Low Cost, No Weld 55 Gallon Drum Smoker




About: Father of 3, hobby enthusiast,

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.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: 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

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!

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

Step 10: 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.

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

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

Leftovers Challenge

Participated in the
Leftovers Challenge

Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Candy Challenge

      Candy Challenge
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest

    39 Discussions


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 2

    I used a barrel that housed apple juice concentrate. It was lined, but the liner burned up with the next step. The residue washed out easily with a garden hose and (new) toilet brush.


    2 years ago

    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.



    2 years ago

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.


    3 years ago

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

    5 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    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.


    Reply 3 years ago

    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.


    Reply 3 years ago

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


    Reply 3 years ago

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


    3 years ago

    Nice use of a Bowflex


    3 years ago

    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. :)

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

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



    Reply 3 years ago

    Please tell me that pun was fully intended. LMAO!


    Reply 3 years ago

    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.


    3 years ago

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

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

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


    Reply 3 years ago

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


    3 years ago

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


    3 years ago

    maravilloso !!!!!