After reading bad reviews of inexpensive smokers ($100-300), I decided to build my own out of terra cotta pots. Here are my results and how it was made. Design taken from Alton Brown's Good Eats.
18.5" terra cotta pot
16 3/4" terra cotta pot (lid)
electric hot plate
weber charcoal grate
heavy duty pie pan (thicker the better)
disposable aluminum pan
I disconnected the heating element from the base & spliced the wiring to lengthen it.
Next the wires were passed through the bottom hole in the flower pot.
Reattached the wires to the heating element & placed it over 2 small bricks for a stable surface.
Heavy duty pie tin placed on top of burner with wood chips (preferably wood chunks which burn longer).
Disposable aluminum pan to catch drippings & prevent flare-ups. I then placed some U-bolts with brackets for handles.
Flower pot smoker now completed in less than 5 minutes. Placed on top of bricks for ventilation & to protect to hot plate's base. I chose to rewire the hot plate to have easy access to the heat controls. Also most hot plates have heat sensors and will kick off after reaching a certain temp. For smoking purposes, I wanted 200-220 degrees F, so this method worked best. Thermometer placed inside top hole to trap smoke & monitor ambient temps.
Smoked chicken & poblanos.
Ambient temps ran from 200-230 degrees which is the perfect range for smoking meats. I'm sure with a smaller pot temps could reach up to 250. All in all I am very satisfied with the finished product. Ideally I wanted a terra cotta bowl, but I couldn't find one in the size I needed.
Total costs: $70
And it works just as well as a $700 commercial ceramic smoker. It's not very aesthetic but it smokes like a champ.
The same set up can be used in a aluminum garbage can which would significantly cut down on costs. Smaller flower pots run much cheaper than the ones I used. A smoker can be built for $50-60 depending on materials.
Thread: built a meat smoker today (pics)