How To Build Your Own Smoker From A 55-Gallon Drum, Part I

udsdoneresized.jpg
ProfessorSalt.com
Almost complete, minus paint job and a few fittings

In the world of competition barbecue, there's a saying: "It's not the cooker, it's the cook." That means that in a blind tasting, you can't tell if the end result was cooked in a modern commercial-grade smoker, or in an ad hoc, BBQ pit made from a stack of cinder blocks and a sheet of plywood for a lid. It really comes down the the cook's ability to control the heat and smoke inside a cooker.

Today, we'll show you how turn a 55-gallon steel drum into a very rudimentary yet effective home-made smoker called an Ugly Drum Smoker, or UDS for short.
Pros:
  • Appeals to the do-it-yourselfer who wants a save a little money. The cost of the build will vary depending on your resourcefulness and handyman skills. By the time you're done, you can easily spend $200 in parts for this DIY project.
  • Has a high capacity for its size.
Cons:
  • There's nothing pretty about it. Ugly isn't even its middle name, it's the first name.
  • This is a dedicated smoker. It won't work well as a grill.
  • If you pursue a more complex variation, you can spend as much money as Weber's 22.5" Smokey Mountain cooker, which has the same capacity as a UDS and is a ready-made, good-looking piece of equipment with an internet price of $350.
Why an upright layout instead of a horizontal layout that's sliced in half, you ask? By keep the metal cutting to a minimum, it leaks less air than a drum sliced in half lengthwise. Less air leakage means it's easier to control your fire and the temperature in your smoker.

Any wood-and-charcoal-burning smoker works on the principle of flame + airflow = heat. Your task as a pit builder is to create enough air intake vents and exhaust vents to give a clean, controlled combustion, and and a method to fine-tune those vents to regulate the airflow.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

angle grinders
angle grinders

The variety of wheels you can equip grinders with (wire, wire cup, stone, sanding, flapper, and diamond masonry joint blades) makes them highly versatile. Selectin the proper wheel is not only a safety measure but also lends to better control and efficiency. Some manufacturers label wheels with symbos to designate the right applications.

get your stuff right
get your stuff right

i just want to say the price is not well $200. I'm doing this for a project in my welding class and i have yet to met that my price is still at zero. you can get it way less than if you know the right people.

Diamond Saw Blade
Diamond Saw Blade

Nice article and well done too..I'll be looking forward for the article..Thank you..

DanGarion
DanGarion

Awesome article Shuji!  My UDS knocked it out of the park over the holiday weekend, best pulled pork I have ever made.

dru
dru

Very cool. Not as good looking as the WSM, of course. But cool, nonetheless.

Jebediah Webb
Jebediah Webb

Good stuff, I have been wanting to do this for ages. Looking forward to next article.

DanGarion
DanGarion

This all depends on if you are buying new parts or not though. If you are like me and don't want to deal with the possibility of a contaminated barrel it will cost you about $80 for a brand new unlined barrel. And if you don't have stainless steel nuts, bots, etc. around a normal person would have to buy them. But yes it can be done for less than $200.

DanGarion
DanGarion

How it looks is all relative to how you make it look... ;)

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

True.  During this series, I'll let you know about a kit soon to be available that's very good looking, and reasonably priced. It's really up to you to paint it nice, but other than that, this kit will handle the rest of the pretty. Stay tuned.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...