There are different ways to build homemade smokers, and many of them are inexpensive or even free if you have the stuff. Trashcans, cardboard boxes, and old refrigerators can be made into smokers. And don't forget that it's easy to turn your gas or charcoal grill into a smoker.
For gas grill smoking, it's as simple as using only one of the burners,
turned down to its lowest setting. Place a foil packet of water soaked
wood directly over the burner to create smoke. Or what I do is put
smoker wood in a bread baking pan, then cover it tightly with foil. I
punch one small hole in the center of the foil for the smoke to escape.
The meat is place opposite the flame, and the lid is closed. If the grill temperature rises above where you want it, open the cover a bit to adjust. If it's too low, simply adjust the burner.
Kettle grills can be used as smoker, too. Place a brick on the charcoal grate, near one side. Pile several unlit briquettes and wood chips between the brick and the side of the grill. Place a few lit briquettes on top of those, and the pile of briquettes and chips will slowly burn, producing low heat and some smoke. Place the food opposite the charcoal, and the lid vent over the food. Use the lower and upper vents to control the temperature. (Place an analog dial thermometer through the lid vent over the food to check the temperature.)
Plans for these homemade smokers have been all over the internet lately...Build Your Own Smoker Out Of A Trash Can!
You'll need a new galvanized trashcan with a lid, a food grate that fits the inside of the can, an electric hot plate and a cast iron skillet for wood chips. Also some aluminum foil and wood chips.
Drill a hole through the side of the trash can, right next to the bottom. Put the hot plate inside, running the electric cord out through the hole. Turn the hot plate control on to medium.
Fill a small cast iron skillet with wood chips, and cover it tightly with foil. Set it on the hotplate.
Place the grate in the trash can. If you can find one to fit perfectly, drill 4 holes through the sides of the can about 2/3 of the way to the top, all at the same height. Slide a pair of 1/4 inch steel rods through the holes. Now the grate can be held up by the rods.
Place the food on the grate and the lid on the trash can. Plug in the hot plate and smoke away! Oh, and drill a small hole in the top for your thermometer probe. You'll need to readjust the hot plate a couple of times to get the temperature just right. Usually, one pan of smoker wood is enough for your food.
Alternately, you can use a tall can, like a 48 ounce tomato juice can, filled partway with charcoal and wood chips for the heat and smoke. Drill lots of 1/2 inch holes through the sides of the can. Fill it halfway with unlit charcoal and a couple of wood chunks. Add a half dozen lit briquettes to the top of the can. The charcoal will slowly burn downwards, producing heat and smoke.
Use this one far, far away from the house. Use a long extension cord.
Drive 4 large stakes in the ground, spaced to support the cooking grate from your grill. Place a hotplate/iron skillet filled with wood combo (described above) directly under the grate. Set it at medium for starters.
Place a cardboard box over the grate. Plug in the hot plate and your food will smoke. WARNING! Watch this one closely with a fire extinguisher in hand...just in case the box catches on fire!
There are many ways of getting by without a real, honest to goodness meat smoker. None of them are as good as having the real thing, but then, there's a certain satisfaction to making your own homemade smokers!