Monday, November 2, 2009

My newly built Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

While browsing over the internet and researching for new food recipes that I want to try, I came across a very interesting website, As I started reading their lengthy and informative threads about bbq and smoking meats, I was immediately struck with enthusiasm in indulging myself into the world of blue smoke and smoke rings. I joined the forum and registered as a member recently and was in no time welcomed so warmly and hospitably by a lot of my fellow brethren.

I read a detailed 296 page thread in the forum about a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker). Never in my life have I been so patient in reading a very lengthy thread and it took me 15 days to read everything.. lol. But silly me, I found a 15 page tutorial thread started by Norcoredneck complete with photos and instructions on how to build one. That got me going and I started compiling all the things that I need to build my first ever UDS, from the nuts and bolts, to the 55 gallon drum and the thermometer.

An Ugly Drum Smoker is a very impressive and obviously cheap alternative to commercial smokers being sold in the US. Here in the Philippines, we are only used to seeing simple designs of grills. Those nice looking grills with lids being sold in the home depots are almost always imported, with the Weber brands being the most popular. Since these grills with lids are such expensive cooking equipments, someone with a very clever mind invented a smoker/griller out of a container drum years ago as a cheap and yet more effective way of smoking and bbqing meats and poultry, hence, the birth of the Ugly Drum Smoker. It was labelled as "ugly" since the drum was converted into a smoker with the simplest of designs, no fuss whatsoever, yet its usefulness was so admired by bbq lovers from the US and around the world. And now, it's finally here in the Philippines. I'm very sure that only a "few people" in the country, me included, have built and owned this pretty awesome equipment. I bet some of these owners are American bbq lovers who permanently reside here in our country. I'm very much honored to share this ingenious tool to my fellow filipinos so they can discover a new kind of cuisine/obsession which I'm pretty sure will turn into food addiction.... lol.

So much for that, my blog is getting lengthy and I don't want to bore you with dull introductions. Here it is..... I'm proud to show you my first UDS build...
While cruising along the national highway of Cagayan de Oro City going to Bukidnon, I saw an area at Puerto proper where they sell different kinds of used container drums. They were selling a 55 gallon drum for 500 pesos ( $10.50) including the lid. I bought a nice looking drum that used to contain milk from New Zealand and excitedly brought it home so I can start building my UDS.The drum still has a lining inside and I have to scrape it out and reveal the metal. The bbq-brethren website thread mentioned that the inside lining can be removed by using a weed burner or burning wood inside the drum. I opted to do the latter since I don't have a weed burner on hand. I drilled 4 one inch diameter holes near the bottom of the drum to act as air intakes. This video shows how I burned the inside lining. The ultra high temperature made by the wood fire even burned the outside paint of the drum.

After the drum burn I scraped and washed the drum with a very porous sand paper and Tide detergent inside out. After wiping it dry, I drilled 4 1/4 inch holes about 11 inches from the top of the drum (the drums height is 38 inches). I attached a 1/4 x 1 1/2 inch half thread bolt to each whole that will act as support for the 22 inch diameter grill grate welded out of black iron 1/4 inch diameter round bars. I then attached 3 stainless steel 3/4 inch threaded nipple for the air intake holes and screwed them tight with conduit nuts and washers both inside and outside the drum. I then closed the the nipples with nipple caps. The 4th intake hole was attached with a gate valve for air intake control.

An inch below one of the grill grate support, I drilled 1 3/8 inch hole for the smoker's thermometer. This was a very important step since the thermometer plays a vital role in the long cooking process using the drum. And just above the hole for the grill grate support, I drilled another 1/4 inch hole for the meat probe thermometer to slide in comfortably. This tool will help me in monitoring the temperature of the meat without even opening the drum's lid as this would almost always create an air draft that would spike up the temperature of the drum. As they say in the bbq world, "YOU AIN'T COOKIN' WHEN YOUR LOOKIN'".
The drum lid needed some work as well. I drilled 8 1/2 inch holes around the lid to act as the exhaust. I installed a simple wood handle on top of the lid with 1/4 x 3 inch screws as support. I then salvaged a triangle hinge and attached it to the lid and the side of the drum. To make it work perfectly, I squeezed in a lot of washers for me to tighten the hinge securely to the lid. The lid opened and closed comfortably without any wobble. To carry the drum with much ease, I also attached two wood handles on both sides just like the one on top of the lid.
For me to smoke and bbq properly in my drum, I needed a good sturdy firebox and ash pan where the burning charcoal will be placed inside the drum. I designed a 9 inch tall, 16 inch diameter firebox made out of welded 1/4 inch black iron round bars. It was worth the build as it turned out to be very sturdy. I attached 4 legs made out of 1/2" x 3 1/2" black iron half thread bolts. With a pair of washers for each bolt, it acted as sturdy legs for the firebox comfortably.

So there you go.... my Ugly Drum Smoker!!! I like the color that turned out after the drum was burned and cleaned. I didn't bother spraying some high temperature paint on it since it will defeat the meaning of the UDS... that is.... an UGLY DRUM. It's simple as it is and very very functional... and of course... cheap to build!


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  2. hi im otec/ andrew, where did you get your thernometer, been looking in SM here in manila, cant seem to find them. Im also want to try and have been reading on how to smoke some ribs with meathead craig's web site. I also saw the UDS on line and wanted to make one, but time is a bit of a problem for me. more power to your site.

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  4. Wow! Do you sell one of these now, sir? I'm so interested in smoking meats now but I just don't know where to start in building a smoker.