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Sunday, May 4, 2008

My UDS so far...

This is my latest project....a Drum Smoker.
I started out with a barrel.

Added three 3/4" nipples with caps and a ball valve for air intake around the bottom of the barrel.....This system has been working great on my smokehouse.

The expanded metal coal grate sits on long bolts...above the air intake.
The grate is used to hold wood splits or the charcoal basket.

The cooking rack sits about 2 FT above the hot coal is supported by long bolts.

I burned the barrel and sanded it down, then added the thermometer.


The exhaust holes.....I drilled 8 holes for the exhaust, the plugs just screw right in.

I painted it with some high heat grill paint. I need to add a few things, but it is usable right now.

I added a simple table by using shelf brackets...

I had a piece of wood on hand and just rounded the edges and cut the curve out with my little hand held jig saw. Then sanded, stained and coated it with a weather protectant. Added hooks for hanging things..

I also made a coal basket that sits on the hot coal grate in the bottom of the cooker... I can fill the basket with about 8lbs of lump charcoal and it lasts for hours. So far I have not had to add more coal during a smoke.
Here is how I made the basket.... Hot Coal Basket

It's final resting place...

Some apple/olive smoked cornish game hens and twice baked potatoes

Ribs and scalloped tatoes on the drum...

Some homegrown bacon wrapped shrimp....

Surf and turf...crab legs, ribeye and corn....

More pictures of the drum.. My Drum in Action

I'm getting a lot of use out of the drum. :)
Wanted to add......
I've had a lot of inquiries as to where to find a food grade drum. One place to check might be Craigslist if you have that in your area.
Orchards are another option....
A friend from Michigan contacted me with info about his source. He has found good food grade barrels at an orchard. They were used for cherry concentrate. (Thanks for the info Mark!:))
I'd love to hear about any smokers folks build. Please feel free to contact me.


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Anonymous said...

That's beautiful! On of the best home smokers I've seen.

cowgirl said...

Thank you Becks!
I couldn't decide on a color scheme that wouldn't stick out too much. So I went for the little black dress look. lol

I really love the cooker, it works great. :)

Anonymous said...

Was the drum new or used. If used what was it used for??
BC Mike

cowgirl said...

Hi BC Mike,

The drum was contained grain....Soybeans, corn and oats.
I still burnt the paint off the outside and sanded any rust spots.

Matt said...

Did you leave the bottom on the drum? If yes, how do you remove the ash? Do you just flip it over? Does the one 3/4 inch ball valve provide enough airflow? I see you have the two others capped...that's why I ask. What size holes did you drill on the top to fit what size plugs. It is a fantastic setup, and I think I am on my way to start building one myself!

cowgirl said...

Hi Matt!

The bottom is still in the barrel. You can turn it over and dump the ashes. I just wait until they are cold and use my shop vac to clean it out.
I'm able to do several smokes before the thing needs cleaned.

There are 4 air inlets total around the bottom. One is the 3/4 inch ball valve and the other three are 3/4 inch nipples (threaded pipe nipples)
I keep them all closed when not cooking...when I cook, I uncap as many of the nipples as I need for air flow and tweak the air intake by using the ball valve.
You could probably just use all pipe nipples and skip the valve if you wanted to.

The holes on the top of the drum are 1 inch...... 3/4 inch plugs will screw right into the holes.

My lid didn't have any holes at all, I drilled these around the edge for more even cooking.

Some lids come with a 2 inch bung hole...these work fine, you just need to use something for a stove pipe.

Hope this makes sense Matt, please feel free to contact me.

and Thanks for the compliment! I'd love to see your smoker when you build it! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Cowgirl

I'm an Aussie wife who loves to cook and have fallen in love with the taste of smoked meats and the idea of smoking my own. My hubby loves to go trout fishing lots, but I don't like eating it, BUT I love smoked trout. So guess what my husband is willing to make me a smoker and I absolutely love your design... It's so simple and it's going to be a major talking piece at our next barbie... I can't wait... Thanks for everything hopefully I'll start a trend here in Australia... keep up the great work... Cheers Cindy

cowgirl said...

Thank you Cindy!
I really love my drum smoker.:)
It's an easy welding involved.
There are so many things you can cook on it! Trout would be great!

If you have any questions while building feel free to contact me. Also, I'd love to see the smoker when you get it finished. :)

Cheers, Jeanie

LT72884 said...

I am trying to build one of these and i could use some help. Im not sure what size of air intake valve to use and how many vents i need at the bottom. Also what are the three 3/4" nipples with caps? What are they used for.



cowgirl said...

Hi Matt!
There are 4 total air inlets around the bottom. I use 3/4 inch pieces of threaded pipe (pipe nipples) in three of the holes and one 3/4 inch ball valve in the fourth hole.

When not in use I screw a cap onto these nipples to close.
The ball valve is for tweaking the air intake.

All four holes are located underneath the hot coal basket..providing air to keep the coals going.
The heat/smoke rises and exits out the holes in my lid.

Hope this helps!!
Let me know!

Jay said...


Where might I find one of these drums? I'd love to do this project, but haven't the slightest idea where I can get one to start



cowgirl said...

Hi Jay,

I live pretty much in the middle of nowhere and happened to have several drum on hand filled with grain.
The drums need to be food grade so you won't run into any health issues from smoking in them.

I'm not sure where you live but have talked to folks that have had good luck finding drums through Craig's list. Do you have that available in your area?
Also some larger restaurants might carry them or food factories? Just guessing. I've talked to folks that found barrels that used to contain syrup or molassas too.

Hope you have good luck Jay. Let me know if you need any help when you start building too.
I'd love to see your cooker when it's finished. :)


Jay said...

Thanks for the quick response. Checked Craigslist and all that were available were plastic. I'll keep my eyes open. I don't even know HOW to explain where I live. It's tropical South Florida? There are several farms, horse stables and markets around that may have some. I will check. Thanks again! And when I get the build done, I will let you know!


cowgirl said...

You're welcome Jay, Good luck with your hunt. Sounds like you live in a nice area!
I know of a few smokers that live in Florida, if you can't find one, let me know. Maybe they would have ideas.

Good luck to ya, can't wait to see your pics. :)


BBQ And Smoking Junction said...

Hi Jeanie

I got my UDS done. Not bad for a first one. Ribs turned out great. Next drum i will bring the welder out and do a bteer one. Thanks for your pics and info.


cowgirl said...

Your drum looks great Rick!! I'm glad to hear you like it so far too. :)
I tried to post a message on your blog but it didn't take. I'll try again. :)
Great job Rick, thanks for letting me know how it turned out.


Max said...

Hello...Im building my UDS tomorrow and I have never smoked any meat before. Just wondering what's the longest you have smoked on the drum? What meat was it and how heavy? Im really excited to start smoking and your website is a great help and inspiration.
Thank You!

cowgirl said...

Hi Max,

The longest I've smoked is about 9 hours but I know others who have gone longer on their drums.
It was a pork shoulder...not sure what it weighed, it was a homegrown home processed one.

Chickens are really tasty on the drum too. ... OK so are shrimp and steaks. lol

Good luck with your drum, I'd sure be interested in seeing pics of it when you get done..if you get a chance. :)

Thanks for checking out my blog too!


Max said...

Me again...Got another quick question. Was grit sand paper did you use? This is one of my first projects and I am not very familiar with sand paper. Also could you use expanded steel for the cooking surface as well? I am on a budget so I was trying to find cheap alternatives. Thank you again for your help and a great blog. Cannot wait to try some out on the UDS

cowgirl said...

Hi Max, Hope your project is going well for you! :)
I started out with 60 grit paper.. the lower the number, the grittier (or harsher) the sandpaper will be.
If you get the rust and paint off and want a smoother look, you can use a finer sandpaper to finish it.

You CAN use expanded metal for the cooking grate too! Just cut it to fit your drum.
You will need to season it before cooking on it though. Just spray or rub it with cooking oil or lard.. place in your drum with a fire going, then let it cool. Re-season if needed. Like seasoning cast iron.
I use expanded metal grates in my horizontal smoker and on my tractor rim cooker. Works great!!

If you want to save more money, you can skip the ball valve for air intake.. just drill your holes and use magnetic strips to cover them. Anything will work as long as you can cover them or adjust how much air you let in.
(hope that makes sense. lol )

Good luck to ya and let me know if you have any questions Max... I'll at least try to answer them. :)


Geoff said...

I have never used a smoker before, do you have any links or write ups on "smokers for dummies"?

Also, could you use wood in that smoker, maybe put a door in the side of it??

cowgirl said...

Hi Geoff,

I do not know of any write ups on smokers but in my opinion vertical charcoal smokers are pretty simple to use for beginning.
I'd be glad to help you with more information if you want to contact me.

I think wood would work in the drum as long as you burn it down to hot coals before using.
The cooking grate is only 2' above the fire grate so a live wood fire might be too hot to smoke the food, it would be more like grilling.

