If you’re the type of person who likes barbequed food but doesn’t want to spend the money on buying an expensive grill, then you’re in for a treat. You can build a pit grill all by yourself and have your food turn out nearly as good as it would on a $300 grill.
A pit grill is, well, a grill in a pit. It’s basically just a hole in the ground that you fill up with some charcoal and throw a grill grate overtop. Of course, there are some fairly important things you’ll want to make sure you do properly, and that’s what we’re here to help you with.
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Why build a pit grill?
Not only can you save a lot of money by not having to buy a regular grill, but pit grills are fantastic ways to save space. You won’t have to store your grill under an awning or in your garage, and you won’t have to buy a cover for it. Just make sure you keep additional charcoal somewhere clean so you can change it out if you go a while without using your grill.
In fact, you don’t even need to use charcoal with a pit grill – you can literally just use wood and rocks that you find in your backyard. They’re ideal for the frugal griller. Pit grills make superb meat. It will be tender and juicy, and it’ll have a smoky flavour that rivals that of a charcoal grill.
You’ll want to make sure that there’s no fire ban in your area if you’re making a pit grill. While you won’t be having a huge raging bonfire, you may still produce enough smoke for the authorities to get called.
The steps for making a pit grill
First thing’s first, you’ll need your tools and ingredients. You’ll need:
- A shovel
- Some firewood
- Some green wood for smoking
- Tinfoil or something else to wrap your meat in
- A wood or metal sheet to cover our pit
- An old blanket or something can help as well because it can restrict oxygen and prevent flare ups
1. Dig your pit
This is the most difficult part of building your pit grill, but considering the money you’re saving, the labour is well worth it.
The hole needs to be fairly large – about a square meter around, and half a metre deep. This will make a grilling space big enough to support food for a whole family. If you’re just cooking for yourself and a partner, you can make it smaller. You can also make it bigger if you plan to cook feasts.
Keep the dirt nearby, perhaps in a garden, for later steps.
2. Line the pit with rocks
Pretty self-explanatory. Get some flat rocks about the same size as those you’d find around a bonfire and line the very bottom of your pit and the circumference of the pit. You don’t necessarily need them around the perimeter, but the rocks on the bottom help distribute heat
If you plan to use charcoal, you can include the rocks, or just use charcoal on the bottom, but we recommend keeping the rocks.
3. Soak your green wood
If you can get some flavoured wood like they use to make wood chips for grills (cherry, applewood, etc) then do so. Soak them in water for a while and add them to the rocks.
It’s necessary to have some kind of green wood for a later step.
4. Build your fire
Your goal here is to build a fire big enough so that it creates a thick layer of embers. This can take a long freakin’ time, so remember that pit grilling is not for the impatient or the rushed.
It’s a good idea to sprinkle water on the grass around the pit to prevent fires from catching. Keep some water nearby as well, in case sparks fly out and catch something on fire.
5. Get your meat (or veggies) ready
Season your food however you want, and then wrap it in tinfoil. You can also wrap it in brown paper, but that might cause a bit of worry.
After that, wrap the wrapped packages in wet newspaper. A good idea is to make a handle for your food out of chicken-wire or some other type of malleable metal so you can access it without burning yourself.
6. Add it to the fire
First, smooth out the embers from the remains of your fire. Then add your green wood and put the food on top of it. Once it’s situated, cover the whole pit with your cover, then re-cover that with most of the dirt you dug out. If you grabbed a blanket, cover it up with that. Now it’s time to wait.
Traditionally, pit grills are left overnight so the food has ample time to cook. If you start the food fairly late in the night, it’ll be ready in the early afternoon for lunch. It usually takes around 12 hours for food to be fully cooked and flavoured.
Hopefully your food won’t be undercooked, but sometimes, that just happens. While it sort of defeats the purpose of building the grill in the first place, you can finish your food in your oven and wish yourself better luck next time.
Once it’s all done and unwrapped, you can treat it the same way you’d treat any other barbequed food! Whip out the BBQ sauce and the salt and pepper, slab it on some plates (or just eat it off a flat rock if you’re feeling the self-sustainable pit grill lifestyle) and enjoy!
Pit grills may not be the fastest way to cook food, but they’re certainly practical for people who don’t mind putting in a bit of work to save a few bucks. The food tastes just as good as it would on a normal grill, and some people think it tastes even better. Good luck making your pit grill, and happy smoking!