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There was a time in the US when the dream of every post-WWII suburban Dad was to have his very own backyard BBQ pit/grill — a monolith of brick and asbestos that he would work nights and weekend to construct, an atomic-age hearth to gather his family around. That trend seems to have passed, and now most people opt for a cheap disposable grill or a high-dollar stainless steel leviathan. But you have to admire something as solid and reliable as built-in masonry, made by hand, that can grill the living hell out of darn near anything.

So what do you think? Is this a relic that should stay in the past or a forgotten DIY treasure that deserves a resurrection? Tell us in the comments.

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28 Responses to Hot or Not? Backyard Brick BBQs

  1. Wild Bill says:

    I had one of these at my first house that was built inside of a small pool house (small pool too!) Never used it except to burn some trash without invoking the ire of the authorities. Would much rather fire up the gas grill on the deck than use it. Took it out and patched the chimney eventually. I believe the time has passed for these grills.

  2. Reiver says:

    My grandparents had one of these in their backyard, surrounded by a nice poured concrete slab. It was at the extreme back of the yard… I guess for that “outdoorsy” feel away from the house.

    I helped my grandfather demolish it back in the mid 1980’s to make room for a garden shed. They didn’t have a BBQ after that, but I’ve always wanted one for my yard. Someday…

  3. Patrick Austin says:

    Not. I briefly considered building one, but was dissuaded by the guys at the local snobby gardening place. They told me to buy a Big Green Egg because it’d do the same things, only way better. I’m glad I did. Ceramic cookers are _awesome_

  4. PutnamEco says:

    Hot, when made to burn traditional fuels, Not when made to house a plain old gas grill.
    There has been a trend towards complete outdoor “kitchens” these days. Also seeing some differing types of outdoor cookers, like tandoori and pizza ovens.

  5. Wayne D. says:

    They are alive and well here in Phoenix. They have evolved somewhat to include a fridge, gas grill, and a stereo system. I am helping a friend build his right now. I’ll include a couple links.

    http://www.azcentral.com/style/hfe/outdoors/articles/2005/08/27/20050827kitchens0827.html

    http://www.azremod.com/outdoor-bbq-kitchens.htm

  6. Andrew says:

    Not for me. I’ve never had any experience using them but I prefer a simple charcoal fueled kettle.

  7. John says:

    It’s kinda funny this topic came up as I am considering building one. I used to help my dad get the coals going on ours when I was a kid. It was built next to the creek in our backyard, and the whole family would gather there in the evenings during summer months. This was in the 70’s and early 80’s before gas grills became “cheap”. The food always tasted better, although took longer to cook. Perhaps it’s a fond remembrance of my childhood that I want to relive, or just another project to be proud to build and tasty vittles that have a smoky flavor. Like everything, things get recycled by time. Look at the 60’s sunglasses and clothing that are back in style. I for one love the idea.

  8. Mike says:

    I wonder if you could modify the design of one of these with different chambers to do hot and cold smoking in it? That would certainly up its worth for me (well, if I had a yard in which I could build one).

  9. Justin says:

    I think I want one in the next couple years. The house is still under construction though. Never used one nor do I remember ever seeing one used. Just think they look good.

    Got any plans or different types you’ve seen? I have a gas grill now and have a smoker I use occasionally at work for pork. Are they normally a brick shelf for coals with the grill above it or are the metal stove inserts used?

  10. Justin says:

    oops, now I see the plans.

  11. Scott says:

    I’m in the “not” camp as well. It seems like all the Cable home improvemnent shows have persuaded the masses to build these structures. It’s usually in some really lame/characterless suburb where the homeowners tend to overcompensate the bland landscaping with waterfall structures and large built-in cooking areas. Tacky and excessive – like driving a Hummer.

  12. Rob O. says:

    It’s been probably 20 years since I visited my late granddad’s house, but he had one of these that he’d built as a youngster and I remember that we used to cook out on it during the summers. The thing was old when I was a kid so now it would truly be a relic, but we loved it.

    There’s something solid about these brick BBQs that makes most other grills seem a little amateurish. This would be a classy touch to my own backyard if I only had the space to dedicate.

  13. MikeT says:

    If barbecue is what you’re really into, this is probably the most cost effective way to get a high-end smoker. But if you’re just into grilling, you’re better off going to Home Depot to buy a grill. And if you don’t know the difference, then you’re a griller, not a barbecuer.

  14. Kelly says:

    Most of the old ones I’ve ever seen (and some of the linked plans) are just grills — they don’t give you any more cooking capability than a cheap hibachi.

    Now a brick oven or a brick smoker would be hot.

