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Build Your Own (BYO) Brick or Cement Fire Pit

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    Build Your Own (BYO) Brick or Cement Fire Pit

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    Has anyone built their own backyard pit out of firebricks, bricks or cement blocks? I read the article on AR and followed all of the links and didn't really find a comprehensive site with good build instructions. The 'net is rife with a lot of information on pizza ovens, whole hog smokers and grills, though. I'm looking more for a straight up smoker and have thought of scaling down a whole hog pit for butts, chickens, and ribs. There seem to be two schools of thought on constructing a brick pit: the "open pit" where coals are shoveled under the meat (some call this the Kentucky open pit but it seems to be technique used in SC as well) vs. the style where a fire is built on one end of the pit and the heat moves under and through the meat towards a chimney built on the opposite end (a lot like an offset). Both pit styles seem to rely on simple covers made of sheet metal or even hardwood. There are a few restaurants in the US that still cook this way... Ruby's in Austin, Texas, Grady's Barbecue in Dudley, NC, and Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, to name a few.

    I just need some reliable schematics to get me started and am not looking for anything too complex. I've seen a third style of pit, which is a vertical smoker built out of bricks where the fire is built at the bottom, but again, I am having trouble getting a sense of dimensions and how far the meat should be from the fire. Lots of variables to isolate (i.e. how much reflective heat do you get from bricks, heat retention, fire box construction, airflow, etc.) The calculator I found for chimney and firebox dimensions is for metal smokers, unfortunately.

    Challenges aside, this seems like a fun father/son DIY project where you could build a backyard "stick burner" for less than $500.

    Attached Files

    Could you take a field trip to any of the above locations? Most places are damn proud of their cookers and cooking methods and have no issue showing you their pits. Sweatman's in Eutawville (near Holly Hill, SC) used to do this no problem (havent been since under new ownership).

    Take some pics, sketches, measurements, etc and have at it.

    If you can get your hands on (or borrow at work) some 3D engineering programs like Catia V4 or higher (I assume there are several knock-off programs with more limited functionality than Catia available - hell, maybe there's an app for it) then you can digitally put your 3D plan into action and or / make adjustments with the room you have to build in.

    ....and some kids only get to re-build an old 350 Chevy with their dad!

    Great project with years of returns!!!


    • Gunderich_1
      Gunderich_1 commented
      Editing a comment
      Beefchop have you checked out YouTube? There are some instructional videos on there for both styles. I am getting ready to do the Kentucky style open pit. One, because I'm in Kentucky so I'm obligated to do that style (and I am lucky enough to have a yard big enough). And two, it's the fact that I like the tradition behind it. Anyway, hope the You Tube suggestion helps.

    • Beefchop
      Beefchop commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Gunder! I have checked Youtube but haven't found a set of instructions or video that I can hang my hat on.

    Great suggestion...I might be able to swing a field trip to Austin, and if I can find an old working pit in Houston then that's a somewhat easier drive from Lafayette. Thanks HC!


      In my job if I want the straight dope on something I go see the people where the rubber meets the road and ask them, not any alleged experts about how the process should go. I'd pick the brains of the guys doing the cooking on the pits for their $0.02 on how they'd build a pit at their house. Makes me want to engage in the same project - well at least thr R&D part of it. Lol


      • Beefchop
        Beefchop commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah. I wrote a guy who works at Schmidt Family BBQ in Lockhart, Texas and he said he wouldn't send them to me, so maybe I'll have to just show up at the nearest pit.

        Will keep you posted on anything I get from the pitmaster's mouth.

      Thought I'd give this thread a bump and see if Beefchop learned anything or if any of our newer members have anything to add. I've decided I'm going to build a cinder block pit as soon as the weather gets just a little nicer and I figure out where in the yard to put it. I'm thinking along these lines, with a slightly taller firebox with an expanded metal grate to get airflow under the wood and a metal top instead of cinder blocks. The cooking chamber on this also looks way narrow at about 16" square. I'm never going to do a whole hog, but I'd like room for some big whole packers or multiple butts.

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      • Dr ROK
        Dr ROK commented
        Editing a comment
        All I can see are the first two pics. Any way to see the rest of em?

      • The Burn
        The Burn commented
        Editing a comment
        Dr ROK - sorry, those are just screen caps I picked up somewhere along my internet search and used as an example of what I want to do. I just searched on cinder block pit I think

      • cfrazier77
        cfrazier77 commented
        Editing a comment
        This is a rocket stove design, just a really big one. It is very efficient at producing at lot of high heat with a little fuel. But, it is very difficult to regulate the temperature. It just runs full blast.

      I am so wanting to build a vertical brick pit. Large, insulated, mainly stick burning, but with a pellet burning option for overnight cooks so I can sleep.

      You are encouraging me to take more action.

      ​And, since I'm in Lake Charles, Beefchop, we can share ideas and results!


        I want to put this as my firebox door...


          PaulstheRibList, very cool, but slightly out of my price range and the whole point of building my own pit

          Most of the pics I've seen online of these types of pits, and a lot of the pits you see on Man, Fire, Food, haven't even had firebox doors


            I found a post on another forum from a guy who built this, and so far these are the best designs I've seen...Both designs call for the use of a separate fire pit, so you still end up shoveling coals and tending to the pit the way you would if you are cooking a whole hog. See pics below.

