Years ago my parents gave me their old smoker. It was a bit rusty but it still worked, at least until the bottom rusted out. Then I rigged it to work a big longer still, until it fell apart. After that I found a pellet tube to use in my small grill, which worked faily well for ‘most’ things. I dreamed of the day I could build a smoker house to smoke anything and everything I ever wanted. One day while I was surfing the internet, I ran across a video on a filing cabinet smoker conversion. Oh how my world changed!
So I waited, and perused the selling sites to find a filing cabinet for just the right amount. I was ambitious in the size of cabinet I wanted, and I could have waited for some other options that I’ll talk about later. The reality is for about $40 all in this is a delight to have and I can fit more items than I ever could before. Most of the investment is in time to clean it out and prepare it for smoking.
First, I had to remove all of the plastic. There was plastic inside the drawers as well as the wheels on the bottom. Thankfully this one didn’t require a crazy solution for the drawers since they actually slide pretty easily without the wheels. I’m sure that will change if I load them down with meats, but I can make due with the rare occasion I might need that. For mine I didn’t absolutely have to remove the plastic wheels, but I did just in case.
Firs, was drilling holes. The smaller holes I drilled in the drawer where the smoker tube goes were easy. Once I went to a larger drill bit though, the holes got a bit messy. It wasn’t a big deal since I’m not putting any meat directly on that surface. It also doesn’t require larger holes since it would be just as easy to drill more smaller ones to allow a greater ventilation for smoke.
Finally, I used high heat grill paint to cover any surfaces that might rust as well as portions that might encounter a bit more heat. If you’re going to use wood chunks, or place a greater amount of heat inside the cabinet, I definitely suggest covering all of the surfaces with that kind of paint. For mine I use it for more of a cold smoke than to cook through so I’m less concerned about issues with existing painted surfaces.
I snagged a few grill mats to place in the bottom of each of the meat drawers. This was mostly unnecessary since I usually place any meat inside of a shallow pan or use baking racks and set it caddy corner on the upper portion of the top drawer. But once I am ready to smoke a larger amount of items it will be necessary to have a solution like this. There are a lot of options to do this, but anything that’s metal, mesh or grated, and sturdy enough to hold your food up off the solid surface will work.
Other possible modifications are the addition of thermometers, as well as a vent along the top and/or bottom to allow more ventilation if desired. Considering the number of leaks this thing has for smoke to come out of, I wasn’t worried about that and it works very well.
For mine I use a smoker tube that utilizes pellets for smoke. This means that for anything other than fish, I do have to cook it after I finish smoking. Anything that I want to apply heat to in a more direct manner during smoking will be put into the same drawer as the smoker tube. If you want more heat, you could add a hot plate or coals inside the drawer with the item.
Another neat option is that it’s easy to adjust the number of drawers to what I need since they slide right out. If I ever happen to need more, I just leave more drawers in and keep the smoker tube at the bottom. It provides 4-5 hours of smoke once it’s started. Afterward I can remove the items and either pressure cook them, or finish them off in the oven. Or a mix of the two.
For most of my needs, 2 drawers was enough. So I could have gone with a 2 drawer filing cabinet instead. For a larger and easier to access setup, you could buy a cabinet with drawers on the bottom and a double door opening up top. This would have allowed for larger hanging pieces, but again was much more space than I would have needed.
All in all, this is a creative solution to having all the space I could need or want to smoke any of the food I want to try. What I really like is that it allows for a cold smoke, and for fish that’s just a buttery texture to a wonderful dinner. My family absolutely loves it, and so do I.