6 Best Drum Smoker Of 2023 For An Unique BBQ Experience
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A drum smoker is a popular piece of cooking equipment that imparts a distinct flavor to your food as well as thick smoke that can be used to make amazing barbecue.
They are easy to use and inexpensive, so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank on something that isn’t last forever like most other grills today.
Drum smokers combine the best features of other charcoal smokers with a cool appearance. They go by many names, such as “ugly drum smokers,” “barrel smokers,” “barrel cookers,”…
When you think of “drum smokers,” you might think they’re ugly and not something you want in your backyard or outdoor kitchen.
But this is not true! Drum smokers are incredibly useful in the backyard and can help you cook some tasty food even when you’re on your own.
Today, I have taken the time to review the 6 best drum smokers on the market to help you find the best option that meets your needs.
Let’s dive in!
What is the best drum smoker?
The best drum smoker is versatile, simple, and easy to use, making them ideal for anyone ranging from a BBQ novice to a competition BBQ pro.
Here are my top 6 picks of the best drum smokers to buy this year:
- Best Overall: 18.5″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
- Runner-Up Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Charcoal Smoker
- Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker
- Best For Pit Competition: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker
- Barrel House BHC 18C
- Best Affordable: Big Bad Barrel Pit Drum Smoker
1. 18.5″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
At a price of $400, the Pit Barrel Cooker is a great value for first-time and seasoned grillers.
The pit barrel cooker is built from a 30-gallon drum explicitly made to be a charcoal smoker; made with a finish made of high-quality porcelain enamel; it’s designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor grilling.
This is a great feature when you’re out grilling for hours and need the equipment to last through hundreds of uses.
And what is it about this cooker that makes it so popular?
First, you can leave the smoker to do its thing without babysitting it during the cooking process. The choice is yours!
Second, there’s also a lot of cooking capacity where you can either hang the meat on the top of the smoker or place the meat on top of the chrome racks.
And what really sets this smoker apart is that it comes at such an affordable price, so you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck.
Regarding cooking space, this smoker has a 240-square-inch chrome-plated cooking grate, so you can use it to put any food that is supposed to be smoked. It also has two steel hanging rods and eight stainless steel hooks for hanging meat during cooking.
By hanging the meat, you can maximize the cooking space since the width of this smoker isn’t enough to fit a lot of food in at once.
One thing unique about the design is that it allows you to cook your meat directly over a live fire.
If you’re used to an offset smoker or a pellet smoker, where the fire isn’t directly exposed to the meat you’re cooking, this is a big difference. It means you can get a more intense smoky flavor on your meat when it’s directly exposed to the fire.
A stainless steel charcoal basket at the bottom of this cooker is made to hold the charcoal. Not only that, but the design of this basket also allows you to put charcoal in and let the ash fall through to the bottom of the cooker.
To get that ash out, you either have to take the cooker, dump it upside down, and dump it out, or take a vacuum and sweep it out once the coals are cold.
Also, the Pit Barrel has a modification for the bottom of their charcoal basket, putting a plate on the bottom so you can lift the charcoal basket out and take all of the ash out with it.
For controlling the smoker’s temperature, there’s an air intake at the bottom on one side of the smoker, which is a tiny three-inch port with a cover that covers the port.
This cooker will initially burn at more than 400 degrees, but within the first half hour of cooking, it’ll settle into a steady temperature between 250 and 310 degrees.
With this temperature range, you can cook faster than you would with other smokers.
Unlike other smokers, which require constant monitoring and attention to the food being smoked, this smoker is designed to be a true “set it and forget it” type of smoker.
You only need to add charcoal to the basket, light it, place food in it, and then your meat can be cooked with minimal supervision.
It also comes with handles on the side that make it easy to lift and transport—a big bonus for moving between parties in different parts of the city.
You can check the price of the 18.5″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker here:
2. Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Charcoal Smoker
With a movable cooking grate and additional meat hangers, you can easily create your ideal smoking setup with the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker.
The sealed lid ensures consistent heat throughout the smoky process, while the airflow control system works with the removable ash pan to lock in tasty flavor for hours.
If you want to grill or smoke more than one thing at a time, this smoker is versatile enough to do it without additional parts.
Its large charcoal basket holds enough charcoal for all-day smoking, and once you’re done, clean-up is easy with the removable ash pan and porcelain-coated components.
