How Do I Build a Barbecue?

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  • Written By: Sandi Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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The steps to build a barbecue vary, depending on each person's taste, budget, and the overall look desired. Barbecue pits, outdoor ovens, permanent grills, and portable grills each require different materials, instructions, and considerations. Typically, any barbecue will require a heat-safe fire box, a metal grate or grill to hold food over the heat source, a means to clean out ashes, and adequate airflow. How these individual elements come together and the directions for assembly will change for each design.

While specific designs vary and offer tremendous capacity for creativity, the first decision to make is whether to build a barbecue that will be permanent or portable. Specific materials and the precise steps to build a barbecue depend on this choice. Permanent barbecues, for example, require a solid footing, proper water drainage, and minimal masonry skills. Portable grills, on the other hand, rely less on a good foundation and more on containment and ease of movement.

To build a permanent structure, site selection and preparation are the first steps. Solid, level ground is required. Depending on the overall height of the structure, a concrete foundation may be needed. Whether using an existing barbecue plan or creating a unique barbecue pit, consider any additional flooring requirements before you actually start to build a barbecue. A dirt floor surrounding the pit, for example, may prove a problem in areas with heavy rainfall or a damp climate.


Begin by tamping down a dirt floor slightly larger than the finished barbecue. Use concrete to create a footing slightly wider than the cinder blocks or fire bricks used to build the outer walls. If additional flooring around the pit is desired, build a wooden frame and pour a solid concrete slab to provide both footing and flooring. Following basic masonry principles, layer blocks or bricks to the desired height and install the metal grate at a comfortable level for cooking.

Keep in mind the need to leave space for rain water to drain from the center of the pit. This can be as simple as leaving small, finger-width spaces between the bricks around the bottom of the pit. More complex designs will naturally require additional steps to create shelves, oven boxes, or removable ash collection bins. Think about the need for additional materials, construction steps, and design considerations when building more complex permanent barbecue structures.

Building a movable grill, unlike learning how to build a barbecue pit, takes more careful consideration of building materials. Barrels made of heavy gauge metal and painted with fire-resistant paint, for example, are an excellent choice to build a simple portable grill. Naturally, the barrel should be constructed of heavy enough metal to withstand frequent and close exposure to heat. Legs should be attached to the barrel with bolts that can also withstand high heat environments and have the capacity for wheels at the bottom of each leg. Attach handles and other features with the idea of heat transfer rates in mind, using materials such as wood that do not easily conduct heat.


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