Introduction: How to Build Your Own BBQ Barrel

Picture of How to Build Your Own BBQ Barrel

Thank you for making this Instructable one of the Best of 2009#7 in the Food Category...

Lucky for me on my last day of work at The Bakery, the 55-gallon honey barrel I'd been waiting for was finally empty. Getting laid off wasn't going to stand in the way of my dream to make my own barbecue.

Step 1: The Prep

Picture of The Prep

First, I had to empty out all the excess honey and clean the inside (not exciting enough for a photo). Then I borrowed a grinder from a friend and cut the opening.

It's way less of a hassle to have a food grade barrel. Imagine bbq'n in a barrel that use to have oil or fuel. Yuck!

Step 2: Constructing the Stand

Picture of Constructing the Stand

I had to make a base and the only things around were some old chain-link fence posts that I'd never taken to the dump and some scrap plywood I'd demoed out of a creepy room in my basement.

I cut 6 posts at different lengths - 2 the length of the barrel & 4 for the legs. I wanted to bbq to be portable so the best way for that was for the barrel to sit on top of the stand. Two posts held the barrel while the 4 legs were attached by drilling holes for the carriage bolts on either end. To attach keep the legs sturdy I secured them with pieces of plywood. Put the barrel on top and it stood tall and proud.

Step 3: Attaching the Lid & Grill Grates

Picture of Attaching the Lid & Grill Grates

I added brackets to hold the grills and to keep the lid from falling inside, as well as a lower rack to hold the coals and allow for air circulation.

Be sure to purchase stainless steel brackets and hinges. If you buy galvanized you should take a torch to it to burn off the fumes that will be there the first couple times you grill.

Step 4: Burn Off the Inside

Picture of Burn Off the Inside

I lit a fire in it to burn off any paints or coatings or who knows what. There may or may not have been a burn ban going on this day so I made burgers on my gas grill to disguise the smoke.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Last steps in the construction were to add a handle (plain wooden dowel from the hardware store), air vents, and a temperature gauge. I also decided to spray the barrel with a high heat resistant pant. Besides customizing the color a little, the paint helps prevent rust on the barrel. The only thing left was to test it in a real-life BBQ situation.


craigchat (author)2011-09-10

Just about done with my version of your barrel BBQ grill. Everything has worked out well except for the stand. It came out a bit wobbly side to side. Does yours have that problem? I was wondering if you just didn't worry about that because of the portability issue.

Koolman60 (author)craigchat2017-07-29

You should have "angled" the bottom end of the legs OUT further than the top of the leg i.e. if the top of the legs are 18 inches apart then the bottoms should be say 24 inches apart, giving the stand more steadiness

crickle321 (author)2010-06-27

For grilling, you should avoid galvanized metal all together since the fumes from burning off zinc is pretty darned toxic. If exposed, you should drink milk to absorb the carcinogenic zinc.

froggi (author)crickle3212010-06-27

Drinking milk is an urban myth..... While there may be a small benefit, there is no proven data to support this. There are more than enough people who have worked in zinc coating premises who will swear this is true but as the band Thin Lizzy said..... "Don't Believe a Word"

silver362 (author)froggi2010-06-27

thin lizzy was a guy who had a band not an actual band... jus sayin

brian_915 (author)silver3622010-06-28

What does the expression "jus sayin" mean? seems like a snarky way of telling someone they are wrong without saying "you're wrong, I'm right". In this case, silver362, you're wrong, froggi is right. (at least about the musical reference) "Thin Lizzy" was the name of an Irish band formed & fronted by bassist Phil Lynott. As far as Metal Fume Fever and the use of galvanized metal, I'm no further the wiser from these comments.

Koolman60 (author)brian_9152017-07-29

Just sayin is:

Used at the end of a statement to indicate to the
reader that the writer is a making a passive aggressive comment while
trying not to offend ...

crickle321 (author)brian_9152010-07-03

In all sincerity, what are you not understanding in terms of galvanized metal?

brian_915 (author)crickle3212010-07-04

some people say it's not safe for use as a smoker or grill, other's disagree (not just here, on similar pages on other sites.) I've decided to buy a food-grade barrel and burn it out. (itself not a practice I'm familiar with but that's how we learn)

crickle321 (author)brian_9152010-07-04

Yeah that does sound a little confusing. In step one of this instructable, johnnyblegs gives a nicely detailed cleaning instructions for non-food-grade barrels. The conversation about galvanized metal (which is a zinc coating to prevent rust) pertains to some wire grates that have it. When the coating is heated to a curtain temp, it can vaporize and be harmful if inhaled. Stainless steel does not need such a coating since most grades of stainless steel are resistant to rusting.

silver362 (author)brian_9152010-06-28

yeah i looked it up and you 2 were right i dunno it just somethin iv kinda started sayin its not "snarky" though

froggi (author)silver3622010-06-28

Thin Lizzy was the name of the band I think you'll find not the individual who had a band!!!! An avid fan can tell you for a fact

cwuub5 (author)froggi2010-06-27

Drinking milk is not an urban myth, as a retired welder of 50 years I speak from experience.

