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How to Build a Smoker Out Of a 55 Gallon Drum with 10 Easy Steps

Drum smokers are actually a thing! Purchase a food-grade 55-gallon drum and convert it into a smoker in no time.

A large electric or propane smoker would cost anywhere between $100 and $1000, whereas a fully-formed barrel smoker would cost much less than that, even lesser than $70. So, how to build a smoker out of a 55 gallon drum?

Make sure the barrels are food-grade so that they do not contain any harmful chemical compounds or contaminants inside. If the barrels are food-grade, even second-hand ones would be great.

The first thing you need to do is take your barrel outside, in the lawn or in the backyard, because it is a very dirty process. Doing it in the basement or inside the house would be a bad idea.

Let’s not waste any more time. Wear your work suit, and get ready to get your hands dirty and rub on some elbow grease!

How to Build a Smoker Out Of a 55 Gallon Drum?

Here is a step-by-step guideline on how to make a smoker from a food-grade drum and save some money and make some delicious food:

#1: Removing any epoxy or paint layer: If there is any internal layer of epoxy, it would be better if you remove it. All you would need to do is fire up the drum—meaning build a fire inside the drum so that the heat generated burns off any paint from inside.

In a short time, you will find that the smooth-glossy epoxy coating would come off from both the inside and the outside of the drum. During this burning process, wear a face-mask so as to avoid inhaling the smoke coming out of the barrel.

The whole length of the burning process takes a significant amount of time, therefore, you can just place the lid on the barrel so that the fuel burns off completely before you think about using the drum for cooking purposes.

It takes the temperature to be as high as 1000°F for the paint to flake off, and 1500°F for any oil layer to be destroyed.

If you see that even after a long burning process, the interior paint or epoxy layers are untouched or not burnt enough, use a grinding machine to scrape them off. At the end of everything, use sand-papers to clean the interiors.

#2: Prime it: After the heating process, you would need to cool the drum down. You can give it a thorough car wash by spraying it with high-pressure water flow. Then get some spray cans of good quality primer and spray on the outside of the barrel and on the lid.

Spraying the inside of the barrel would be unnecessary. You can place an extra layer of lard or Crisco on the inside of the barrel to prevent corrosion.

#3: Door of the smoker: You can use masking tapes to mark the door part, then take an angle grinder machine and cut a front door into the drum.

It surely will not be easy to turn these drums into a smoker, but once you are done, these drums will provide a magnanimous capacity for cooking meat, almost as much as 40 lbs of meat at any given time.

If you can successfully convert one of these drums into a smoker, you can host a big barbecue party that your friends and family will never forget.

#4: Make air holes: Make three 3″ holes at the bottom of the barrel for air-intake. Connect a short pipe to the 90° elbow, and then connect the 90° elbow to the 24″ pipe, using ¾” pipe and fittings.

After this, clip a bolt and mounting plate, and then connect the brass valve. Tighten the bolts with your hands and clamp the elbow. Finally, secure the connections with a wrench.

You can also attach metal caps that will swing back and forth to cover and uncover the holes. You can do that quite easily by fixing the cap into place with a nut and a bolt.

#5: Add handles: You might like to carry your smoker too and fro, therefore, attaching handles would make it more portable. Easy-to-install handles are readily available in the markets. Attach one on either side of the barrel. You can install one on the lid too.

#6: Make the smoker basket: In order to make a charcoal basket, get a charcoal grate and a steel mesh of measurements 45” x 9”. Then you would need 4” long bolts, U-bolts, washers and lock-nuts. If you do not have a welder, no worries—there is yet another way to make a smoker basket.

Take the 45 x 9 steel-mesh and bend it around a propane tank. Then secure the cylinder into place using two bolts. Get 4 pieces of hex bolts and secure them into place underneath the steel mesh to create the legs. Then attach the smoker basket to the charcoal grate using U-bolt.

#7: Grates: Add bolts 6” from the top of the barrel to support the grates or shelves to hold the food item you’re looking to smoke. Get two or three standard grill grates of 22.5” each, to act as meat-trays and water-pans.

#8: Add vent holes: Drill evenly spaced holes around the lid of the barrel. The number of holes could be eight, with a distance of 1” in between them.

#9: Add a thermometer: Drill a hole into the barrel and install a traditional analog gauge. The best option would be if you get yourself specially made BBQ thermometers.

#10: Season the smoker: You would need to break into the new smoker. This will also let you know and affirm if everything is working properly and if any further changes need to be made.

Throw in around 50 lbs of glowing charcoal and set them on fire inside the barrel. Close the door and the lid, but keep all the vents open. Fire up the charcoal for a few hours to season the brand-new, made-from-scratch smoker.

Final Word

You are willing to host a barbecue party but purchasing a ready-made modern electric smoker might be a bit too expensive for you. There is no need to worry because you would be amazed to know that you can DIY your own ugly drum smoker!

For large-sized smokers, you can purchase a 55-gallon food-grade drum. How to build a smoker out of a 55 gallon drum?

It is very simple. You would need to fire up the drum to get rid of the paint or epoxy layer first. Then using a few simple tools like welding and a grilling machine, you would be able to drill holes and bolts into the barrel for supporting the racks and thermometers.

With low-cost tools and a little elbow grease, you would be able to make yourself a high-capacity home-made smoker in no time!

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