Host A Killer Backyard Cookout This Summer With This Unconventional DIY

When we first stumbled upon stories about people converting caskets into BBQ grills, we figured it was the definitive bit of evidence that good flavor and good taste are different pursuits. You expect this sort of thing at Halloween, of course, and we've also seen them built for sports tailgating as well. But it wasn't until we saw it done by a pro that we first thought maybe this wasn't a grave lapse in judgment but a DIY portable grilling station to die for. A Filipino casket seller named Vincent Doletin was, despite his profession, gifted a casket by a friend and spent two days turning it into a combination grill and cooler (via Coconuts Manila). The results are impressive.

But, as is the way of caskets and grills everywhere, it is the contents and not the container that people are most concerned with. The New York Post's video about Doletin's creation starts with a scene of the closed casket perched on a stand and smoking slightly. The viewer might be concerned about the afterlife fortunes of the casket's inhabitant, but Doletin soon opens it to reveal tuna and pork cooking atop what appears to be a solidly made grill built into the casket. The brief video description makes a point of describing the casket as "unused"... more than its next owner will be able to say.

Ways to make a casket grill

You could certainly build a fake casket around a grill, the way some people surround grills to make them look like Star Wars TIE fighters or V8 engines. Given the average cost of real caskets ($2,000 to $5,000, according to Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance), building a fake one might not be a bad idea. But what we're talking about here is an actual casket converted for use as a grill, and for that approach, we have a few options to consider.

You could simply make the casket itself into the body of the grill, but there are some reasons not to. Stainless steel caskets are typically made of a lighter-gauge steel than grills, and any finish added to the steel should be removed or covered with high-heat paint to eliminate potentially dangerous fumes. Protecting the deceased from volatile organic compounds in case of a fire is probably not the subject of much urgent regulation. Since stainless steel is already less effective at holding heat than other grill materials, a better approach would be to place or build a grill inside the casket, as Doletin appears to have done. However you approach it, investing two days (as Doletin did) or more for a joke might be a bit much, but at least it's more manageable than buying, renovating, and living in an old funeral home.

Managing the temperature in your casket

You'll want your grill to hold heat in, and you should be able to control airflow and temperature to some degree. The former could be accomplished by lining the casket with fire bricks of the sort that you see lining wood-burning stoves. A reflective barrier is also a good idea for keeping heat in, though steer clear of foil and other forms of aluminum, which can start losing its strength at around 400 degrees.

Airflow might be more challenging with a multi-layer grill-in-a-casket design. You can prop open the lid a little, and it might not be a bad idea to include the sort of smokestack you'd see on a smoker. You'd need to have this welded to the casket lid yourself; smokestacks are uncommon on caskets and coffins, since most of us like to believe we won't be managing many fires in the afterlife. Hope, as always, springs eternal.

Some casket-to-grill tips

Stay away from coffins. This is good advice in general, and great advice when you're building your own grill. Opinions differ, but coffins are generally six-sided, flat-topped vessels for burial, while caskets are rectangular, more elaborate (and expensive), and often oriented toward viewings. Whether viewings are a good idea remains to be seen, but for obvious reasons a metal casket will serve you better as a grill than a typical Dracula-style pine coffin.

Whether a casket grill is right for the deck outside your goth bedroom is a question you must answer for yourself. Will a casket grill lift your friends' spirits, or will this idea haunt you socially for many years to come? One thing is certain: You're not likely to need both a grill and a casket at once, at least for your own personal use, and odds are you'll need the grill first. And if it turns out to be a really good grill, pass it on (empty) to your loved ones and consider another option for yourself... perhaps being buried in an old sleeping bag rather than a coffin like writer Edward Abbey, who focused instead on his wake's menu: beef, chilis, beans, and corn on the cob. Much of Abbey's plan turned out to be quite illegal, but the point remains: A grill is more useful to the living than a casket. But if you have a macabre sense of humor, you can have both.