Well, you asked for it. Here, Smoky answers the most commonly asked questions. He is direct, honest and offers an insight into the time proven techniques to preparing great barbecue that is unavailable elsewhere. If you are unable to locate the exact answer you are seeking, feel free to contact him directly and ask!
He returns all questions . . . . . . .
Topic: 55-gallon drum with an offset firebox . . . .
Subject: Re: Homemade Pit
Just finishing up building a pit out of a 55-gallon drum with an offset firebox. I've gotten some great ideas from you and a few other people. Thanks for making your advice available. I have some questions about the firebox, which measures 14"w X 16" L X 12" H. Should I put some kind of grate in the bottom to allow air circulation under the fuel, as well as for ashes to fall off? Common sense tells me I should, but I'd rather get a seasoned pro's opinion.
I also have a draft control on the end of the firebox which has an opening that measures about 1 ½ " X 2 ½ "-is that enough?-if not, it will be a piece of cake to enlarge it. One more thing-I'm using a piece of expanded metal for a food grate. I don't really want to leave it unpainted, but I also don't want paint to be coming off onto the food. Will the high-temp paint that I'm using for the body of the pit be sufficient for the grate as well?
I really appreciate any help you can give me. I'm quite excited to get the thing rolling and finally learn to cook on a real BBQ cooker instead of that silly water smoker I've been using for almost a year. Just waiting for the weather to clear up so I can hit it with the sandblaster and paint it. Thanks for your help, and happy 'Q-ing.
Sounds to me like you have done a great job! Glad we could help.
1. Definitely put fire grates in your fire pits. Not only does that provide better draft for burning, but it protects the bottom of the pit from burning out. I recommend putting some paving bricks, a wet clay mixture which will cure hard from heat or anything else that will give the grill bottom a little more protection from the heat.
2. Draft. a 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" vent ought to be plenty big, but it needs to be below or level with the fire grate.
3. Meat grill. Don't paint it or the inside of the cooker. First time you fire up the grill, gradually increase the temp to about 400°F. with the intake and exhaust wide open. Then shut everything down and let it cool naturally. Brush the inside, over and around the meat grill with a stiff brush and wipe with a damp cloth. Scrub the expanded metal grill down with a wire brush, wipe with a damp cloth and brush on a coat of lard or cooking oil.
4. Keep the ashes cleaned and keep the fire box dry. Ashes and water make a fine lye and will eat up on your grill.
Good luck. Hope you can fire it up soon,