Also I've heard of people making doors in their drums but sometimes they have problems getting the drum door to seal well.
Losing their heat and smoke.

Just something to think about if you build one.

Hope this helps Geoff, let me know if you have any more questions. :)

Lanre Coke said...

As we say here in Jamaica "Tour smoker is irie mon" I have 2 drums like your and I was thinking about buying a smoker, and then this morning the idea came to me to mae a smoker out of these drums. I went online and searched and came to your site. I thank you for your detailed info as I will be making mine on Thursday as I have my own machine shop. One quick question though, how long would I need to smoke a whole chicken in the smoker for.

Pastor Lanre Coke
Jamaica West Indies

its smoking time yiipeeeee thanks to cowgirl's country life

cowgirl said...

Hello Pastor Coke,
Thank you for the kind words about my smoker. I appreciate that.

Chickens have been taking between one to two hours in the drum...depending on the size.
I like the spatchcocked chickens the best. they seem to cook fast and even.

Whole chickens do just fine though.

One thing about your drums, they need to be food grade or drums that have not contained anything that would harm you. Burning the drum before use is recommended..also Season it like you would a cast iron skillet.
Spray it with oil or rub it with oil, then light a fire in it to season it before use.

Hope this makes sense...sometimes I am not very good at explaining things. lol
Feel free to contact me with any questions.

I'd love to see your smokers when you get them finished if you have the time.

Good luck and Thanks again Pastor,


Anonymous said...


Found your blog through google and I have to say that it was extremely insightful.

I was wondering if you might have a detailed write up on how you built your smoker and if possible, could I get it. With your permission, i'd like to duplicate your build with some minor modifications of my own. I would greatly appreciate it.


cowgirl said...

Thank you Le,

I do not have a write up but would be glad to give you more specific details via e-mail.

I will try to contact you.



Is the cooking grill a standerd size? Can someone pick it up at like, lowes or home depot?

cowgirl said...

Yes it is Floridasmoker.
I got it at an Ace Hardware store. I actually got two of them and can prop one on top of the other.

If I remember right the grate is 22 1/2 inches in diameter.
You might want to measure your drum before going in to buy one so you can make sure it will fit.

Hope this helps ya! If not, let me know. :)



quick question what did you put on the bottom for feet it looks like a ring of some kind with pieces of angle iron welded on.

cowgirl said...

Floridasmoker, it's an actual drum dolly. If you google it you can see a better picture of it. I need to post a pic of it on my blog so folks will know. My drum just sits right on top of it and I can roll it around where I need it.

You can even just set the drum on bricks or attach your own casters if you want.

I would love to see your drum when you get it finished! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, great design on the drum smoker.
With ~8lbs of coals in the basket. Where did you place wood chips for smoking? Also what kind of temps are you getting at the 2ft mark(Where the meat is)?


cowgirl said...

Thank you P,

I place a few wood chips right on top of the hot coals. It's easy to add more later if needed. I just add them through the cooking grate. If you need to, you can lift the grate out, but I usually do not.

There is a thermometor inserted in the side of the drum at the cooking grate level. It lets me know what the cooking temperature is at the grate level.
BUT.. drums seem to cook about 25 degrees hotter in the center so I adjust my air intake to compensate for the difference.

I usually smoke meat from 220 to 325 degrees depending on what I am cooking. I like to do poultry at a higher temperature and I do beef and pork low and slow.

Hope this helps, feel free to contact me with any questions! :)

Anthony and Katie said...

Hello Cowgirl,
My questions is how much wood chips do you usually use to smoke in your drum? Do you heat up the coals and then add some wet chips over the charcoal or do you just smoke mostly with charcoal?
Great site

cowgirl said...

Hi Anthony and Katie,
I get my coals going first, then add the wood chips. I have better luck using dry chips.
I start with about 1/2 cup of chips and add a few more every 45 minutes to an hour.
When I use chunks of wood, I put on 2 or 3 to start.
I keep the smoke as light as I can...not a billowing gray smoke. More of a thin blue smoke.
It doesn't take much to get good flavor.
Hope this helps!

John said...

Hi Cowgirl,

What is the inside diameter of your drum and where did you find that nice clean grill grate to fit inside?

Also what is the drum volume, 55 gallons?

Many thanks,


cowgirl said...

Hi John,
The drum is a 55 gallon one. The inside diameter is 22 1/2 inches. I found the cooking grate at an Ace hardware store in their BBQ department.
I just took my tape measure with me to make sure I'd find something that would fit. :)

The hot grate at the bottom of the cooker is a piece of expanded metal cut to fit.

Hope this helps, if not, please let me know!

KK said...

Holeymoley that is one awesome drum smoker. You are a genius! I hope you do not mind if I craft something similar.

I just got myself a fairly heavy duty 30 gallon drum and plan to make my drum smoker out of that.

I am thinking of making a cylindrical expanded metal charcoal bucket that is several inches smaller in diameter than the actual expanded metal charcoal grate. That way I could put wet wood chips along the side of the charcoal bucket...on the edges of the grate... for smoking. Based on your you think that would work?

Thanks again!!

cowgirl said...

Hi KK, Thank you so much for the compliment. Drum cookers have been around for years, I think the first picture I saw of one was from the 1950's..
They are easy to use and you can make them as flashy as you like. :)

If I'm understanding your description, you would have the hot coals in the basket and lay the smoke chips along the outside edge of the basket?
It might work if the chips are close enough to ignite.

I've not heard of doing it that way but it might work.

I'd be interested in seeing your drum and basket when you get them built... if you have the time. :)

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

cowgirl said...

KK, do you mean to lay the chips on the coal grate right beside the hot coal basket?

KK said...

Hey cowgirl

Yup....picture a expanded metal round, flat, charcoal grate...say 19" in diameter or so for my 30 gallon smoker...lying flat near the bottom of the drum. on top of that, picture a 6" high cylinder about 9" in diameter to hold the charcoal. That will leave a flat area on all sides of the cylinder of about 5" to place saturated wood chips. Still working on an actual design....but I think it may work! This may be a few weeks until this happens..but I'd be happy to share a photo or two with you once I get it done.

cowgirl said...

I see what you mean KK.
My set up is similar. My fire grate is a 22 1/2 inch circle of expanded metal that sits right above the air intake holes.
My hot coal basket sits on top of the grate, but there are several inches of flat expanded metal grate all around it.
I'm not sure if the chips would get hot enough to ignite and smoke?

If you lay them touching the hot coal basket it might work.

I'd love to see pics when you get it finished!

Thanks! :)

KK said...

Hey Cowgirl,

I am in the process of gathering parts. I'd be happy to send you a few pix as it materializes and when it is built.

Have you ever tried making your own charcoal? I may give that a shot on a very small scale scale as well....maybe....

cowgirl said...

Thank you KK, I'd love to see it when you get it built. :)

I've not made charcoal. Thought about it but haven't given it a go yet. I have plenty of hardwood on hand, and a good barrel for the burn, just need to find the time.

Keep me posted if you do!
Thanks. :)

KK said...

Hey Cowgirl!

I just got my smoker finished and gave it a trial run today....nothing too adventurous....just some chicken thighs. WOW were they good!!! I might go for a couple chunks of pork in a week or two.

I am using magnets to control the air flow. They get pretty hot...but seem to work nicely so far....and they have infinite adjustment capabilities.

I will be glad to send you a few pix...and if you like... you may post them. I just need to know where to send them. No worries if they are not up to your standards and you do not want to post them either.

My next project will be making charcoal....then I guess that will be enough extra curricular activities for a while....back to working on my house.

cowgirl said...

KK, That is great news! I'm so happy to hear that it worked out well for you!
I'd love to see your pictures.... you can get an e-mail to me by using the "To Contact Cowgirl" button up on the right side of the page. (under my profile pic).

I hope you enjoy your drum... I seem to use mine a lot! There are several recipes and pictures of smokes I've done with my drum posted here on my blog. It's almost like you can set it and forget it. :)

Thanks for letting me know KK, I appreciate that!

Sounds like you are going to be busy... I'd like to hear about your charcoal project when you get it going too.

Thanks KK!

UDS newbie said...

Get smoker, hopefully mine will turn out just as good. Since i'm trying to keep the cost of my Smoker low I wanted to know if you had any suggestions on where to buy cheap expandable metal for the bottom grate and the charcoal basket?

cowgirl said...

Hi UDS Newbie,
I'm not sure if I can be of any help finding cheap expanded metal. I got the expanded metal for my coal basket at an Ace hardware store.. and my grate expanded metal from a welding friend.

Do you have any metal shops in your area? Maybe take the measurement of your drum first to see how big of a piece you will need. They might be able to sell you a small square. Might even be able to cut it out for you.
I'll do some more thinking. :)

Anonymous said...


Your drum smoker is a great idea, thanks for presenting this.

What do you do about dripping grease when smoking something like a brisket, ribs, or a boston butt? Have you ever tried a water pan just over the charcoal basket?

Thanks - Ray

cowgirl said...

