Drum Smoker Secrets: Boost Flavor & Performance Now

by Matt

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Ever been to a BBQ where the smoky flavor just knocks your socks off? That's the magic of a drum smoker, a BBQ game-changer that's stealing the hearts of pitmasters across America. But with so many types and brands, how do you choose the right one for that perfect brisket or those fall-off-the-bone ribs?

Drum smokers, also known as Ugly Drum Smokers, Barrel Smokers or UDS, are far from just a backyard trend. They're a testament to American ingenuity, offering simplicity and efficiency in one sleek package. Whether you're a BBQ newbie or a seasoned pro, you'll appreciate how these smokers make cooking large cuts a breeze, with their vertical space ideal for hanging racks of ribs.

Stay tuned, because I'm about to reveal a special tip that'll elevate your drum smoker game to competition levels. You won't want to miss this insider secret that could be the key to your best BBQ yet.

Drum Smoker on Patio with Serene Lake View, Equipped with Hooks and Thermometer for Outdoor Barbecuing.

Types of Drum Smokers

When exploring the different types of drum smokers, it's important to know that these devices offer variety to suit any BBQ enthusiast's needs. Ranging from build-your-own kits to premium, crafted versions, the market is abundant with options. So let's dive into the main types of drum smokers available.

DIY Drum Smokers: For those who enjoy a weekend project, a build-your-own drum smoker kit might be the perfect fit. Typically, these kits include:

  • A video tutorial or a guide
  • A parts list
  • CADD drawings for precise construction

Creating a custom drum smoker provides a sense of accomplishment and allows for personalization in terms of design and features.

Entry-level Drum Smokers: These are great for beginners. They're generally more affordable and ready to use straight out of the box. However, they may lack some advanced features found in higher-end models.

Mid-range Drum Smokers: These often come with extra features such as:

  • Improved air flow control
  • Sturdier build quality
  • Extra racks for more cooking space

They strike a balance between functionality and price, making them popular among regular smokers.

High-end Drum Smokers: For the serious pitmasters, high-end models offer:

  • Superior temperature control
  • Durable construction with quality materials
  • Additional accessories like side tables and wheels

They're designed for those who are passionate about smoking and are looking for a top-of-the-line experience.

It's worth noting that despite the type, drum smokers generally have a high capacity and can cook meats faster than other types of smokers. Whether you decide to build your own or invest in a premium model, you'll find that drum smokers can significantly enhance the flavors of ribs, brisket, and chicken, especially when employing the hot and fast cooking method.

Finding the right type hinges on budget, expertise, and the level of customization desired. Each type offers a unique set of benefits, so it should be easy to find one that matches your particular BBQ style.

Remember, when using drum smokers, the key is to maintain consistent temperature and smoke flow, ensuring your meats are cooked to perfection. With a little practice, even a beginner can produce results that rival those of seasoned pitmasters.

Assorted Grilled Meats Including Steaks and Kebabs with Vegetables, and Corn on the Cob on a Charcoal Grill, Evoking a Backyard Bbq Atmosphere.

Matt's Top Picks


Pit Boss Vertical Barrel Charcoal Smoker

Elegant Design with a Purpose: Not just a smoker that looks good with its mahogany finish—it's designed to stand up to the rigors of serious smoking sessions.

Space-Saving Vertical Build: Maximizes your cooking area without taking over your backyard, proving that great things come in tall packages.

Wide Temperature Range: Whether you're in the mood for brisket or smoked cheese, the smoker's expansive temperature control can handle it all.

Sturdy, Weather-Resistant Construction: Crafted for durability with a high-temp powder coat finish to stand against the elements, ensuring years of reliable use.

Precision Smoking Made Simple: Intuitive controls and adjustable dampers give you the reigns to the smoking process, for results that can make any BBQ lover swoon.

Efficiency at Its Finest: Optimized to get the most out of your charcoal, it ensures consistent heat and smoke for the perfect flavor with less waste.

Cleanup's a Breeze: Thanks to the thoughtfully included removable ash pan, you'll spend less time cleaning and more time planning your next BBQ masterpiece.

