The Oil Drum BBQ and Smoker

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We were recently inspired by a home made oil drum BBQ owned and operated by our very close and wildly talented friends. Seeing as how we do so much of our summer cooking outdoors in our various earthen ovens, we decided that we absolutely needed to add one of these beasts to our yard kitchen arsenal.

Below is how we built ours. Hopefully you go on to build one of your own.


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First and foremost. Be absolutely sure you know what was originally stored in the oil drum you rustle up for this project. We STRONGLY recommend AGAINST using any drum that contained volatile (read: explosive) materials such as gasoline. We chose a food grade drum that stored vegetable oil in its previous life. While not explosive, we don’t recommend this option either as no amount of hot water and soap was able to degrease the oil out of it. Messy messy messy!

We cut the door to a size that seemed good using a plasma cutter. An angle grinder would work just fine too.

Some people cut the door itself from a second drum. This way you can cut the door to slightly overlap the door opening creating a better seal.  If you do it this way, be sure that your two drums have the same baffle pattern and that you cut the door to perfectly centre with the baffles over the opening.

We didn’t have a second drum on hand to sacrifice to this project and we have found that the gap around the door in ours does little to interfere with the function of the BBQ.


Jen plasma cutting the door opening.




We then reattached the door by welding it on with hinges. We only used two hinges and so far it has worked just fine. Some people use three. You can also attach the hinges with rivets or with bolt/washer/nut assemblies.




We marked out the holes where we would put our cold air intake and the chimney and cut those out with the plasma cutter too. In ours we decided to put both the intake and the chimney on the same side of the drum. This allows us to keeps a fire on one side and use the other side as a cool smoke chamber. As we understand it, putting the chimney across from the intake makes for a hotter cooking box as all the smoke and heat crosses the drum from the hottest part of the fire to the chimney. We’ll have to wait and see if this works out.

We used 1.5″ curved steel pipe for the intake and chimney and welded them on to the drum.


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We fashioned cute little adjustable vent flaps using 1/4″ threaded rod, discs of scrap sheet metal, and a couple of wing nuts. They can be swiveled between wide open and sealed shut to control air flow. Both the intake and chimney were fitted with one of these.


Both the intake and chimney were fitted with these vent flaps.


The grills are supported by 1″ angle iron riveted on to the drum. These could just as easily have been welded in to place but we couldn’t be bothered with stripping the remarkably strong inner enamel off and couldn’t get welds to hold with it in place. Hopefully the raging hot flames take care of that enamel for us.

The angle iron is set just proud of the lower edge of the door opening. This allows it to act a stop, preventing inversion of the door.



The grill is stainless expanded sheet metal. Stainless seemed worth the expense since we will be eating food off of this metal. We had to install it as two separate sheets that sit side by side to get it through the opening.




We put an upper grill in place too.


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And made a handle out of scrap pieces of metal that we welded on to the door. We used a long length of square tube welded on via two stalks of round bar. It’s a good distance off the door allowing lots of room for handling without risk of burning the back on our fingers when opening the door.


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We have since used the BBQ to whip up some slow cooked smoked ribs. Delicious! The enamel burned off quickly but I’m sure the environment didn’t appreciate it. Next time we will take it to be sandblasted before installing all the hardware. With ours, we will take it out to be blasted now that it has been fired up so that we can paint it in a heat tolerate enamel. Hopefully that will extend it’s life.

We’re already scheming to make a double drum smoker this winter since we have so much fun cooking with this one!

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