How to Make a Barrel Barbecue

Cooking fire in old barrel
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As far as backyard metal projects go, what could be more appropriate for a long summer day than a barrel barbecue? For myself, a great project has two qualities: It is inexpensive to make and is practical to use. A barrel barbecue is both, and can be completed easily in one day (it only takes a few hours to complete)

Directions

  1. Measure your barrel dimensions (height and diameter) and decide how tall you want your BBQ to be (you'll want it to open somewhere around waist high).
  1. Cut, clamp and weld the angle iron to form a rectangular frame to hold the barrel. The inner width of the frame should be a few inches less than the diameter of the barrel so that your BBQ barrel sits in the frame securely and so that it opens above the frame.
  2. Measure, cut, and weld another frame (of equal size) to support the legs near their base.
  3. Measure and cut the legs to the desired height.
  4. Weld the legs to the corners of the top and base frames. The base frame should be about 5" from the bottom of the legs. (If you are planning on moving the BBQ around your deck or yard, you may want to consider adding some wheels to one side). Test to make sure your barrel fits securely. If the barrel doesn't sit securely, use the angle iron to add stabilizing bars under the barrel and between the legs on each end.
  5. Now it's time to prepare the barrel. You will need to use a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade. There are a number of ways to cut the opening, but cutting a full 1/4 section from the drum will provide a larger mouth to work with when preparing the grill, grilling and cleaning your BBQ.

    Note: When cutting the drum be sure that no flammables, or fumes, are inside. Under the wrong conditions, sparks from cutting the barrel could cause an explosion. Just to be sure, prior to cutting keep your drum unsealed (take the caps off), store in a cool location and rinse with water.

  1. Add your hinges after making the initial lengthwise cut down the length of the barrel. This will make it easier than trying to attach them after (trust me).
  2. After your barrel is fully cut open, use a disc grinder to grind down the sharp edges around the lid and scrub the inside to remove any rust or residue.
  1. Now you're ready to install the grill. You'll need two levels; a lower one on which to place the charcoal and the grill itself. Use either expanded stainless steel mesh or an old grill, if you have one that fits. Do not use anything painted or that may contain toxins that will end up on your steaks. Measure the grill and cut to size. If the grill won't sit flat inside the drum, you can weld a frame around the outside to give it some weight and to buffer the sharp edges.
  2. Attach the handle. Again, you have a variety of options, but 1" wooden doweling is strong and won't transfer heat (i.e. you won't burn your hand every time you open the lid). You can drill a couple of holes and use the bolts to attach this or design something to your own liking.
  3. Finally, paint the exterior of your barrel bbq with a high-temperature resistant paint to give it a clean, finished look. Don't paint the interior of the drum. 

    Now you're ready to begin grilling. Before you do, however, you should have a look at some of the great BBQ marinades and grilling suggestions here. 

Tips

  1. Extend the top frame to include space for a side-table beside the barrel. This can be made with the stainless steel mesh left over from the grill or from wood.
  1. Add a thermometer to the lid to get those steaks done just right.
  2. If you have a liquid barrel, cut the drum so that the threaded opening is on the top of the barrel. This can be made into chimney by adding some threaded piping.

What You Need

  • Angled iron strips
  • A food grade steel barrel
  • 3 hinges
  • 1 piece of 1" wood doweling to make a handle
  • 2.5" steel bolts (with nuts and washers) to secure the handle
  • Expanded steel mesh or a bbq grill that fits the barrel