How to Build a Smoker Out Of a 55 Gallon Drum

If you are a DIY guy, then making a meat smoker at home can’t be a hassle. Even if you are not a DIY enthusiast, you can make your own smoker. The only thing you need is a 55 Gallon Drum and some set of equipment. But would drive you to make your own smoker? Creativity, enthusiasm or you are quite broke.

Well, making your own smoker is a cheaper alternative. Besides, you get the right quality of the material you are looking for. While your homemade smoker won't have the sophisticated look of a smoker bought from high-end factories, one thing you are sure of is that you’ll eat smoked meat at your backyard.


What You Need to Build a Homemade Smoker

  1. 55 Gallon Drum
  2. Power drill
  3. Propane weed burner
  4. Painters tape
  5. Wrench
  6. Step Bit
  7. Door handle
  8. Charcoal Grate
  9. Bolts, nuts, and washers
  10. Ball valves
  11. Conduit nuts

Clear Steps on How to Build a Smoker Out Of a 55 Gallon


After you have assembled all the necessary equipment, you are now ready to begin.

01 ​STEP ONE: Get the Right Drum

The choice of drum you make determines the success of your project. You might choose to buy a new drum (might cost you $100) or opt for a used drum.The second-hand drums are mostly used to store chemicals or even fertilizer. In the uses as mentioned above, a drum that stored feed stuffs seems to be a safer option.


Once you've settled on the right drum, cut the lid about 3 inches from the top, assuming that your drum does not have a removable cover. A Sawzall can accomplish this task effectively.Once the lead is off, hammer it outwards so that it would rest on top on the drum.

02 ​STEP TWO: Clean and Burn Your Drum

You’ll have to clean the drum to remove any foreign material such remnants of feeds, oil or chemicals. This step might be optional.


When you are satisfied with the cleanliness of your 55 Gallon Drum, it time to burn, burn and burn. There are two methods of burning;


  • Setting a fire in the drum – you will assemble the material to light the fire, i.e., newspaper, kindling, and medium-sized wood. Set them on fire, and let them burn as long as necessary, i.e., the paint on the outside starts to fall off. Place the lid on top for the paint to be removed. Let it stand for 24 hours with the fire inside.
  • Using a grass weed burner – the instrument makes your work easier.

After 24 hours, clean your drum by removing the ash, coal, and paint remnants. The cleaning should be through. You might consider taking it to the car wash for pressure wash.

03 STEP THREE: It’s Time to Drill Your Drum

Your smoker will need holes for ventilation, grill support, and thermometers. In these holes, you can use a small drill bit and center punch to make a pilot hole. So, set your equipment ready to begin.

Air intake holes: A step bit will work fine for this.Measure about four inches from the bottom of your drum, and drill three holes.The drilled holes should be large enough to be able to accommodate a 2/4" nipple of a pipe to allow adequate air intake.


Holes for grill support: Measure 12 inches from the bottom of the drum and make four holes. In the holes, you can insert bolts so that you will only need to lay the rack on them. However, you can create legs and feet for your charcoal basket, which might be expensive.


Drilling support holes: The purpose of these holes will be to hold the supporting apparatus for cooking grate.


Measures 7 inches from the top of the drum, and drill holes 4 1/4".  Insert long bolts from outside and tightly screw them with nuts to prevent them from moving. On these bolts is where you’ll lace your cooking rack.


Drilling exhaust holes on the lid: There are two options: you can opt to make a single hole to create a chimney or numerous small holes to exhaust the smoke. In the latter case, you can mark an 11 inches diameter circle at the center of the lead and drill evenly spaced circular holes on the outer side of the circle.


You can use these holes to for your lid handle too.


After you are through with drilling holes, ensure that you file all the rough spots using either a file or a Dremel. Also, remove the shaving inside the drum.

04 STEP FOUR: Painting Your Drum

By now your smoker has taken shape. It is time to prime it. You can use the Rustoleum high-temperature primer(rated 500 degrees and above) to coat the outside of the drum as well as the lid. While painting, cover the holes using the painter’s tape.


You can coat the inside of your drum using the lard or Crisco to prevent corrosion. However, this process is optional.

05 STEP FIVE: Adding the Handle

The market offers a large number of handles for smokers. But, getting a heavy-duty spring handles will serve you well.


The numbers of handles you indent to put vary. However, you’ll need a handle for the lead and at least two handles on the side for portability.

06 STEP SIX: Adding the Charcoal Basket and the Grate

You can opt to make your own charcoal bucket or better still buy a premier quality one from reputable suppliers. The only thing is to find the right size so that it fits perfectly.

06 STEP SEVEN: Smoke It Up

It is time to taste your smoker. Place the charcoal interspersed with wood in the chimney and lights the fire. Let the smoker heat to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This can take 10 hours.


Final Word 

Looking critically at the above procedure, you’ll realize it is a simplified lesson on how to build a smoker out of a 55 gallon drum. Following it carefully will make you create a perfect piece for your family.

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