The Smoker of Choice for Aficionados: Whether you're a pro pitmaster or a passionate hobbyist, this vertical smoker is the powerhouse that will elevate your smoking game.

Open Pit Boss Champion Barrel Charcoal Smoker with Side Shelves and Vegetables on the Grill, Showcasing Portability and Ample Cooking Space in an Outdoor Setting.


Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

Effortless Mastery: Just hang your meat, set the coal, and let the cooker work its magic. Ideal for low-maintenance, high-quality BBQ on any day of the week.

Space-Saving Vertical Design: Its innovative vertical hanging method not only maximizes your cooking space but also ensures even, consistent smoke and heat distribution for the perfect cook.

Portable and Durable: Made with sturdy steel coated in porcelain enamel, it’s ready for any BBQ adventure, whether in your backyard or out in the wild.

Extended Cooking Time: Provides hours of uninterrupted cooking without the need to refill charcoal, making your BBQ sessions as relaxed as your weekends.

Complete Cooking System: Comes with hooks, rods, a charcoal basket, a grill grate, and a cover. It's not just a smoker; it's a comprehensive cooking experience.

Flavor Like No Other: Delivers a unique, robust smoky flavor that infuses meats, veggies, and even fruits, redefining 'delicious' every time.

Pit Barrel Cooker Setup with Accessories Displayed, Including a Cooking Grate, Hooks, and Charcoal Basket, Ready for Outdoor Grilling.


Build Your Own Drum Smoker

DIY Customization: Tailor your smoking experience to your taste. This smoker kit allows for a hands-on approach, giving you the power to customize your setup.

High-Temperature Capacity: Engineered to withstand the heat, this smoker is perfect for those who like to cook low and slow or hot and fast, providing versatility in your cooking methods.

Sturdy Construction: With high-quality materials designed to last, you can rest assured that your smoker is a reliable companion for countless BBQ sessions.

Spacious Cooking Chamber: Offers ample space to accommodate large cuts of meat or multiple items at once, making it ideal for big gatherings or meal prepping.

Simple Assembly: Comes with clear instructions for a straightforward setup process, so you’ll go from builder to smoker without a hitch.

Pure Flavor Delivery: Designed to optimize airflow and heat distribution, ensuring that every piece of meat is infused with pure, smoky flavor.

a Build Your Own Barrel Smoker Set with Lid Open, Showcasing Included Grilling Grates and Hooks, Ready for Outdoor Smoking and Barbecuing Activities.

Choosing the Right Drum Smoker

When hunting for the perfect drum smoker, your personal needs take center stage. First, consider cooking capacity. Do you typically host large gatherings or smoke hefty cuts? If so, roomier models like the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro emerge as frontrunners. This beefed-up smoker touts ample space and comes with wheels and a side table, boosting its mobility and convenience.

However, my experience suggests that beginners should lean toward simplicity. The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker, for instance, offers an outstanding 'set it and forget it' experience. Its user-friendly operation makes it a favorite among newcomers, and its fast-cooking abilities can't be overlooked. Especially relevant is its veteran-owned background, assuring quality and perseverance in its design.

Below are factors to consider for your drum smoker:

  • Cooking capacity: A higher-capacity drum means you can cook more food at once.
  • Temperature control: Improved air flow in mid-range to high-end models enhances temperature precision.
  • Mobility: Features like wheels facilitate easy movement.
  • Additional features: Think meat hangers, side tables, and tool hooks for extra utility.
Features Comparison
 Cooking Capacity
 Extra Large
 Temperature Control
 Additional Features & Accessories

In addition, don't overlook durability; it ensures your smoker stands up to the elements. I’ve found that drum smokers crafted from higher gauge steel not only last longer but also maintain a consistent temperature better.

Ultimately, the decision boils down to the type of smoking you plan on doing. For the fast and hot technique, a reliable and swift cooker should be prioritized. Conversely, if it's the low and slow method you're after, look for a drum with impeccable temperature control. Amid these considerations, it's evident that drum smokers are versatile allies in the quest for barbecue perfection.