The unique airflow control system and sealed lid allow for precise temperature management. This means you can always get the perfect amount of smoke flavor on your food, no matter what time of day or night you’re cooking.
The porcelain-coated steel cooking grates and meat hangers enable a custom smoking setup, so you can ensure that every piece of meat is cooked perfectly—even if it’s just for one person!
The oversized, eight-pound charcoal basket holds enough fuel for over 10 hours of smoking time, so there’s no need to refill it every few hours.
The removable ash pan and porcelain-coated components make clean-up easy, while heavy-gauge steel construction ensures durability you can trust.
With its large wheels and wagon-style design, this smoker is easy to move around your backyard or patio, so you can barbecue whenever you want—even if it’s not raining outside!
Plus, the rubber handle grip is easy to grab and stays cool to the touch, making this smoker portable and easy to carry around.
Finally, this smoker also easily converts into a charcoal grill for added versatility, so you can use it as a smoker grill combo anytime and anywhere.
You can check the price of the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum charcoal smoker here:
3. Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker
Gateway Drum Smoker sets the bar for charcoal smokers, offering quality at an unbeatable price. This efficient design is easy to use and delivers flavor you’ll love with every cook.
The smoker’s unique design creates more space for smoke and heat to circulate, so smoke rises directly to the food, which ensures that all sides of your meat or vegetables get a nice smoked brown color.
Plus, you can cook at temperatures between 250 – 325 degrees to get the most vaporization, which, combined with smoke, has a strong tenderizing effect.
This affordable BBQ grill and drum smoker is perfect for any backyard chef!
The Gateway Drum Smoker has three cooking levels to accommodate your needs.
The 22-inch plated steel cooking grate makes it easy to cook various foods.
The removable high-capacity fire basket allows you to easily add wood chips, charcoal briquettes, or wood chunks.
The lid hook inside the grill lid makes it simple to lock in food while enjoying the aroma of a delicious meal wafting through your backyard.
The fixed, center-mounted, 3-inch custom dial thermometer (50°–500°F helps you monitor the internal temperature accurately without having to open the lid.
The removable caster wheel kit allows easy mobility.
An air-adjusting exhaust pipe provides great smoke flavor by allowing hot gases to escape from beneath your smoker so that nothing burns up in flames!
Two welded steel handles make moving this smoker from place to place easy—especially if it’s raining outside!
This smoker is ready for use when fully assembled, with all accessories included!
You can check the price of the Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker here:
4. Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker
The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Smoker has everything you need to take the pit to the next level.
With a durable stainless steel design, the capacity to cook up to 40 lbs of meat at once, precision temperature control, and customization options, this is the ultimate BBQ drum smoker for professionals.
This smoker has an oversized charcoal basket that can hold enough fuel for over 15 hours of smoking time. This means you can get a delicious rack of ribs ready in no time.
The unique airflow control system provides consistent and precise control over smoking temperatures.
With a barrel-mounted temperature gauge with glow-in-the-dark accents, you can know exactly what’s happening when it comes to your smoker, keeping your food at the right temperature and preventing flare-ups.
The hinged lid with gasket for a tight seal and rubber handle grip is easy-to-grab and stays cool to the touch, while the large wheels make it easy to move around your campsite or garage without hassle.
Plus, its large wheels make it easy to move around while you’re preparing your food.
Finally, this smoker comes with a large ash pan, porcelain-coated components, and a drain cap so you can easily clean up at competitions without worrying about damaging anything inside or outside of the unit (which could result in unnecessary damage in your case).
You can check the price of the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker here:
5. Barrel House BHC 18C
If you’re looking for a small, convenient smoker for the backyard, look no further than the Barrel House Cooker 18C.
Its high-quality construction and simple design make it the ideal companion for outdoor cooking adventures, and it only takes up 18-inches of space.
Since this barrel smoker cooks hot and fast, you’ll get a lot of juicy, flavorful barbecue in 40% less time than traditional smokers.
The barrel cooker has a cooking capacity of up to 8 racks of ribs, 4 chickens, 15 lbs of brisket, or a 30-pound turkey! And if you’ve ever wanted to smoke your own meat on an open fire pit in your backyard, well, now you can!
It has an open grate that lets you quickly cook food on the grilling grates for a more traditional cooking experience while still getting simple and tasty results. The grate holds large cuts of meat with ease, such as a 15-pound pork shoulder.
