A grill cooks meat quickly with flame and direct heat. A smoker uses a slow indirect technique, with smoke carrying the heat to the meat and imparting a special flavor. Steaks can be grilled in minutes; ribs, roasts and briskets take hours on a smoker. A Texas grill can be used to cook both ways. You can make a Texas grill from a 55-gallon drum, but it requires oxy-acetylene welding equipment, gas tanks, a torch and protective gear, and expertise in cutting metal with a chop saw and welding by melting welding rods to fuse two pieces together.
- 55-gallon drum
- Bristle brush
- Tape measure
- Metal chop saw
- 2-inch angle iron
- Oxy-acetylene welding equipment, gas tanks, hoses and torch
- Welder's helmet
- Welder's gloves
- Welder's apron
- Welder's clamps
- Door hinges
- Fireplace grate
- Cooking grill or expanded metal flooring
- Chimney elbow and pipe
Find a 55-gallon drum that has not been used for petroleum or chemical products. Take the lid off, set it aside and clean the drum thoroughly. Scrub it with detergent and a stiff bristle brush and let it dry. Set up your welding equipment with tanks of oxygen and acetylene gas, connecting hoses and an adjustable torch; making a Texas grill requires welding equipment and skill as a welder and metal worker.
Measure the drum with a tape measure, length and circumference. Use those dimensions to cut 2-inch angle irons to make a rectangular frame or cradle to support the drum. Miter the ends at 45-degrees with a metal chop saw and fasten the corners with welder's clamps. Turn on the gas, light the torch and weld the joints by melting a welding rod with the torch to fuse the metal where the two pieces meet.
Make legs for the frame by cutting angle irons 30 inches long. Set these inside the corners of the rectangular frame and weld them in place with the torch and welding rods. Leave the frame with the legs upright. Measure the distance between the legs and cut angle irons for braces connecting them. Put one brace on each length and one on each end. Clamp them about halfway up the legs and weld them to the frame.
Set the frame upright on its legs and put the drum on top. Weld it to the frame with short spot welds, about 2 inches long, three on each side and two on each end. Measure halfway down the circumference and draw a line with chalk around the drum to divide it in two. Mark another line at the center of the drum to split the top half in two.
Adjust the torch to a tight cutting flame and cut the center line down to the horizontal by melting the drum steel. Cut half of the horizontal line from one end to the drum center. Weld two metal hinges across that cut point. Cut the rest of the horizontal line to create a hinged top from that half of the drum.
Cut the lip off the drum lid and split the lid itself in two with the cutting torch. Weld half of the lid to the side of the hinged lid to enclose it. Weld the other half to the top of the open side of the drum to form a baffle and create a firebox.
Buy a fireplace grate and set it in place in the firebox half of the drum. Cut 2-inch pieces of angle iron and weld them inside the drum under the hinged area to support a cooking grate. Weld three brackets on each side with one angle against the outside wall of the drum and the other facing inward to hold a grate.
Make a cooking grate by cutting expanded steel flooring with a metal saw to the dimensions of the cooking area; measure between the sides and from end to center to get this size. Lay the cooking grate on the brackets and close the lid.
Install a chimney on the outside end of the cooking chamber. Buy a chimney elbow and use it to mark a circle on the bottom half of the drum end. Use the cutting torch to cut out that circle and weld the elbow in place. Fit one section of chimney pipe into the elbow; these typically have an end crimped to fit inside the elbow opening.
Use the cutting torch to cut 3/8-inch notches on two sides of the top of the first section of chimney. Cut a piece of 3/8-inch reinforcing bar to fit in those notches, extending about 2 inches outside on one side and 4 to 6 inches on the other side. Weld the cut circle from the drum to that rebar to form a damper, which can control the flow of air up the chimney as it is closed or opened with the rebar handle.
Add a final piece of chimney pipe, cutting a slot in each side of the connection to fit over the rebar damper. Make rebar braces to hold the chimney to the drum if necessary. Build a fire in the firebox area to test the flow of air from the open end, past the baffle and out the chimney. Make this test with the lid closed.