Ugly drum smokers are a very affordable way to smoke some great meat. I read that many people get an 8 or 10-hour smoke out of it without having to add more charcoal.
I am doing a
The option of a pellet smoker was not approved by my bank account. So I had to look at other options. That is how I ran into the UDS and decided to see if this was an option.
I am thinking about building one myself and starting to do a lot of research before even starting. Here you can follow me on my journey of trying to build the best UDS smoker.
What is a UDS Smoker
Table of Contents
Like I mentioned in the intro UDS stands for Ugly Drum Smoker. The word ugly we have to take with a grain of salt. I have seen some pictures and videos of some really nice looking ones.
Why Use A UDS?
I did a lot of reading lately and here are the reasons why I am thinking about building one of these smokers.
- Easy to build
- Fairly cheap
- can be upgraded step by step
- No too much tools needed
- No welding necessary
- A long session without adding charcoal
What Parts Are Needed For A UDS
There are just a few essential parts you need for any grill or smoker and they are the same for UDS smokers. In my opinion however, they are easier to make and cheaper. Here is my UDS smoker part list that I think you need. I am going to tell you more about them.
- Steel drum
- Air intake
- Air outlet
- Charcoal basket
- Ash catch pan
- Grill grates
Additional you can make these parts look a lot nicer if you like to do that. But a UDS smoker will work perfectly without any fancy updates.
The steel drum is the basic thing you need to start building a UDS. I have found that most people use a 55-gallon drum. If you only smoke for a few people however and do not feel the need for smoking 2 or 3 Boston buts at the same time, a 30 gallon will do fine.
I have not made up my mind yet but I am thinking of using a 55 gallon because these are more available.
UDS Intake Ideas
Looking at many intake ideas on websites, PDF’s and videos I have decided to just start out with drilling 3/4 inch holes for the air intake.
I will drill 3 holes about 2 inches above the bottom of the drum. The diameter I make 3/4 inch so I can add some pipe nipples later if I am happy with the 3/4″ diameter.
You can find online how to divide a circle into 3 parts, but I guess I just use a tape measure to measure the drum and divide that in 3 to find where to place the holes.
UDS Air Outlet
I am planning of finding a barrel with a lid that has a cap and use this to start out. If I can not find one I will also drill 3 holes in the lid with the 3/4″ diameter to make sure that inlet and outlet are the same sizes.
This is the part that might be a little more of a challenge if you do not want to use any welding. I have found however several UDS charcoal basket plans. They work just by using expanded metal from Lowe’s or Home-depot. I just would like to have an ash catcher for easy cleaning.
Update about the charcoal basket: I have decided to purchase the Hunsaker vortex basket and you can read on that page why.
Cleaning up after smoking has never been my favorite part and to be honest I don’t think anyone likes it to much.
An ash catch pan is almost a must. Reason is that after using the UDS the walls will be dirty and sticky. This makes it almost impossible to pick up the barrel and dump out the ashes that accumulated on the bottom
A separate ash catcher that is attached to the charcoal basket or sitting just by itself at the bottom is a must-have for cleaning in my opinion.
Depending on the design I need one or two grill grates. I read that most 55 gallon drums have a 23″ diameter. There are may grill grates available in this size. From the Weber to many cheaper ones.
I have even found some ceramic coated ones. if you have read any on my grill reviews you know that they are my favorite.
Hardware For UDS Smoker
There is not a lot of hardware you need. Just some easy to find and cheap bolt, nuts and washers. You will basically only need them to make the charcoal basket and as a bracket for the grill grate.
UDS Smoker Paint
Painting your UDS is optional, but I am planning on doing it just to make it look nicer and to protect it from rusting. I am using heat resistant spray paint to paint my barrel grill every year but I am not sure if this is the type to use for my UDS.
I maybe have to look at another option and maybe a quality that is more suited for heavier used grills like the UDS
More Things I am considering
After doing the basics that I am thinking about slowly improving the UDS with some mods that I have found in my search for what I think is the best drum smoker. The Hunsaker vortex smoker I wrote about.
Updating the air inlets with some 3/4 inch galvanize bushings, 90 degrees elbows and galvanized pipe. On top of this there is a shut off valve.
The reason is that you do not have to bend over to fool with the intake and they function as a kind of intake damper like on other grills and smokers.
The air outlet can be made with the same bushings and an elbow. This will prevent rain from getting in your smoker.
You can also add a shut of the valve to one of them to regulate airflow. Although testing has to be done to find out if this is needed.
Finding an old 22″ Weber grill is also on my list. The reason is that the lid should fit the 55 gallon drum. This will add more space above the grill grate for things like turkey or chicken.
I looked into wheels under the smoker to move it around easier and found some that do not break the bank.
A handle on the lid is also on my list plus a hook to hang it on like the Weber 22 inch kettles have.
If you have any ideas or tips to help me, feel free to leave them in the comment section.
After reading more I found that people are looking for affordable Ugly Drum Smokers and I had a look at two of the best ones on the market in my opinion.
The first one is the Pit Barrel cooker reviews I did and I was surprised by the many good reviews I found for this UDS.
The second one I mentioned already and that is the Hunsaker smoker I wrote about on its own page. A little higher in price than the PBS but also of great quality.
Let me know what you think!
Eddie van Aken
Eddie van Aken has run his own full-service restaurant for many years. Before that, he worked as a grill and buffet cook in some of the mainstream restaurants. With his experience using professional kitchen equipment, he is able to write expert reviews. You can read more about Eddie van Aken here.