Succulent Steaks Sizzling over the Glowing Embers on a Barrel Smoker, with a Spice-crusted Surface Ready to Tantalize the Taste Buds.

The Magic of Drum Smokers

Drum smokers possess a unique charm that I've discovered defies the conventional BBQ smoking experience. Their design simplicity coupled with efficiency makes them a favorite among enthusiasts and novices alike. Interestingly, the workings of a drum smoker align beautifully with the "set it and forget it" approach, which is a relief for those who might not want to fiddle with controls continually.

To understand their functionality, envision a cylinder providing a direct heat source from below while meat luxuriates above, bathed in smoke and steadily rising heat. It's this upward trajectory of heat that imparts an even cook and the much sought-after smoking effect. So, what makes these smokers click with so many people?

  • Effortless Operation: Assemble, light up, and adjust the air vents. It’s that straightforward.
  • High Capacity: They are adept at handling a substantial amount of food, crucial for large gatherings.
  • Quick Cooking: Compared to other smokers, drum smokers often cut down cooking time significantly.
  • Easy Cleaning: Post-cook cleanup is a breeze with minimal ash residue to handle.

Here's an anecdote; I once had a full brisket ready to serve in a record time that otherwise, with a different smoker, would have taken hours more. The credit goes to the drum smoker's ability to maintain high temperatures and cook "hot and fast," a method growing in popularity among pitmasters.

Transitioning from traditional models, drum smokers bring to the table a delightful combination of speed, convenience, and durability, all packed into a compact design. They encourage experimentation with a variety of cooking styles, whether it's a low and slow burn or searing heat required in a jiffy.

Notably, certain features elevate the drum smoker experience:

  • Air Vent Adjustments: The control over the air supply is pivotal in temperature regulation.
  • Durable Build: Quality models ensure longevity, weathering the high heat with élan.
  • Accessories: Options for customization add versatility to the cooking process.
  • Portability: Their design often suits outdoor activities perfectly.

Given these attributes, it's clear why drum smokers are creating a buzz in the culinary world. As I continue to explore the plethora of BBQ options, the drum smoker remains a trusty companion, versatile in its offerings and uncomplicated in its demands.

Whole Seasoned Chicken on Smoker Grill Ready for Smoking.

Benefits of Drum Smokers

When it comes to outdoor cooking, drum smokers offer a suite of advantages that appeal to both novice and seasoned pitmasters. I'm here to break down precisely why these cylindrical powerhouses are such a hit.

Firstly, the large coal basket in drum smokers is a game-changer. Once I light it, it requires minimal refueling. This means I can devote more energy to perfecting recipes or entertaining guests, without the distraction of constantly tending the fire.

Additionally, their high capacity can accommodate large groups with ease, which is particularly beneficial if you're in the habit of hosting BBQ events. Here's the kicker: not only do they have more room, but they also cook meals faster than many alternatives. If spending hours smoking brisket isn't viable, a drum smoker is a reliable shortcut to succulent, flavorful meats.

Speaking of flavors, these units masterfully retain moisture. As the juices drip onto the coals, they generate a smoky, humidifying mist that envelops the meat, preventing dryness and enhancing taste. The result? Gloriously tender and juicy pulled pork, brisket, and chicken with that classic smoky profile every time.

As someone who values convenience, I appreciate that drum smokers are user-friendly and produce consistent results. Whether I'm preparing ribs or a whole packer brisket, it’s done in a fraction of the time.

So let's tally up the key benefits:

  • Single lighting session required
  • Suitable for large gatherings
  • Rapid cooking times without flavor sacrifice
  • Moisture-rich cooking environment
  • User-friendly operation

Estimations for cooking times compared to traditional smokers highlight the drum smoker's efficiency:

Meat Type
Traditional Smoker Time
Drum Smoker Time
 Full Brisket
 12-16 hours
 6-8 hours
 Spare Ribs
 6-8 hours
 3-4 hours
 4-5 hours
 2-3 hours

Moreover, the adaptability of drum smokers is a testament to their design, accommodating everything from slow and low to hot and fast cooking styles. This flexibility allows me to experiment with various techniques and still expect excellent results. Transitioning to a drum smoker has streamlined my BBQ experience, effectively breeding confidence in every cook.

