How to Build a BBQ Smoker From an Oil Drum

Written by carson barrett
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Grilling or barbecuing on a warm summer night has long been a favourite pastime of many Americans. Cooking food directly over coal or wood, and covering it in barbecue sauce or other sauces or flavourings, gives it a unique taste that you can't replicate by cooking in your kitchen. While you can go out and buy a charcoal or gas grill, or build a barbecue pit in your backyard, some people prefer to build a barbecue smoker out of 55-gallon drums. This is cheaper than building a barbecue pit, and also allows you to infuse your food with a smokier flavour than a standard grill, if that's what you prefer.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 55-gallon drum
  • String
  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie
  • Drill
  • 3/4-inch drill bit
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood
  • Matches
  • Garden hose
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 3-inch bolts
  • Hammer
  • BBQ grates
  • Washers
  • Chain-link fence
  • Soldering gun

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  1. 1

    Wrap a string around the barrel, then measure the length of the string. This will give you the circumference of the drum.

  2. 2

    Mark the ventilation holes on the drum. They should be 3 inches from the bottom (the side with the bottom welded onto the end), and spaced evenly apart. To determine the spacing for the ventilation holes, divide the circumference you measured by three.

  3. 3

    Use a 3/4-inch drill bit and drill the ventilation holes.

  4. 4

    If there is a rubber gasket around the top of the lid to act as a seal, pry it off with a screwdriver.

  5. 5

    Build a large fire by filling the drum with wood and lighting it to remove any particles or other substances on the inside of the barrel. Make sure that the fire is big enough that the flames shoot out of the top, and keep it burning until the wood is gone (you don't have to add more wood once the fire begins).

  6. 6

    Once the fire is out and the barrel is cool, empty the ashes and wash the barrel out with a hose.

  7. 7

    Determine the spacing for the bolts that will hold the grill by dividing the circumference by four. This figure will be the distance between each of the four holes you drill for the bolts. Pick a spot 7 inches below the top of the drum (the open end with the removable lid), and mark the spot where you'll drill the first hole. Mark the three other spots around the drum at the 7-inch level, using the figure you calculated.

  8. 8

    Use a 1/4-inch drill bit to drill the holes.

  9. 9

    Put the bolts into the holes from the outside, and use nuts to screw them into place.

  10. 10

    Pound down any sharp edges on the drum with a hammer to prevent injury.

  11. 11

    Get an 18-inch barbecue grill grate, and put four legs on it by bolting washers into place to support it.

  12. 12

    Wrap a piece of chain link fence or similar material about 18 inches high into a ring and bolt it together. Solder this ring to the grate to build the fire basket.

  13. 13

    Put the fire basket in the barrel, and fill it with your fuel of choice (wood or charcoal). Light it, then put the cooking grate on the bolts you installed near the top of the barrel. Now you're ready to barbecue.

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