While fancy state-of-the-art outdoor kitchens are all the rage now, there’s a lot to be said for the age-old mighty barbecue pit, old-school smokers, and even converted barrel-cookers.
It’s nice to order high-tech, but the fact is, people have been cooking outdoors since the dawn of man, and we’ve done it for tens of thousands of years before stainless steel appliances and solar panels landed on the scene. We don’t need no stinking technology!
All these newfangled gadgets are great, but there’s something awe-inspiring about a pig on a spit or a pork shoulder smoking in an old oil barrel.
Even if you’re thinking about designing a jaw-dropping outdoor cooking area with all the latest designer grills and doo-dads, a true outdoor-cooking enthusiast should at least consider starting their design with a great do-it-yourself barbecue pit at the center of all things cookin’.
Whether you want to an epic BBQ pit design step-by-step, making a cooking space that can serve everyone you’ve ever known for an annual barbecue blowout, or you’re simply making a space to get some grub on for you and your friends, there are endless possibilities.
Texan Barbecue Pits
Embrace the internet to find plans as it’s packed with options, enthusiast feedback on different approaches, and it’s a great way to start. Like this, the grandaddy of all BBQ pits: Thurmann Roberts’ model that’s been wowing Texans with tasty treats at the legendary Salt Lick since 1969, and which can cook up awesomeness for some 300 to 1,500 people at a time. That said, for those of us that cook for group sizes closer to 3 than 300, a smaller scale version of these Texan pits can be fashioned by adding an iron grill on top of any of our wood-burning DIY fire pit or grill kits.
Lifehacker made a splash with this “do it yourself” outdoor smoker for under $50, and it’s that kind of creative thinking that can really add some tasty flavor to your summer eats, but there’s no need to stay minimalist — you can always improve on a good idea, like with this rehash of the outdoor terracotta smoker found here.
Brick Barbecues Built to Last
For the more adventurous and design-inclined, there’s no reason you can’t take a couple weekends to build the mother of all brick DIY barbecues,with a smoker, as a base for an amazing outdoor kitchen to come, like this fella here, explained step-by-step on Instructables.com.
Found-Object Smokers and BBQs
If you’ve got welding skills, or a 6-pack to bribe a friend who does, there’s no limit to the awesomeness you can build for your backyard, like a Texas smoker constructed out of old barrels, water heaters, and other cast-offs. The internets are full of enthusiasts exchanging plans for custom projects involving all manner of second-life products for barbeques and grills, so put on your Googling hat to sleuth out a plan that’ll work for you.
There are kits, kits, kits galore out there for backyard cookin’ projects of all kinds, including the holy grail of outdoor cooking — the wood-fired oven. Some sites, like FornoBravo.com, have both free PDF plans downloading for your DIY project, or kits you can purchase for making things a little simpler as you embark on the quest for baked bread and pizzas your friends will be fighting for invites to enjoy.
Below-ground Cooking Pits
Speaking of fire and awesome things, what about making a fire pit for in-ground cooking? They’ve been doing it since the dawn of time, and still do it all over the world. There’s something about shoveling dirt over your foil-wrapped food, going off for the afternoon, and coming back to find Mother Earth has dinner good to go.
Here’s a shallow-pit DIY plan that’ll be great for cooking salmon and other tasty things, but you can make it even deeper if you’d like you put pots of seafood in to slow-cook for hours, like they do in the Mediterranean and South America.
Whatever You Do, Just Get Cookin’
Sure, high-tech kitchens are amazing and pack a great deal of resale value in a home, but if you don’t have the cash to do high-tech, and you’re more about having amazing food and a fun summer life, that’s all right too, and that’s what all these great DIY projects allow you to do, with different options for every “investment” level.
If you’re as in love with great food as I am, then outdoor kitchens, barbecue pits, wood-fire ovens, and more, are worth the time it takes to plan and put them together, because nothing — and I mean nothing — tastes better than food made the way we’ve been making it since the dawn of time — over an open flame in the great outdoors.
This summer, think outside the kitchen-box for how to make your seasonal treats unbeatable, and bust out your tools for a great new backyard project that’s all-you-can-eat.