This drum smoker also comes with all the tools you need to get started:
- A charcoal basket that can be moved around for different cooking options.
- A hibachi grill base that converts into a searing grill
There’s an ash disposal system that lets you dump out ashes quickly and easily every time you need it.
It’s got an elevation-based setting that allows you to “hang it & forget it” for 6+ hours—all you have to do is set it and forget it!
The Barrel House Cooker 18C cooks at 275–310 degrees, making it perfect for “low and slow” smoking for faster results.
You can check the price of the Barrel House BHC 18C here:
6. Big Bad Barrel Pit Drum Smoker
This Big Bad Barrel Pit can be used in 5 different ways, making it a unique drum smoker on the market compared to other smokers.
You can use it as:
- A table to place ingredients or utensils,
- a regular fire pit to operate independently for winter
- a BBQ smoker to cook meat on its adjustable rack
- an adjustable height barrel for child safety,
- and hang the meat like any other vertical smoker.
The smoker comes with 6 hooks that allow you to hang your meats easily; utensils (for direct grilling of your meats); a cooking grate; an independent charcoal bag; and a stainless steel hook for centering food for proper cooking.
With its convenient 2-piece design and collapsible storage, you can use it at parties, tailgating, beaches, and parks. You’ll only need to spend 1 to 1.5 hours assembling it, so it’s perfect for any time of year.
The included 6 stainless steel hooks, 3 utensils, an independent charcoal pit, and a standard stainless steel grilling rack, making this smoker/grill easy to use.
At the same time, the independent charcoal pit also allows you to cook pork ribs or hamburgers without having to handle the food.
The high-quality stainless steel grilling rack will allow you to cook fish and other specialty meats.
The Big Bad Barrel heats consistently to 225 degrees, the optimum temperature for smoking food without burning it. This means that no matter how long you leave your meats in the smoker, they will be perfectly cooked.
You can check the price of the Big Bad Barrel Pit Drum Smoker here:
What Is A Drum Smoker?
A drum smoker is a type of barbecue smoker designed to smoke food using direct heat. This type of smoker is an excellent choice for anyone who likes to cook outdoors and wants to do a large amount of cooking at once.
A drum smoker is made from a steel drum, which has a hole cut so that the meat can be placed on its rack and then smoked. The rack and hooks hold the meat using gravity, providing airflow through the holes in the drum’s lid. The smoke produced by this method permeates within the barrel and into the meat being smoked.
The smoker is built in a drum shape so that it doesn’t require additional space or other equipment. The smoker is also portable, so you can move it from one location to another if you need to.
How Do Drum Smokers Work?
A drum smoker uses a cylinder-shaped barrel and a basket or a tray placed right at the bottom to hold the coals; you can also add your wood chunks on top for a little smoke flavor. Most drum smokers have multiple cooking grates, which allow you to cook food at different positions.
The food is usually placed directly over glowing coals or hung from racks inside the smoker, about 24 inches above the coal pan.
The smoke from the charcoal pan rises throughout the cooking chamber with a cylindrical motion, creating a convectional smokehouse environment for cooking food.
The temperature inside a smoker is controlled by increasing or decreasing the amount of air entering your smoker through its intake vents.
Drum Smoker Vs. Barrel Smoker: What are the differences?
Drum smokers and barrel smokers (like the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker) are both vertical smokers, but they have a few key differences.
A barrel smoker uses a water pan (or “water bath”) to catch the drippings as they fall through the meat. The water pan is usually stainless steel and sits directly on the firebox.
A drum smoker doesn’t have a water pan because it doesn’t need one—it’s designed to smoke your food with solid and direct heat from the bottom. Barrel smokers are typically used indirect heat for smoking ribs or pork shoulders.
Drum smokers produce a stronger flavor as the meat juices drip onto your coals and are steamed back up to flavor your meat.
But barrel smokers have water pans that cover the coals, which means the juice drops can’t directly reach the flame during the cooking process.
Drum smokers have more cooking space, which is great if you plan to cook for a crowd. Barrel smokers have more limited space due to the water pan and small-size designs.
Drum smokers are more mobile and easier to move than barrel smokers. Because a barrel smoker has several assembly parts; otherwise, a drum smoker is simply a large drum that can be easily moved around.
