Beer Keg Smoker

I've seen some different things to do with an old beer keg on here; all except for the smoker.  Ive had this old beer keg sitting in my backyard for a while so I finally decided to do something with it.

This one is mainly adapted from one I found on google somewhere so I cant take full credit for it, but here are some more succinct instructions so you can make one of your own!

This is my first instructable so be gentle if I left something out or explained something unclearly.

Materials needed:
1 beer keg (oh yes, that is Natty Lite you see!)
1 top grate (the webber replacement grill for the 18" grill worked for me, its about 14" diameter)
1 bottom grate (I used some heavy chicken wire)
1x 10", 1x 12" 3/4"ID black iron pipe nipples 
1  3/4" elbow 
1 3/4" ID pipe bracket + hardware 
1 3/4” ball valve 
6 1.5” 5/16" bolts, w/ nuts and lock washers - used to hold up the top grate 
1 bag of hardwood lump charcoal
A few chunks of hardwood of your choice (Jack Daniels oak barrel wood chips is the way to go!)

Shop rag
Angle grinder with cutting wheel (get some extras in case your cutting wheel breaks)
Flathead screw driver
Drill with bits
Safety glasses
A permanent marker
Pocket knife (probably not completely necessary, but I always end up needing one)
Metal file
JB Weld (for the chimney, and bottom seals, and where you accidentally cut where you shouldnt have)

All of the materials (not including the keg) were around 40 bucks.

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Step 1: Getting Your Keg

I used a "half keg" which is pretty much the biggest one you can buy from your local grocery store or liquor store.  I've seen people use the bigger 50 gallon drums which are said to work better, but I think having one made out of a beer keg is pretty cool.

Step 2: Release Pressure

Now you're going to want to release the pressure from the keg (after you drink all the beer out of it, of course!).  My keg had been sitting around for quite a while, so I really didn't want any beer residue shooting up in my face.  Best thing I found to do is put an old shop rag or t-shirt over the ball valve on the top and press down on it with a screw driver or other various tool you might think of.  once the pressure is gone, you are ready to cut!

Step 3: Cutting

Now for the fun part.  First, take your sharpie and make a line around the outside perimeter of the keg at the bottom of the widest part of the first rung from the top.  If you look at the picture you can get a better idea of where this is.  This is done for two reasons.  first is so you have plenty of room for your food under the lid, and second is so the outside of the lid will fit nicely over the inside of the bottom section.  When cutting, the easiest way is to use an angle grinder with a cutting wheel (make sure you have some extra wheels in case one gets messed up).  If you have something crazy like a plasma cutter, however, go crazy.  whatever you decide to cut it with, make sure you are careful!!! Wear safety glasses, closed toed shoes, pants, and have a fire extinguisher ready.  These are dangerous tools, and if you actually decided to do this I can't be held responsible for you being an idiot.

Now that you are ready to cut, go slow so you get a nice even cut along your line.  After that comes the tedious part.  Get your metal file out and start smoothing out both edges where the shell was cut.  This part is important to take your time on so that you have a nice finished product in the end and not a piece of crap.  it also helps the top and bottom fit together.  Also if there are any dents in the edges, make sure you hammer them out.

Step 4: Clean!

Probably the most important step.  Get some bleach if you feel it necessary, but make sure you clean out the inside really well and rinse it (especially of your keg is old).

Step 5: Making the Bottom Vent

Now you are ready to make the vent in the bottom.  Cut a hole in bottom lip of the keg large enough for the 10” 3/4” ID pipe to fit through – make sure the bottom of this hole lines up to roughly 1/2” above the inside bottom of the keg. Next mark out an oval shaped hole in the side of the convex bottom of the kettle so that the pipe will slip through and sit with it's opening in the center of the bottom. See the pics or this will make no sense. The idea here is to minimize the amount of void-space around the pipe where air can leak in uncontrolled.

Take the pipe that you are sliding into the bottom and drill some holes in it for better airflow as well, and assemble the pipes as shown.

Step 6: Grill Support

Wrap a piece of twine around the top portion of the kettle to determine the circumference just below the rib where the top was cut off. Lay the string out on a table and measure it, then divide that number by 6 and mark the string by that increment. Wrap the string back around the keg, taking care to be sure it's even and level, and transfer the marks. Drill 6x 5/16” holes around the top, and tighten the 5/16” bolts, nuts and washers into the holes. I had problems finding fully threaded 5/16 bolts so I ended up having to use a bunch of washers, so if you want to change up the size a little, feel free.  Just make sure your bolts are at least 1.5 inches long or else they wont hold up the grill.

