how to build a santa maria grill

How To Build A Santa Maria Grill (PDF Plans Download)

If your stomach is rumbling at the thought of a good barbecue, you’re not alone.

A fantastic way to make that barbecue is the Santa Maria Grill, one of the best innovations to barbecuing to ever come out of the United States – the Santa Maria Grill.

What Is A Santa Maria Grill?

Born in the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara California (Santa Ynez Valley), the Santa Maria Grill produces smokier-flavored meat contrary to the Argentine grill. 

The Santa Maria Grill is an open fire pit design utilizing a mechanical vertically moving grill that can be raised or lowered via a hand crank to provide varied cook heights from the heat source below it. The adjustable grill grate allows you to control how slow or fast the food cooks and in turn creates a more smoky flavored meat.

The Santa Maria grill is also great for camping, as well as cooking with pots and kettles in the open. It is definitely on the top of the list of fantastic grill designs.

So, if you like to build weld, and fabricate and know how to use a measuring tape and metal cutter you can learn how to make a Santa Maria grill. Continue to read on because we have complete plans and information for you on how to build your own Santa Maria open fire pit grill.

Building a Santa Maria Grill

We’ve made it easy to build your own using the Santa Maria Grill Plans, a downloadable PDF that is affordably priced at only $12.95. These plans will make it easy for you to fabricate your own grill, and if you want a grill that’s bigger, you can make the necessary adjustments to these plans to get the grill that works best for your situation.

Purchased Parts for Grill:

Below is a list of some of the items that you’ll need for your fabrication. Most, if not all, of these supplies, can be found at a good hardware store.

Bill of Material Steel for How To Build A Santa Maria Grill

  • 10 GA. SHEET METAL 24” X 43 ½”
  • 10 GA. SHEET METAL 9 ¾” X 27 ¼”
  • 1 ½” SQUARE TUBING 1/8” THICK WALL X 18” LONG
  • 1 ½” SQUARE TUBING 1/8” THICK WALL X 21 ¼” LONG
  • 1 ½” SQUARE TUBING 1/8” THICK WALL X 20” LONG
  • 1 ½” SQUARE TUBING 1/8” THICK WALL X 21 ¼” LONG
  • 1 ½” SQUARE TUBING 1/8” THICK WALL X 19 ½” LONG
  • 1 ½” SQUARE TUBING 1/8” THICK WALL X 27 ¼” LONG
  • 3/8” X 1” FLAT BAR X 1 ½” LONG
  • 1” X 1” X 3/16” ANGLE IRON X 23 ¾” LONG
  • 1” X 1” X 3/16” ANGLE IRON X 26” LONG
  • 5/8” DIA. ROUND STEEL X 1 ¼” LONG
  • 3/8” DIA. ROUND STEEL X 25” LONG
  • 3/8” DIA. ROUND STEEL X 23 1/8” LOG
  • 3/8” DIA. ROUND STEEL X 23 ½” LONG
  • ¼” X 1” FLAT BAR X 41 ¾” LONG
  • ¾” DIA. ROUND STEEL X 32” LONG
  • 3/8” STEEL PLATE X 4” DIA.
  • ¾” I.D. DIAMETER SET COLLARS  ( PURCHASED PARTS HARDWARE STORE)
  • ¾” FLAT WASHER ( PURCHASED PARTS HARDWARE STORE)
  • SASH CHAIN X 18” LONG  (SEE PURCHASED PARTS)
  • 1/8” COTTER KEY X 1-1/2” LONG (PURCHASED PARTS HARDWARE STORE)
  • ¼” X 1” FLAT BAR X 4” LONG
  • 5/8” DIA. ROUND STEEL X  5-1/2” LONG
  • 3/8” PLATE STEEL 2-1/8” X 4”
  • 3/8” ROUND BOLTS CUT TO USE AS STUDS X 1” LONG FOR HOLDING SASH CHAIN

Recommended Tools To Build a Santa Maria Grill

We’ve offered suggestions for buying through Amazon in the above links, but you’re fine buying from another source or another brand.

DIY Santa Maria Grill Fabrication Notes

When building your Santa Maria Grill, here are some things you should keep in mind:

  • The grill in this design is made with a grill surface of 24″ x 26″, but one can easily build to different specifications by simply changing some dimensions. If done correctly, this shouldn’t hurt the integrity of the working of this grill.
  • Grilling surface height is 29″, which is pretty standard to most kettle-style grills. If desired, this height could be altered by simply changing the length of the legs.
  • The wood/charcoal firebox is 8-1/2″ high. It holds the wood/charcoal approximately 5 inches below the grilling grate when lowered all the way. If you desire to have a larger capacity wood firebox, simply change the dimensions of the firebox.
  • The grill is raised and lowered by cranking the handle. The height of the grill in the full-up position is approx 9″ above the top of the firebox, or 14” above the grate for coals/wood fire.
  • PLEASE NOTE: ON THE ASSEMBLY OF THE RAISE AND LOWER SHAFT – leave all parts loose until assembly is complete and all parts are located before welding.