Thanks Ray!
I let the meat drip right down on the hot coals. It does make a nice sizzle sound and the aroma is fantastic. lol
I've talked to others that have tried placing drip pans under the meat, but have been told that the dripping juice adds more flavor to the meat. (just what I've been told)
If you put one in, please let me know how you like it!
Thanks again Ray!

Bruce said...

very nice. i'm looking for a smoker and this might be just the one.

i can't see from the pics, but what is your barrel sitting on?

also, how do you add extra charcoal to it for long 14hr smokes when doing a pork butt?

cowgirl said...

Hi Bruce, thanks! I really like my drum cooker and use it a lot!
The wheels are an actual drum dolly. My barrel sits right on top of it.
I had purchased some castors to attach to the bottom but when a friend saw what I was doing, he brought me an actual drum dolly, I just painted it black to match the drum.

I've never had to add charcoal to a long smoke. I start with about 8 to 10 pounds of coal in the coal basket and adjust the air intake to keep the heat low and slow.

The drum was an easy build, no welding at all. I just drilled holes for the bolts that hold the shelves and holes for air intake and exhaust.
It has worked out great for me. :)

If you build one, I'd love to see it!
Thanks again Bruce. :)

Jonathan said...

Hi Cowgirl!

It's finally cooled off here in Vegas, so I can get to work on my UDS (just in time for Thanksgiving)!

Looking at some other's designs I've seen several use a heat diffuser "layer" above the coal basket to redirect the heat. Some used sheet metal with holes drilled around the perimeter, another used a XXL terra cotta catch tray (for placing below potted plants). I get the gist of the idea and it seems logical for the lower heat, slow cooking aspect of smoking. I wanted to get your input as you obviously smoke more delectable dishes than most out there. So, if I wanted to tackle the full list of UDS recipes you have on your blog, do you think the diffusers are a viable accessory or better left in the garden center. I'm of the KISS school of design, so if it's not a true benefit I'll skip it. Thank your for your time and response.


BTW: I'm stealing your pickled green beans recipe this week. Can't wait for those, mmm mmm!

cowgirl said...

Hi Jonathan!
Hope the pickled green beans turn out well for ya! :)

I've not added anything extra to my drum smoker, just the coal basket and have had great results.
I think the spacing of the 8 exhaust holes around the top help regulate the heat some. More than a drum with one exhaust hole. Also keeping the heat low by adjusting the air intake holes on the bottom helps a lot.

A pan in the bottom of the smoker might help you lift out the ashes... I just sweep the cold ashes out with my shop vac.

One thing that is really handy on my drum is the side table. I love it! :)

Maybe you could build the basic drum smoker and see how you like it, then make improvements. :)

I've had great luck cooking on mine the way it is.

Let me know when you get it built, I'd love to see it!

Jay said...

Hey cowgirl- Your drum smoker is an inspiration to us newbies! I'm making mine out of a stainless steel drum I found on craig's- it was used to ship lemon extract.

I used U-bolts on the inside to hold the grates up, and I made my fire basket with three brackets that each have a short stud sticking down. I can hang the basket right up under the top grate for direct cooking like steaks, and the little studs keep it from slipping off the U-bots. For smoking, the basket just sits at the bottom, like usual.

So far, I've only done pork chops and a couple turkey breasts; I need to make my intake holes adjustable for low-n-slow. Magnets don't work too well on stainless steel!

If any of your readers are looking for SS drums, try scrap dealers. For some reason, they can only be used once for international shipping, then they get scrapped.

cowgirl said...

Hey Jay, Thanks!

I like the sound of your set up, it would be great for a duel purpose cooker. Nice!

Thanks for the info on drums too. I get asked a lot about where to locate good drums. Your info will help a lot of people out.
Thanks Jay and thanks for stopping by. :)

Jonathan said...


How far from the top of the drum is the cooking rack? I saw a comment earlier in this thread where you said, "The cooking rack sits about 2 FT above the hot coal rack." Admittedly I'm new to all this, but for smoking this would seem rather close. On the other hand everything you throw on the drum looks delicious. Just looking for a correct placement so as to attempt the same finished product. Thank you so much! (photos to soon follow)


cowgirl said...

Hi Jonathan!
The cooking rack needs to be at least 2' above the hot coals. Anything lower would be pretty hot and more like grilling. You could even set a grilling rack down lower if you wanted to.

My drum is a 55 gallon one. The space between the cooking rack and the top of the barrel is about 7 1/2 inches. You can find an old dome grill lid and modify it to fit for more head room. I've not needed the extra height.

The only thing I've changed as far as cooking large pieces of meat is when I do a turkey, I spatchcock it (butterfly it) to lay flat.

Other than that, large hunks of pork fit fine. :)

You are able to keep the temperature fairly low in the drum by closing almost all of your air intake, When you get it going you can adjust it a few times to get the feel for it ....see what it's going to take to maintain an even low temperature.

Hope that makes sense.. lol
Would love to see your drum when you get it finished Jonathan! :)

Unknown said...

I love this smoker! Just one question.
How do you start the coals? Do you use a chimney starter and pour the rest on them and top with wood? Silly question, I know, but I bought a drum, expanded metal and all the hardware today and can't stop thinking of all the good things you've cooked on yours.
Great site! Thanks for sharing.

cowgirl said...

Hi Todd, Thanks!

I use my weed burner, but you can fill your coal basket almost full and light some coals in a chimney starter, then place them on top.
Then add a few hunks of wood for your smoke.

I am happy to hear you are building one. If you have any questions let me know. Also, I'd love to hear about your smoker when you get it finished.
Thank you Todd! :)

Bob said...

Hi Jeanie, I built your smoker today and started a blog to show it off. Thanks for your inspiration.

Here is the link:

cowgirl said...

Hi Bob! Congratulations on your new cooker! That's great!!
I will check it out. :)

Rich said...

Love the smoker, I'm going to build one ASAP. In the fourth picture down, what is the barrel sitting on? And what have you found works best to use for fuel?

cowgirl said...

Thank you Rich!
The drum is sitting on an actual drum dolly. It has wheels so I can roll the cooker around where I need it.
I painted the dolly to match my drum. :)

I find that plain old charcoal briquets work best for me. Lump is too hot. I light the top of the briquets with my weed burner but a chimney would work fine... then I add a few wood chips for flavor.

Hope you have good luck with your build, I'd love to see pics when you finish.
Thanks again Rich!

Helmut said...

Hi Cowgirl, Are the temperatures you quote Fahrenheit or Centigrade?

cowgirl said...

Hi Helmut, Nice to see you. :)
The temperatures are in Fahrenheit. I should have specified in my post.
If you build one I'd love to see pictures.

Erik said...

Great set-up! I have a few questions. What sort of drill bit do you use to drill through the drum? Next, have you ever used wood to smoke in this smoker? If I were to try this method, how would you suggest I add wood as I go, as opening the lid and such to add wood during the smoking process is bad, right? Maybe cutting a little door into the side? Thanks?


cowgirl said...

Thanks Erik!
I used a vari-bit to drill the holes. It worked pretty slick. :)

I use hot charcoal in the drum and place wood on top for the flavor.
I usually start out with three or four chunks of wood (depending on what I'm smoking) OR a handfull of wood chips.
The meat only takes on smoke for the first 4 hours of a smoke so sometime that first batch is enough.
When needed I add more through the top of the drum. Chips fit throught the grate and can be dropped on top of the coals.

My food grate doesn't completely cover the top it's easy to drop chunks of wood in when needed too.

Hope this helps Erik! Feel free to let me know if it didn't. :)
Good luck with your drum!

upstatefarmboy said...

after a web search for smokers, I ended up at your blog! I found your smoker, and fell in love with
the design. I can build one like yours in a couple hours out of stuff I already have! it will cost almost nothing! Your blog has also inspired me to create my own blog. I will post pictures of my smoker, when I get it done.
Thank you for posting so much information on your blog.
I don't know much about useing a smoker so I will be asking questions. thanks again for shareing so much information on your blog!

cowgirl said...

Thanks Em! It's nice to meet you. :)
Good luck with the build, I hope you enjoy your smoker.. I really love mine.
Let me know if you have any questions!

upstatefarmboy said...

I got my barrel today, and found some old gas grill grates that I have been saveing for a while I think I am going to modify them to fit in the bottom for the fire grate I am not sure yet I also have some expanded metal I may use.
I may burn the barrel in the morning to get the paint and whatever else is in it. It is a food grade barrel but it has been hanging around for a while.

cowgirl said...

That's great news Em! Hope you have good luck with the build. :)

Unknown said...

i plan on useing a drip pan/heat sink for my first uds. what do you think of useing a clay flower pot base 12" and 2" deep. i figured that it would catch drippings and also absorb heat and the small enough to let even heat and smoke pass. do you think it will work or just cause uneven heating from the center to the edges.

cowgirl said...

