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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
If you’re feeling creative these days and enjoy barbecuing outdoors, consider building your own 55-gallon drum grill. Not only will you have the perfect grill for those afternoon or evening meals with friends and family, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.
Building your own grill also helps the environment by putting empty drums to good use instead of letting them sit and rust away. Plus, it can be a money-saver, allowing you to have the grill you want and need without shelling out major big bucks for some brand name product.
Materials You’ll Need
To get started, you’ll need to gather the needed materials. This doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can make it as simple or complex as you choose. Even beginners can make one of these grills over a weekend or take as long as needed.
Before listing the materials you’ll need, a brief discussion about the kind of drum to use is in order because if you prefer to build rather than buy your own drum smoker, you’ll want to know the smoker drum size that you’ll need. In general, most drums are 22.5” in diameter and 33.5” in length. This is an ideal size to cut out your grilling area and provide ample space for cooking a wide range of foods. The question then is where to find one and what is the best type.
Steel drums are everywhere, but the one all 55-gallon drum grill plans call for is food-grade which stores foodstuff instead of toxic substances.
Look online at various sites such as eBay and Craigslist to start with, or if you have a food-related factory near you, check with them. Big bakeries may have honey drums which are perfect for this project.
The following materials are what you need to build a 55-gallon grill, usually within one weekend:
- 1 55-gallon steel drum, preferably food-grade
- Small grinder
- Drill with metal capable drilling bits
- Nuts, washers, and bolts (comparable to drill bit sizes)
- Wood for 4 legs and 2 for frame to hold drum (referred to as posts in the instructions)
- Stainless steel brackets and hinges
- 2 stainless steel grill grates (or roll of steel mesh or extruded metal sheet to create your own)
- Primer and paint, if you choose
Steps to Building Your Own 55-Gallon Drum Grill
Building your own 55-gallon grill essentially requires two separate projects, which you then combine into one. These are prepping the drum and building the grill stand.
Step 1: Create an opening in the drum
With the drum sitting upright, mark the drum off in quarters. Using your grinder, cut out a one-quarter section. This is your opening and where your cooking space will be.
Step 2: Scrub, and then scrub some more
Thoroughly scrub the inside of the drum with a stainless steel brush and a lot of soap and water, removing any food or dirt remnants. You’ll be burning a few fires in here a little later on, which will clean the interior surface even more.
Step 3: Build the stand
There are several ways to build your stand depending on the materials you have on hand. For this plan, use wood posts. You can, however, modify these plans for using metal poles if that is what you have available.
Overall, you need 6 posts. The first 2 posts need to be slightly longer than your drum. These are the supporters. For the legs, you need 4 posts in the height most beneficial to you. If you are taller, you may want the legs to be a little longer.
Measure the dimensions of your drum and lay out your posts accordingly. Drill holes in the legs and attach to the two supporting posts with your nuts, bolts, and washers. You’ll need to determine if you want your drum to sit on top or sink down into the stand slightly for security and attach the support posts to correspond with that. You may want to add brackets for additional security.
Step 4: Set grill grates
There are a few ways to add the grill grates, but the common way is to first drill holes in the drum and add brackets to secure them. One grate is for your charcoal, and the other is the food grate to cook on.
- Fuel grate on the bottom of the drum. This is where your charcoal will go. Measure the inside bottom of your drum and buy a stainless steel grill to fit. You can also craft your own grill grate out of a metal sheet. Cut a 16” x 30” piece and place it in the bottom of the drum. Drill your holes for the brackets slightly off the bottom of the drum and install the grate. In addition, drill ½” ventilation holes in the bottom of the drum under the fuel grate to increase needed air circulation to fuel the charcoal fire.
- Food grate: Situate the food grate, bought to size, above the fuel grate toward the top of the opening. Drill holes, add the bracket and install the cooking grate bought to size. You can also make your own food grate out of steel mesh.
Step 5: Position the drum on the stand
Place the empty drum on your stand and check the measurements. If the fit is snug enough, add weight to test the stability of the legs.
Step 6: Prep the drum’s insides with fire
To clear out any remaining residue or toxins in the drum, you need to burn out the insides. Add charcoal and let the fire burn out naturally. You may want to do this a few times to ensure your drum is ready.
Step 7: Design your drum:
Now that measurements are confirmed and you’ve prepared your drum for use, it’s time to add your own design, if you choose. Paint the drum with heat-resistant paint in black or whatever color you like. Add your own unique logo or design.
You can also install other things to your drum grill, including a lid with hinges and a wooden dowel handle. Gather various 55-gallon drum grill plans and create your own unique grill with parts of each. If you’re feeling extra creative, obtain a second 55-gallon drum and make your own smoker grill.
Build Your Own 55-Gallon Drum Grill This Weekend
Building your own grill out of a 55-gallon drum is a perfect way to get a larger cooking space for all your outdoor meals. In one weekend, you can have it built and celebrate your accomplishment with a big cookout for family, neighbors, and friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.
An alternative to drum smokers is to build your own cold smoker.