Drum smokers offer outstanding results with minimal effort compared to other kinds of charcoal smokers. Whether you are smoking brisket, ribs, or chicken, these smokers have a high capacity and a quicker than average cooking time.
Upright drum smokers provide an appealing cooking design that barbecue fans love. Their steel barrel design provides a unique way to increase the heat for excellent outdoor smoking.
With our guide to the best drum smokers, you can enhance your backyard cooking game. Here is our top selection of the appealing drum smokers available on the market in 2021.
1. Editor’s Choice: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker
Oklahoma Joe’s has been making dependable smokers for over 30 years and it is one of the best-selling brands in the market.
The Bronco Pro Drum smoker is designed for the barbecue circuit and pitmasters who cook large quantities of meat.
It has a lot of appealing features – One of the best features is a hinged lid that offers enough extra clearance for an entire turkey, which is not something you can easily find on a conventional drum smoker.
Let’s examine its features in more detail…
This cooker has a high-quality build made with heavy-duty, thick steel. Unlike typical drum smokers that are made from one barrel, the Bronco has two drum sections that are bolted together.
This smoker has a 21.5-inch cooking surface and a 17-pound fuel capacity. It comes with meat hangers and an adjustable cooking grate. The porcelain-coated steel cooking grate is adjustable and provides users with added versatility when smoking or grilling. The cooking area is not that significant but you can use the cooker to prepare three racks of ribs flat on the grate.
- The upper grate setting sits close to the lid and is ideal for smoking meats low-n-slow.
- The lower grate setting allows users to get closer to the coals for barbecuing and grilling.
The other accessories included with the Bronco are hooks and hanging racks, a side shelf for holding supplies or tools, and a tool for picking up the meat hooks, and a charcoal basket.
This vertical cooker has an exceptional Snorkel airflow control system that comes with adjustable vents. Here is where the Bronco stands out from other cookers:
Instead of the conventional vent cut out on the body of drum smokers for controlling the air intake, the smoker’s airflow control system pulls air in from the bottom. The air that comes from under the coals does a great job of distributing the smoke and heat evenly throughout the cooking chamber.
What we like:
- Amazing airflow mechanism
- Can be cleaned easily
- High-quality construction materials
What we don’t like
- Difficult to move around
- Some important tools are still missing
2. Best Overall: 18.5″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
This is an 18.5-inch steel cooker that is a variation of the ugly drum smoker design, which DIY enthusiasts loved.
Noah Glanville, an Iraq war veteran came up with a new design when he founded the Pit Barrel company in Colorado.
The Pit Barrel Cooker works almost like a convection oven. Therefore, it manages to cook food with even heat from top to bottom. The vertically hanging meat can smoke itself well with its juices.
The basic material in the Pit Barrel cooker is an 18 gauge/30-gallon steel drum and lid. The cooker’s barrel is sturdy and uninsulated. It can handle high temperatures while the external cooling brings about condensation in the barrel for additional moisture. The cylindrical shape makes it possible for convection heat to get distributed evenly throughout the chamber for the best outcome.
The Pit Barrel has a large 30-gallon capacity, which allows users to cook a lot of food at once, vertically. It stands out from other cookers because of the eight stainless steel hooks and two steel bars on which users hang them. It also comes with a removal grill for people who wish to use it as a grill to directly cook fish, steaks, chicken pieces, or vegetables.
This cooker’s hook system increases one’s cooking capacity. Since you hand the meat vertically rather than laying it out, you can fit 2 pork butts or 8 racks of ribs easily. Besides, the cooker has a coal basket sized for the ideal amount of charcoal to ensure the meat cooks perfectly.
The Classic Pit Barrel cooker package comes with everything you need to start using it. They include 8 stainless steel hooks, 2 hanging rods, hook remover tools, a charcoal basket, and a standard grill grate.
The unit comes with a simple twist and set vent at the bottom. It enables users to set the air circulation based on the temperature they want for their cook. However, the cooker doesn’t have an adjustable exhaust. Combustion gases and smoke escape via the holes surrounding the rebar hangers. It is, therefore, recommended to insert them when cooking anything. They play an essential role in the cooker’s airflow system.
What we like:
- Can be used easily
- Easy to set-up
- Versatile and long-lasting
- Requires little maintenance
What we don’t like:
- The amount of charcoal determines the temperature level
3. Best Budget: Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
The Weber 18-inch smoky mountain cookers is a high-quality drum smoker that justifies its price tag. It is a durable barrel cooker that offers great airflow management and heat retention.
It is mainly built with steel and has plated steel cooking grates and a sleek porcelain-enameled bow. These features combine to guard the cooker against the threats of corrosion and rust. Steel is used in the grates and the cooker’s body. The heat shield, fuel door, and dampers of the cooker are made of aluminum. Its construction is tough, thus, the cooker can serve you well for many years.
The cooker comes in three sizes with ample cooking space.
