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How do I Build a Grill?

By Ron Marr
Updated Feb 16, 2024
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There are few things more enjoyable than a backyard barbecue on a warm summer evening. The very thought of hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, or chicken sizzling on the grill is enough to make one’s mouth water with anticipation. It’s a simple pleasure, and one that can be enhanced even further should a person choose to build a grill of their own.

There are many commercial grills available for purchase. They run the gamut from small, charcoal or gas-fired tabletop models to massive, stainless steel, propane operated versions costing thousands of dollars. However, one can build a grill of their own in a single afternoon. Best of all, the price of such a grill will barely leave a dent in one’s wallet.

Only a few materials are required to build a grill. First, one needs a cooking grate. A standard, round grate can be purchased in virtually any home or hardware store. In a pinch, even an oven rack will work. The only decision that must be made is to size. Is an individual planning to grill just for themselves and a few friends, or do they seek to host a large party? For most, a grate with an 18 to 24 inch diameter (46 to 61 cm) will suffice.

The next step consists of creating a structure to hold the smoldering wood or charcoal over which the grate will rest. On a flat area, one should hammer a temporary, center-stake into the ground. Tie a string to the stake that is slightly longer than the diameter of the grate, stretch it tight, and mark off a circle. Remove the center stake, and either rake or dig out the circle to a depth of four inches (10 cm).

With this excavated area smooth and flat, one can begin to build their grill. This is accomplished by stacking stones or bricks around the circle to a height of between 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 cm). The best material with which to build a grill are paving stones, with common bricks being a secondary choice. Rocks and natural stones are also a possibility, if they have a relatively smooth surface. However, one should remember to never use stones that have been submerged in water. Under high temperatures they could easily crack, shatter, or even explode.

The grate can now be laid directly on stop of the grill structure. For more stability, four bricks or paving stones can be placed around the circle at the edges of the cooking grate. These can be removed when one wishes to clean ash from the bottom of the cooking area, clean the grate itself, or add charcoal.

The final step for one who wishes to build a grill is to cover the bottom of the cooking area with lava rocks. This is not an absolute necessity, but it will create a barrier between the fuel and the moist ground and permit a better flow of air to the fire.

One need not spend a fortune to build a grill. No welding or masonry skills are necessary. Really, the only requirements are a few hours time, some simple materials, and a desire to enjoy foods cooked in the great outdoors.

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