Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: January 24, 2023

As a carnivore dieter who enjoys smoked meats, I prioritize investing in a durable and affordable drum smoker for the best meat-smoking results.

I've tried and tested different drum smokers on the market and ranked them based on durability, versatility, convenience, and price.

Read to find out my top favorite drum smoker recommendation.

Top 6 Drum Smokers

1

1 - Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

The first and most popular model of Weber's charcoal smoker is the 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker (SMC). SMCs are top-notch, bullet-shaped smokers that run on charcoal.

I love that Smokey Mountains cook at a wonderfully constant temperature for hours. On this tiny model, adjusting or reducing the cooking temperature is relatively simple–you only need to open and close the vents.

Because Weber is an expert at creating durable chrome and porcelain finishes, the finish on this drum smoker is lovely, and the construction is sturdy.

This is a fantastic option for small-scale slow cooking and smoking. Given how simple it is, the cooker is amazing. It's also a great entry point into the world of smoking for novice smokers who have never used a charcoal smoker before.

Compared to other smokers I’ve used, the price is affordable, it's simple to operate, simple to clean, and it produces excellent smoking results.

Pros
  • Accessing fuel door
  • Two-tier smoking levels
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Aluminum coated dampers
Cons
  • The lid is not wide enough
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 481 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎ 41 x 19 x 25 inches
  • Max temperature : 250 degrees
  • Material : powder-coated steel
2

2 - Pit Barrel Cooker

Pit Barrel Cooker

A 30-gallon/18-gauge steel drum and lid make up most of the Pit Barrel cooker classic (PBC). This drum smoker is robust and well-insulated, able to withstand extreme temperatures, and when it cools outside, condensation forms within the barrel, adding more moisture.

Because of the cylindrical form of this Classic Pit Barrel cooker, convection heat can be dispersed evenly across the chamber for consistently high-quality outcomes.

However, note that even with its convection heating technique, this grill is prone to get flare-ups if you grill fatty foods.

The well-known minion method serves as the foundation for the Pit Barrel cooker classic. The minion technique is adding a few lighted coals to a bigger pile of unlit charcoal rather than dumping a chimney full of hot coals all at once and then needing to refill the charcoal basket every few hours.

The unlit coals below begin to ignite as the ignited coals burn down. In my experience, I ended up burning a single load of charcoal for a long time.

I love that more room is available when cooking vertically, and gravity helps by basting the meat with its own juices and producing a "smoke fog" that eliminates the need for a water pan.

Additionally, hanging the meat eliminates any potential hot conduction points from grilling.

The lateral steel bars at the top of the barrel make it easy for the stainless steel hooks to hang there, and the detachable grill grate presents no resistance at all.

Pros
  • Better hook system
  • Airtight build
  • Easy airflow regulation
Cons
  • Confusing temperature control settings
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 240 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎ 21 x 21 x 31.1 inches
  • Max temperature : 310 degrees
  • Material : stainless steel
3

3 - Char-Broil 20"

Char-Broil 20

The 20" Bullet drum smoker from Char-Broil attempts to modernize the smoking procedure. It has an easy-to-slide handle that you can use to control the bottom damper.

The body of the Char-Broil 20" drum smoker is constructed from heavy gauge steel that has a tough black porcelain coating. This is an improvement over the powder coating used by several rivals on the market.

The lid on this barrel smoker contains an integrated thermometer to assist you in keeping track of the inside temperature.

Two grill grates on this bullet smoker feature a unique porcelain non-stick coating. In terms of total smoking space, they provide you with somewhat more than 570 square inches.

Just be mindful of the fact that they are near to one another in the chamber, and because of this, smoking tall food items on both levels is difficult.

Unfortunately, no proper water pan is provided with the purchase. However, if you wish to add more steam to a specific smoking session, the dripping pan might serve two purposes.

I love that cleaning this barrel smoker is made simpler by the lower ash pan's detachable design. Thanks to their non-stick porcelain coating, the cooking grate is also very simple to clean.

Pros
  • Accessible side door
  • Inbuilt thermometer
  • Easy to assemble
Cons
  • No water pan
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 570 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎ 24.8 x 24.8 x 43.1 inches
  • Max temperature : 350 degrees
  • Material : stainless steel
4

4 - Oklahoma Joe's Bronco Pro Drum Smoker

Oklahoma Joe's Bronco Pro Drum Smoker

The 21-inch grill can accommodate about 15 chicken thighs, 2 pig roasts, and 8 racks of ribs. In my opinion, the racks should be sliced in half and hung from the meat hooks. When you do this, you can cook three racks of pig ribs and one rack of beef ribs simultaneously.

