The Cheaper Way To Build A Kickass BBQ Pit In Your Backyard

Summer might officially be over, but barbecuing is an all-year-round kinda thing that demands a lot from your grill. But why spend thousands on a gas grill that can't even cook a whole hog when you can create your own wood-fired pig pit for a fraction of the price?

Materials and Tools Required

  • 1x shovel
  • 1x hand tamper
  • 1x rake or hoe
  • 1x level
  • 1x carpenter's square
  • 1x tape measure
  • 4x 5cm x 10cm stakes
  • 48x cinder blocks (standard 20cm x 20cm x 40cm size)
  • 2x sheets of 120cm x 120cm 16-gauge steel
  • 1x sheet of 60cm x 120cm 16-gauge steel
  • 1x sheet of 120cm x 200cm expanded metal
  • masonry or washed "play" sand

Difficulty and Cost

This project is labour intensive but straightforward and can be done in as little as a day. It doesn't require a high degree of skill -- it's not like you're going to be mortaring anything or embedding rebar supports -- but you will need to be precise when laying the foundation. The materials are all available from your local Bunnings, although the sheet metal will likely be the most expensive component, so don't be afraid to shop around.

Building It

Lay the Ground Work: You're first going to need to pick a site for the pit and its 200cm x 120cm footprint. The site should be fairly level bare ground located a safe distance from your house and wooden structures like decks and gazebos as well as clear of dry vegetation.

Once you've settled on a spot, use the shovel, rake and tamper as necessary to ensure the site is level. Grab 14 cinder blocks and assemble them in a 200cm x 120cm (that's five cinder blocks long, two cinder blocks wide) rectangle and place the 5cm x 10cm stakes at the inside corners. Then, remove the bricks. Excavate 10-15cm of top soil from the interior area of the pit (inside the stakes) and refill it with the masonry sand. This sand acts as an inflammable base for your wood or charcoal fire and also sops up grease drippings (replace grease-saturated sand with fresh as necessary). If you want to get fancy, dig down a 30cm and grade the excavated area so that it runs down to a central point, 30cm deep -- this prevents the grease from seeping laterally into the topsoil -- and refill the hole with sand or line it with fire brick.

Build It: Reassemble the first layer of cinder blocks. Decide which of the shorter, two-block ends you want to be the front of the pit and remove those two blocks. This gap will be used to load fresh charcoal and wood in during the cook so make sure it's facing an area open enough to swing a shovel or tree branch. Next, stack a second layer of block atop the first. Make sure all the blocks line up with those under them and use the carpenter's square to ensure the two blocks at each corner are flush, then lay the sheet of expanded metal on top of that.

Next, stack two more layers of cinder block on top of the expanded metal grill and place the two 120cm x 120cm steel sheets as a roof. There is going to be a bit of overlap between the sheets as well as over the edges of the pit -- that's good. The overlap will allow you (preferably with a helper) grip the sheet and slide it off when checking on a cook. Finally, set the 60cm x 120cm steel sheet against the open end of the pit, allowing for ventilation, and that's it. Now you just need some charcoal or hardwood, enough meat to cover the pit's 90sqm of grill space, and two dozen of your closest, hungriest friends.

[Joe Davidson - NY Times - Snap Guide - How-To Specialist - eHow]

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