Building a smoker out of a 55 gallon barrel

December 2020

Full write-up below the picture.

Finished product


I got tired of waking up at 4am to smoke BBQ and figured it would be fun to build a cheap automatic BBQ smoker.

Brief summary of the restoration:

This was not a difficult project at all. First, I bought a pellet smoker that wasn't working, fixed the hopper assembly (bad thermocouple), then tossed everything but the hopper assembly. Next, I found an old 55 gallon metal barrel, burned it out to remove any contaminants, painted the exterior black, then coated the inside with lard to prevent it from rusting. Then, I cut a hole in the barrel for the hopper assembly to be inserted and bolted it together. After that, I had a local metal shop cut a round top for the barrel out of 3/16 metal. I also had them cut a small hole in it for the smoke stack. I welded the smoke stack onto the hole, attached the handle, and lined the underside with high heat tape to reduce air leakage. Finally, I installed a small air vent at the bottom, a few hooks for spatulas and stuff like that, and slapped on a cheap thermostat. Done!

Cheap Amazon thermometer I installed (actually keeps temperature great)

Close-up of the Camp Chef hopper assembly with temperature controller

How much?

Roughly $200 (didn't keep great records)

How long?

Started: 12/1/20

Finished: 1/31/21

Total time: 62 days (.169 years)

Where is it now?

For once, I kept a project. It works great and I use it all the time.

Final thoughts:

This project was a lot of fun, wasn't too hard, and the final product turned out great. The smoker does an unbelievable job of keeping the temperature you set and makes BBQing almost too easy. If you like to BBQ, but are getting sick of using a stick burner, I would highly recommend building your own pellet-fired barrel smoker. You lose maybe 5-10% of the smoky flavor by using pellets, but the trade-off in labor savings makes it worth it.

Helpful resources:; Company that sells parts for making your own barrel smoker

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