Hi Ryan,
For your first drum, I'd build it without the drip pan. You can always add long screws to set a drip pan shelf on later and try it. All drum smokers that I've talked to do not use a drip pan at all... It's just not needed.
Would love to hear about what you come up with though. :)

Unknown said...

Hi cowgirl another question, i was wondering because i like to smoke at 225 range would the direct heat from the uds burn my ribs, thats why i was thinking of using a perforated heat diffuser to even out temperatures, does the uds have bad hot spots that could be fixed with a diffuser, and how do your ribs turn out over the direct heat? thanks

cowgirl said...

Hi Ryan!
The drums do cook hotter in the center. They can be 25 degrees F hotter in the middle than around the outside.
I have had no problems with ribs burning or overcooking though.
Once you get a feel for how it's going to cook it's easy to adjust the air intake holes to get the temperature you want.
If you do try a diffuser, let me know how it goes please. :)

Thanks Ryan!

BNTarkus said...

Have you ever thought of using an electric heater in your smoker or do you think the drum is to big and it will take to long?

cowgirl said...

Hi BNTarkus!
I'm not sure if an electric element would put out enough heat. I've not tried one though.
If you do, please let me know how it goes!
Thanks! :)

Rocky said...

hello ive just built one off your design.Ive put a door at the top and one at the side,and ive just installed a smoke stack as well,its awesom,and thernometer,it has wheels and has the grills insde.Not quite sure if i need a drip tray,but wooried about the mess,as i cooked to big lamb roasts,what do you think,and im not sure if i have enough holes at the bottom,you need a bit of air flow and i think the top ones got to be open as it will smoother your charcoals? i have pics where do i send them to?

cowgirl said...

Rocky that sounds great!
I do not use a drip pan, the juices seem to vaporize on the hot coals.
I leave all 8 of my air exhaust holes open when smoking and the bottom has 4 air inlet holes underneat the coal grate. The air coming in through the inlet holes keep the coals going.

You can contact me through the link underneath my profile picture.

I'm glad to hear you built a drum smoker. Hope it works out well for you.
Thanks Rocky!

Mark said...

This may be the most useful blog I have ever read. What wonderful information and like many others I was inspired to get started. I just purchased a 55 gallon food grade barrel on eBAY. Thank you for the valuable information (and your patience as you seem to answer the same questions over and over).

Mark on Long Island

cowgirl said...

Mark, Thank you!
I appreciate your kind comment. :)
My blog is sort of my diary of things I like to do. lol
Congratulations on the new drum. I didn't think to tell people to check e-bay. That's nice to know you found one there!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I do not mind helping if I am able.

Would love to see your drum when you get finished.

Thanks again Mark... and thanks for checking out my blog.


Stork said...

Dear Jeanie,
Your smoker is the coolest one I've ever seen. I went to a local supply store to look at some parts and I noticed that the ball valves don't have a male thread so that when it's put through the drum there nothing to thread a nut on to hold the valve in tight. Also I noticed that the 8 bolts have what appears to be another nut threaded to the toop of the bolt. Is this correct and is there another nut under the lid for each of these bolts? Sorry for the dumb questions but like said your's is the coolest smoker I've seen anywhere and I've been looking around awhile. Your's would look good on any patio or backyard.

cowgirl said...

Hi Stork,
Thank you for the nice comment... I really like my drum. I didn't want to make anything too flashy that I would have to stare at year round. I went for the "little black dress" look. lol
I didn't use anything to hold the ball valve in place. A bit of JB Weld might work though.
Mine does turn sometime while I'm opening the valve, but it has not been a problem.

The top 8 bolts are called "Pipe Plugs" they just screw right into the holes drilled in the lid.
There are no bolts holding them in place on the inside.

When smoking, I remove all 8 plugs.
Then replace them when finished to extinquish the hot coals and to keep rain out.

I feel that by having 8 holes around the lid, the smoke and heat rise evenly around the food.

Feel free to ask anything Stork. I will help if I can.
Thanks again for the kind commments, I appreciate it. :)


tg_weaver said...

I love your blog. was looking around to build one of my own and found your uds, so I have decided to build my own. Was wondering what you used for your racks? also do you put any water in the to create steam or to keep the moister level high? thanks so much.......also the fact you grow your own shrimp......omg how very cool is that.

cowgirl said...

Thank you tg weaver!
For the bottom rack (the hot coal rack) I used expanded metal. Just cut it to fit the barrel. It sits on bolts above my air intake.
For the cooking grates, I measured my drum and went to an Ace Hardware store and picked up a replacement rack for a grill. It was 22 1/2 inches I think... You do need to measure your drum before buying racks to make sure they will fit.
I also took my tape measure with me shopping. :)

There are no water pans or drip pans. The meat drippings drip directly onto the hot coals and vaporize. :)

Thanks about the shrimp. I really have fun raising them and they are so tasty. :)
Thanks for stopping by! It's nice to meet you. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey there, great blog! just getting into this drum build. I snagged a 55'er from a food supplier, it had vegie oil in it, and appears to have had an interior liner sprayed in it to keep the oil from reacting with the metal? Looks like a layer of paint or something. Should I burn this out before construction?

cowgirl said...

Hi Anonymous and Thanks!

You do need to get rid of the liner. Either burn or use a wire disc to grind it out. The barrel needs to be cleaned down to bare metal..
Then when the barrel is clean, spray or rub the inside with lard or a veggie oil, light some coals in the bottom and let it cook empty for awhile.
This will "season" the inside of the drum sort of like seasoning a cast iron pan.

Then it's ready to use!

Hope this helps Anonymous. Good luck with your drum, I'd like to see pictures when you get finished, if you have the time.

Thanks again! :)

Sandy in Missouri said...

Hi Jeanie,
What a wonderful UDS! After much searching and reading about building a smoker, I found your blog. You sealed the deal... I have your blog bookmarked, and it's the first place I stop. After reading all your comments to others, I have one question before I start my build. From some of the other sites I was reading, there were some comments about uneven air intake to the coals when only one hole was open. My thought was to use some short lengths of 3/4" iron pipe (same as the nipples) to bring the incoming air closer to the center of the coal basket. Have you noticed any uneven burning of the coal (from just one side) in your smoker, and/or does it even make any difference (as long as it eventually all burns)?

Thanks for your great blog,

cowgirl said...

Hi Sandy,
I have had no problem at all with uneven heat. I light the top of the coals in the basket and let her go... sometimes the coals burn evenly and sometimes they don't but it doesn't affect the outcome of the cook.

Drums DO cook hotter in the center than around the edges though. It's not a problem either... you get used to how the drum is going to perform after a couple uses.

I do think that the air outlet system I have (the 8 holes in the lid) make the heat and smoke rise evenly around the food before exiting.

I really like the thing and wouldn't change anything about it.. it's been working great for me for over 2 years.

Good luck with your build! Let me know how it goes!

Ivan said...

Ok Cowgirl. I've tried to do some research on this before pinging you, but I'm not landing on any answers I believe. So here it goes...

Can I do something to a non-food grade barrel to make it usable as a smoker? My barrel has very small remnants of varnish (yum!). My thought is to build a couple of very hot fires in the barrel, sand it very well, and then put on a couple of thick coats of fire-proof paint. Do you think that would work?

I couldn't find anything that explained the difference between a food-grade and non-food grade barrel other than what it once carried.

Your advice is certainly welcomed (especially if you think I can convert it to a smoker!) :)


cowgirl said...

Hi Ivan,

I would not recommend using a non-food grade barrel.. OR coating the inside with any type of paint.
The inside of the barrel needs to be cleaned down to bare metal then covered with a light coat of oil (you can spray it on).. then burned to "season" like cast iron.

Could you contact me? (the link under my profile pic)...
I might be able to point you to someone who could help you find a food grade barrel.

I know several smokers across the US..I'm not sure where you are located but maybe someone could help.

They are great little smokers. I've used the heck out of mine and still love it. :)

Thanks Ivan!

THE PonyGirl said...

Hey Cowgirl! Your smoker plan is the best and easiest one out there. Thank you for that! My husband and I are planning to build one next week and may end up building 2 or 3 for our large family gatherings.
I noticed people asking where to find food grade metal barrels. I found a place enar where I live here in Central, KY. Maybe that would help some of your followers.
I have one question...the thermometer...what kind is it or where di you get it? I looked at Ace Hardware and they have some but they all have the metal rod sticking out of them. Is that what I want to use?
Thank you so much for the information and the recipes...can't wait to make the stuffed zucchini...YUM!
Take care!

cowgirl said...

Thank you PonyGirl!
I appreciate the compliment and the link! That might help a few folks find a barrel.

If you are looking for something to use for large gatherings, you might be interested in my cinderblock pit. I use mine for whole hogs or a mix of can fill it with meat, pots of beans and corn at the same time.

It's portable and you can make it any size that you need.

The link to my block pit is underneath the Smokehouse picture in my favorites section.

Thanks again PonyGirl!

Doug Raney said...

Hey, I really love your design, and found a barrel of my own. It is food grade, however, it is painted an orange color on the inside. I let it burn for a few hours, and it's not going anywhere. Is this safe to use?

cowgirl said...

