Manterest: Ugly Drum Smoker


Tired of having to rely on others to smoke your meats? Then do what I did and build yourself a smoker. An Ugly Drum Smoker to be exact. 55 gallons of smoky awesomeness.  

If you have an internet machine you can look up plans to build one of these modern marvels. Here's one now.  But do us a favor, don't buy a "kit" or a premade ugly drum smoker. This is America, we used to build things here like cars, toasters, and television sets. Now don't build anything anymore. We don't even build fires in our fireplaces. We have fake logs and gas ignition remote controls. So for the sake of this Great Land, build your own smoker, then take dominion over the animals of the forest and cook them on it.


Let's start with the drum. If you, like me, don't have 55 gallon drum guy, check Craigslist or Ebay. The key is to get a food grade or, better yet, a reconditioned drum. I bought a food grade drum for $20. My drum had a red liner in it. After purchasing the drum I read online that the red liner is almost as difficult to remove as Jerry Jones once he owns your team. I live in a moderately rural area, and know a guy who knows a guy who, for $60 bucks sandblasted the sucker down to the bare metal.

This is the majority of your drum battle. Next you'll need to purchase a drill bit capable of going through metal and a few nuts, bolts, pipes, etc. My drill bit on Amazon was in the $20 dollar range. All told I spent right at $120 on my UDS.  

I even made my own fire basket. That's right ladies. Most of these parts your can find at a tractor supply or even a Home Depot or Lowes. Stay away from anything galvanized or even zinc plated. You'll want stainless steel components due to the toxic reaction that galvanized has under heat. That's what the internet told me, so half of that is true. Some stainless items can be hard to find, but they're out there, just takes a little digging.


Your grills can be salvaged from old Weber 22.5 inch BBQ pits or purchased at Home Depot. The actual grill grates are 18.5 inches in diameter. I bought high heat, rust resistant paint. It comes in black and if you don't like that color, black is your other option. I opted for black. I bought a four inch thermometer that I attached to the front that is surprisingly accurate.

I also added two 1/2 inch black metal air vent pipes to the side plus a bottom air vent and castors so my UDS can roll around. It's like a mobile meat truck. I take it through the neighborhood throwing ribs at all the boys and girls.  

I also drilled 8 holes in the top for ventilation. Air = heat, and this can be a good thing for raising the temperature, a bad thing if your fire gets too hot.  


I started my smoking odyssey with chicken breasts and ribs. I've never cooked ribs before and, after this batch came out looking like charcoal, I have since improved my technique and flavoring with the alleged Johnny Trigg rib method using honey, butter, and brown sugar. You could put honey, butter, and brown sugar on a roofing shingle and it would taste pretty good. On a pork rib these ingredients combine to make it spectacular.

The chicken breasts were amazing, the after shot is below. I've since cooked a ham, chicken wings, three briskets, and two whole chickens. The limits are only your imagination, I have yet to take down a unicorn but I am getting closer each day. I suspect it will be delicious. I even added a second cooking grate to the drum to increase meat capacity.  

The fire, once going, will keep at a steady 225-250 for 12-14 hours without much maintenance. That's plenty of time to render even the most savage beast tender and juicy. I even smoked potatoes on the UDS, though a vegetable on the grate did seem to throw the device for a few minutes, in the end they came out perfectly wonderful and, once dolloped in sour cream, bacon, and cheese, edible.  

Posted on October 7, 2013 .