Introduction: Low Cost, No Weld 55 Gallon Drum Smoker

Picture of Low Cost, No Weld 55 Gallon Drum Smoker

Being broke like myself we can all still appreciate the taste of home smoked meat. I spent a total of $66 making this smoker. Over time, I may add some bells and whistles to it. But for starters, here is how I made a low cost, no weld 55 gallon drum smoker.

Step 1: Acquire a 55 Gallon Drum. Remove 3" From the Top.

Picture of Acquire a 55 Gallon Drum. Remove 3" From the Top.

You can spend mega bucks buying a new unlined drum but the purpose of building my own is because I didn't want to spend the $100 - $200. So I acquired this empty drum from a friend that was just rusting away in his garage. Cut the "lid" about 3" from the top assuming you don't have a removable lid. I used a sawzall. Once it was removed I hammered the lid edges outward so that way it would fit over the rest of the drum.

It had unused organic oil in it. Now, before you start worrying about hazards about what was in my/your drum please continue.

Step 2: Scrub Scrub Scrub

Picture of Scrub Scrub Scrub

My decision in getting an organic oil drum was made after discovering that these drums do not have an interior liner that I'm told is impossible to remove. A little bit of elbow grease and lots of dawn dish soap will easily break down the oil and leave the interior nice and shinny.

Step 3: Burn Baby Burn!

Picture of Burn Baby Burn!

To remove any oil and exterior paint I needed heat. Here's the first purchase I had to make. A weed torch. Amazon had a 500,000 btu one for $30. I felt this was a necessary purchase. I've seen other people just burn a drum in a fire pit or just have a fire inside the drum but

1. I could legally own a flame thrower

2. I could legally own a flame thrower

3. I needed to ensure the oil was properly burned off by high heat and couldn't risk any cold spots associated with just throwing it in a fire (unless your firepit was big enough... mine isn't)

At 1000 degrees Fahrenheit the paint on the outside simply flaked away. At 1500 degrees Fahrenheit I was sure any oil left was destroyed. This was my favorite step.

Step 4: Give It a Car Wash and Time to Prime

Picture of Give It a Car Wash and Time to Prime

After burning the barrel I took it to the car wash and pressure washed it ($2).

Using 2 spray paint cans of Rustoleum high temperature primer ($4 a peice) I coated the outside of the drum and lid. Don't spray the inside. That's unnecessary.

Step 5: Grafix

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If your artistic you can try painting flames or skulls on your drum. If your artistic skills are that of a drunk toddler like me, you need to cheat. I printed a biohazard symbol online. Carefully cut it out and glued it to the drum before adding the paint.

Step 6: Paint and Add a Handle.

Picture of Paint and Add a Handle.

I used 2 cans of black Rustoleum grill spray paint ($3 a piece). Plus I found a garage door handle at Wal-Mart for $2. Once I spray painted the drum I removed the glued biohazard sign.

Step 7: Season and Smoke.

Picture of Season and Smoke.

Coat the inside with lard, crisco, ect. This protects the metal from corrosion. Then throw in a 5lb bag of lit charcoal for a dry run to season the inside. From here you can drill your air intake holes.

Step 8: Air Intake

Picture of Air Intake

I prefer the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid). I got 3-3" metal caps from Menards for .99 cents each. I drilled a 1" hole near the bottom and attached the cap with a bolt and lock-tighted nut. It'll swing to cover/uncover the hole. I installed 3 of them equally spaced (every 23.5")along the bottom.

EDIT: this is not enough air flow. Your going to want larger holes or more 1" holes because 3 - 1" holes is not enough. I now recommend 3 - 3" holes. Sorry for the wrong info but in practice I realized I needed more air

Step 9: Handles

Picture of Handles

Just like the lid I installed 2 more handles to the drum on each side for easy portability.

Step 10: The Grate.

Picture of The Grate.

Using 4-3" L shaped brakets I bolted them to the inside of the drum equally spaced and level using 1/4" bolts. A 21" grill grate from Sears ($11) fits perfectly on it.

