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How To Build A Pellet Smoker

by Ian Bond August 31, 2020

How To Build A Pellet Smoker

A pellet smoker isn’t just for advanced barbecue pitmasters. It’s easy to build a pellet smoker, but doing it incorrectly can result in uneven cooking temperatures and the inability to get the smoky flavor you desire. 

While you can build a pellet smoker from scratch, the easiest way to build one is to convert your existing grill into a pellet smoker through the use of a pellet conversion kit. 

Converting Your Grill into a Pellet Smoker

You can build a pellet smoker from scratch using a 55-gallon drum, but that requires more work and when you use materials such as galvanized aluminium [1] and steel, they may release toxic fumes at high temperatures. 

Converting Your Grill into a Pellet Smoker

It is typically safer to convert an existing grill and you can still use your grill without the smoker if you want to. While you can opt to buy the parts yourself and learn how to build a pellet smoker, pellet smoker conversion kits are generic, ready-made kits that you can attach to any grill. Some grill manufacturers also specially make pellet smoker conversion kits for their grills. 

Installing a pellet conversion kit makes the whole smoking process easier. You won’t go through the stress of pulling the meat, topping up the smoking wood pellets when they run out or removing the cooking grates to add more pellets.

Installing a Pellet Smoker Conversion Kit

Our research shows that installation instructions vary between pellet smoker conversion kits depending on the brand you are using. However, you typically would have to cut a rectangular hole measuring between 4 inches to 5 inches in width and height on the side of your BBQ grill chamber. You can check the instructions for your conversion kit for the specific measurements and learn how to build a pellet smoker.

The conversion kit will require at least 12 inches of space depending on the kit you buy. Hence, you need to ensure that you have the extra space available if you're grilling on your balcony or other enclosed spaces.

Once you have fixed the conversion kit to your grill, you can proceed to load wood pellets into the hopper.

The hopper is a box that is located on the side of the grill chamber and slowly releases wood pellets to the augur, which releases pellets into your grill's firebox to burn and produce the wood smoke you need for that smoky barbecue taste.

Installing a Pellet Smoker Conversion Kit

Conversion kits have a PID controller, which uses heat sensors to monitor the actual temperature and controls the cooking temperature by adjusting the rate at which the augur releases wood pellets to the grill. It will speed up the release if the temperature is too low and slow down if the temperature is too high. It will stop when you want to maintain the cooking temperature.

Most PID controllers enable you to grill between the temperature of 150°F and 500°F.

Benefits of Building Your Own Pellet Smoker

Here are some of the benefits of building your own pellet smoker, especially from your existing BBQ grill.

  • You aren’t spending substantial additional cost or resources. Your existing grill functions as both the pellet grill and pellet smoker.
  • DIY pellet smokers require little or no constant maintenance
  • You will get a smoky flavor in the meat that you barbecue. You can add certain wood pellets to get several flavors. Mix different pellets for more flavor combinations.

(Want to buy yours instead? Find the best pellet grill under 500 for you!)

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Cook on A Pellet Smoker?

The time required to cook on a pellet smoker depends on what you’re cooking. 

Although a pellet smoker will take some time to heat up to the required temperature, you would want to wait to reach the desired temperature to cook your meat. 

If you install the conversion kit, you can check out the time and temperature guide.

Does a Pellet Smoker Need Electricity to Work?

This depends on how the pellet smoker is built. All pellet smokers cook by burning pellets, however, those built from pellet grills still have vital electrical components, such as a fan, auger, and digital control that require a standard power main. 

The electricity is mainly used to feed pellets to the burning chamber via the auger system. It also operates the thermostat system. 

Pellet smokers built with drums may rely solely on pellets and charcoals.

Can I Leave Pellets in the Hopper When I’m Not Cooking?

Yes, you can leave pellets in the hoppers when your pellet smoker is not in use. However, this should be for a limited time. 

If you won’t be cooking with your pellet smoker grill for several days, then don’t leave pellets in the hopper. Empty the hopper so that the pellets won’t absorb any moisture from the air.

How Do You Start A Pellet Smoker?

To start a pellet smoker, load your favorite wood pellets into the hopper. Next, program the desired temperature on the PID controller depending on what you want to cook, and place your meat on the grill. As long as there are pellets inside the hopper to burn, the smoker will automatically maintain the right cooking temperature for you.

Can A Pellet Grill Be Used As A Smoker?

Yes, a pellet grill can be used as a smoker. Pellet grills are versatile and can be used to grill, barbecue, roast, braise, or bake in addition to being able to smoke your meat. Most people consider a pellet grill as a smoker.

What Is The Difference Between A Pellet Grill And A Pellet Smoker?

The difference between a pellet grill and a pellet smoker is that the pellet grill delivers higher heat for a shorter time while pellet smoker delivers lower heat over a longer time, depending on the meat you are smoking. 

What Is The Difference Between A Pellet Grill And A Pellet Smoker?

For instance, a pellet grill can supply heat between 400°F to 550°F for minutes and 190°F to 300°F for an hour. On the other hand, a pellet smoker supplies heat between 68°F to 176°F for an hour or 2 weeks.


You can learn how to build a pellet smoker using pellet smoker conversion kits. With this, you can easily convert any existing grill you have into a pellet smoker to cook your meat. This would be very useful for you to add that desirable smoky flavor to your meats, including turkey, to impress your friends and family at your next weekend barbecue. 

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