Barbecuing is a ritual of summertime. It signals the time of eating outside with the smells of wood smoke and sizzling meat, carmelization and saltiness. Think of potato salads and coleslaw, jello molds and brownies, corn on the cob and colorful salads. If you don’t have your own grill set up to do a barbecue, there are several options you can try to get yourself ready for a fun dinner.
Obtain a 55-gallon barrel at a local source or purchase one at arizonabarrels.com (see Resources). It is best to use a food grade steel barrel so that you don't have to worry about unknown chemicals. A 55-gallon barrel is a good size for a large barbecue pit. If the barbecue is for a family of 4 or 5, you can cut the barrel in half for a small barbecue. Make sure to take the cover off the barrel.
Stand the barrel up straight and hammer some holes in the sides of the barrel, on the upper half. This is where you will be doing your cooking, and the fire will need to have an air supply. Use a fairly thick nail and a hammer to poke holes about every 6 inches around and then in alternating layers. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the barrel for drainage.
You will want to fire up the barrel to burn off any residue that may be lingering on the surface, so prepare the barrel before the barbecue. Throw some paper and cardboard into the bottom of the barrel and then some kindling. Light the fire and add some larger sticks to get a good blaze going. The fire should burn for at least an hour. Allow the fire to burn itself out and then dump out the ashes when the barrel has cooled.
Place the barrel in the position where you will be doing your cooking. Stand it upright and pour in several bags of sand until the barrel is filled up almost halfway. If you don't want to use so much sand, you can fill it up with gravel first and then just a 6-inch layer of sand.
Cover the top of the sand with aluminum foil and bringing the foil up to the sides. Line the inside of the the barrel just as you would line a baking pan. The foil will help you remove the ashes later. Use a good grade of aluminum foil so it doesn't tear later when you want to remove the ashes.
Build your fire with paper, kindling and wood. Once the fire has burned down a bit and you have a good bed of coals, you can lay the grill on the top of the barrel. If you don't have a round grill, you can always use your oven grill, but know that it will turn black. Replacement grill racks are not very expensive and are usually available at most hardware stores.
Spray or oil your grill racks to keep the food from sticking and grill as you would with a regular grill. This will be a very sturdy grill that will cook the food at a convenient height of about 34 inches. Once you are finished with the barbecue and the fire has died, the ashes can easily be lifted out with the foil.