Santa Maria Grills, Prebuilt, no DIY

Even with this amazing plan, not everyone is up for the task of building their own Santa Maria grill. For those of you who aren’t interested in a DIY project and just want to get cooking, there are still a few options.

Amazon has an adjustable Santa Maria attachment for the Weber 22” Kettle Grill or a similar-sized round grill or fire pit.  It has great ratings, and its heavy-duty construction means it’s sure to last for some time. With the addition of a rotisserie feature, this add-on Santa Maria Grill and Rotisserie System is perfect for those discerning Santa Maria grillers who aren’t interested in building their own.

A portable Santa Maria Grill model available Amazon is ideal for those who like to camp or need a little more mobility with their grill, and it also comes with a rotisserie feature to offer more cooking options

In addition to looking at Amazon, you can shop for Santa Maria Grills at specialty shops. An even better route is to look at your local marketplace listings and find a local fabricator and welder that could build one from our plans.

Choosing a wood for your Santa Maria Grill

If you’re looking for an authentic experience with your Santa Maria Grill, red oak is the wood of choice in central California, especially along the coast where Santa Maria gets its origins.

Red oak is a hardwood known amongst barbecue enthusiasts and professionals as the “King of Grilling Hardwoods.”  It is also the top choice for grilling and smoking beef and lamb.

The traditional method of cooking on a Santa Maria Grill is pre-burning the red oak in the grill for at least 30 minutes before adding meat, adding more fuel if needed. This length of pre-burning creates a bed of red oak coals required for the even, consistent heat that results in outstanding barbecue.

If you can’t find red oak, other woods and fuels used commonly are valley oak, pecan, and hickory.

Keeping your Santa Maria Grill clean

The Santa Maria Grill isn’t tricky at all to clean, and you always want to cook with a clean grill when using this type. It’s important to clean yours when it cools down, so it’s ready to go for your next barbecue. When you do a big cook, it isn’t uncommon to have ashes fill the grill bed. Here are a few steps for an easy clean, once the grill has cooled:

Step 1: Using your grill brush, clean off the cooking grill in the fully lowered position.

Step 2: Raise the grill to the fully raised position and give a brush to the underside of the grill.

Step 3: Scoop out the ashes and discard them – if you have a garden or lawn, you can sprinkle the ashes to act as a fertilizer.  But only sprinkle sparingly as too much can cause too much change to the soil pH. Spread in small amounts; ash helps add potash and other compounds to the soil to support plant growth.

Step 4: Give the basin a brushing if you like, to free anything that may have dripped down and not burnt off.

santa maria grill tri tip steak
Beef Tri-Tip Steak for Santa Maria BBQ

Things you can cook on a Santa Maria

The beauty of the Santa Maria Grill is that you can cook pretty much anything that you cook on a traditional grill. However, there are things that separate the Santa Maria Grill from the others, making it a few better grades than the standard setup. The adjustable platform is perfect for grilling a variety of foods.

Santa Maria Grills are known for being the best for cooking tri-tip steak. However, the grills are so versatile that one could cook just about anything on them

The tri-tip steak cuts from the tri-tip roast, which is part of the bottom sirloin cut (also called the sub-primal cut). As you can see on the chart below, the bottom sirloin is located right below the highlighted top sirloin section, between the short loin and round.

Santa Maria Grill Dry Rub Recipe

Tip-dry rubs are excellent on slow-cooked meats on the Santa Maria Grills.  Try this incredible dry rub recipe:

  • 6 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro
  • 3 tsp garlic
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Santa Maria Grill Dry Rub Cooking Directions:

Step 1: Pre-start wood or natural charcoal to get nice and hot (remember, at least 30 minutes)

Step 2: Moisten meat with a tiny sprinkle of water if the meat surface is not moist

Step 3: Mix ingredients in a large bowl and massage into the meat. Wrap meat in foil

Step 4: Let sit for 30 minutes

Step 5: Place meat on the grill and lower to sear meat.

Step 6: Slowly raise meat over time until the desired level of cooking is achieved.

Remember, for the best meat, let it sit for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Santa Maria Grill Final

This is one of my favorite ways to grill food. The versatility in changing the grill distance above the coals makes for a perfect grilling experience. The Santa Maria Grill is one of the smartest cooking innovations ever coming out of the United States.

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ABOUT GizmoPlans

Hey, this is Brian and Gene Luoma. Since the two of us have pretty much been self-employed our entire lives, we have a lot of experience designing and creating all sorts of DIY projects for businesses and homes—projects that have helped us make money or save money through the years!

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