and learn how it rides.

    Good luck!
  2. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member


  3. michael ark

    michael ark Master of the Pit

    Nice [​IMG]
  4. tyotrain

    tyotrain Master of the Pit

    Cool smoker and welcome to SMF its nice to have ya.. Have fun and Happy smoking
  5. rosiepug

    rosiepug Fire Starter

    My EGB is on it's last leg and I have a Keg on the side of the house.. UM , this might be a great project..:grilling_smilie:
  6. solaryellow

    solaryellow Limited Mod Group Lead

    That is brilliant Beard. I have been wanting to make something a little more portable for wheeling trips with my Jeep buddies and this will fit the bill nicely. It just so happens I have a half barrel I am not using in the garage right now. These would also be super easy to insulate for efficiency.

    For anyone wondering how to remove the sanke valve, it is very simple and if done right not dangerous at all.
    1. Grab a small flathead screwdriver that is at least 4" long and a towel.
    2. With the towel around the screwdriver (to protect you from the pressurized blast that is about to occur), push down on any side of the ball on top of the keg until the pressure starts to bleed off. I can't reiterate enough how important the towel is in this process. A facewash with beer may seem like a cool thing but it is not.
    3. Once the keg has depressurized, jam the screwdriver far enough in that it is wedged between the valve and side of the keg to keep pressure from building up again.
    4. With another small flathead screwdriver, dig out the ring through the slat in the valve until you can get ahold of the slinky like strand of metal with a pliers, channel lock, or vise grip.
    5. Once you have a good hold on the slinky part pull it towards you and up and it will come right out.
    6. Use the 2nd flathead screwdriver and a hammer to align the tabs in the valve with the slots and it should come right out.
    7. Remove the screwdriver from the ball valve.
    It is very simple and if done right not dangerous at all. Any beer brewing website should have instructions with pictures on how this is done.
  7. boykjo

    boykjo Sausage maker Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    thought you just ripped it out with your teeth and chugged the keg Joel....................[​IMG]
  8. solaryellow

    solaryellow Limited Mod Group Lead

    My parents raised me right Joe. I would use a twisty straw. ;o)
    beaummiler likes this.
  9. beard

    beard Newbie

    All true! Here's a link to some pictures as well.

    Also, if you have a tap it's a lot easier to just tap the keg and leave it tapped to depressurize. The danger is really in not bleeding the keg first. If you start jamming around and you get that ring out with 10psi behind it, yikes. But yeah it's totally doable.
  10. smeggedup

    smeggedup Newbie

    a newbie to smoking but been brewing beer for awhile now so this is right up my street

    And will deffinately be building one of these
    Could you post pics of the process of smoking plz with a step by step
    Just sign up for the 5 day thing
  11. handymanstan

    handymanstan Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I like this build but I would do the cut just the opposite way ( cut the top of ring pull out the bottom push in the top) so the drippings stay inside and not down the outside bottom on to the floor.

  12. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Thats nice !
  13. beard

    beard Newbie

    Hate to bump an old thread but I just had a lil' bit of gloating to do for myself AND everyone here at SMF...

    I'm in the process of learning how to weld, subsequently I'm looking up a ton of stuff/plans, etc. for building a smoker. Just for grins I Googled "keg smoker" and wouldn'cha know it: this post is the very first official link (not counting images)! I lurk mostly, not too active because you're all so damn informative and I don't have to search much to find what I need. The keg has done me -o- so well for about 3 years now, but it's time to step up. I cannot recommend this build enough for the newbies. It's frighteningly cheap, easy and portable. Win, win... win.

    I'll be sure to post pictures of the upcoming build. [​IMG]

    "Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils." - Gen. John Stark | July 31, 1809


    - Beard
  14. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Since it got bumped back up, I'll add an observation.

    If you bend the bottom seam of the top half in and the top seam of the bottom half out (opposite of the photos of this build), you will not have sticky grease buildup from multiple smokes flowing down the outside of your beer keg smoker.  Would make it a cleaner transport to a tailgate, the beach, or wherever.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  15. beard

    beard Newbie

    I've heard this more than once in person, and this is the second time in the thread. I understand the logic, but I always say to people that the drippings will be going DIRECTLY ONTO HOT COALS if you do that. A few flavors bombs here and there is one thing, but total run off -- I'd like to avoid that kid of burning/smoke, personally.

    It's smoking meat: stuff gets messy. Not to mention that's MANY smokes shown there. It's not as if it constantly runs down like volcano.
  16. altuck

    altuck Newbie

    I have been looking for a smoker I could throw in the camper, take to the woods and use to smoke supper while I was hunting or fishing . 

    I found a keg when one of my tenants moved out, so I followed your guidance and made one just like it.

    1st smoke today and it works great. Five pound pork shoulder 4 hours at 200-250 degrees wrapped in foil for another two hours and then threw in a cooler to rest for an another hour.

    Thanks for your post.

  17. christo0pher

    christo0pher Newbie

    These would also be super easy to insulate for efficiency.
  18. very cool...
  19. very cool!
  20. scootermagoo

    scootermagoo Smoking Fanatic

    Wicked awesome!

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