How to Make a Homemade Grill

How to Make a Homemade Grill

Learning how to build a grill can be an adventure that brings you back to the true roots of grilling. Believe it or not, you can actually build several grills with repurposed supplies found in any local hardware store. Below we share the steps for making a steel drum barbecue grill, a terrace size grill from a terra cotta pot, and a Japanese inspired table-top grill.

Homemade Grills
Check out the How to Make a Homemade Grill video here

55 gal or similar steel barrel
sandpaper for metal
door handle with hardware (bolt, nut, washer)
(4) 3′ lengths of rebar
(1) 4′ length of rebar
roll of hardware cloth/wire mesh
(2) 21″ porcelain coated universal grids
Spray paint for metal (optional)

Reciprocating or jig saw with metal carbide blades

Cordless drill with metal bit (1/4 “)
Welding equipment (We used a local welder or shop)

NOTE: Used barrels, or drums, are typically not too hard to find. If you don’t have access to a barrel already you can find both new and used barrels online or possibly at a local business. The MAIN thing to keep in mind when looking for a barrel is to make sure it was not used for holding any dangerous chemicals, you want a food safe barrel. It’s far better to pay for a clean barrel then settle for a hazardous one.

1. Use the reciprocating or jig saw with metal carbide blades to cut the 55 gallon drum in half. Lightly sand the edges of the two pieces so there are no sharp edges. (You can also ask your local welder/ shop to do this task.)

2. Use the cordless drill with the metal bit to make several holes in the bottom of the grill so air can come in.

3. Attach the door handle to the lid of the grill. Simply mark with the pencil your drill holes and use the cordless drill with the metal bit to drill through the lid. Attach the handle securely to the lid using the bolts, nuts and washers.

4. Make a steel frame to set and hold the 55 gallon drum grill on. It can be whatever design you want, just make sure it is sturdy. We used the rebar listed above to create two x-shaped end pieces secured with a 4′ crossbar. Our local metal shop welded all these pieces together for us for a nominal fee.

5. Cut out a piece of wire mesh to go on the bottom of the grill. This will be what you place the coals on. You should use pretty sturdy wire mesh because you want the coals to be on a level surface so that they evenly distribute the heat.

6. Find a grill piece that you can install 8 or so inches above the wire mesh where the coals will be. If you can’t find one long grill, find several square ones that you can place side by side. We had good luck using two universal grill grates from our local hardware. They sit inside the barrel and did not require additional hardware. But you could easily bolt any size grill to the barrel.

7. Feel free to further refine your grill’s look with a fresh coat of paint, we sanded lightly and then used spray paint (for metal) to paint the outside of the grill.


16″ terra cotta pot
16″ terra cotta saucer
1 round “replacement” grill grate
6-8 assorted stones 3″ or more in size
door handle with hardware (bolt, nut, washer)
cement paver

Cordless Drill
Tile bit ¼”


1. Build up the base of the grill by placing stones in the bottom of Terra Cotta pot. Your charcoal or hardwood brickets will be placed on top of these stones, so keep in mind the amount of room you need between the charcoal and the grill grate.

2. Set the grill grate into the terra cotta pot, it will rest securely in the pot.

3. The terra cotta saucer serves as the lid to the grill (Turn it upside down), and can be used to control air flow and heat. For ease of use, you can attach a door handle to the saucer. Simply mark with the pencil your drill holes for securing the handle’s hardware. Use the cordless drill with the mason bit to drill the holes through the saucer. (If you prefer additional vent holes go ahead and drill them now, too.) Attach the handle securely to the lid using the nuts and washers.

4. Position the grill in a safe place, preferably on a cement paver while in use.

12″ diameter stove pipe (18-24″ length)
12-14″” terra cotta planter with a center drainage hole (lower part fits in the stovepipe)
Wire mesh
Black marker
Wax paper

Drill with ½” metal screw bit or sheet metal borer
Snips for wire mesh

1. Drill ½” ventilation holes in the stove pipe approximately ½” from the top, 2′ on center .

2. Snip the wire mesh into a 12″ round and bend down ½”-1″ along the circumference so that it nests securely inside the planter.

3. Nest the planter inside the stovepipe.

4. Add balled wax paper (starter), then charcoal into the planter.

5. Top with the wire mesh grill surface.

NOTE: The holes in the outer stovepipe bring air in and over the outside of the terra cotta pot before it is pulled up through the pot’s drainage hole to feed the fire. This process preheats the air and makes the burning much more efficient. With this design you can more easily burn traditional hardwood charcoals and even specialty charcoals like Japanese Binchotan charcoal which is designed to be the cleanest burning coal used for grilling the finest meats. These specialty hardwood charcoals burn hotter, longer, and cleaner than traditional compressed charcoal.

The excerpt above is from a Cultivating Life segment produced by Erin Frost. Cultivating Life with host Sean Coneway, explored how we’ve all moved out of our houses and into our backyards. Each week, the show celebrated how Americans are reconnecting to the land.