Simple and Effective DIY Charcoal Grill Builds

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Last Updated on June 11, 2021

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.  

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.  

diy charcoal grills

It’s no secret that charcoal grills produce the best flavored meats and vegetables, especially when you compare them to their gas and electric counterparts. The wood from the fuel imparts an intense aroma and creates a tender, juicy taste that you won’t find from any other cooking method.

These grills also burn hotter than most other options on the market, charring your chicken or rump steak and creating a rich bark on the meat’s surface.

While there is no substitute for a premium-grade charcoal grill, these models may be beyond many people’s budgets. Fortunately, there are several ways to build your own.

How to Build Your Own Charcoal Grill?

There are numerous methods for building a charcoal grill, and these projects offer a great way to recycle old metal drums or buckets. However, for a permanent fixture in your yard, the best idea is to construct a built-in grill pit made from heat conductive bricks. If you don’t have the time or expertise to do that, there’s an easier method that allows you to create an effective, disposable DIY charcoal grill.

1. Built-in backyard charcoal grill

Built-in backyard grill

If you want a large, permanent charcoal grill in your backyard that’s weatherproof, cost-effective, and aesthetically striking, try building a solid brick, concrete, or stone grill outdoors.

Pick a material that is not only functional but also coordinates with your outdoor aesthetic. Breeze blocks and concrete slabs tend to be less expensive options than red bricks and quarried stone, but the latter building materials retain heat more effectively and have an appealing look.

You’ll also need to determine where you’re going to put the charcoal grill in your backyard. Make sure you’re constructing this permanent fixture at least 10-12’ away from plants, shrubs, nearby buildings, and flammable materials.

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to construct your built-in grill, you should smooth over the ground, so you’re building the unit’s foundations on a level plane. You can then figure out what size your grill should be. This is simple to do: just take your grill grate and lay it out on the floor. You can then lay the fireproof and weather-resistant bricks or stones around the outside of this grate, leaving a ½” gap between the metal and the construction blocks.

This process allows you to measure the ideal dimensions for the inner firebox section of your built-in charcoal grill. You can use a pen or pencil to draw around the bricks and mark these dimensions, or you can calculate the length and width of the firebox with a measuring tape. 

Next, mix sand and cement to create a robust, workable mortar; use the ideal ratio of 3 standard buckets of sand to 1 bucket of cement. Pour these buckets out onto a tarpaulin sheet, then use a large shovel to blend the materials. Add water and keep turning the mixture over with your shovel, monitoring the substance’s consistency until the mortar looks smooth and compact.

Once you’ve got your construction blocks and your binding mortar, you can lay the frame and build your firebox. Remember that if you’re constructing this charcoal grill on a softer surface like grass or mud, you’ll need to dig a shallow trench, compress the soil, and lay down solid concrete blocks as a base plate before you build the rest of the structure.

Use a trowel and a spirit level to lay your bricks or stones and build your firebox unit. You’re aiming to construct a 3-sided box that measures around 21” wide by 30” high.

There are several ways in which you can integrate the grill rack and charcoal pan into this built-in fixture. You could drill holes into the brick and use heavy-duty stainless steel pins to support the grate and the ashtray. You could also create brick supports for these trays as you construct the firebox. After you’ve laid bricks 6 or 7 layers in, you can lay 3 or 4 bricks so that they’re perpendicular to the other blocks in the unit. Do this on both sides of your firebox: these horizontally placed bricks create a robust platform for your charcoal tray or drip pan. A few layers above these built-in supports, you can repeat the process, creating a platform for your grill rack.

When the mortar has set, you can build an external casing around your central firebox or coat the firebox in render to make the whole built-in unit more durable and robust. You should now have a DIY charcoal grill that looks contemporary and lasts for years.

To use this grill, just fill up the ash pan with charcoal, set this fuel alight, and place your meat or vegetables on the metal rack several inches above this pan. Any ash that falls onto the stone or concrete below is easy to sweep away with a dustpan and brush when cooled.

2. Baking tray and cooling rack charcoal grill

Baking tray and cooling rack

If you want to create an effective charcoal grill, but you don’t have the time or space to construct a built-in concrete or brick fixture, you can construct this simple, disposable unit in under 5 minutes.

You’ll need a disposable, deep-sided baking pan, some metal cooling racks, and two breeze blocks or large rocks. Fill your baking tray with charcoal, rest the grate on top of the container, leaving a few inches of space between your fuel and the metal rack. Light the charcoal, then place this disposable grill on top of the rocks or cinder blocks. Ensure the grill is on a concrete, gravel, or paved area away from grass or shrubs to eliminate the risk of starting a fire in your yard.

Jim Bob

Jim Bob

Create Your Own Charcoal Grill and Take Your Backyard Parties to the Next Level

Charcoal grills impart a distinctive and smoky flavor into your chicken wings, rib racks, and steaks. They also burn at a higher heat level than many gas and electric options, allowing you to sear meats to produce that delicious, rich-tasting bark.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of a charcoal grill, try building your own grill in your backyard. This process is relatively simple and incredibly cost-effective, and it will allow you to serve grilled meat, fish, and vegetables to your friends and family for many years.