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Ugly Drum Smokers

What is an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)?

Ugly drum smokers (often abbreviated UDS) are charcoal-based, upright barrel smokers. Drum smokers are at the crossroads of a pit, grill, and smoker and offer a variety of benefits when compared to conventional smokers. The primary benefits are greater ease-of-use, faster cook times, and a smaller footprint all while delivering some of the best, tender, smoked meat anyone can make. In fact, at the California KCBS State BBQ Championship in November 2016, nearly half of the competitors cooked on barrel cookers. Barrel House Cookers are the next generation cookers, offering more functionality, lower cost, and a smaller footprint.

KCBS BBQ Championship

Barrel Cookers at KCBS BBQ Championship 11/12/16

Ugly Drum Smoker

Photo Courtesy of Instagram User @dueywhitfield

How Do I Get One?

For years, barbecue enthusiasts have built ugly drum smokers by hand, sourcing all of the parts for their UDS barrel from hardware stores and scrap-yards. Because parts can be easily found, an ugly drum can be built for a fraction of the cost of conventional smokers which can easily cost upwards of $1000. Although building an ugly drum smoker requires precision and can take days or even weeks to complete, users enjoy the “set it and forget it” simplicity that upright barrel cookers provide; all at a fraction of the cost of a conventional smoker.

How Do I Build My Own?

No two ugly drums are ever identical, but all drum smokers consist of a few essential components. 55 gallon drums are most commonly used as the frame for ugly barrel smokers and can be purchased new (highly recommended) for around $90. In addition to the barrel, every drum smoker requires a ventilation system, which can be as simple as a single hole drilled at the top and bottom of the can or more complex, with adjustable intakes and exhaust ports. The more refined the ventilation system is, the more reliable the smoker will be. A basic ugly drum smoker also needs a basket system for the charcoal along with cooking grates for the meat; these components can either be homemade (this requires a considerable amount of work) or purchased in premade kits such as Big Poppa’s All-in Drum Kit for $199, which simplifies the process and removes the need for welding equipment. For more information on building your own UDS, you can check out these how-tos from and

UDS Infographic

How to Build an Ugly Drum Smoker Infographic - - Click to Expand

Source: Blog

Are They Available Pre-Made?

For those who are looking to enjoy the simplicity and delicious results of a UDS smoker without the hassle of building one themselves, the Barrel House Cooker is a reliable, high quality alternative. Built from heavy duty steel, coated with porcelain enamel and fully assembled upon arrival, the Barrel House Cooker takes all of the work out of drum smokers. Though it has a smaller diameter than a 55 gallon barrel, we utilize the vertical volume by hanging meat over the coals rather than grating most meats. This allows our users to cook a large volume of meat in a barrel that has a much smaller footprint than most ugly drum smokers.

Barrel House Cooker Barrel House Cooker
Chicken, Ribs and Tri-Tip

Slide to the left
to reveal hanging meat!

Why Barrel House?

Why Barrel House?
  • No assembly required
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Porcelain coating will not melt, rust, or peel
  • Grates, frames and meat-hanging system included for versatility and volume
  • Removable base (easy clean-up, lighting)
  • Converts to hibachi grill
  • Adjustable air intakes
  • All cooking is time based
  • Never have to flip meat or add coals
  • Sleek design
  • Compact size uses less charcoal, fits on most patios, and remains portable.