  15. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    Scott Says:
    It’s usually in some really lame/characterless suburb where the homeowners tend to overcompensate the bland landscaping with waterfall structures and large built-in cooking areas.
    ——
    Obviously not from barbecue country. Down here (rural Florida) every Bubba has to have decent pit to roast all the hogs and deer from hunting season. Usually nicer than the kitchen in his mobile home.
    Most of us down here, would rather sit around in the yard than to try cooking inside during the summer heat.
    Some of the best pits that I’ve seen are in the woods only reachable by 4 wheel drive.

  16. kdp says:

    Definitely maybe.

    Not in our current house, but later, when we’ve got the room to spread out a bit.

    I’ve been getting my ideas from the plans hosted by UTenn’s Ag Dept.

    (http://bioengr.ag.utk.edu/extension/extpubs/PlanList97.htm#Recreation Plans)

    If you’re planning any sort of agricultural or outdoor rec. structure, the whole site is worth a gander.

  17. Eric Dykstra says:

    if anyone wants to try out smoking meat without getting too financially involved take a look at the “Alton Brown Smoker”. TV Network’s food geek made smoker out of a large terracotta pot, a terracotta bowl, replacement grill and a hot plate. A visit to the local Home Depot will get you most everything you need. The biggest issue is keeping the temperature consistent, hot plates not being the most precise of instruments. I keep meaning to try it out, thus it’s on my long list of to-do projects.

    Here’s a link to a guy who tried one out: http://tinyurl.com/27b5ke

  18. kif says:

    Tandoors were mentioned earlier, now those are hot – like 900F. Seal in the juices. If you are going to build a back yard cooker, be different. Especially in BBQ country where “different” is well-tolerated. And get yourself added to the terrorist watch list in the process.

  19. Donny B says:

    HOT!!!!!

    How about adding a little more design into it….

    Own a Pool!!!!! Run some copper pip under the “burning plate” and you can use a small utility pump to slowly pump water from the pool through the copper and heat your pool at the same time you are slow cooking some Ribs.

    Also if you take time and desing it right it can double as a great fire pit………

    Def HOT

  20. Aaron81 says:

    Hot but only if its a serious grill meant for serious cooking.

    I’d love to build some integrated contraption that worked as a cold/hot smoker, charcoal grill, Infrared grill, pizza oven/tandoor and charcoal maker.

    one day……

  21. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    kif Says:
    If you are going to build a back yard cooker, be different. Especially in BBQ country where “different” is well-tolerated. And get yourself added to the terrorist watch list in the process.
    —————-
    It is amazing what people will tolerate for good food.

    It never ceases to amaze me, what happens when you mix rednecks,beer, food, and fire.

  22. Fred Mertz says:

    Not.
    Remember the one Ricky and me built?

  23. KZ says:

    Totally hot. I have a built in backyard grill and it’s plumbed to house natural gas. In the summer I do almost all my cooking outside. Next, am adding a two burner unit and a small fridge. Why the (&$&^*#$ would I want to cook inside when I can do it outside????? Loving the marinated portabello mushroom burgers…

  24. james b says:

    Not hot in the kitchen, hot in the yard.

    Hopefully I can build one of these for the summer house in a year or two. I want a smoker box with mortar covered firebrick piped to a smoking rack, and yawl got me thinking about a little oven behind the box with a pizza stone.

    The way I move around, one of these would be a waste where I live now. I’ll have to live with my grilled meat on a Weber charcoal grill with wood chips.

    BBQgrill

  25. Bob says:

    Hot, but only if it’s unique, not yet another stereo/fridge/kitchen combo that just brings the inside of the house outside. Since it’s an outdoor toy and since it’s custom, fixed construction, make it do things that can/should be only be done outdoors. Smoker, tandoor, pizza oven for sure, plus as Aaron81 pointed out, a charcoal kiln, and while you’re at it, a small foundry (forced air and charcoal or propane are hot enough to melt aluminum.) You can get high temperature castable refractory from a ceramic supply house and the Dave Gingery or Steve Chastain books will take explain the rest.

    If you want a permanent foundry but have to make it palatable to your partner, disguise it as a barbecue. Properly designed, you can drop a cutting board over the top of the foundry and nobody will be the wiser. Don’t skimp and try to cook food in the foundry however – that’s just asking for heavy metal poisoning; you’re crazy enough without it.

  26. Greg says:

    I can’t wait until the day I get my own house this is going to be high on my first project list. I do have to say though mine will have propane parts in it, along with a smoker. I never thought they went out of style but who knows.

  27. Ray says:

    It really deserves a resurrection! I am looking now for detailed plans on building a bbq pit myself. I love to smoke meats, and had a smoker with an offset firebox, but it has rusted out. Looking for a more permanent way to do my smoking. I’d like to build a pit like the “Wilber D. Hog, but having a hard time finding any plans.

  28. Janice says:

    Just bought a mid century home that has an old BBQ pit in the back yard. I’d love to bring if back although I haven’t a clue how to use it!

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