Insider Secret to Elevate Your Drum Smoker Game

Drum smokers have revolutionized outdoor cooking with their impressive efficiency, but there's always room to boost your smoking game. I've gathered some insider tips that can help you maximize the potential of your drum smoker. Let's dive in.

Firstly, managing airflow is critical. Adjusting the small air vent at the bottom of your smoker can make all the difference:

  • Open more for higher temperatures
  • Close slightly to maintain a low and slow burn

Remember, the oxygen feeds your charcoal, essential for temperature control. Furthermore, always keep the top vent partly open to ensure a stable flow.

Next, the 360-degree All-Round Heat Dynamics, mentioned earlier, can be your secret weapon for exceptional flavor. The key is to position your meats strategically:

  • Center larger cuts directly above the coals for even cooking
  • Place racks of ribs along the edges to utilize the circular heat flow

My drum smoker experience taught me to embrace the simplicity of setup. With models like the  Pit Barrell Cooker 18.5 PBX, it's as easy as attaching handles and igniting it. Then, adjust vents and let the smoker do its magic.

Maintenance shouldn't be overlooked either. Post-cooking cleanup is crucial to longevity, and it's effortless with drum smokers:

  • Remove ash promptly
  • Regularly inspect vents for blockages

Lastly, always preheat your drum smoker. It ensures the meat hits a hot surface, sealing in juices right from the start. By following these tips, you'll see a notable improvement in both the taste and texture of your smoked delights. Remember, practice makes perfect, and with each use, you'll get better at mastering the art of drum smoking.


Mastering the art of drum smoking isn't just about owning the right equipment—it's about understanding the nuances that make your barbecue exceptional. I've shared some of my best-kept secrets, from airflow management to meat placement, all to help you achieve that perfect smoky flavor. Remember, a drum smoker's simplicity doesn't take away from the culinary adventure it offers. Keep your smoker well-maintained and don't forget to preheat for that optimal taste and texture. Armed with these insights, you're now ready to take on any smoking challenge and impress with your succulent, smoky creations. Happy smoking!


Are drum smokers popular in competitive BBQ events?

Yes, drum smokers are gaining popularity in competitive BBQ, often seen in cookoffs where their ease of use and consistent performance are highly valued.

What is the ease of use like for drum smokers?

Drum smokers are user-friendly, perfect for both beginners and seasoned BBQ enthusiasts due to their simple design and straightforward operation.

Is a drum smoker well-constructed?

Yes, many drum smokers are built with high-quality materials, such as durable stainless steel with a protective porcelain enamel coating.

How easy is it to set up a drum smoker?

Setting up a drum smoker is typically quick and hassle-free with easy-to-follow instructions, offering convenience right out of the box.

What is the cooking capacity of a drum smoker?

Drum smokers generally have a high capacity, with some models able to accommodate up to 8 racks of ribs, making them ideal for large gatherings.

How easy is it to clean a drum smoker?

Cleaning is often a breeze with drum smokers; simply dumping the ash is enough, without the need for extensive rinsing.

Does the lid of a drum smoker get hot?

The lid of a drum smoker can get very hot during use, so it's important to use gloves or heat-resistant handles when operating.

Who should consider buying a drum smoker?

Anyone new to smoking or those looking for a low-maintenance, high-capacity smoker should consider a drum smoker. It's also great for those who prefer not to constantly monitor their cooking.

How do drum smokers compare to other types of smokers?

Drum smokers work on a simple air flow principle and don't require a water pan, unlike vertical 'bullet' smokers, making them distinct in design and function.

About the Author

Matt Barrell

Hi, Matt Barrell here. A BBQ and Smoked meat enthusiast. I love grilling and smoking meat, it is not just my hobby its my passion. My goal is to share my passion with as many other like-minded people as possible.