Drum smokers work well for fast smoking thanks to the strong direct flame heat under the cooking grate or firebox.
So if you want to cook quickly and don’t have much time to prepare food, drum smokers are ideal because they allow you to get to work.
Pros And Cons Of Drum Smokers
Advantages of using drum smokers
Even Heat Distribution
The primary advantage of using a drum smoker is that it provides even heat distribution, which means food will cook uniformly.
This is an essential factor in ensuring the meat comes out juicy and tender. The heat is distributed evenly throughout the whole smoking process and is not concentrated in one particular area.
There are many different drum smoker designs. You can buy a pre-built smoker or build one yourself; Big Poppa offers some awesome DIY kits starting at about $150. They even sell several high-end competition models that are still under 700–800 bucks!
Also, you don’t need to spend much money on charcoal or wood for a drum smoker since they burn slowly. On 12 pounds of fuel, you’ll get 20-plus hours at 250 degrees.
Lightweight drums are easy to carry; one person can lift and move the set.
Some models also have wheels so you can roll them around, making them easily transported from one place to another.
Easy To Use
Drum smokers are super easy to use and require only a short learning curve. Just fill them with charcoal, add some wood chips or chunks and meat, put on the lid, and leave it for a few hours.
They’re also very easy to control the temperature in these smokers, which means you can cook pretty much anything with them.
Large Cooking Area
With multiple cooking grates arranged vertically, drum smokers are well suited for smoking larger quantities of meat.
They have a large cooking area, allowing you to cook more food at once. This is especially useful if you’re hosting a party or planning on smoking multiple types of meat.
Disadvantages of using drum smokers
They’re Not Insulated
If you’re cooking on a cold day, preparing meals may require more fuel and time.
The Temperature In The Smoker Spikes Whenever You Open Its Lid
Although the temperature quickly resets itself, this can be an annoyance whenever you open the lid.
Bulky Physical Size
Due to the bulky size, these smokers take up a lot of space and are not ideal for people who live in tiny homes or have limited outdoor kitchen space.
What to consider when buying a drum smoker?
Quality of materials
The quality of the materials used to make a smoker is important because it will affect how long the unit lasts. You want something that will last for years and withstand regular use in all weather conditions.
Depending on how you plan to use your smoker, you may need a smaller unit or one that can hold more meat at once.
If you’re just smoking for yourself and your family, then buying something small will be fine. But if you want to use it for parties or other events, get something larger to cook more food at once.
The price of a smoker will vary depending on the brand and model you choose. You can find models that are priced anywhere between $150 to $1200, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
If you’re looking for something affordable, I’d recommend you build the smoker with a drum kit from Big Poppa or buy yourself a small pre-built drum smoker that costs under $200, like a Barrel House Cooker or a Big Bad Barrel Pit.
If you’re looking for something more expensive with more advanced features, you can buy yourself a bigger stainless steel drum smoker like the Big Chief or an offset barrel smoker like the Lang.
The cooking area is the amount of space inside your smoker that you can use to cook food. Depending on what type of meat you want to smoke, this number can vary significantly between models.
If you’re only smoking a few racks of ribs or pork shoulders each time, I’d recommend you go with something smaller, like a small barrel smoker or drum smoker with a cooking area of up to 500 square inches.
If you want to smoke more meat at once, you should look for a large barrel smoker or offset smoker with a cooking area of up to 2000 square inches.
Do they have a thermometer and some kind of vent that you can use to regulate the temperature?
You should make sure that your smoker comes with good ventilation and temperature control; otherwise, it’ll be very difficult for you to get consistent results.
If it doesn’t come with its own thermometer, I recommend getting an external one so you can monitor the internal temperature of whatever meat you’re smoking.
If you plan on taking your smoker out of the house, then you should get one that’s portable with wheels. A large, stationary smoker would be too heavy and cumbersome to move around.
If you’re on a budget, then you should get a smoker that comes with all the features you need without being overly expensive. You can always upgrade later once your skills improve and you become more experienced.
The best drum smoker offers a better price than offset smokers and even grills, along with superior functionality and performance.
With their unique design, affordability, and advanced features, drum smokers present an awesome choice for many people.
There are many options out there, but these 7 options come with dependable quality, durability, and efficient cooking and have a good reputation.
It is up to you to decide which one you like best based on our reviews, top picks, pros and cons, and the best drum smokers’ reviews.