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Best Drum Smoker: 5 Top Simple + Effective Solutions

Well priced and easy to use with delicious results – a drum smoker is a great choice.

Ideal for cooking a lot of food in less time than many other types of smokers, they’re perfect for multiple racks of ribs, briskets, whole fish, or chicken. Buy the right one and you’ll even be able to grill on a drum smoker too.

But, which is best? In this article, we share our experience smoking and grilling on drums to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

Here are the best drum smoker options…

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Table of Contents

Oklahoma Joe's Bronco - Overall Winner!

The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco is one of the newer kids on the drum smoker block.

But, there’s nothing that screams inexperience about this primarily offset smoker company branching out into drum territory.

Oklahoma Joe’s have really taken the time to see what works and doesn’t work, fixing the common complaints people have about drum smokers to create a barbecue that’s even easier to use with added versatility too.

Instead of your typical one-piece drum design, the Bronco is actually made of two powder-coated sections, screwed together. They’ve added a hinged lid for ease, a gasket to reduce smoke leakage, a side-rack for those who don’t have a full outdoor kitchen, an air intake valve for improved temperature control and a temperature gauge so you can monitor it.

With the Bronco you get 9 stainless steel hooks so you can hang up to 9 pieces of meat.

The extra height that’s gained with the hinged lid lets your ribs hang that much further away from the coals, reducing the slight charring of that bottom rib. But, it also means they’ve managed to sit the standard grate in line with the top of the drum.

There’s no more awkward reaching down to grab your meat. And, when you’ve got the Bronco set up for grilling with the charcoal basket set up higher, it’s like you’re grilling on a regular barbecue instead of a half-there solution.

With a porcelain-coated charcoal basket and ash pan, the Bronco comes with everything you need to smoke or grill. And, they’ve maintained the lower price you’d expect of a drum smoker too.

Specs for the Oklahoma Joe's Bronco

Barbecue type: Charcoal drum cooker

Barbecue material: Painted steel

Grate material: Porcelain-coated steel

Cooking capacity: 284 square inches or 9 hooks

Fuel type: Charcoal

Price guide: $$

Model: Bronco

Assembled size (in): 30″ W x 43″ H x 25″ D

Weight: 137 lbs

Warranty: 2 years

Pros of the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco:

  • Greater temperature control than other drum smokers with adjustable air intake and exhaust
  • Well setup for both smoking and grilling
  • Extra height and comes with a heat deflector plate to prevent the meat closest to the fire from drying out
  • Can hold a huge capacity
  • Customizable setups (especially with a few additional accessories)
  • Gasket on the lid gives a tighter, leak-proof seal
  • Includes ash pan for faster and easier clean up
  • Suprisingly durable build with quality accessories
  • Grab the Bronco Pro version for an extra large capacity

Cons of the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco:

  • After a lot of use (and time spent outside), the drum is holding up well but it would be nice if it was porcelain or powder-coated for extra durability
  • Ours does leak a small amount of grease underneath the drum from the air intake

Pit Barrel Cooker Classic - Set & Forget Drum

If set and forget is more your jam, you simply cannot go past the Pit Barrel Cooker.

This top rated smoker is consistently praised by die-hard enthusiasts because the results compared to the low effort required to get them is phenomenal.

Now, the Pit Barrel’s a bit different from most other smokers. With one intake valve and no temperature gauge, you set the valve based on your altitude, light a full charcoal basket and leave it to do it’s thing.

The Pit Barrel sits at a fairly tight temperature range to smoke away without you having to change a thing.

You can baste, wrap and unwrap if you want. But, you can put this drum on and just come back when dinner’s ready.

With a high-quality porcelain-coated exterior and everything included that you need to smoke on the grate or hooks, it’s a great package.

Note: If you want to grill as well, the Pit Barrel’s not really set up for it. It is possible. But, the Bronco is a more versatile choice.

Read our full review of the Pit Barrel Cooker.

Use our code – BURNINGBRISKET – at the checkout for 10% off your Pit Barrel purchase.

(Valid on the Pit Barrel website only)

Specs for the Pit Barrel Cooker

Fuel type: Charcoal

Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled, 18-gauge steel

Grate material: Stainless steel or regular steel depending on accessory

Cooking capacity: Varies depending on accessories used

Model: Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package

Assembled size (in): 21″ W x 31.1″ H x 21″ D

Weight: 57lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Pit Barrel Cooker:

  • Durable design
  • Set and forget charcoal smoking
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Cooks a little faster than some smokers because it runs a bit hotter
  • Fairly portable as well

Cons of the Pit Barrel Cooker:

  • Not the best grilling option
  • You can’t set the temperature if you like to be in control

Gateway 30 Gallon Straight-Up Drum Smoker - Best High Quality

Anyone looking for the very best quality in a drum smoker will appreciate the build of the Gateway Straight Up 30 Gallon.

The Gateway is a bit of a mix of the Bronco and the Pit Barrel.

You’ve got temperature control like the Bronco with 2 air intake pipes that are welded to the bottom of the industrial-grade painted-steel drum. But, it’s a dedicated smoker that’s set up to smoke hot and fast like the Pit Barrel.

The included charcoal basket holds about 10 pounds of lump charcoal to smoke for about 14 hours straight.

It also comes with a standard grate. There is space for another grate but you’ll need to buy one separately.