SeanD65 (author)cwuub52016-03-28

Science be damned, old welders are who to look to for health advice!

(Just kidding, he is wrong. Milk is not magical. It certainly has health benefits but won't protect you from zinc or lead poisoning. Avoid the galvanized metal.)

Binny the first (author)cwuub52011-06-16

Same here but with 30-35 years under my belt under the worst conditions imaginable.(Think Dante's Hell ) Nearly died of zinc poisoning several times and for ever what it is worth milk takes the metal taste out and seems to be comforting,that's first hand experience...Funny you admit to being a metal head too,he hee... I'd be willing to bet you and I both would go about this project differently with the tools at our disposal. I do have to give the author a lot of credit for going for it with only a grinder and drill. Amazing what one can make due with.Say ever have one of those grinding wheels blow up on you. Damm that stings.Nothing like having one giant intense raspberry that goes from your neck to Your bellybutton. We once got in a whole batch of wheels that had a manufacturing defect with the glue or backer that holds 'em together and most of the crew had at least one blow up on them.Boy there was a lot of cussing going on in the old shop for a week or so.Even the leather heads scrambled to get their grinder guards back on.Will never forget I took two in 2 consecutive weeks and was about to quit.A friend and co worker took 2 blow outs in a day and walked out the door in his bloody "T" shirt only to come back in the AM to be one of the first ones to strike an arc...Damm he took a royal beating ,working class hero. Anyway I sortta miss the arcs of hellfire,the smell of burning flesh,choking fumes,The cussing and clamor ,the defining noise of hammer forming steel into things that will more than outlive the creator or buyer of product.A harsh way to make a living but rewarding for those creative ones possessing a strong disposition and stony heart.... Cheers ...Binny......

cwuub5 (author)Binny the first2011-06-16

I dismantled a bolted galvanized water tank a few years ago and some of the bolts had to be cut out with a torch which I did and got very sick doing it , drank a pint of milk at the local dairy queen and it cleared right up and I have had a few wheels come apart, just another good reason to use grinder guards and wear safety glasses.

Binny the first (author)cwuub52011-06-17

I couldn't agree with you any more on that one. and as a side note antacids like rolaides or tums are nearly pure calcium. I know this because I suffer from parathyroid diease and if I were to consume either it could send me into kidney failure.My specialist makes that perfectly clear on every visit. cheers....Binny

froggi (author)cwuub52010-06-28

Sorry cwuub5 but as a fellow welder I can tell you that you are mistaken.... . There is no factual basis in drinking milk to ally the effects of "Metal Fume Fever".... This IS an urban myth..... This has been built up over the years from the "old days" of this being the "norm" in zinc processing plants and from welding processes. The reasoning behind adequate fume extraction is due to people either keeling over from toxic fume poisoning or dying after working for extented periods in said environments. While a possible treatment for MFF is the use of calcium, the amount of calcium needed to be taken in would ensure you'd be sloshing around and looking like a barrel of milk. This is not a "not being nice" comment, just a statement of fact.

crickle321 (author)froggi2010-07-02

How much calcium would be needed as a possible treatment for MFF?

froggi (author)crickle3212010-07-03

Dunno.... but I'm betting you wouldn't want to find out or even take it in it's original metallic form. It's a soft metal (ie can be cut with a knife at room temps) and from what I can remember from school chemistry classes, has to be stored in something like oil (I think) as it's combustable on contact with water. Cool explosion though, lol

Binny the first (author)froggi2011-06-17

One takes it in fairly pure form every time they pop an antacid tab like tums.

crickle321 (author)froggi2010-07-03

So your comment about drinking "...a barrel of milk" was based on nothing?? With the oil stored metal, your probably thinking of sodium in its metallic state. Metallic calcium is relatively stable in air and but will give off some hydrogen gas when exposed to moisture but not enough for ignition and definitely not enough to explode by itself.

If I remenber right calcium and it's related elements do form a weak co valiant bond with heavy metals and that is why they use barium a first cousin to calcium as a carrier for radioactive dyes ingested into the digestive tract to take pictures of your innards in detail and pass it before it does much cell damage.

froggi (author)crickle3212010-07-04

Maybe I was, however, as I said, recalling from my schooldays (30 plus years ago I might add) calcium is still extremely volatile when exposed to moisture. I seem to remember that when calcium was dropped into a water tank it was very, very "fizzy" to the point of ignition. As I remember the demo was using 3 metals.... sodium, calcuim and potassium, all of which were somewhat volatile when dropped into the water tank. The comment re the "barrel of milk" was based on the fact that a pint of milk contains a small amount of calcium and that a standard barrel (used for making the item in the feaure) is 45 galls (UK) equates to 8 times 45 (UK gall = 8 pints UK) therefore equalling 360 pints. According to Wikipedia, cows milk contains 120 IU per 100 grams. I'm not sure what IU means other than International Unit. Converting that to Imperial measurements, it appears that a 45 gallon barrel contains 360(pints) x 681.6 (IU of calcuim) = 245376 IU of calcium (all UK measurements). Please feel free to check this and amend as per updated info

