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How to Make a Charcoal Grill From a 55-Gallon Drum

February 2nd, 2010 · 2 Comments · Cooking, Home & Garden

How to Make a Charcoal Grill Out of a 55-Gallon Drum

Nothing says summer like an afternoon spent grilling in the backyard.  If you’re the type to entertain large crowds, you may want to think about building your own grill out of a 55-gallon drum.  This grill will be sufficient for any large gathering.

The first thing you’ll need is the right drum.  Choose a 55-gallon drum that is sealed (not one with a lid).  It’s best to use a food-grade drum rather than one that has previously contained oil or chemicals.

To cut the drum, you’ll need a cutting torch (even a small one will suffice), a jigsaw or sawzall with metal cutting blades, or even (if you’re desperate or looking to save a few bucks), a hacksaw.  You’ll need stainless steel door hinges and bolts to connect the lid of the drum to the rest of the grill.  Finally, a small welder will help to attach legs to support the grill.

  1. Start by standing the drum up and cutting it in half from top to bottom so that it is divided into two halves resembling clam shells (see the image above).  Choose one of these to be the top half and the other to be the bottom.
  2. Attach three stainless steel hinges to the inside of the drum to allow the grill to be opened and closed.
  3. You will need three handles on the grill, ideally made of stainless steel with wooden handles.  These handles can be purchased at any large home improvement store.  Two of the handles will attach to the ends of the bottom half of the grill.  This will allow you to move the grill when necessary, either by dragging or by lifting with the help of a friend.  The third handle will attach to the middle of the top half of the grill to allow you to open/close the grill.
  4. Use several stainless steel brackets inside the bottom half of the grill to hold the grilling grate in place.  L-shaped steel brackets work best.
  5. You can use just about any grate that you can find to serve as your grilling surface, as long as it’s stainless steel. Freezer racks, old oven racks, or old grill racks will work well if they’re made of stainless steel and unpainted.
  6. Tack weld steel or iron legs (angle iron works well) to the bottom of the grill.  If you don’t have a welder or don’t know how to use one, bolting can also work well.
  7. Paint the grill with flat black heat resistant grill paint.  You can find this in most large hardware stores in aerosol cans.  You’ll need about three cans to cover a 55-gallon drum well.
  8. Fill the bottom section of the grill with charcoal and lighter fluid and fire it up.  You’re going to want to go through one load of charcoal without grilling any food.  This will burn off impurities inside the barrel and release fumes from your grill paint.  After letting this burn for an hour or so, your grill will be safe to use for food.

Enjoy, and make sure to send any photos of completed grills to and I’ll publish them here.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Stevie

    This is an awesome idea and so great for large parties! However, I was wondering if you had any ideas about putting a divider in the lower half of the grill, so that you wouldn’t have to fire the whole thing up for a small amount of food. Any suggestions?

  • Michael

    That would work well, but I doubt you’d even need a divider. Just using a smaller amount of charcoal on one side would be sufficient.

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