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
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.