How to Build a Cheap BBQ Pit

Your pit may be cheap, but you can let the authentic taste of your meat speak for itself.
Your pit may be cheap, but you can let the authentic taste of your meat speak for itself. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Many homeowners like to use a simple portable gas or charcoal grill instead of the more old-fashioned barbecue pit. If you want to have that classic smoked flavor in your meat, though, you may want to build your own pit. A barbecue pit can be as simple or complex as you like; some like to design the pit with a large sitting area and other features. There is no need to build an expensive pit out of brick or concrete, though. You can build a simple pit with nothing but a shovel.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel
  • 3-feet long by 3-feet wide plywood

Find a place in your yard where you may dig out a 3-feet by 3-feet hole in the ground. There should be some space next to the pit for the dirt that comes out from the digging.

Measure the perimeter at 3 feet by 3 feet, but feel free to make it larger if you want. Lay the tape measure on the ground so you can see how long 3 feet is, and dig out some earth along that line. Do the same thing for the width. Repeat for the other two sides, until you've dug out a small trench marking the perimeter.

Dig down with the shovel around the inside of the perimeter, laying the dirt next to the pit. Scoop the shovel in horizontally to bring the level of the inside down to the level of the perimeter.

Push the end of the measuring tape into the pit when you think you are about 3 feet down. When you do reach this level, remove the soil from the inside until the bottom is level.

Burn a fire in the pit the night before you want to cook, using some big logs to get a layer of hot coals by morning.

Lay the plywood over the pit once you have the meat placed in the pit over the coals. Cover the plywood up with 1 foot or less of the dirt that you originally removed from the pit. This is done to keep the heat inside, but don't put so much on the plywood that you risk breaking it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once your coals are ready, try placing some wet, green logs over the coals to act as a platform and to give the meat a smoky flavor. Wrap the meat in brown paper bags and place them on this platform. You may wish to leave the wrapped meat in the pit overnight to slow cook.

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