Can You Use an Old Oil Drum for a Smoker?

Affiliate Disclaimer: Some of the links on this website may be affiliate links, meaning that I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase the item. This helps to support my website and keep my content free for everyone.

If you’re an outdoor cooking enthusiast and love DIY projects, you may have considered the possibility of using an old oil drum to build your own barbecue smoker.

This can be a really fun and affordable project, but there are some things you need to know before you get started.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of using an old oil drum as a smoker, and give you some tips on how to do it safely and effectively. Let’s get started!

Can You Use an Old Oil Drum for a Smoker?

Many people choose to use oil drums to build smokers because they offer a large cooking chamber, are easy to find, and are relatively inexpensive.

Plus, let’s be honest, they look cool. If you’re thinking about building a smoker out of an old oil drum, there are a few things you should keep in mind. 

First, it’s important to select a drum that hasn’t been used to store chemicals, as this can potentially contaminate your food.

Second, you’ll need to cut holes in the drum for ventilation and access to the interior, so make sure you have the proper tools for the job.

Finally, it’s important to season the drum before using it to cook, as this will help prevent rusting and give your food a better flavor.

Not All Oil Drums Are Safe

You might be surprised to learn that not all oil drums are safe to use as a barbecue smoker.

While it’s true that most oil drums are made of steel, which is an excellent material for trapping heat and smoking meat, some drums may be lined with materials that can be dangerous when heated. 

For example, some drums may be lined with lead or other metals that can leach into the food when heated.

In addition, some drums may have been used to store hazardous materials, such as gasoline or chemicals, which can also be dangerous when heated. 

As a result, it’s important to do your research before using an oil drum as a barbecue smoker.

To be on the safe side, it’s best to use a drum that is specifically designed for smoking food. Food-grade barrels are the safest option, as they don’t require as much cleaning and preparation.

However, just about any steel drum can be turned into a proper smoker, as long as you have the proper tools —which we’ll cover later on.

You Need to Have the Equipment to Cut It

Steel is a tough material, and you can’t use just any old saw to cut through it.

Welding may be required, so unless you have the proper tools and equipment. It’s best to leave this project to the experts.

Tackling it yourself will require both experience and tools, including a welder, cutting torch, an angle grinder with a steel-cutting disc, safety gear – including gloves, a mask, and goggles, and more. 

Not having the tools and know-how doesn’t mean you can custom-build a smoker though.

If you know someone who welds and works with metal professionally, offer to hire them for their services. 

You Need to Treat the Drum

If you’re set on using an old oil drum as a smoker, it’s important to treat the metal before using it to cook. This process is known as “seasoning”.

It essentially means that you’re creating a layer of protection on the inside of the drum that will prevent rusting and help give your food a better flavor. 

Seasoning the smoker is easy —simply coat the inside of the barrel with cooking oil and heat it up to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once it’s been heated, let it cool down and repeat this process a few more times. After seasoning, your smoker should be good to go! This sounds easy, right?

Unfortunately, seasoning is the last step in preparing an old oil drum to become a smoker. First, you need to properly clean it. 

Properly Clean the Oil Drum

Before you build that barbecue smoker out of an old oil drum, there’s something you should know.

If the drum hasn’t been properly cleaned, it could release harmful chemicals into the air as it’s heated. 

That’s why it’s important to clean an old oil drum before using it for any purpose. The best way to start cleaning a drum is to fill it with water and then heat the water until it boils.

This will help to release any residual oil or other contaminants. However, you’ll need to treat the inside of the drum thoroughly to ensure no oil or petroleum residue is left behind. 

To treat the inside of the barrel, you can use a mixture of sodium hydroxide and water, which helps to release all of the contaminants.

This is a caustic mixture, so be sure to wear gloves and protective gear when handling it. Once the drum has been treated, rinse it out several times with clean water to remove any residual chemicals. 

Then, you can clean the inside of the drum with soap and water. Add vinegar for extra deep cleaning. From there, the drum is “clean,” but you will still need to burn out the inside.

Burning Out the Inside of an Old Oil Drum

If you’re planning on building a barbecue smoker out of an old oil drum, there’s one important step you can’t skip — burning out the inside of the drum.

This will help to remove any lingering residue or fumes that could potentially be harmful. Plus, it will also give your smoker a nice clean surface to work with. 

To burn out the inside of an oil drum, simply place it over a fire and let it burn. You can also build a fire inside the drum itself.

Make sure to let the fire burn for at least three hours. This can be done with charcoal, wood chips, or simple firewood. 

Sand the Inside of Your Oil Drum

Sanding is an important and sometimes overlooked step in preparing your oil drum. If you don’t sand the inside of the barrel, there’s a chance that bits of metal could flake off and end up in your food. 

To avoid this, simply sand down the inside of the drum with medium-grit sandpaper. This will help to create a smooth surface and remove any potential hazards.

For the absolute best results, you can opt to use a sandblaster for this step. Now that you’ve prepared your oil drum, it’s time to start building your smoker!

Once it’s assembled, you can begin to season the inside with food-grade oil and plenty of smoke —then you’re ready to cook?

When You Should Avoid Using an Old Oil Drum

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there are still some instances where it’s best to avoid using an old oil drum.

If the drum is rusty or has any holes in it, it’s not safe to use. 

Additionally, if the barrel has been used to store chemicals or other hazardous materials, it’s best to steer clear if you don’t have the means to properly clean and treat it.

It’s also important to note that not all oil drums are created equal. Some drums are made of thinner metal than others and may not be able to withstand the high temperatures required for smoking food


Building a barbecue smoker out of an old oil drum can be a great DIY project — but it’s not without its challenges.

Be sure to take the necessary precautions and follow all the steps outlined above to ensure you end up with a safe and functional smoker.

With a little bit of effort (and some patience), you’ll be able to enjoy delicious smoked meats in no time!

1 thought on “Can You Use an Old Oil Drum for a Smoker?”

Comments are closed.