Cooking outdoors is a summer tradition in the United States, and there are many ways to do it. One option is to use a smoker. Smokers can be expensive, but an oil drum BBQ smoker is a less expensive option.

This type of smoker can be made for around $50, and it is a lot of fun to use. The key to smoking meat with an oil drum BBQ smoker is to keep the temperature low, and the smoke is flowing.

Cleaning the Oil drum: What is the best way of cleaning an oil barrel?

The most common method used to clean an oil drum before cutting it into a barbecue cooker is to light the oil barrel and let the oil burn. Once the oil is completely burned up, the inside of the drum can be pressure washed with soap and water.

A more environmentally friendly way to get rid of the oil is to buy some natural base kitty litter and pour it inside the barrel. Roll the barrel, allowing the kitty litter to soak up the oil. Repeat as needed, then dispose of the used kitty litter at a local recycling location.

Cutting and Welding the Oil Drum

You will also need a cutting torch or oxyacetylene torch to cut the steel pipe used to weld the oil drum together. If you want to do this yourself, you will need a welder and a blowtorch.

Cut a lid 3 feet long by 2 feet wide out of the body of the oil drum. Drill a hole in the middle of the lid for the thermometer. Weld one hinges the length of the lid to the oil drum lid. Weld the lid and hinge to the oil drum.

Weld one or two handles to the lid depending on personal preference. Behind the lid, off to the left side of the lid, cut a hole about 3″ in diameter, and weld a smokestack. Weld angle iron inside the oil barrel at the desired height to hold the grill racks.

Firebox or Heat Source

Build the firebox out of ½” gauge metal plate, cutting it to be 24″ square. Cut a hole in what used to be the top of the oil barrel and use the cutout as the door to the firebox. Weld the door on with hinges. Cut a 6″ long x 3″ wide hole in the side of the firebox connecting to the oil drum.

A traditional barbecue grill can be used as a firebox for a smoker by removing the air vent from the top of the grill and attaching an electric dryer vent hose. Drill a hole at the end of the oil drum smoker’s diameter of the vent hose and attach it to the new barbecue smoker.

Building the Barbecue Smoker Base

  • Construct the base legs for the smoker out of metal fence posts that are 2 feet long
  • Use angle iron to weld the oil drum to the top of the legs
  • If using a firebox, weld two legs to the front end of the firebox and the backside to the oil drum
  • Weld the smokestack in place
  • Check that all the welds are solid by lighting the oil drum smoker

Finishing touches

  1. Insert a metal grate in the bottom hole.
  2. Place some charcoal in the bottom of the oil drum.
  3. Place your food on the metal grate.
  4. Cover the top hole with a metal lid.


Building a barbecue smoker out of an oil drum is not a hard task but will take time to do right. If you do not have experience with a welder, you will need to hire someone who knows how to weld steel, increasing the cost.