The Bronco Pro drum smoker is as durable as it comes. Thanks to the micro-adjustments, the intake pipe allows you to make the necessary modifications.

This drum smoker has a wagon-like design and metal wheels that make it portable. The rubber lid-lifting handle is my favorite since it never gets hot.

Smoke only exits through the chimney, thanks to the excellent performance of the hinged lid's gasket.

The only thing I disliked was the complicated coal refill and swapping process. Also, before cleaning, you'll have to remove many parts of the grill – the diffuser plate, charcoal basket, and ash pan– and assemble them again for the next cookout.

The Bronco Pro grill is durable and capable of withstanding any environment.

Pros
  • Massive smoking space
  • Easy cleanup
  • Durable metal wheels
Cons
  • Complicated charcoal swapping process
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 366 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎ 40 x 28.8 x 48 inches
  • Max temperature : 550 degrees
  • Material : stainless steel
5

5 - Gateway Drum Smoker

Gateway Drum Smoker

The vibrant, high-heat-resistant paint on this Gateway drum smoker is the first thing that caught my eye.

This barrel cooker classic package also features an innovative air management system that feeds air into the firebox through two intake pipes soldered to the drum's bottom.

Each pipe has an adjustable damper at the top and bends upward until coming to an end just before the upper rim of the drum.

There is a little chimney with a damper that may be adjusted on the lid. These long intake pipes aim to speed up the air reaching the bottom firebox and produce a vortex inside the drum to improve heat and smoke distribution.

After smoking meat with Gateway drum smokers for the first time, I was dissatisfied with how unstable the temperature was, especially when I left the lid open.

The temperature can increase from 300 degrees to 350 degrees or more if you leave the lid open for a prolonged period.

It will take some time for the temperature to stabilize, so it's better to leave the lid on and allow the temperature to work its way up steadily.

Pros
  • Barrel is solid
  • Offers 3 cooking grate positions to smoke meat
  • Precise control from the vents
Cons
  • Not perfect for tailgating
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 462 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎ 27.5 x 27.5 x 43 inches
  • Max temperature : 450 degrees
  • Material : steel
6

6 - Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker

Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18 Charcoal Smoker

The Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18′′ Charcoal drum smoker is made in the same manner as other vertical smokers from other companies. But there are a few slight variations as well.

An access door is included on the body part. It is detachable from the lower smoking chamber, designed to house the wood chips and charcoal. However, this access door is flimsy and looks like it can damage easily.

On the lid of this Cuisinart charcoal smoker is a thermometer for easier temperature reading. Additionally, it has two adjustable racks, allowing you to cook a lot of food at once.

You get a little over 254 square inches to work with on each stainless steel rack, with a total cooking capacity of 508 square inches. This is more than enough to prepare two big breaded chickens or up to seven pieces of ribs.

I appreciate that a three-year warranty covers this smoker from the date of purchase. Ensure you activate the warranty by registering it within 30 days of purchasing it. Compared to some of its immediate rivals, this warranty is marginally better.

Pros
  • Massive cooking capacity
  • Reliable 3-year warranty
  • Effortless cleanup
Cons
  • Flimsy access door
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Quick Facts:

  • Total cooking space : 508 square inches
  • Dimensions : ‎ 25 x 25 x 45 inches
  • Max temperature : 300 degrees
  • Material : porcelain enamel

Best Drum Smokers Buyer's Guide

An image of a person looking to buy the best drum smoker

When going smoker shopping, you don’t want to splurge your money on a low-quality drum smoker. Here are things to look for when buying a classic drum package.

1. Cooking Space

A drum smoker with many levels of cooking grates is an excellent option if you intend to smoke a lot of food at once. Investing in a smoker with a large cooking space allows you to feed many mouths and get the most out of your smoking session.

2. Build Quality

A close up image of smoking drum smoker

Keep a close check on the building materials used in your drum smoker if you want to utilize it for a long time.

The materials used to construct the elements must be strong and weather- and rust-resistant.

It's a good idea to select sturdy stainless steel with a weather-resistant finish. And if you want a smoker that's easy to clean and increases your heat retention, I recommend going for one with porcelain-coated accessories.