- The 14-inch cooker has a total cooking area of 286 inches and can be used to prepare food for 3 to 5 people.
- The 18-inch cooker has a cooking area of 481 square inches and can prepare food for 4 to 6 people.
- The 22-inch Smokey mountain cooker has a total cooking area of 726 inches and is ideal for preparing food for 6 to 8 people.
The Smokey Mountain is ideal for barbecue fans who want an elite-level drum smoker without having to learn much about how to use one.
The cooker also has a side door allowing users to access the charcoal easily. Many conventional drum cookers lack this, forcing users to add charcoal through the lid. The side door makes refueling easy and quick while ensuring that the users don’t disturb the internal cooking temperature.
This cooker belongs to the so-called water smokers. It features a water bowl between the cooking grates and the charcoal grate. The water bowl is meant to keep the temperatures low and allow for longer smoking. It also prevents the meat from drying, thus, enhancing its flavor.
Weber has also improved this smoker when it comes to ventilation system. It has 4 aluminum-lined dampers to provide users with more control over heat and airflow through the unit. Other smokers usually have only exhaust and intake dampers. Therefore, an added two enable users to be more precise with regulating cooking temperatures.
What we like:
- Steel-plated grates
- In-built thermometer
- Temperature can be toggled easily
- The fuel compartment can be accessed easily
What we don’t:
- Emits carbon monoxide, soot, and nickel
4. Best Value: Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
The Dyna- Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker is multifunctional and can let you have it all with both offset smoking and grilling capacity. You can use it to smoke your pork shoulder slow and low or grill burgers for your crew.
This smoker is efficient and its design is an amalgam of an offset firebox with a vertical smoke chamber. This design makes it easier to generate good smoke flow and heat. Due to the flow, you can impart more smoke flavors without experiencing bitter tastes.
Vertical cabinet smokers usually have a high cooking capacity. This smoker offers 1382 square inches of total cooking space. The smoke cabinet shelves have a total of 1098 square inches for all 5 racks. The firebox has 284 square inches of grilling space.
This smoker has a stainless temperature gauge with a smoke zone that indicates which temperature is suitable for infusing smoke flavor.
When you need to cook high-profile items such as pork butt, whole chicken, or roast with this smoker, it is advisable to remove two of the racks to get the space you need. After removing the racks, you will have 659 square inches of cooking areas in the smoke chamber.
Its oversize steel wheels come in handy when one needs to move the smoker before and after use.
What we like:
- Sturdy design and packaging
- Easy and straightforward to assemble
- Awesome appearance and design
- Easy to monitor the smoking temperature
What we don’t:
- Some buyers complained about dents in the barrel
- Quite heavy around 120lbs
5. Best for Patio: Barrel House Cooker Smoker
The Barrel House cooker (BHC) is appealing to many people because of its high-quality craftsmanship and the results it offers. The BHC is designed to trap moisture, heat, and flavor when cooking. Therefore, you can get amazing results consistently and a unique flavor more quickly than you can get when using conventional smokers. It is also not necessary to keep turning the food.
The BHC is built to last for many years. It has a 20-gauge metal barrel that is porcelain enameled outside and inside. It has stainless steel components, a non-abrasive stand, and conventional wire-type handles.
This easy-to-use and high-quality barrel smoker takes up 18 inches of space. This makes it the perfect complement to patio space. Even though it does not consume much space on your patio, it can cook adequate food to feed a party within a short time.
This smoker has enough space for users to cook up to 8racks of ribs, 15 pounds of brisket, 4 chickens, or a turkey weighing 30 pounds. The food cooks evenly from the bottom to the top and will not fall off as long as you hook it properly.
This cooker has a removable base. The barrel lifts off the base for easy ash disposal, lifting and for adding charcoal. The base also converts to a hibachi grill, ideal for grilling and searing.
What we like:
- It is easy to assemble
- Excellent temperature control and heat retention
- Long-lasting and solid design
- Easy to clean up and use
What we don’t
- The lid could be better
6. Best Infrared: Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Smoker
In today’s world, not everyone has large open spaces, a mancave, or large deck areas. Many people have little patios or small balconies at the back of their homes, condos, or apartments.
The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Smoker is perfect for individuals who love the great flavors of barbeque but do not have adequate space for a 4 burner fire pit or smoker. This smoker is small, versatile, and delivers juicy and tender meat.
It has a sturdy and durable build. The Big easy can withstand regular use and does not drop in performance. It also has rugged contoured designs with a fine finish and easy curves, which are a big plus to the smoker. Due to its 4 legs, the Big Easy has a firm stand on the ground.
The Big easy has a total cooking area of 225 inches. The cooking racks have four different tiers, allowing users to cook different kinds of meat. The racks are small – so, if you want to cook larger cuts, it is advisable to make a custom rack.
The unit’s weight and size make it easy to maneuver. Which makes it perfect for camping, fishing or just taking it over to a friend’s home.