Hi Dan!
Thanks! :)
The orange on the inside is called a will have to be removed..down to bare metal.
I've talked to people that have had better luck using a grinding wheel or wire wheel to grind it off. It is a lot of work but can be done.
Hope you have good luck with it Dan. I'd love to see your drum when you get it finished, and if you have an questions feel free to ask. :)

cowgirl said...

If you have ANY questions feel free to ask. lol I can't type today!

THE PonyGirl said...

Hey Cowgirl! My husband and I finished our drum smoker and fired it up Sunday to smoke a 12lb pork butt. We cut the butt in half to cut down on the smoking time. 5 1/2 hours later we had some great looking meat! We let the meat settle for about 45 minutes wrapped in foil and then set out pulling it. It was tender and juicy!
Thanks for sharing your plans for building a drum smoker. It is a simple and easy to put together plan.

cowgirl said...

PonyGirl that's Great!! Thanks so much for letting me know. I'm glad it turned out well for you. :)

oracle said...

Hi cowgirl I am currently trying to build my own smoker and soo far I have obtained a barrel and I was woundering how did you remove the paint off the outside?Could you use a grinder wheele for the job or what are the options can be used?
Thanks i love your smoker!

cowgirl said...

Thank you oracle! Congratulations on finding a barrel too, that seems to be the hardest part! :)
I used a weed burner on mine then a hand sander with heavy grit paper...then sanded with a finer grit.
I think a grinder would work fine.. it might be quicker than a sander.
The paint on the outside isn't as important as removing the inside paint.
Some outside paints will blister and bubble from the if you do paint over existing paint on a barrel, your new paint job might not last.
(just a heads up for anyone thinking about doing that)

I used high heat grill paint on my drum but have seen some that used automotive engine paint... better color selection.

I'm happy with my little black drum though. :)

Good luck to you oracle, let me know if I can be of any help!

Brian W said...

Hi Cowgirl, "SMITER Q" from the Brethren forum. Just got my barrel this week. Quick question about your burn of the drum. Originally your inside looks like mine presently. Since yours was a food grade barrel, did you burn the inside... or just use a weed torch on the outside?


Smiter Q

cowgirl said...

Hi Brian, it's good to see you!
I used the weed burner on both the inside and out. It didn't need much inside..there were just a few rust spots that I had to sand off.
I gave it a quick go-over with the weed burner anyway.

Not sure if it was really necessary.

I used a hand sander on the rust spots.

You probably already know this but when your drum is ready for cooking, you spray or oil the inside and light a few coals to "season" the inside of the seasoning cast iron cookware. It keeps it from rusting.

Hope you have great luck with your drum! Can't wait to see pics when you get it finished. :)


Dan said...


How exactly did you drill through that darned thing? I used a step bit up to 7/8", and am stuck there. My 1" drill bit is chewing it up. Apparently, I need to by something in the middle of that. Also, did you use a bulk head to get your valve on there? Thanks!

cowgirl said...

Hey Dan, Your varibit should do it.
Are you possitive that the 1" drill bit is for metal?
Also... another suggestion... place a block of wood or something behind the 1" bit to stabilize the barrel metal...keep it from jumping around. (don't use your hand to hold it though.

If you've already got a 7/8" hole and want to use a hole bit.. use one with a pilot bit in the middle and a block of wood or something behind the hole to get the bit started. Good luck to you..let me know how it comes out!

As for the bulkhead will work great. I just used a threaded pipe nipple and attached the ball valve to that.

Good luck Dan!

Unknown said...


Your UDS looks great. I'm trying to get mine done by Labor Day and the start of football and have a couple of questions.

First, I really would like to have two cooking grates, top for butts and one 3-4 inches lower for ribs. Based on the measurements it looks like the lower grate would be about 14 in off the coal bed with the top at about 18 in. This leaves 7 in to the lid, hopefully plenty of room for a couple of butts. Do you think this setup will put the meat to close to the coal bed at a temp of 200-240?

Second, I am thinking of only putting two airflow vents both with ball valves. I don't ever plan on using this for anything other than smoking at no more than 250 or so. Will this vent system be adequate.

Thank you for putting this site together. So far you have provided great info.


cowgirl said...

Hi Billy, Thanks!

If you want to have two shelves... a better option is to leave the grates as they are 2' from the hot coal rack and then place another rack above that...then get a dome lid from an old kettle grill to give you height for the butts.

I'm not sure if you can see it in the pictures above but my cooking rack has two handles that stick up.. I am able to place a second rack on top of the first one by resting it on those handles.
That should give you enough space to do a rack of ribs..
In the posts from November of last year 2009, I show a picture of the two racks in use under my "Deer camp food" post,

That might give you an idea of how much room there is.
Then with a dome lid on top you should have plenty of room.

As for the air intakes at the will need all of them. Sometimes during a long low smoke the temperature drops towards the end of the smoke. I remove another air intake to get more air to the coals and bring the temp back up.

I usually start with 2 air intakes open and sometimes that's enough but other times I need three.
Wind and outside conditions come into play.

Hope this helps Billy, let me know if I didn't answer your questions.
I'd love to see your drum when you get it going. I hope it works out well for you... they are really great to cook on. :)

Thanks again!

Jake said...

Hey cowgirl. Love this smoker and I hope you dont mind but I am afraid I am going to clone it. You know what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. I am just wondering, How the heck did you get that lid pried off. I am having a bugger of a time with it. Thanks

cowgirl said...

Hey Jake, Thanks! The design isn't mine. The oldest drum smoker I've seen was in a picture from around the 1950s or 60s.
I'm sure people have been cooking on drums as long as they have been using them to heat wood and keep warm. :)
Mine didn't have a sealed top, It had an actual lid. I've heard that the tops can be cut off...
Good luck to you, I'd love to see a picture when you get it finished.

Thanks again Jake!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing. I may give this a shot (if I can find a drum). How did you burn the drum...did you just build a fire in it?

cowgirl said...

Thanks Chris!
I used a weed burner but building a fire should work fine. You do need to take the drum down to bare metal on the inside.
Hope you have good luck with it! :)

Unknown said...

I found a drum!

A couple more quick questions for you. 1) Does the fire alone take the inside down to bare metal, or did you sand that as well? 2) Did you paint the inside? If you didn't paint the inside, do you have any problems with rust? 3) You have mentioned you were going to put together a step by step guide (detailing hardware etc)...can I get a copy of that?

cowgirl said...

Congratulations on finding a drum Chris, that's great!
No paint on the inside...
I sanded the inside of the barrel to get rid of any rust spots.. then sprayed the inside with cooking oil and lit a few coals. I let them burn for around 2 hours.
The drum will be "seasoned" like a cast iron skillet.
I've had to re-season once in two years.

I'm working on a parts list with a few recipes thrown in.. I'll post when I get it all together.
Thanks Chris.. good luck with the build! :)

Beheerder said...

Thank you for this wonderful site. I used your site to build our own smoker. Could not have done this without your excelent photo's. This is my result :) This thursday I am going to smoke a whole chicken. and

Thanks from the Netherlands.

cowgirl said...

Peter that looks wonderful! You did a great job, hope it works out well for you!
I'm glad to hear that my pictures were of some help to you. :)
Thank you for letting me know.
Do you belong to the Dutch forum? There are some really talented, friendly smokers there. here is a link...

Thanks again for taking the time to show me your pictures Peter, I appreciate it!
Good luck with the chicken. :)

Unknown said...

Sorry, just one last question:

The drum I have has some kind of greenish lining inside it. When you said you have to take the inside down to bare metal, how did you do that? My weed burner doesn't seem to affect it. Sanding it does take it off slowly, but sanding all the way to the bottom seems impossible. Does burning a fire for a few hours get rid of it?

cowgirl said...

No problem Chris! :)
The liner needs to go.. If you do burn it out, watch out for the fumes..they might be toxic.
I've talked to others who use wire wheels or grinders to grind the liner out. It goes a bit faster than sanding.
Liners can be a pain! A lot of work but doable with some hard work..

Mine didn't have a liner, it just had a bit of rust to remove.

Good luck with it Chris!

Unknown said...

A wire wheel was the suggestion I needed. Faster and easier to use on the curved insides of the drum, and I don't need to reach as far. Thanks again!

cowgirl said...

That's great Chris! Glad to hear it.. and you're welcome. :)

Unknown said...

Another quick question on your hot coal basket. Does it hold 8 pounds of lump charcoal? If not, how long can it hold slow cooking temps without maintenance?

Also, I know you get a lot of questions on where to get a barrel. I found that I got no results on Craigslist when I searched for "55 gallon barrel drum", but I found a bunch of barrel drums when I searched for "BBQ smoker". I think people post them as BBQ equipment knowing why people are looking for them.

cowgirl said...

