How to Build a Brick BBQ Smoker
Here, as follows, are some general instructions and explanations of how I built my vertical brick BBQ smoker.
This BBQ runs off a gas heat source (a gas burner in the base). The burner heats a heavy cast iron pan as it heats the air and bricks. Wood chips are added to the pan to create smoke.
It wasn’t very hard to do, it cost me only about $200, and it works quite well as a medium-large-capacity BBQ (does 50-75 pounds of ribs very well in a batch). It also uses very little wood to create smoke, and so it is potentially more affordable to operate. It was fun to build, and it’s fun to use!
As a disclaimer—I am not a professional builder and I built this from my own design—basically, I winged it every step of the way. I have been an oven/BBQ experimenter for a while, and I have previously built a cob oven, a masonry oven, an offset BBQ smoker (55 gallon drum variety), and assorted grills for straight cooking.
For those considering building a brick pit, my idea in writing this is not to give you a foolproof set of plans that you’ll follow to the letter, but rather to explain what I did, why I did it, and how/why it works (or doesn’t). I will try to explain every step of the process, but if you have any questions about anything I did, please leave a comment below and I will answer it as well as I am able!
I am sorry that I have no pictures to illustrate the building process. I hope that the design is simple enough that you can get the feel for it from the finished item.
The BBQ Foundation
- Pour a foundation. I dug about eight inches down, and about one square meter in area, and then poured on three or four inches of sand which I leveled.
- I then mixed up some concrete (three parts sand to one part cement) and poured on about two inches. I laid a grid of medium rebar and then poured another two inches of concrete on top.
- I let this dry a bit, covered it with some wet rags, and let it cure for a few days to gain strength.
I think my four-inch foundation gives me a very solid base for the area I live in, which does not freeze. If you live in a colder area, you may need more—I'm not sure.
First Courses of Bricks
- Once the foundation had hardened, I started laying a double course of bricks – making a square a few bricks high at the base. Each side of the square on the outside is about 90 cm.
- After two thicknesses of bricks, the length of the width and depth of the inside of the square is roughly 70cm.
If you’ve never done brickwork before—you should really try it. It’s quite fun and very satisfying—and while it’s hard to make it look very neat, it’s not at all hard to do it so that it works. I won’t try to explain how to lay bricks here—you can find that information elsewhere from someone who knows more what they’re talking about!
- After the first layer of bricks was down, I started a second layer (imagine that! haha) but I made sure to leave a gap in the front that was wide enough to fit the gas burner through easily.
- I continued to leave this gap in the front for the next three layers of bricks.
- After the third layer, I used angle irons to bridge the gap I had left and with the fourth level of bricks, I once again filled in the full square with the bricks.
Building It up
- After five levels of double thickness brickwork, I had finished the base and I would do no more bricks on the front. The remainder of the front would be composed from the steel door. For the remaining levels of bricks, the sides started back about 10 cm from the very front. This is to leave a ledge upon which the door will sit.
- I continued with bricks until the height of the sides and back had reached about 1.15 meters. Along the way, I stuck little pieces of metal in the mortar between the bricks. These pieces of metal support the grates that are removable and hold the meat in the BBQ.
Attaching the Door
Roofing and Dooring
I had the door and the roof fabricated for me. The roof is simply a sheet of steel on a simple frame with a little roofed chimney on the top. The door is a heavy frame with a hinge and a door with a latch. The door frame has metal rods welded to it to help with attaching it to the BBQ.
- To attach the door, I simply laid the door on the ledge that was left near the bottom of the front.
- I then used heavy gauge wire around the rods attached to the door frame to tie the door onto the BBQ.
- I then placed the roof on top and mixed up some concrete and applied it all over the roof at the edges and around the door frame.
This is a pretty simple design, but you need to be confident that you're going to be safe after building it—better to err on the side of caution and seek expert advice if you aren't sure about anything.
Make sure that your chimney is at the highest point and that it lets the gas out as fast as the gas comes in. If you fail to do this, in the event that the flame goes out, the gas will pool at the top of the BBQ and you risk an explosion when you unsuspectingly relight.
Also, make sure that any burner you place inside the BBQ is designed to withstand the temperatures you'll be using. Talk to the people at your local specialty BBQ store for ideas.
This BBQ works well, it didn’t cost much to make, and it was made by someone with very little building know-how.
Is it the kind of BBQ you’d enjoy—and how does it work anyway!?!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.