            I found some detailed plans for a similar pit, and this looks promising as well:


            We haven't moved into our own place yet so I haven't had a chance to build or test either of these designs.


              Aaron Franklin built a whole hog pit from cinder blocks on one of his videos. You might want to check it out, either on PBS or YouTube.


              • Beefchop
                Beefchop commented
                Editing a comment
                I watched that video a little while ago and was impressed. Couldn't quite make out how he'd built his pit...

              • gcdmd
                gcdmd commented
                Editing a comment

                I don't think he showed it step by step. Try emailing him at:

                [email protected]

              Beefchop, If you Google Worlds Largest Turkey BBQ Aneta ND. Those people have building a dry stacked Cinder(concrete) block grill in their City Park fo 50+ Years! Their home built Spit will hold 300+ Turkeys at a time! They hold it the 3rd Sat. In June Annually. People come by the hundreds then thousands. The City of Aneta is about 100 miles NW of Fargo and has a total population of +-330 People. I posted info on A/ R's site about this this fall. They also have a Facebook Page with lots of Pics, hope this helps, Dan


              • Beefchop
                Beefchop commented
                Editing a comment
                That's pretty sweet. It looks like they use the Texas open pit a la Walter Jetton (Meathead did a cool article on the AR site about him and his pit style). I love the idea of a good old fashioned community BBQ, or even a pig pickin' where guys work in shifts to prepare the meat and serve them to a large community/family gathering.

              I'll see if I can dig up some old pictures of when I built my recent smoker. I have several but on different computers.

              The set up is all cinder block and fire brick. The stone was something to appease the homeowners assoc. Did dress it up nicely but cost a fortune!

              This has an indirect smoker chamber with 3 levels and 20 sq ft of cooking surface; a cold smoker with 2 levels, a sausage hanger and 12.44 sq ft of cooking surface; and a 2 ft x 4 ft charcoal bed direct grill. On and off weekends, it took several months to complete (still have the top of the cold smoker to tile). There have been many lessons learned which I will be happy to share.

              It is more of a vertical smoker and I call it an indirect smoker because I have a couple of pieces of concrete which I place between the firebox and meat, sized to allow more or less heat, but also to deflect some heat into the area of the cold smoker.

              The whole thing sits on a 4" concerete, reinforced slab. My firebox is lined (bottom) with firebrick, as is the first 2 ft from the firebox to cold smoker chamber. LL#1 - use more firebrick to line the sides of the firebox. LL#2 - shorter distance between firebox and cold smoker - after the firebrick, there is another 4 ft to the cold smoker chamber.

              I ordered my firebox doors (1 in front, 1 in back) online, same with the 2 smoking chamber doors. LL#3 - would like more of an offset set up instead of the vertical and position such that I can take advantage of the more often southeasterly winds (varies by location, of course). I placed vent pipes out the back and at the top of both chambers. Provides good airflow but could be a little better. LL#5 - larger vent pipes...currently 3", should have gone about 5".

              The direct grill is lined with firebrick and near perfect. LL#4 - figure a way to get a little airflow when the stainless top is on. One half has the bottom 8" below the grating surface and the other side is 14" below the grate.

              Now, all said, I love the set up. I maintain a very nice fire by opening one of the doors. Depending on which block I place in the smoker, I maintain a 225F - 250F in the smoke chamber, or 250F to 275F in the chamber. I can, and have, maintained a 350F fire by removing the block, but typically don't try.

              Here are a few pictures...

              Finished product:

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              Most of my "build" pictures are on another computer. I'll see what I can pull together, if interested.

              Front of main chamber, lintel set and ready for firebox door.

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              Looking at the main chamber from the back, ready for the backside firebox door.

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              Front door in place.

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              The direct charcoal bed grill.

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              Finishing the indirect smoker.

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              Fire brick floor inside firebox.

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              First use - grilled steaks, make shift weber top but worked perfectly!

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              With the stainless tray/top.

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              • Beefchop
                Beefchop commented
                Editing a comment
                This gives me something to aspire to! Do you burn wood in the vertical smoker?

              • PitmasterAg
                PitmasterAg commented
                Editing a comment
                Yes, I typically only burn oak (post oak, if I can get it). I do throw in pieces of mesquite, pecan, apple or hickory, depending on what I am smoking. The amount of the non-oak depends also on how much of that particular smoke flavor I am looking for.

              Beefchop, the page shot below has the info on the Aneta ND's Worlds Largest Turkey BBQ, held annually the 3rd Sat in June for the past 50+ years, the sight of 250-300 turkeys on a charcoal fired Spit is amazing! Well worth a little Detour to come see! 👍👍👍👍👍. Dan


              • Beefchop
                Beefchop commented
                Editing a comment
                Thanks Danjohnston949 I'll check it out!

              • Danjohnston949
                Danjohnston949 commented
                Editing a comment
                You are Welcome, I have been to Aneta for The Turkey BBQ only once but it was the Damnedest Show I have ever seen! Good Food Too! 👍👍👍👍👍. Dan

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