Chris...Yes the basket will hold the coals.. I use briquets...not lump. For me, lump burns too hot and too fast, I can get a lower heat from the briquettes.
I've burned mine for 13 hrs and closed the intake and exhaust holes to save the remaining unburnt coals for the next smoke.
People have reported back to me that they have gotten 20+ hrs of heat out of one basket load.
I'm sure it all depends on your outside air temperature and the drum temp.

Thanks for the info on drums.. I'm sure it will help someone out!

Unknown said...

Also, I spoke with an expert welder about rust prevention. He recommends using engine paint on the inside as well, then curing it with a weed burner.

Unknown said...

How did you attach the thermometer? Is it just a regular meat thermometer?

cowgirl said...

Chris the paint will keep rust away on the inside but it might prove to be harmfull to the food.
It's best to go down to bare metal and season the drum like cast iron. They DO stay rust free for a long time.

cowgirl said...

The thermometer is one used for smokers or grills. I know that Ace hardware carries them and I think Walmart might.. any place that carries grill supplies should have one.
It has a nut on the inside that holds the thermometor in place.
They are best located at cooking grate level.
Good luck with it! :)

Johan said...

Hi cowgirl.

awesome blog you have. a lot of excellent recipes and cool smokers.
i´m thinking of building me a drumsmoker just like yours.

keep up the good work.


cowgirl said...

Thank you so much Johan, it's nice to meet you! :)
I see that you are interested in BBQ and smoking too. There is a group of people in the Netherlands called the Lowland Smokers.. that you might be interested in checking out. They have a forum dedicated to BBQing.
here is their address..

I know they don't exactly live close to you but maybe someday you could meet up with them for some BBQ. :)

Let me know if you build a drum smoker, I would love to see pictures if you get the time.
Thanks for stopping by! :)

Johan said...

Hi cowgirl.

I went over to the states a couple of years ago, we were a couple of friends who took a roadtrip, N.Y Chicago, route 66 to LA. And after that trip i got totally hooked on bbq. I got a weber 57cm and i´m happy with this one but i want a real smoker aswell and when i found your blog and saw your drum i knew that that is what i want. As soon as the drum is finished i´ll post some pics of it.

take care and keep those recipes coming.


cowgirl said...

Johan that sounds like a great roadtrip! I bet it was a lot of fun. :) It's nice that you were able to taste BBQ from all across the U.S..
I have been looking at your blogs...great pictures!
I will be watching for your drum smoker build.
Thanks Johan!

Johan said...


When you´re firing up your drum, do you use the minion method or how do you do it?



cowgirl said...

Hi Johan!
No it's not the minion method.. I just fill the basket and light a few coals on top. You can either use a charcoal starter to light a few and place them on top of the other coals or I use a weed burner to light the top.
When you are finished with the cook, just close the air intakes and the outlets and the remaining coals will be extinguished...then you can use them for the next cook.

Hope you have great luck with yours Johan! :)

Johan said...

thank you cowgirl. I´ll do my best with the smoker.
I´ll post some pics when its up and running

cowgirl said...

You're sure welcome Johan, I'm looking forward to your pics. :)

Unknown said...

I want to say you have one fantastic blog here. One of the best I've seen on this subject, and I've looked at a lot of them. Thank you also for being patient with all of the repeated questions, hopefully I've read enough to keep from asking something you've already answered. I had a couple of ideas that I wanted your expert opinion on. Could I use the same type plugs on the bottom as you did on the top? Instead of buying two pieces and trying to get the nipple secure in the hole could I not just thread the plug in the same way? Also, do you think it would work to use a smaller bit and put more holes. I don't have a hole saw or step bit nor do I have an electricians knock-out set. And lastly could you/would you suggest using one of those cheap charcoal chimneys as the coal basket for someone that doesn't have the access to scrap expanded metal? I'm a little worried about the height of it but I think it would function to provide the air and also keep the coals off the bottom.

Thanks for your input!

cowgirl said...

Joey, Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind comment. Also, thank you for taking the time to look through the posts for your answers. :)
I'm sure you could use the same kind of pipe plugs around the bottom and just remove the ones you need while smoking. Some people just use magnetic strips to cover the holes. I'm all for anything that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Use what you have on hand.

I would think that several smaller holes would work fine too. I usually start my drum with three holes open to get the heat up and close the ones I don't need to bring the temperature down to where I want it. I don't see why you couldn't do that with several smaller holes.
The pipe nipples on the bottom aren't inserted that far into the barrel so I don't see why you couldn't just use the holes without the pieces of pipe.. as long as the hot coals get enough oxygen to keep them going...

A chimney should work. Like you might be a bit tall, make your drum cook a bit hotter.
Not sure how much coal a chimney would hold but it would be worth a try Joey. If it didn't work you could always try something else. My basket probably holds more coal than a chimney would...thus getting longer smokes.
Any non galvanized or painted metal container would probably work for a coal basket.. a colander or metal bucket with air holes drilled in it and bolt legs added... or maybe even a metal coffee can with bolt legs. I'm sure a coffee can wouldn't hold much coal though.

Your ideas are good ones Joey. If you give them a try, please let me know how it goes.
Thanks again for the kind comments and for stopping by. Good luck with your drum! :)

Mr. Clydesdale said...

Jeanie, Thank you so much for sharing all the wonderful things you do. You make everything so easy to understand and fun!
I got my drum built up and have done three smokes already. The thing holds temps so well I was confident to do an overnight smoke. I put a pork butt on at 9 pm and by 7 am I pulled off a beautiful, bark covered chunk of pork bliss. Better than anything I've ever had in a restaurant and on my first try!
I don't see how to send pics but let me know and I'll send one.

cowgirl said...

Thank you Mr Clydesdale! I'm so glad to hear the drum is working well for you! :)
The pork butt sounds fantastic...
I will get my e-mail address to you.
Would love to see your pictures.

The Cowgirl said...

I'm a Texas country girl who just started following your blog. I love it! I've never really smoked meats before but I am now. My husband is now a fan too! (You had him at bacon!) hehe
We have an old smoker that belonged to his dad we're going to give it a go.
What kind of base do you have on your smoker and also can you smoke catfish?

cowgirl said...

Nice to meet you Cowgirl by Design!
My drum sits on a drum dolly. It's actually made for drums, you can wheel them around where you need them. I just painted this dolly black to match my drum.
I do smoke catfish on this smoker.. it's hot smoked so it's cooked. I like to brine or marinade catfish first before smoking.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this design -- it is fantastic.

cowgirl said...

Thank you Anonymous!
Barrel cooking has been around for years... probably since the depression. :)
This design is simple but works great. I wouldn't change a thing about it.
If you build one, I'd love to see it.
Thanks again!

upstatefarmboy said...

I finished the final upgrades on my UDS a couple months ago, but finally got pics posted to my blog! ( I mounted the barrel on an old gas grill frame , it fit perfect! I fastened the barrel to the frame with self tapping screws,and put new wood on the side shelves! I hope you can check it out and let me know what you think! I am also planning to build another UDS, and I plan to build a small horizontal smoker out of an old gas grill with a 15 gal drum cut down to be used as the fire box! that is as soon as warm weather comes!
Thanks for shareing so much great information and for haveing such a great blog!!

cowgirl said...

Em, that looks great! Nice job on the build. I like the bbq cart and shelves...those will be handy.
Thanks for letting me know! :)

Joey said...

Just finished my smoker. Couldn't wait for the second coat of paint to smoke. Turned out great! Told my brother about and he wanted one too so we got together at Thanksgiving and made two. The barrels were 5 a piece so we got 3 and made the tall tops out of them. This way we can stand up a chicken or if we need a second grate for more cooking space. I'll send some pics. Thanks for the inspiration! We're thinking about selling them and making some more for ourselves but we'll see.

cowgirl said...

Joey that is great! Congratulations on your new smokers...aren't they easy to make and use? :)
You could probably sell plenty of them.
Can't wait to see your pics!!
Thanks so much for keeping me posted Joey, I appreciate it!

Corey, Stacey, Jayden and Bailey said...

Thanks Cowgirl for the awesome blog! I was tinkering with the idea of making a trash can smoker before coming across your blog, and have now turned to the UDS Side (instead of dark side)! I read through every single post on this page and found that a few questions I had were not answered. First, do you use the ring seal, that usually seals the lid to the drum, while cooking? Also, do you know or have any thoughts on using a small propane ring burner as a heat source for the smoker? Any help or guides you have in making my UDS would be appreciated. On a side not, I spoke with a container dealer here in Utah and they suggested I contact a food distributor, such as SYSCO, to see if they have any used drums available. I will be giving them a shot and will let you know how it goes. Thanks again for your help, and for answering all of the many questions we all have on your blog.

cowgirl said...

Thank you Corey and family! :)
I really love my drum smoker, it has never let me down!
I do not use the ring (metal clamp) while cooking in the drum...also you need to remove the rubber gasket on the inside of the lid. The lid fits tight enough without the metal ring.

I built an extension for my drum that holds a ribolator rotisserie....I DO use the metal ring to hold the extension onto my drum.

