Grill Masters Log: Ugly Drum Smoker

The Smoking bug caught me a few years ago when I “acquired” an Offset Smoker from someones junk pile. Although initially a bit rusty, and full of spiders, the smoker treated me quite well over the years. But, with time the smoker had began to rust out, and fall apart.

Offset Smoker

Now the time has come to retire the old girl, and upgrade. After a bunch of google searches, all tracks lead me to the “Ugly Drum Smoker“, or UDS for short.

The UDS seemed perfect. The design is so simple. The basic UDS is built from a 55 gallon drum, some easy to acquire fasteners, and one or two Grill Grates.

Once the initial Drum is constructed you can get very elaborate with “extras”. I decided to play it safe and construct a basic model, test it out, then add whatever bells and whistles I wanted at a later time.

If was now time to find a drum worthy of becoming the smoker. I really only had to ask one person, my father-in-law. His brother has a stash of food grade drums lying around. One quick phone call, and the next weekend I had my very own 55 gallon Coconut Oil drum (empty) with lid, and clamp at my door step (still not quite sure how he fit it in his Prius).

Raw 55 Gallon Drum

Following a very good Instructables guide, and an awesome set of diagrams over at I set out one night to fab my smoker.

In one night I was able to mark and drill all holes for mounting the Grill Grates (I was planning on having two), Air Vent holes, and handles.

For the lid I drill two holes for a handle. I found some scrap tubing in my shop for the smoke stack. A quick trip to my fathers work to borrow his welder, and we had a smoke stack welded into the drums bung hole. Including adjustable vent cover.

UDS - Drum Lid

Next was to burn the barrel and lid. Because my Drum was Food Grade I was only looking to remove the residual Coconut oil, and exterior paint. Luckily, I did not have to remove any type of liner. I purchases a weed burner from Harbor Freight, connected it up to a propane tank, and put flames to the drum and lid. The process went rather quickly.

I installed all the Grill Grate fasteners, Air Vent Piping, and handles prior to applying high temp paint to the exterior. Using painters tape I made sure to cover all opening on the inside of drum to avoid overspray.

UDS - High Temp Paint2

UDS - High Temp Paint

Once the high temp paint dried I paint the whole thing gloss black.

UDS - Final Paint2

UDS - Final Paint

I applied a couple of coats of gloss black to everything and set it all aside to dry. Once dried the only thing left to do was position the grates inside, and do an initial drum cure. More on that later.

UDS - Grill Grate
UDS – Grill Grate

Aside: During my reading it was noted that a Webber 22″ Kettle Grill lid fits a 55 gallon drum almost perfectly. Until one is found I plan on using the stock lid.


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