How to Build Your Own BBQ Barrel




About: 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 up a batch of beer and drinking it six weeks later. Patience is the key to good food.

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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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.

Low & Slow BBQ Contest

Runner Up in the
Low & Slow BBQ Contest

3 People Made This Project!


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224 Discussions


Tip 3 months ago

Very important point:
Don’t angle grind a tank of unknown previous contents. A couple of years ago a father and son both died due to the sparks of the grinder igniting an explosive air/fuel-vapour mix inside, blowing up the tank and filling the garden with shrapnel. Sad way to end what should have been a nice father-son project :(

Using a food tank, as per the instructions is a great option for easy clean up and safer cutting.

1 reply

Reply 3 months ago

Thank you for the reminder. It is very dangerous to put any type of a heat source next to a 55 gallon barrel. A very good friend of mine just touched the top of one that had come with Naptha in it. He just touched it with a cutting torch and it blew his head off. My dad was the super of that shop and it happened right outside his office and he saw the whole thing. He couldn't really eat good for at least a month.
Anytime you have a questionable barrel you should fill it full of water and rinse it out a couple of times before you cut. If it were me I'd leave the water in when I cut. Nothing "wrong" with using a fuel-type barrel if you just stay safe doing it.


1 year ago

I have multiple "Food Grade" 55 Gal drums for sale in Cape Girardeau Missouri


Question 1 year ago on Step 3

What are the dimensions of the grill grates? Where did you get them? I'm trying to figure that out now for mine

1 answer

1 year ago

Thank you for this. I think you did an excellent job and covered all the necessities. Too bad with all the side tracks on the galvanized stuff. After all, what is the internet for? Look it up yourself. All I am saying is "8 years Later and still relevant!". Thanks again.


9 years ago on Step 3

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.

13 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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.


Reply 1 year ago

Charcoal also absorbs good stuff, I believe, so you only want to use it sparingly.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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"


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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.


Reply 2 years ago

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 ...


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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)


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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.


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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


Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

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


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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


Reply 3 years ago

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.)