3. Cleaning Options

There is always ash and drippings after a cookout session. And after a smoking session, there is no getting around the necessary charcoal grill cleanup.

To make things simpler for yourself, try to get a drum smoker with a removable ash pan or a charcoal basket you can pull out for disposal. Certain versions need tipping out or require vacuuming, so go with whichever floats your boat.

4. Smoker Size

An image of a guy checking the smoker size of a drum smoker

Choose a drum smoker that will fit into your area without any trouble and that can be put away quickly when not in use.

If you don't frequently serve bigger gatherings, think about getting a smaller smoker. Despite their small size, there are other drum smokers that have a surprising cooking space capacity.

Most drum smokers have a capacity of 35 or 60 gallons. Smaller smokers are perfect for camping and tailgating because of their lower capacity and portability, while a larger smoker has a larger charcoal basket that can hold more coals. In addition to looking at the size, go for fuel-efficient drum smokers as well.

5. Vents For Temperature Control

Some folks adore having complete control over their smoking session. If you're one of them, get a drum smoker with a damper for the vents.

Buying a smoker with several dampers allows you to regulate the exact air intake. As a result, it will be simpler for you to establish and modify the smoke's quantity and temperature.

Also Read: How to Regulate Temperature in a Smoker?

6. Coal Management

A close up image of charcoal in flames inside a drum smoker

For outdoor cooking, having quick access to charcoal is crucial. Smoking sessions may last up to 12 hours, after which you must reload your coals. The ability to accomplish this without affecting the smoker barrel's overall cooking temperatures is vital.

A charcoal door is one of the easiest methods to refill coal. To easily add extra fuel to your fire without interfering with the main cooking area, you may use this hinged door towards the smoker's bottom.

So, ensure a drum smoker has an easy coal management system before buying it.

7. Price

When it comes to purchasing smokers, price is a key element. And because the pricing of these drum smokers can range from $100 to $1000+, don't pay for bells and whistles you won't utilize.

There are grand smoker companies who create their smokers with high-quality materials and parts, which is mirrored in their product pricing. Still, there are also a lot of low-quality brands that demand a lot of money for worthless features.

Remember that a fancy hook will not make you a great chef, so work with your budget and go with important features that you'll use.

Who Should Buy Drum Smokers?

An image of a woman using a drum smoker outdoors

Anyone new to smoking should buy drum smokers. They are an excellent option for novice smokers since they are effortless to use.

They are also an excellent option for seasoned professionals or anybody who prefers to relax with friends and family rather than constantly checking on their meat.

Due to their enormous coal baskets, most barrel smokers only need to be lit once, which gives you more time to concentrate on other aspects.

Drum smokers are an obvious choice for anybody who frequently prepares food for big crowds because of their outstanding capacity.

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FAQs

How Long Can You Cook On A Drum Smoker?

You can cook on a drum smoker for up to 20 hours. These cookers can sustain constant heat for extended periods because of their size and sturdy insulation.

Do Drum Smokers Cook Fast?

Yes, drum smokers cook fast because they have a high-temperature capacity and retain most heat during cooking.

Are Drum Smokers the Same as Barrel Smokers?

No, drum smokers are not the same as barrel smokers. Barrel smokers are heavier, more robust, and have to be assembled. Drum smokers come pre-assembled and generally weigh less.

What Size Cooking Grate Fits a 55-Gallon Drum?

21.5" cooking grates fit a 55-gallon drum.

What Is an Ugly Drum Smoker?

An ugly drum smoker (UDS) is a barrel-drum smoker combo. It got this strange name because you can make it yourself using a regular barrel and other parts you can buy separately, including cooking grates, bolts, and mounting elements. The perfect commercial example is the Pit Barrel Cooker.

What Is the Best Drum Smoker for You?

Drum smokers are an excellent way to experience authentic charcoal smoking anywhere. For novice outdoor chefs, a drum smoker may expand your repertoire and costs far less than other alternatives.

If you're looking for a set-it-and-forget-it kind of smoker, the Smokey Mountain cooker is our top pick. The inside is porcelain-enameled and made of very durable 18-gauge stainless steel for consistent performance and simple maintenance.

There's no need to clean or wash the interior; discard your ash, and you're done.

The Smokey Mountain cooker is also ready to use right out of the box; connect the grips, and you're all set to start smoking.

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Accessing fuel door
  • Two-tier smoking levels
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Aluminum coated dampers
  • Get the BEST PRICE until the end of January
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