Although the unit doesn’t have a digital temperature display, the knob accurately indicates the temperature. Users can easily adjust the temperature: it ranges from 9000 to 18,000 BTUs.
The stainless-steel smoking and roasting box can hold a 25-pound turkey when smoking or roasting. It also has a roasting basket which allows for twin stacking. Therefore, you can prepare two differently roasted chickens simultaneously. It comes with a smoker box meant to enhance the flavor of the smoked meat.
This smoker is technologically advanced – it comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and thermostatic controls, makes it easy to control the unit from your phone. When smoking food with the TRU-Infrared, no flare-ups occur. The food cooks juicy and evenly.
What we like:
- Can be assembled easily
- Features Infrared heating
- Quite portable
- Offers large cooking surface
What we don’t:
- The grease pan does not have a perfect fitting
- Infrared could be a bit complex to understand
7. Best Compact: Realcook Charcoal BBQ Smoker Grill
The Realcook Charcoal BBQ Smoker Grills takes a smoker’s concept and then breaks it down to its constituent parts. Due to its sections, you can use it as a double-chambered charcoal smoker, a direct heat grill, or a firepit.
When the unit is fully assembled – it measures 41 inches tall. This is the right unit to get if you want a high-capacity, vertical smoker that can also function as a grill.
The charcoal smoker is made from high-quality steel, and the insulation is made from porcelain enameled steel. Due to the material used to make this unit, it is cost-effective. This smoker offers a cooking area of 969 combined square inches when users set it up as a smoker. Also, this cooking space does not include the sausage hooks beneath the lid.
This beast can accommodate a slab of ribs or large cuts of meat for smoking. It is also tall enough for users to hang large chickens, turkeys, and other foods. It has 4 hangers on the lid. The charcoal smoker comes with hooks that attach to the area beneath the lid. These hookers allow users to hang rings and linked sausages while smoking other foods on the cooking grates.
An air vent that is easy to control is found at the lowermost part of the chamber. It enables users to precisely control the amount of oxygen introduced to the fire. The air vent works together with the air vent on the lid, controlling the amount of smoke and heat allowed to come out from the cooking chamber. A highly accurate thermometer helps users to monitor the temperature between the two dampers.
What we like:
- The latch-locking mechanism is dynamic
- Straightforward to put together and disassemble
- Large cooking surface
- Easy to clean up
- Temperature control is easy
What we don’t:
- A bit ugly in terms of aesthetics
What’s the difference between Drum/Barrel Smoker vs Offset smoker?
Offset smokers are also referred to as horizontal smokers, pipe smokers, or stick burners. They feature a small firebox that filters smoke and heat through to a larger interconnected cooking chamber.
Afterward, the heat and smoke exist through a chimney that often sits at the end that is furthest away from the firebox. Still, some offset smokers have a reverse flow design and feature an additional baffle plate.
Many people say that offset smokers deliver the most authentic-tasting barbeque. They also have a larger cooking capacity than drum/barrel smokers. They are ideal for smoking large cuts of meat since you can easily lay them across one, huge cooking grate.
The design of offset smokers also makes it easier for users to add more fuel. Adding fuel does not disrupt the heat and the level of smoke in the cooking chamber. Furthermore, one can run offset smokers on pure wood. They are also reasonably affordable.
Barrel smokers on the other hand offer the benefit of occupying a smaller area because of their vertical design. Users can easily set temperature and other parameters and then leave the food to cook.
Some drum smokers have a dual-door design that makes it easier to add fuel as the food cooks. They also typically use less fuel than offset smokers and have faster cook times because of their more efficient design. These units are more portable than offset smokers and are better suited to areas with lower temperatures.
Are drum smokers good for beginners?
Yes, drum smokers are good for beginners because they have one of the simplest designs of outdoor smokers in the market. Due to their simple design, they are also the cheapest. Their design essentially comes down to a 55-gallon drum with a cage and grates in it. Therefore, it is easy to manufacture them.
Drum smokers are also fuel-efficient. Their burning times are longer than those of other types of grills and smokers. It is possible to see a 12-pound batch of coal last close to 20 hours while cooking food is 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes them easy to use and long-term fuel costs are very cheap. The cookers are also portable and users can easily travel with them for camp or RV smoking.
The downside of drum cookers is that they have a steep learning curve for beginners, particularly when compared to electric or pellet smokers. It is crucial to learn how to control the smoke in the drum and is challenging for newcomers to this cooking form. For instance, space is a premium in the types of cookers with a 55-gallon drum size. The drums only provide adequate space for a 22-inch rack.
Drum smokers produce amazing results with minimal effort than a majority of other types of charcoal smokers. Whether you want to smoke brisket, chicken, or ribs – drum smokers offer faster cooking times and high capacity storage.
Overall, the best drum smoker on our list based on features is the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker. It is the primary choice for buying. One of the best things about it is its heavy-gauge steel construction. Due to its heavy-duty construction, it can last for years if handled and used in the right manner.