Step 7: Making the Chimney

You should be able to remove the sankey keg valve fairly easily.  there is a ring clip holding it in on the top.  Just get a screw driver in there and it should come out fairly easily.  now grab the tube and twist it a bit to the left and it should come right out.  Now you can disassemble the spring portion on the bottom of that by compressing the spring and turing the casing a bit to the left and it should come right off.  Now, you can get the ball valve out simply by grabbing the rubber around it with some pliers and pulling really hard (its just pressed in there, I promise it will come out).  Now reassemble the whole thing upside down and JB weld that beast to the top!

Step 8: Finishing Up...

Now you need to get some heavy chicken wire and cut it out so it fits in the bottom to hold the coals. Once you have finished that, clean the metal pieces out once more and you are ready to roll!  Put some coals in the bottom and light them up.  after about 25 min the should be white and chalky and put some of your favorite wood chips on there (make sure you soak them in water first).  Now put the grill on the holders and slap your favorite meat on there!

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    14 Discussions

    I sure hope you bought that keg legally before you cut into it. Putting a deposit on it at a liquor store when you pick it up full is not the same thing as ownership. It still belongs to the brewery that filled it. The value of a stainless steel keg is significantly more, and at a minimum, modifying the keg is a criminal misdemeanor, if not potentially a felony based on the value of the keg.

    I would hope that you have a paper trail proving your ownership before you posted what you did on the internet for everyone to see... and to suggest that it was "ok" for them to simply use a keg from a liquor store.

    5 replies

    Reply 3 years ago




    1. 1.
      an organism which lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense.

    I agree with this comment. It certainly does belong to brewery unless you can prove it was legally transfered to you. These keg are digitally marked internally and externally, they are traceable just as some pallets are. In fact in one image posted you can actually see the digital marking! These companies do employ folk to find illegal possession and use of their property. Just be aware!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    UPDATE: after using the keg smoker a few times I've finally figured out some quirks, and got it running at a nice stable 225-250 degrees. I bought a generic grill replacement temp gauge from Home Depot that I installed in the lid. This is a must if you want to get a decent smoke out of it.

    The first time I used the keg smoker I couldn't get it under 400 deg, and the second time I couldn't get it to stay above 200. Now I have it where I can maintain an optimal 225-250 with these techniques:
    Fill up a coal lighting can (enough to get a nice single layer on the bottom of the smoker) and get them lit (white and ashy). Then dump them in the smoker and add another layer of unlit coals. On top of that, add a layer of wood chunks (whatever flavor u like). Then I fill an old bread pan about 3/4 full of apple juice and set that on top of the coals. This has worked for me, but only after using it a few times to get a nice char on the inside.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I would have thought that you would huge problems keeping the temperature controlled as these kegs are not that huge and thus have a small air space. Judging by what you are putting in as fuel you will be roasting not smoking the food. Smoking is a gentle process not the same as BBQ.
    Cleaning: as the keg will have only contained beer cleaing simply need a good hot burn without any food then let it cool and it should be safe to run.
    I have been running smokers for years and this would in my experience be too small for effectvie smoking but would make an excellent BBQ roaster.
    Be aware of ownership issues especially when you show the ownership clearly marked on your pictures! ;)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. Any other questions I'll let you know :)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    The air pipe on the bottom is not capped. I realize most of the air will go through that, but it seems to work fine. Drilled a small hole about every inch all the way thru the pipe, 90 degrees apart from each other. As far as sealing the pipe in the bottom, I tried to hammer it in as best I could, but I did use some jb weld to get a nice seal. I've used it a few times and the jb seems to be holding up fine. The chicken wire works fine for the coals, but another layer for a water pan isn't a bad idea. I usually use an old bread pan just set on top of the coals with apple juice in it.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Couple Questions. Is the air pipe at the bottom capped? How many holes did you drill into the pipe. Did you use JB Weld epoxy to seal the pipe at the bottom? Would that epoxy burn in the heat?

    I see you used Chicken wire for the coals. Any issues with the ashes falling through? I was thinking of making 3 shelfs. Top like yours for the meat. A middle one for a water pan if needed, and the bottom one just above the air pipe. Maybe use a colander or something similar to hold the ashes. Thoughts?

    Thanks. PS I'll make sure to have a paper trail of my keg. Never know when the Keg police will come. Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Cool idea, just a point of clarification, because I am numb sometimes, the section of pipe coming out the bottom with the ball cock on it, can I assume that is your air intake?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yea thats used for temperature control - the more you open the ball valve, the more air let in for the coals, the hotter it is. I'm gonna install a thermometer in the top for my next step.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    One other cool thing you could do with this would be to use the smoke from the chimney, plumbed into another container or box as a cold smoker.