How to Make an Underground Oven (Dirt Oven DIY)


We are now prepared for the coming Zombie Apocalypse. And if the Mayans ever get it right, we’re ready for them, too. We wouldn’t have been back in 2012, but NOW we can be secure in the knowledge that we are going to survive. No, we haven’t stockpiled weapons, but we DO have a really cool underground oven! Yep, we can cook in the dirt. It’s no microwave, but it makes for very tender pork ribs, that’s for sure!
First we (and by we, I actually mean the men in the family) dug a hole in the ground wide enough to accommodate the grill racks. Ours was 5′ by 1½’ and 2½’ deep. They used bricks to lift the racks off the ground and leave room for the hot coals. Then the sides were built up with cinder blocks so it was completely lined all the way around. I’m more of a visual learner, so here you go:
The next step before putting the food on the racks and closing up the oven is to build a roaring wood fire in the pit. Let it burn high and hot (continually) for 2 hours and then rake out the coals until there’s no flame and it’s just coals and ashes under the racks. While the fire is burning, it’s time to prepare the meat! Just look at that beautiful rack of pork spare ribs! Make a tasty dry rub and massage it into those babies! Then wrap the racks tightly in at least 3 layers of foil, making sure there is no meat exposed. When the fire is out, place the meat on the racks. Be careful- it is REALLY hot in there!
So now that your fire is burned out and you put your foil-wrapped ribs in on the grates, it’s time to commit. There’s no going back after this point, so be sure everything is ready and in there! (We should have done our corn on the cob and beans in here, too. Next year.) Place a sheet of tin over the oven and then grab a shovel- it’s time to bury it all! Cover the whole thing in 4″ of dirt.
Now, walk away and enjoy some family time for 2½ hours. Then send down the manly men to go dig up meat from the ground. This is very cool to them and they are happy to do it. Just like they are happy to play with fire. (Don’t tell them, but next year when we roast the corn and put the beans in Dutch ovens to cook, they will actually be taking care of the whole meal.)
For more details, photos and an update, please visit my blog post link below!

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Nicole Burkholder

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Barbara Milan
    on Jun 30, 2017

    Let it burn high and hot (continually) for 2 hours and then rake out the coals until there’s no flame and it’s just coals and ashes under the racks.
    Do you "rake out" all the coals; or, do you just remove those that are burning? I don't understand what you mean by your above statement. I've never grilled before, so treat this ? as a sincere one.
    • JayJen Jackson
      on Jul 20, 2017

      I believe it means to rake the coals until there is no fire. Don't take them out. Just take them back and forth until there are no visual flame.
  • Valerie Mitchell Heron
    on Aug 12, 2017

    This is Interesting ! Question, why cook underground instead of useing a slow cooker. Is it the taste? What is the advantage if it
    • Cynthia
      on Apr 22, 2019

      We did a whole hog overnight one time and the men had such a good time. It’s just plain fun. And the meat falls off the bone. You have to wrap a whole hog in chicken wire and burlap (instructions can be found on Pinterest). Very tasty and great for a large gathering.

  • Karen Lee Fetterolf
    on Aug 26, 2017

    When you chose your site, how did you make certain that the fire would not be able to spread underground or would not damage under- or above-ground things?

Join the conversation

4 of 205 comments
  • Gerardo Jerry Ascencio
    on Dec 6, 2017

    I am going to try this project. Great POST ! ! ! ! How hot does it get in the oven/hole once you cover it up?
    • Nicole Burkholder
      on Dec 11, 2017

      I honestly couldn't tell you! It's a low and slow heat, so my guess would be about 250 degrees? We cook for several hours so it can't be much warmer than that. But we've never put a thermometer in there. :)

  • Gerardo Jerry Ascencio
    on Dec 11, 2017

    Great. I will be putting a thermometer into mine and will gladly post my results. Happy pit cooking ! ~! ! !
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