Step 11: Fire and Water.

Picture of Fire and Water.

My charcoal and wood will be in a chimney charcoal starter. Im also using an old baking pan to catch my ash and a cast iron pan filled with water to rest on top of the chimney starter to add moisture and keep direct heat off whatever I'm smoking. In the future, I might build a larger charcoal basket but for now it'll work.

Step 12: The End

Picture of The End

I had a great time building this smoker. The great thing about this is you can always add things too it. Enjoy!


jef400dread (author)2017-05-10

Another reason why I love this site. While reading through this, I followed your link to the flame thrower/ weed burner thing, which gave me an idea on a better way to deal with weeds sprouting up in my patio.


Bignewt77 (author)2016-12-28

I was looking on Amazon and was just wondering which weed burner you ised specifically. Seems to be a lot of cariation. Thanks! Grrat instructable.

Nunwithgun (author)Bignewt772016-12-29

I used a Mag torch mt 5000 500000btu
I see the price has jumped to 41.99 on Amazon. Still a good product. And still one of the cheaper models. I saw that same torch at Menards for 59.99.

3967 (author)2015-12-15

is it dangerous for the health, i mean cancer risk or something because of the smoke?

femmepasseule (author)39672015-12-15

Some studies have shown an increased risk of cancer with barbecuing meats. But anything CAN cause cancer in excess. And personally, I think the deliciousness of the smoked meat is worth the minimal risk. We can't live in a bubble, or let fear rule our lives. There is also a minimal risk that aliens could land, but I don't walk around wearing a tinfoil hat to keep them from mind-probing me either.

ar_caver (author)femmepasseule2015-12-16

I always thought it was the other end they probed.

SeanD65 (author)ar_caver2016-03-28

No, for mind probing they go direct, which is why you need to wear a tinfoil hat (not sure if modern aluminum foil is as effective). The butt-probing is just to mess with us.

chikid68 (author)39672015-12-15

smoking meats has been around for centuries so I believe the risk is very low, but the taste is sooooooooo worth it

Nunwithgun (author)39672015-12-15

The only thing dangerous about this is the amount of delicious smoked meat you'll be eating.

JoeC107 (author)2016-01-26

Nice use of a Bowflex

JoeS30 (author)2015-12-23

I am interested in the internal temps of the smoker when using the charcoal starter method you are using. I've wanted to build one of these for a while now. The only thing keeping me back is coming up with a good method to control temps. I don't need it to be steady for hours on end, but would like to avoid the constant adjustments I am used to with my old wood fired smoker.

I am thinking that an AMPS just wouldn't generate enough heat, although it might work well for a cold smoker. :)

feralmonkey4 (author)JoeS302016-01-08

you can get some good ideas here for air flow this lady knows the ins and outs

JoeS30 (author)feralmonkey42016-01-08

Please tell me that pun was fully intended. LMAO!

Nunwithgun (author)JoeS302016-01-01

Just getting past the holidays I decided to look into your comment. Sorry it took so long. Yes, the Air flow is still an issue. I am having difficulty keeping a steady Temp. With my 3 - 1" holes it's not enough. The first thing and only thing I ever smoked so far using this drum was a whole chicken. I didn't notice too much of an issue because when I was cooking we had 30mph winds. If anything the coals was getting too hot. But testing it again today on a calm day I realized I had to continuously remove the lid to get the coals hotter. I need bigger intake vents. I updated my instructions to either make more vents or larger vents. Im looking into new ideas myself.

With the lid on I was reaching 265 degrees Fahrenheit with my small charcoal chimney set up. As soon as I put the lid on it would slowly lower the temp down to 160 at grate level. At a rate of about 1 degree loss every 5 Secon!s. I will be building a larger charcoal basket. Still works great as a lid off grill for the time being.

iman1987 (author)2015-12-12

Actually, you can legally own a flame thrower, as long as you dont live in CA or MD

Nunwithgun (author)iman1987 2015-12-12

really......... Is there instructables for that one yet?

hobof (author)Nunwithgun2015-12-16

Unfortunately not, I believe one of the cheaper ones out is the XM42. That's just one of a few that I've found

ar_caver (author)2015-12-16

That's a good instructable and a great looking drum smoker.

