JOPLIN, Mo. — What can you do with your old hot water tank? You could sell it for the scrap metal, or you can do what one Joplin plumber decided to do: Turn it into a meat smoker. The idea came to plumber, Steve Baird, after he amassed a large collection of old hot water heaters over the years.
“For a long time I’ve removed water heaters as a plumber. I usually just scrap pile them and once I get a whole truckload, I take them in and get $20 or $30 for them. Then, I got to thinking, ‘man, there’s got to be something better to do with these.’ I came up with the idea a long time ago but never had time to do it. Finally the hot water tank in my house went out, and rather than haul it off, I just cut it all up and made it into a smoker,” said Baird.
The process to convert a hot water tank into a smoker isn’t a difficult one, Baird claims. The round shape of the tank is ideal for cooking and smoking meat. “I made it all from raw materials. I use the tank itself and I was just careful when I cut doors in it. I just had to buy some hinges for the doors. I bought some expanded metal to make my own grates and that was about it. Everything else can be fabricated pretty easily.”
Baird converted his first hot water tank just in time for the Thanksgiving. He started with several racks of ribs. After that, Baird decided to tackle a holiday ham. He claimed that both of them were “incredible.”
Baird is now sharing his knowledge of turning old hot water tanks into a high-end smokers. Don Turnbull, a friend of Baird’s and welding instructor at Franklin Technology Center in Joplin, MO learned how to convert the tanks and is now teaching some of his students how to do the same. Joplin Winnelson Company, a plumbing wholesaler, also stepped in to donate all that was needed. “Right now, I’ve got four students that are working on this particular project and once they’re done, the smokers will likely be auctioned off,” said Turnbull.
Each smoker is estimated to be worth anywhere from $500 to $700. Baird says the smokers from Franklin Technology Center, including any that he builds, will likely be put up for auction at the annual “Bands For Brothers” veteran charity event during the summer of 2023. The money raised at the event will go to Our Veterans First.