File Cabinet Smoker

I recycled a metal file cabinet into a functional meat smoker over the course of several weekends, thanks to an inspiring internet banner ad.


1 all-metal file cabinet, 3 metal grates, 3 cans of heat-resistant grill paint, 3 BBQ thermometers, 2 floor vents, wood. (2016)

These grates are perfect drawer-bottom replacements.

To cut the drawers, I used a drill to make a hole in the metal big enough to fit wire snips into. Then I cut a hole with the wire snips big enough to fit a sawzall. Be careful!

Cutting drawers is the part that took the longest.

Drawers cut, vents applied, thermometers installed.

First test fire.

Fire from the back. Ultimately removed the bottom vent, it restricted too much airflow.

Top vent in action.

No shortage of smoke here.

After this test fire, I burnt another 3 or 4 fires with wood in every box to remove the interior paint. It helped me to spray/rub down the inside with some oil, the paint remaining post-burn flaked off much easier. 

After all interior paint was removed and I was satisfied with airflow and heat retention of the various drawers, I painted my cabinet.


I used 2.5 cans total of this paint on the outside of the smoker.

Looking sleek in the flat black.

First cook! Meat and potatoes two drawers above the fire.

Veggies get the exclusive top drawer, to avoid drippings.

This is right around where you want to be, for multiple hours.

Peppers turned out amazing!

The chicken and potatoes were delicious, but the larger cuts were extremely tough. More like jerky than smoky goodness. 

Case closed.

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