I've not heard back from anyone who has had good luck with the propane burner. I'm not sure if lighting it would be a problem or if there is any danger in gas buildup.
I just don't know. Sorry I can't be of more help there.
Charcoal works great and the drum is so effecient! When you finish a cook you just close all air intake and outlets and the coals go out...then you use them on the next cook.

Sounds like you might have a drum tracked down...that's great! I would love to hear about your build. Let me know if you have any questions too.
Good luck and thanks again Corey and family! :)

Corey, Stacey, Jayden and Bailey said...

Thank you for your help. I have mine all buttoned up just in time for the Superbowl (btw, you will have to send us some picks of the snow in TX!). I did have just one questions for you. I am smoking the drum for the first time today after seasoning and wondered how long yours typically takes to come up to temperature? I understand outside temp will affect this, but an average will be fine. Thank you for all of your help.

cowgirl said...

Hi Corey and Family! So glad to hear your drum is up and running! Way to go! :)
I usually plan on 30 minutes at least to bring it up to temp. I open ALL air outlets in the lid and 2 to 3 of the air intakes around the bottom.
I leave the outlets in the lid open through out the whole cook.
The bottom air intakes can be adjusted if needed.. seems like I usually cook with at least 2 of them open.
Like you say, it depends on the outside air temperature too.
Windy days can effect the performance too.. I try to turn the drum so that the wind isn't blowing directly into the intake hole... seems to keep the temperature steady that way instead of spiking with the wind.

Hope that makes sense. lol

Good luck to you!! :)

Bruce said...

ok first let me say that your smoker looks nice. I have saved this link for about a year and now and I'm ready to start on mine. I don't have any experience with smoking other than eating. What do you use as a heat source. I was planning on a propane burner or a hot plate like a lil chief. If you use briquetts do the burn long enough? Do you add briquettes during the smoke? Do you put the smoking wood in with the briquettes or on top separate from the coals? Do you have to replenish the smoking wood during the duration of the smoking process? Any info you can add would be appreceiated. Thanks, Bruce

cowgirl said...

Thank you Bruce!
The drum uses hot coals... (there is a link to making the hot coal basket above)

Hot plates and propane burners are not recommended...
The charcoal will last 20 hours depending on the outside air temperature.
There is no need to reload charcoal, one basket full will be enough.

I add wood chunks or chips on top of the hot coals in the beginning. Wood chunks provide enough smoke.
The chips can be added by dropping through the cooking grate.
I only add wood for smoke for about the first hour or so. (depending on what I am cooking)
It seems to provide all the smoke flavor needed.

Hope that helps!
Good luck with your build!

Anonymous said...

Howdy Ma'am!
You're drum smoker looks awesome. My brother built one and it comes no where near as good looking as yours. I am in the process of researching how to build one for several reasons, but the main reason is because we are having our First Annual Family Cook-Off! My brother challenged me to build a drum smoker of my own and let the competition begin. So here I am, looking around the web and ran across your smoker... I'm not sure if you heard the brakes from way down in Houston, Texas, but I slammed them on and began reading. =) How did you construct the bottom of the smoker? I'm puzzled on what the drum is resting on. Could you please elaborate on that please...

Thank you in advance... Roland

cowgirl said...

lol I heard your brakes! :)
Thanks Roland, your cook off sounds like fun.

My drum sits on an actual "drum dolly".. It rolls around.
You can find them online but I bet you could get one easily in Houston. :)

Good luck with your build AND the competition... I'll be rootin' for ya. :)


Anonymous said...

Thank you!

cowgirl said...

You're welcome! Good luck. :)

Bruce said...

I'm really not trying to be a pain but I've looked for your link for the coal basket for the uds and can't seem to find it. Sorry and thanks in advance, Bruce

cowgirl said...

Bruce you're not a pain at all!
The link is under the picture of my finished drum sitting in the grass..with a beer on the side table.
If you have any problems or questions feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
You can contact me through the "contact" button under my profile pic on the right.

No problem at all Bruce.... I'm glad to help you if I can.

Unknown said...

Hi Cowgirl
Wow! What an amazing resource – your blog is the best! I have been searching for information about building a cold smoker (and a hot smoker if I could find suitable plans), and here you have both! And what superb examples they are too.
It has only been a few days since I stumbled on your blog, but I’ve already got me two drums (they held fruit concentrates), and started to prepare them today. Thinking it would take an hour or two to get the preparation of the inside under way. Mmmmm – fat chance! The coating (bright orange) is only one coat thick, but doesn’t seem to want to come off with burning, so I’ve had to resort to sandpaper. That has whiskers on it as it is a tough job, and it would appear that I have a very long task ahead of me. But that’s not too much of a concern apart from the investment of time – what has me wondering is how on earth my short arms are going to reach to the bottom to sand off the paint there.
Any ideas?
The plan was to work on the UDS this week and start work on the cold smoker next week. I can’t use pine as the termites here are a bit like the proverbial hordes – the smoker would disappear in a year or so. I have some hardwood logs on my property, and will have them milled into 30mm (1-1/4 inches) slabs and make the walls from them with a welded metal framework. They should be termite-resistant and provide a good sturdy structure.
My appointment with the butcher is mid-May, so they both have to be up and running by then. I’ll let you know how it progresses.
Thanks again for your blog!

cowgirl said...

Thank you Enid!
You might try a wire wheel to strip the orange liner off of the drum.
It's a lot of work but can be done.
Good luck with both smokers...they are great to have around!
Thanks again. :)

Allan Faust said...

Hi there,

I`m way up in the great white north, and after having tasted southern BBQ (texas style), as well as having learned that I`ve been mistakenly grilling all my life, I decided to take the plunge and go to real BBQ. Since I`m a DIY`er I started searching to see how I could do something myself. Yours is the first site Ì found, and Ill be making a design similar to yours. I want to thank you for the great information, and since I`ve started a blog, hopefully I can do BBQ justice in the near future.

cowgirl said...

Hi Allan!
Nice to meet you. :)
Congratulations on finding a nice drum. ( I checked out your blog :))
Good luck with your build.. I hope it all goes well for you.
That liner might come out easier with a wire wheel on a grinder.
They are tough to sand sometimes.

Good luck with your Q and your blog. :)
Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Hey i am in the process of building the same smoker. how do you keep your drum from rusting on the inside?

cowgirl said...

Hi Anonymous!
After you sand the inside down to bare metal.. rub or spray it with cooking oil. Light a few coals in the bottom and let it cook for a couple of hours.
This seasons the inside like a cast iron skillet.
Good luck with it! :)

Unknown said...

Hi Cowgirl,

Love your site! Me and my dad are looking to re-create your barrel smoker, and I was wondering if you have more detailed instructions?

just let me know,


cowgirl said...

Thank you Lance!
I don't have any detailed instructions written up but if you shoot me an email I'll be happy to answer any questions.
You can reach me through the "contact" button under my profile picture.
They are easy to put together and work well. I love mine. :)
If you build one, keep me posted!
Thanks again Lance.

Anonymous said...

hey i've been reading various different posts on your blog an i like whatcha doin. i noticed you don't have anything on there about beer butt chickens. i've made quite a few of these birds in my time and LOVE them. they come out so juicy and full of flavor. i've also made beer butt turkey's and cornish game hens and my next victim is going to be beer butt quail. give it a shot if you haven't ever made one and let me know if you need any tips. for the smaller birds i use red bull can's. ;)

cowgirl said...

Thanks anonyous!! :)
I've made beer can chickens in the past but switched to spatchcocked with smoked sausage under the skin birds.
I like the flavor and moisture the smoked sausage adds.
I haven't done the beer can style in awhile but I might have to give it a try again.

Rueben said...

I have never seen a drum so fixed up before. Looks great. Does the ball valve on the bottom fine tune the air flow? How do you control the temperature?

cowgirl said...

Thanks Rueben! :)
The ball valve is for air control. but the majority of the time I use the drum with the ball valve open and at least one..sometimes two of the other air intakes open at the bottom.
I think you could get by fine with skipping the ball valve and just use a threaded pipe nipple like the rest of the air intakes on the bottom.
Anything that will let you close the holes when not needed will work.
I cook with all of the air outlets in the lid open.
To adjust the temperature I either close down or open the air inlets on the bottom. (hope that makes sense)
It's not a grill...the drum smokes at low temperatures and you can get it up to 400F or more but I don't use it to grill food since the hot coals are down at the bottom of the drum.

There are many drums out there.. some of them are really fancy. I painted mine black, I didn't want it to be too flashy! :)

I checked out the drum on your blog. It looks great!! Looks like you are able to add wood at the bottom and grill food on the top rack? Looks like a great cooker Rueben!
Thanks again, hope you have a nice weekend! :)

Fumo Santo said...

Beautiful looking smoker! I'm thinking of building one of these to use in place of my electric Masterbuilt smoker in the summer. Here in Arizona it's hard to get the electric smoker to generate smoke as the internal temp gets pretty high in the sun. This would be a great alternative.

