How to Build a Whiskey Oak Barrel Smoker Grill

An old oak whiskey barrel converts nicely into a smoker grill, and adds an attractive talking-piece to your backyard barbeques.
Transform an old oak whiskey barrel into a nifty smoker grill.
Larger whiskey barrels, of around 55 to 60 gallon capacity, are best for conversion into smoker grills and can be bought from breweries or wineries, and even can be sourced online. The metal rings that hold the barrel staves together serve as a guide for cutting the barrel to transform it into a smoker grill, so the process is pretty straightforward. .

Step 1

Wash the whiskey barrel inside and out, and allow it to dry overnight. Secure the staves to the metal rings of the barrel using screws approximately 3/4 the thickness of the barrel staves, one screw per stave per ring. This will prevent the barrel from falling to pieces when you cut it.

Step 2

Cut off the barrel top with a jigsaw just under the line of the second-from-top metal ring. This will be the smoker lid. Screw a hinge onto the lid, again using screws around 3/4 the thickness of the barrel staves. Sit the lid back on top of the barrel and secure the other half of the hinge to the barrel to reattach it.

Step 3

Cut out a small square from the barrel side, just below the metal ring second from the bottom. This will be a door for inserting the smoker box and for the electrical cord of the hotplate, so make sure it is of a size to accommodate these items. Reattach the door with a hinge like you did for the lid.

Step 4

Lift the smoker lid. Position four angle brackets evenly around the barrel’s inside, around 10 to 12 inches up from the position of the door. Attach the brackets using the same size screws as for the door and lid, placed through the bracket screw holes into the staves. Attach another four brackets around 5 to 6 inches beneath the barrel rim.

Step 5

Place a wire rack on the angle brackets, so you have two cooking racks. When using the smoker grill, sit the hotplate on the bottom of the barrel, with the cord out the door. Place a smoker box filled with soaked woodchips on top of the hotplate. Place your meat on the racks, then turn on the hotplate, and close the door and lid. If you want to use coals, place them on a coal tray with feet to keep the tray off the bottom of the barrel.

Things You Will Need

  • 55 to 60-gallon barrel
  • Detergent
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Jigsaw
  • Hinges
  • Smoker box
  • Electric hotplate
  • 8 angle brackets
  • 2 wire racks
  • Wood chips


  • If the smoker box doesn't cover the hotplate completely, use aluminum foil over the hotplate to protect it from fat drippings.


  • Exercise caution at all times. Use a hotplate that has feet, so the element is elevated from the bottom of the barrel.

About the Author

B.T. Alo is media director, chief writer and editor for a U.S.-based marketing and consulting firm. He holds a bachelor's degree in business and communications. Alo's interests include business, investments, electronics, personal finance, health, communication, popular trends and travel.