Binny the first (author)froggi2011-06-16

I have reason to believe you guys have calcium confused with sodium .Calcium is not a metal it is chalk like and does not behave like
a metal such as sodium or potassiun that needs to be stored under oil to keep it from decomposing in the atmosphere,Just look at the periodic table it simply is not that reactive.

ryandean98 (author)froggi2010-08-29

Forget Facts, If It Works It Works! If You Don't Beleive It THen Don't.

crickle321 (author)froggi2010-06-27

You don't have to "...believe a word". If you have doubts then just do some research or google "Metal fume fever treatment". But on a personal note: it does take the metallic taste out of your mouth. I myself haven't searched for any medical studies on the matter. To call it an urban myth is a bit harsh since you imply nothing about the tip is factual. Though milk isn't a cure-all doctor substituting treatment for Metal Fume Fever, it is far from folklore that has been told by "a friend of a friend". But as the band Mighty Mighty Bosstones said... "It Can't Hurt" ;)

cabbagehats (author)crickle3212011-09-11

isn't that great? i learned that from my welding teacher. the drinking milk part.

GrapeApe226 (author)crickle3212011-06-22

On heavy metals in your body. I've skimmed on this subject but have not researched it and have no intention of getting into it here. Charcoal pills can be bought at health stores and holistic medicine sites can tell you how to help reduce metals & toxins in the body. All I know is that used properly charcoal will absorb toxins like a sponge and hold them solvent until your body passes it. Same theory as your activated charcoal filter in your fridge, it absorbs until it's full, then you need to change it. Search home/holistic medicine sites for more info. That's all I have to offer on this subject.

Galvanized zinc coatings also contain high levels of lead that is why they don't use it in pluming for potable water any more..

volkvanmyn25 made it! (author)2015-12-13

Thanks for the idea. I made something similar.

PradeepK53 (author)2015-11-20

Could you give the specs of the nut and bolts that you used....length and type..
thank you

KiraY1 (author)2015-09-14

mesure for the door cutting ??

johnnyblegs (author)KiraY12015-09-21

I'm not sure. I'm away from my bbq right now, but the door size will vary depending on the barrel. I left about 3 inches on both sides to help keep the heat & smoke sealed inside.

1234joesmoe. (author)2015-05-30

made this with 2 barrels for a friend. Lined the bottom with left over barrel pieces to protect it from burning through. Did add a chimney and air intakes to sides and front. works great.

1234joesmoe. (author)2015-05-30

Jk119530 (author)2015-04-28

What is the chimney made of?
Looks great! Love the matt black has it scratched much?

johnnyblegs (author)Jk1195302015-05-04

The chimney is made from a stove pipe typy can buy just about anywhere. The paint hand scratched much at all. Has been holding up really well. Can't wait to get that pork shoulder in this coming weekend.

eoin.fitz1 (author)2015-03-24

Hi, where did you get the grills ??

jennokammi (author)eoin.fitz12015-03-30

Lowes, Home Depot, amazon, or ebay. They can range in sizes (measure twice, order once) and vary in composition and price.

jennokammi (author)2015-03-30

I am so exited about getting started in this project, I already have a few design modifications in mind (a flap on the bottom for cleaning out the ash) I already have a stand that I salvaged and I'm going to be putting a table next to the grill. It's going to be an exciting summer project!

SHYAMR made it! (author)2014-10-19

I used my scrap yard Junks and turned it into lovely BBQ... Thanks Guys :D

smarshall12 (author)2014-10-02

Very nice and simple re-purposing of existing materials. Can't wait to do this myself.

lmporter03 (author)2014-10-01

The red liner on food grade barrels is toxic when exposed to flame. It needs to be removed and sandblasting is about the only thing that works. There are some food grade barrels with a tan liner that isn't much better. An unlined drum, even an oil drum, is safer to use than the red lined drums.

sthomas66 (author)2014-05-02

That's very cool, I'm gonna try and put one together. I think the only change I make will be, 2 - 3 height adjustments for the grill.

dotman57 (author)2013-09-14

What grilling grates did you use? I couldn't find any in the right size.

Vera0866 (author)2013-08-14

I am so happy with the explenation and the step by step photo's. today we started on my bbq-barrel. with a few brackets we will finish tomorrow. thank you very much.

lwint (author)2013-07-16

do you think the existing coating is fire retardant also?

jmckinnon2 (author)2013-06-26

very nice looking smoker you got what did you use for the grill? thanks

sirwill (author)2013-06-17

i see a drill, but what is the other tool, It looks like a saw of some kind. I'd apperate it if tell what tools you are using. Thank you for any help.

About This Instructable




Bio: I respect food and where it comes from. I love slow cooking a piece of meat for 6 hours into food heaven. I love brewing ... More »
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