JustinaF (author)2015-12-16

maravilloso !!!!!

Nunwithgun (author)2015-12-15

Updated 12/15. Now includes air intake and the grate.

tinydancer (author)2015-12-15

I would much rather have a charcoal grill like this. I like to grill vegetables. Excellent instructions. This is a keeper.

chikid68 (author)2015-12-15

as a fellow Barbecue fan I applaud you on your first UDS (ugly drum smoker) build.

I need to build a few before summer if I can find a good ie cheap source of barrels I do so much that my current smoker is just too small lol

femmepasseule (author)2015-12-15

Could we get a picture of the air intake hole and chimney flue damper?

mikecz (author)2015-12-15

Check out the Pit Barrel Cooker at You're really close to this $300 smoker/cooker. A few more tweaks, and you're there! (Also, watch some of their videos.)

BrockGrimes (author)2015-12-15

Add in a lower side door to give you access to add wood/coal?

You could used a grill grate in the bottom lifted a couple inches to act as a holder and to promote air flow, similar to how a fireplace does.

You could even use a shortened stand burner like from a turkey fryer if you wanted it gas powered.

Nunwithgun (author)2015-12-15

wow, I can't believe the attention my project got. I will be updating this and showing pictures of the inside of the drum soon. The rack, air intake, charcoal chimey, and drip pan. Thank you all for the reviews.

danzo321 (author)2015-12-15

OK seems like we whisked through Step 7 too fast. You went to enormous trouble to de-grease barrel and then used more!? Let's see the 3" hole job.

Nunwithgun (author)danzo3212015-12-15

Just like bsroon the drum was to get rid of the chemicals that were originally in the drum. You can't have untreated steel on the inside of the drum after you clean it. It'll rust and corrode. A thin layer of animal fat fixes that problem.

bsroon (author)danzo3212015-12-15

The old oil was likely rancid, but when you season cast iron you want lard or tallow on it, cooked to about 400 degrees. That makes a kind of non-stick coating. Probably not a bad idea if you are making smoke - since that tends to make resins that could be pretty corrosive.

kurtwhite (author)2015-12-15

I would like to see your other Pictures of the grill grate and charcoal chimney starter, also the water pan. How long does the Charcoal last and how much wood? I have seen some on BBq shows but they use a rod going across the top and hang the meat. I like yours better. very nice

GaryG30 (author)2015-12-15

My father-in-law had one of these about 40 years ago. He drilled a bunch of small holes in the top and put coat hanger wires about 6 inches long through the holes. The wires were bent over at the top so they wouldn't fall though and had hooks on the bottom for hanging fish. It worked great.

reynolpe (author)2015-12-15

I would love to see the inside with the grill and pan. Also would like to see how you mounted the damper. Great job!

TeresaM7 (author)2015-12-15

I REALLY need to find some of these drums. They are so useful!

TeresaM7 (author)TeresaM72015-12-15

And a flame thrower. I definitely need a flame thrower :-)

jpduroche (author)2015-12-13

Ok Thanks!

jpduroche (author)2015-12-13

So what did you use for a Rack to set the Meat on,and what was your Drip Pan so to avoid a Flare up should any fat drop on the smoldering Charcoal??

ChemicalBurn (author)2015-12-13

Nice instructable. The biohazard graphics are cool but will make an first responder run the other way if there is a real emergency.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2015-12-11

Nice DIY smoker.

About This Instructable




Bio: Father of 3, hobby enthusiast,
More by Nunwithgun:How to Make a Puzzle Box. "Hell Box"Low cost, no weld 55 gallon drum smoker
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