If you want to hang your meat, you’ll need to grab a rib hanger. The heat diffuser plate is also an extra.

At a much higher price than either the Bronco or the Pit Barrel, the Gateway is definitely a bit of investment. But, for the quality, we feel the price justified. And, there’s a lifetime warranty to boot.

Specs for the Gateway Straight Up 30 Gallon Drum

Fuel type: Charcoal

Barbecue material: 1000 degree painted-steel

Grate material: Plated steel

Cooking capacity: 306 sq in or 612 with second grate. Can also hang

Model: 309FB

Price range: $$$

Assembled size (in): 23W x 23D x 40H

Weight: 50 lbs

Warranty: Lifetime

Pros of the Gateway Straight Up 30 Gallon:

  • Quality build that’s backed by their limited lifetime warranty
  • Adjustable temperature for precise control
  • Large capacity from hanging (hooks extra) or with optional second rack
  • Comes with removable castors making it easy to move around your yard
  • Available in a huge range of colors
  • Also comes in a larger 55 gallon version for a triple stacked rack

Cons of the Gateway Straight Up 30 Gallon:

Pit Barrel Junior - Best Small Drum

A large capacity isn’t all that a drum’s got going for it.

So, if you’re looking for a drum because they’re simple to use and cook quickly, the smaller Pit Barrel Junior’s got all that without using so much charcoal for just the one cook.

Measuring 14″ across, the PBJ still holds a suprising amount of meat if you hang it on the included 4 stainless steel hooks.

Just like the larger Classic, it’s a set and forget charcoal drum smoker.

Simply set the air intake valve based on your altitude, light a basket of charcoal, load it up and away you go. There’s nothing to adjust or check although, using the MEATER Plus to tell you when dinner’s ready means you’ll never over or under-do it again.

Small and light enough to actually be a portable drum option, the Pit Barrel Junior is well-built and great value for smaller families or groups.

Use our code – BURNINGBRISKET – at the checkout for 10% off your Pit Barrel purchase.

(Valid on the Pit Barrel website only)

Specs for the Pit Barrel Junior

Fuel type: Charcoal

Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled, 18-gauge steel

Grate material: Stainless steel or regular steel depending on accessory

Cooking capacity: Varies depending on accessories used

Price guide: $

Model: 14″ Pit Barrel Cooker Junior

Dimensions: 21.5″ W x 33″ H x 21.5″ D

Weight: 32lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior:

  • Great quality, durable build
  • Smaller cooking capacity uses less fuel than larger drums
  • Set and forget smoker that doesn’t require babysitting
  • Can be used as a grill
  • Portable
  • Comes with all the basics you need to get started – grate, hooks and charcoal basket

Cons of the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior:

  • Not very well set up for grilling
  • No control over the temperature if you like to be able to set it to different heats
  • No temperature gauge might bother some people

Big Poppa's Drum Smoker Kit - DIY Option

If you don’t mind getting down and dirty to save a bit of cash, what you can build with the Big Poppa’s DIY Drum Smoker Kit is actually worth a mention.

You’ll need to grab yourself a 55 gallon, food grade drum with a lid. Then, you’ll need a drill, wrench and tape measure along with this kit to build your very own ugly drum.

Putting it altogether is more complicated than assembling most barbecues out of the box. But, the instructions Big Poppa have included go a long way to making it not too difficult.

The results?

A pretty darn decent smoker. You’ve got vents to adjust the temperature, a reliable temperature gauge, and, a large charcoal basket to give you very long smoke times.

The rib hanging rack kit is sold separately so grab one of those if you want to super-size your cooking capacity.

You can even add a side-table on to finish off a pretty sweet kit.

Specs for the Big Poppa's Smokers DIY Drum Smoker Kit

Barbecue material: DIY Drum Smoker Kit

Fuel type: Charcoal

Grate material: Stainless steel

Cooking capacity: 354 sq in with included single rack

Model: Big Poppa’s DIY Drum Smoker Kit

Price guide: $

Assembled size (in): Fits a 55 gallon drum

Weight: Depends on drum used

Pros of the Big Poppa’s DIY Drum Smoker Kit:

  • Cheapest drum smoker option
  • Builds a very large capacity drum
  • Adjustable temperature
  • Built in temperature gauge
  • Variety of add-ons available

Cons of the Big Poppa’s DIY Drum Smoker Kit:

  • It is going to take a bit of time and effort to build
  • You need to find/buy your own drum. You do need something that’s food grade and preferrably one that’s been professionally refurbished, formally used in food service, or new

Not Quite What You Were Looking For?

Z Grills Powerhouse 10002B2E

  • Large cooking capacity
  • Great value smoker
  • Hands off set and forget experience
  • Smokes, bakes, grills and everything in between

Weber Smokey Mountain

  • Quality alternative
  • Fuel door makes it easy to add more charcoal
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Adjustable temperature

Jared Brown, an avid lover of all things meat has a fearless enthusiasm for experimenting with anything that's grilling, smoking or outdoor cooking. With a wealth of experience across a range different barbecue types, Jared's got a real knack for helping others make a decision they're happy with, ensuring they find the perfect fit regardless of conventional notions of the 'right' choice. This unique approach has made Jared a trusted guide in the world of barbecue.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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