One question I have is, does the drum need to be stainless steel, or does the seasoning take care of that?

cowgirl said...

Thank you Fumo Santo!
I bet the drum would be a good alternative for you then. They are very efficient smokers. I absolutely love mine. :)
The drum does not need to be stainless.. but it should be food grade or free from anything toxic.
After sanding the inside down to bare metal, spray it or wipe it with oil, light a few coals and season it like cast iron.

I built mine in 2008 and have had to sand a few rust spots and reseason the inside once since the first seasoning.

Good luck with it Fumo Santo, let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks again! :)

BigMike said...

Awesome looking drum smoker! I amcurrently making one (hey, you inspired me), and I got some questions for you: How far up the barrell are your intake valve/nipple vents? Are they just sitting in there or did you fasten them somehow? How far above them is the cooal grate? The vents in the top; what are they made from? some kind of bolt or something? I really like your design of all the ones I've seen

cowgirl said...

Thank you Big Mike! :)
Glad to hear I inspired you. :)
My air intake nipples are about 2 inches up from the bottom of the drum. I just screwed the threaded pipe without welding. I've had no problems with it this way. You can weld them in if you want to ( I did on my smokehouse firebox)
JB Weld might work too.
The hot coal rack is about 1 1/2 inches above the air intake holes.
If you want to skip the rack, just attach bolt "legs" to your coal basket. Using bolts long enought to keep your basket above the air intake holes.

The top air outlet plugs are called threaded pipe plugs. They screw right into the holes.
I leave all 8 open when smoking but close them when finished to extinguish any remaining hot coals.

I like the 8 hole exhaust design...the smoke and heat rise evenly around the food and out the holes. :)
Hope it works out well for you Big Mike. Let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to see pics when you get it finished!
Thanks! :)

fixer said...

I am thinking I could use an UDS as the firebox for a cold smokehouse, giving you both hot & cold options, depending on size of fire you built. what do you think?

cowgirl said...

Hi Fixer,
I used the same air intake design on my smokehouse firebox but my firebox is about 1/4 the size of a full drum.
The full sized drum might be too tall for the smokehouse.
The smoke will rise in the drum, so you would need your smoke pipe at the top (or close to it) to be drawn into the smokehouse.
Meaning you would have to have a pretty tall smokehouse or place the barrel a lot lower...maybe on the slope of a hill? Hope that makes sense. :)
I had to dig a bit to get my smokehouse firebox as low as I needed... my land is so flat.

Hope that makes sense! I'm not great at explaining things.
If you build your smokehouse on a hill and place the UDS on the slope you should be able to get a good draw.

Good luck! :)

fixer said...

Understood, but I was hoping there might some some law of thermodynamics that would draw the smoke towards the cooler exhaust route if there is nowhere else to go. I have a couple ideas, if any of it looks right in the drawings and mockups, I'll send it along!

cowgirl said...

Locating the coldsmoke exhaust closer to the hot coal grate, letting the smoke rise in the UDS, then circle back to the exhaust?
It might work and would make the smoke pipe angle from the drum to the house less.
You will need a way to close the cold smoke exhaust off completely too for efficient use of the UDS.
Might be doable. :)
Keep me posted if you get the time! :)

Erik said...

Have you had any problems with the heat caused by the charcoal and wood? I am in the process of making one of these myself and some diagrams/instructions that I have found recommend that I use a fire difusser to spread the heat so it does not go directly up into the meat. Any thoughts?


cowgirl said...

Hi Erik!
Sorry about the comment delay thingie. Every once in awhile I get interesting comments and some of them are a bit TOO interesting. lol

I've not had a problem with too much heat in my drum. The center always cooks about 25 degrees hotter than the outside but it doesn't cause problems. After about 2 cooks you get the feel of how the drum is going to handle.. then it's pretty much a set it and forget it unit.

I would try it without and see how you like the drum...the diffuser can be added later if you feel you need it.
One of the so called "features" of drum smoking is letting the dripping fat hit the hot coals and
vaporizing. :)

Good luck with it! I'd love to see pics when you get it finished, if you have the time.

bigmike said...

Hey cowgirl, my drum is nearly finished. Thanks for the advice. I would like to send you some pics of the build and the finished product. Let me know where you want them sent.

cowgirl said...

That's great Big Mike!!
If you contact me using the button under my profile picture... I can send an email address to ya for the pics.
Looking forward to seeing your drum!
Thanks Mike. :)

BigMike said...

Cool. It's ready to prime and paint now. I should have you some pics within the next week.

cowgirl said...

Thanks Big Mike! I'm looking forward to seeing your pics. :)

Dave said...


Like the blog. I've been using a WSM for the past 12 years that now needs replacing. I'll be using many of your ideas for building my own UDS.

How does cooking on a UDS differ form most other smokers. My question basically relates to cooking directly over the coals which will produce a lot of radiant heat. I'm guessing cooking times will be shorter and that its possible the meats may need to be turned from time to time? Is any of this true?

Anyway it would be great to post some tips the relate to cooking on an UDS and how they differ from cooking on other smokers.


cowgirl said...

Thanks Dave!
The majority of the time I smoke at 225F on the drum. Briskets and pork butts take from 7 to 13 hours or longer. The heat source is almost 2'
below the food so it is a slow cook method. I do not turn the meat when slow smoking.
It's not possible to sear a steak or grill on the drum unless you build a good fire in the bottom.
This is more for slow smoking meats.

Sometimes I do a reverse sear steak...smoke for an hour then remove from the drum and quick sear it over a fire on another grill.

The air intake at the bottom allows you to adjust the temperature of the drum anywhere from 200 degrees F to 375F.
One thing I love about the thing is when you are finished cooking you close down the air intakes and the outlets and use the leftover coals on your next cook. The unit is very efficient!
Hope you have great luck with your build Dave!
Thanks again...

Anonymous said...

You say you have a more detailed write up on making the smoker would you be willing to email that to me as well? thank you. marion at marioncain dot com

Anonymous said...

I so much appreciate your approach to life. Thank you for answering the same questions over and over for people, and always being cheerful and kind.

Many blessings sent your way, and much peace and joy.

cowgirl said...

Hi Marion!
I don't exactly have anything written up but I can answer any specific questions you have.
The bottom air intake holes are about 2" up from the bottom of the barrel, the bolts holding the hot coal race are 3" from the bottom and the food rack needs to be 2Ft above that.
You can go with the eight 1" air outlet holes in the lid OR you can use the 2" bung hole that comes with a lot of barrel lids. (hope that makes sense)
The drum will cook that way, the table and handles are optional.. But very handy! :)
Let me know if you need any more info! Thanks

cowgirl said...

Anonymous, Thank you for that. You have no idea how much your words mean to me. Your timing is amazing. I wish I could give you a (((HUG)))
Thank you!! :)

Mary said...

I have been looking to make one of these and your site is by far the most informative. Your barrel smoker is the prettiest I've seen. Wish me luck and I'll keep you post.

cowgirl said...

Mary Thanks so much! Good luck with your drum, I would love to see it when you get finished!
Thanks for stopping by too. :)

Anonymous said...

Started my UDS last weekend. I already have a big one I built. Nice build on yours.

Two questions - one, are you married? two - if not will you marry me? lolololololol

cowgirl said...

lol Anonymous, before I reply, please send pics of your UDS and any other cookers you've built..
Just kidding!! :)
Thanks for the laugh. lol

Anonymous said...

Ha! Google The Wild Pig Smoker

cowgirl said...

lol Thanks Anonymous, Great job on your smoker! I like the reverse flow feature too. My horizontal wood burner just has the regular side fire box and I have to rotate food sometimes. Your set up looks great. You do nice work. :)

mary said...

Love this smoker and am attempting it...but before I drill. Air intake holes on bottom are drilled with 1" metal hole cutter? Same for holes on the lid? Thanks so much.

cowgirl said...

Yes Mary 1" holes work fine for both. I think I emailed you earlier today. Good luck with the build! :)

Billco said...

Hey Cowgirl Great Great site. I do competition cooking out of NYC (Yes there are a few of us city boys that understand what real BBQ is). 1 question- no H2O pan? Do you have any flair up problems?

cowgirl said...

Thank you Billco! Nice to meet you. :)
I've talked to several talented smokers in your area. It's nice to see that people from all over the world love BBQ as much as I do. :)

I use no water pan or drip pan. The fat drips down on the hot coals and pretty much vaporizes. I've used this drum heavily for the last few years and have not had one flair up.
That's cooking pork butts, briskets, bacon wrapped fatties...and other cuts of fatty meat.
Maybe I've been lucky. lol
If you build one, give it a try as is and see if you need the water pan. You can always add one easily later.

Again, Nice to meet ya Bill!! Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Do you use water to smoke? I am building mine today and have used a water bowl before...just curious? How do you add wood or charcoal once you have it going?

Anonymous said...

What type of thermometer did you buy? How much was it? Where did you get your metal grate for the charcoal to sit on?

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