Building The Ugly Drum Smoker

The ugly drum smoker is one of the easiest smokers to use! This smoker really is a ‘set and forget’ device. Your only real concern will be occasionally checking the meat. Once you have added the charcoal and it has been lit, the smoker can most definitely cruise for 10-20 hours, holding a steady low temperature. The drum is large enough to fit 2-3 packer briskets and at least 4 pork shoulders, so it can feed a fair few people…! Best of all it can be built for relatively cheap price!

Photo taken from: Chris Barry (Pinterest)

The general plan for building an Ugly Drum Smoker is to purchase your own bare metal 45 Gallon Drum here! Once you have received your drum, just a few days after purchasing, you’ll need to drill various holes around the drum and lid for hardware placement, air intake control and the exhaust.

The bolts will hold the cooking grate; the air intake consists of plumbing fittings, e.g ball valve and pipe nipples with caps, to allow you to control the air flow. The exterior drum canoe painted with a high-heat-tolerant spray paint. Charcoal is held in a ‘no-weld’ charcoal fire basket made from expanded steel, a charcoal grate and hex bolt legs.

The safest and easiest way to tackle this project, is to buy a new 45 Gallon Drum. When you buy a new drum, you know for sure that the drum hasn’t been used for anything toxic, and exactly what time of lining, if any, is inside the drum.

Before drilling, measure and make small mark where the holes will be drilled. The holes should be drilled with a step bit, large enough to allow 1/4 inch diameter bolds to fit through. Drill four additional holes, equally spaced, seven inches below the top of the drum, this is where the cooking grate will sit. Drill four additional holes 12 inches from the bottom of the drum, this provides the flexibility of adding an additional lower grate, which can be used for higher heat, or even for holding a drip pan or heat deflector, if you choose. Drill 3 equally spaced holes three inches from bottom, large enough for 3/4 inch pipe nipples and ball valve to be inserted securely.

Make sure you remove any left over steel shavings that might’ve fallen inside of the drum

Most of us don’t have access to a welding machine. In this case, we can do a ‘no weld’ charcoal basket made from a sheet of expanded steel bent into a circle and secured with bolts, flat washers and nuts. The circular based is then secured to a charcoal grate and the hex bolts are used as ‘feet’ to let the basket stand on the bottom of the drum.

The first thing you need to do after the hardware is assembled is to light an initial fire and season the new smoker. This charcoal basket can handle an entire 20 pound bag of briquette charcoal. The way to light this smoker is to fill the charcoal basket to around 90% full – depending on your taste, you can use chunks of smoke wood, this way it will smoke for an entire 12+ hours. Use a charcoal chimney and about 15-20 briquette. Light the briquettes using a match and crumpled newspaper under the chimney. After around 15 minutes the coals should be lit ad mostly ashed over. Dump these briquettes directly on top of the 90% full basket loaded with charcoal and unlit wood. Open all of the air intakes, secure cooking grate and close the lit. Insert your food, sit back and relax!