Becoming a Home BBQ Master: Homemade Charcoal Grill Design

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Last Updated on April 20, 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.  

There is no doubting the affinity between people and nature. When the first signs of summer begin to show, amateur cooks, flock to the outdoors for barbecues and open-air gatherings. Apart from the delicious food, eating outside can be a natural mood booster, with the sun and fresh air releasing endorphins throughout your body.

When hosting guests for an outdoor soiree, there is nothing quite as satisfying as cooking a feast on your very own homemade grill. Building a charcoal grill is one of the most rewarding options if you’re looking for your next home improvement project. All you need to do is choose the right design.


Advantages of Cooking With Charcoal

When it comes to outdoor cooking, there are countless debates over what fuel to use. While gas grills are growing in popularity due to their convenience and ease of use, many barbecue enthusiasts rarely steer from charcoal. Although there are several benefits to each fuel type, charcoal has many unique advantages.

1. High temperatures

Charcoal grills can be heated to exceedingly high temperatures. This gives pitmasters a lot of freedom and control over what they want to cook and how they can cook it. It is also possible to produce direct and indirect heat. If designed correctly, these grills are capable of grilling, smoking, searing, and baking.

2. Dual-zone cooking

This involves dividing the surface of the grill into two separate temperature zones. Usually, one zone is for high heat cooking, while the other is for low heat cooking. This helps for precise cooking and temperature control.

3. Flavor

Charcoal grills give food, particularly meat, a smoky and aromatic flavor. This is due to the mechanism by which charcoal grilling works. It effectively vaporizes meat juices, giving it a distinct taste. Flavor can also be enhanced using particular types of wood chips.

4. Low cost

Charcoal grills don’t use expensive burners or valves for cooking. Due to the primitive nature of charcoal grills, they are generally cheaper to make, buy, and operate than gas alternatives.

5. Self-satisfaction

Grilling with charcoal is the traditional method of barbecuing. Many cooks take pride in cooking in this way, particularly with homemade grills.

set gas grill smoking low slow cooking

Types of Charcoal Grills

When building your homemade charcoal grill, there are several options for your homemade charcoal grill design. Depending on how much time, money, and backyard space you have for your grill, your choice may vary.

While some homemade grills are large, comprehensive cooking apparatuses, others are often small, novelty-type grills. Homemade grills can be created using an abundance of backyard items, including terra cotta flower pots, toolboxes, and aluminum sheets.

The main drawback with homemade novelty grills is that they often lack size and heating capabilities. While they provide fun and satisfaction in cooking a couple of burgers, they’re generally not capable of cooking for multiple people. To create a comprehensive homemade grill, you’ll need to go with a slightly larger design.

The following guide details 2 separate charcoal grill designs:

  • A charcoal fire pit
  • A standing charcoal grill

There is a different degree of difficulty associated with each design. Depending on your budget and access to a welder, one may be more suitable than the other.


Charcoal Fire Pit Design

There are two main types of fire pits: Above ground and in ground. Both styles can work equally well, but an above-ground pit generally creates a greater barrier between the fire and people. An above-ground pit usually requires more materials to build. Here are the key steps:

  1. Determine the size of the circle pit that you require and mark out a perimeter. A 20” to 45” diameter is a good guide for circle size.
  2. Use a shovel to dig an 8” to 10” hole in the ground within the circle.
  3. Cover the bottom of the hole with 2” of sand or pebbles and even it out.
  4. Place a fire ring into the hole. The height of the fire ring depends on whether you want an in-ground or above-ground pit. Choose one that fits your ideal pit size.
  5. Using stone, brick, or heat-resistant tiling, build a barrier edging around your pit. Your masonry abilities will determine how detailed this barrier works.
  6. You can either put charcoal directly into the base of your pit, or you can purchase a fire pit bowl to place into the hole.
  7. A grill should be installed over the top to place the food.

A fire pit grill is a great place to socialize as you cook. However, it’s essential that the area isn’t overly windy, or you may have issues with smoke.


Standing Charcoal Grill Design

A standing grill is a homemade charcoal grill design that’s more in line with the popular devices currently on the market. This is the most difficult design because it requires welding. The main parts of a homemade charcoal grill are the base, the tray, and the cooking grate.

The base of the grill has to be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the tray, coals, and food. You can have a stand custom made by a welder, or you can adapt an old sewing kit stand.

The tray is meant for holding the charcoals, so cast iron is generally the best material to use. The tray’s dimensions depend on the size of your stand and how much cooking space you want.

The edge of the tray must have a lip to secure bricks onto the tray.

Place bricks around the edge of the tray. These keep the tray in place, store heat, and add a barrier from the fire.

The cooking grate should be made from cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated cast iron. If you’re worried about the quality of steel, a Teflon barbecue mat can be placed over it when cooking.

While a standing grill requires more money and work to build, it should offer a better cooking experience. If you know a reliable welder, the construction will be straightforward.

Jim Bob

Jim Bob

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Although a homemade grill may be a personal passion project, it may require some expert help in the grill setup and in charcoal grill safety concerns. Since welding, bricklaying, and outdoor construction are professional endeavors, hire a professional if you’re unsure of what you’re doing.

Plan out your design in advance and follow the steps carefully to ensure the best possible results. You’ll be glad you did when you’re enjoying your first barbecue using your new charcoal grill.