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UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)

The UDS is one of the most fuel efficient, easy to use, inexpensive to build, and ugly BBQ cookers out there, and it all starts with the drum.  If you’re luck enough to find a food grade drum with no liner, a thorough scrubbing and rinsing will get you there, but for anything else a really good hot burn is the only way to go.  Follow that with a good scrub and you’re ready to build.  There are many ways to build one, but they all have a few things in common:

1- A steel drum, the most common being the 55 gallon variety

2- Air intakes. located at the bottom of the drum

3- A charcoal basket, big enough to hold about 15lbs of charcoal

4- Cooking grids. For a 55 gallon drum the 22.5″ variety fit perfectly

5- A lid, either flat or domed

Here’s mine:

I started with a 55 gallon drum contributed by the mason contractor on my construction project.  If formerly held synthetic oil, had no paint and no liner on the inside.  The first order of business was a good hot burn.

Next, I sanded the outside and scrubbed out the inside.

and gave it a coat of Rustoleum High Heat paint, the 1200 degree variety.

I was lucky enough to find the lid from a 22.5″ Weber Kettle in the dumpster, but the fit wasn’t perfect for this drum.  I welded a steel strap around the inside and ran a bead of silicone caulking in the joint.  This make for a perfect seal.

Three wheels so it doesn’t rock on uneven surfaces.

I built the charcoal basket from expanded metal mesh, with 1/2″ bolts for legs and a bent wire handle.

1/4″ x 1 1/2″ bolts (three at each level) hold the cooking grids in place.  I put the first one 2″ from the top and the second one 6″ below that.

I drilled a hole and welded a 1″ threaded nipple at the bottom of the drum and piped the air intake to the top to make things a little easier to control.  I stepped it up to a 1 1/4″ valve so I could use my BBQ Guru adapter from my Stumps cooker.   Most designs call for additional air intakes to get things going quicker, then they get capped and the temperatures are controlled with a single valve.  Since I will be using this cooker almost exclusively with the Guru, the extra intakes are unnecessary.

Here’s the finished cooker.  On it’s virgin run, it held a steady 250 degrees for 16 hours on about 15lbs of lump charcoal.  Now that’s what I call fuel efficiency!

And finally, I brought it home and added it to the arsenal.

5 Responses to “UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)”

  • steve:

    I visited a metal machine shop close by and for $5 ,they sold and rolled me a 2″ strap in a circle and i self tapped screwed it to the proper height and sealed it with silicon and topped it off with my old Weber.I have so far smoked a 13 lb brisket,8 rack o ribs and 3 whole chickens with only 2 bags of Stubb`s lump charcoal and 7 6″ pecan logs and some mesquite and still probably have 4 hours of charcoal left over. I am very impressed with the R2D2Q..Yes i gave it a name.

  • Mister Bob:

    It conformed very easily to the shape of the barrel. I held it in place with ViceGrips and tack welded it. If I recall correctly, it was 18 gauge strapping, but it might have been 16 gauge.

  • steve:

    I am about to replace my 14 year old legless Weber 22.5 and use the Weber top for my UDS that i just cured last week.Did the steel that you used for the weber kettle`s seal put up much of a fight…or did it easily conform to the barrels shape?

  • Mister Bob:

    1- I did not use a diffuser, other than the pans I was cooking on.
    2- I have read that you can burn the liner out of a barrel, it just takes more heat and a longer burn. I have not done so personally, but you should read through this thread on the BBQ Brethren. It covers most of the pitfalls people have encountered and overcome while building their UDS’s. It’s a lot of reading, but I think it’s worth the effort. You’ll see how the design evolved through the years, and you’ll see some very creative variations of the UDS.

  • Brian:

    I have a couple of questions.

    1. Did you place anything in the middle of it to have indirect heat?

    2. If it has a liner on the inside, can that be burned off as well?