main dish, review

Old Fashioned Make-Shift Barbeque

A couple weeks ago, when I had my week holiday at the family cottage in Ontario, my Dad made a homemade barbecue (that’s him in the picture above). He didn’t make it because we don’t have one- in fact, he has a beautiful propane one that is fantastic with lots of mouths to feed. He made it because he could! And, as a food blogger, I had to get in there and get my fingers covered in charcoal to see how it was done.

And here is the make-shift barbecue! We propped it up on cement blocks to keep it away from the delicate green foliage. A steel barrel was cut in half and filled with a grate, holding the charcoal pieces. And a larger grate was balanced on the edges of the barrel to keep the meats/vegetables away from the heat. In this case, we did three whole chickens. Because really, if you’re going to make a barbecue you might as well cook the whole damn bird, right?!

The fantastic thing was that it cooked like a regular ol’ charcoal grill, the only difference was that there wasn’t a lid, so it took a bit longer to heat up. We began by pre-heating and allowing the barbecue to get nice and hot; then we put three spatchcocked chickens directly on the greased grill. Once they came easily off the grill, we seasoned them with a spice mix and turned them over.

The chickens developed a beautifully crispy skin, a smoky flavour you can only get from charcoal, and it was incredibly tender and moist. It was basically fantastic. And the best part? The actual cost of this DIY project was very little!


How to Barbeque Chicken on a Make-Shift Grill


– 1 steel barrel, cut in half length-wise
– 2 grills, one small one that fits inside, one larger one that sits along the barrel opening
– oil for greasing (about 2 tbsp)
– charcoal lumps
– 3 chickens, spatchcocked (see this recipe to learn how to spatchcock)- removing the spine of the chicken reduces cooking time and allows you to cook the bird more evenly, especially where there is only one source of heat
– seasoning of your choice


1. Put the smaller grill inside the steel barrel and top with the charcoal. Light them, then rest the larger grill on the openings on the barrel. Grease the top grill with the oil then allow it to get nice a hot!
2. Place the chickens, breast side down, directly on the grill. Cook for about 12 minutes, then test to see if you can easily remove it from the grill. If it lifts easily, flip the bird and cook on the other side.
3. Season both sides of the chickens with the seasoning of your choice. Cook for a total of about 20-25 minutes or until cooked through (the chicken drumsticks will also twist away from the body easily).
4. Remove from the grill, cut into individual servings (wings, legs, breasts), and eat!