Ugly Drum Smoker

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The past few years home made drum smokers commonly called UDS (ugly drum smoker) have become real poplar with the home BBQ back yard enthusiasts.  The professionals are also using them on the TV network BBQ shows and by their usage, one contestant  has come in second place in the World and/or National Championship contests.

Robert Webster a local grill master in Hamlet, NC has been building and using them on a regular basic and has their construction down to a science now.  Robert has made over two dozen of those ugly drum smokers and could probably build them blindfolded.......Grin if you must!  The main part of the ugly drum smoker is a standard 55 gallon steel drum which can be had without too much trouble and for around 10 bucks or so you can purchase a new once used drum.   All the hardware, grates, bolts, nuts, flat washers, lid, fire basket material, spray paint, handles, long stem thermometer, magnets used for dampers, etc.,  are also easy to locate at Lowe's,  Big Lots, General Dollar, Wal-Mart and other supply outlets.  One can build the UDS for around 60 to 100 dollars (raw material cost) depending on whether you use a Weber type dome lid, etc.  A hand drill, drill bits and a few wrenches are about about the only tools need to fabricate the ugly drum smoker and a few hours of your time.

Robert Webster called me a couple weeks ago about him and I building one for myself and I would only need to purchase the raw materials and we would go from there.  Due to a medical condition, I had to put it on hold but there is no stopping Robert when he has something on his mind.  Today, July 12, 2012 around 11AM  my bride and myself went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things for a birthday party and when we returned Robert Webster was in the driveway with his ugly drum smoker that he finished building for me.

Attached are few pixs of the UDS (ugly drum smoker) with Robert and I will take additional pixs showing how he built this one.  You can trick it out and add additional items to your liking but this one will get the job done.

I plan to give it a test run within the next few days since Robert showed me some pictures on his cell phone of the many things he has been cooking/smoking in his smokers.  The real beauty about the ugly drum smoker is the ability to produce an even temperature without using a ton of charcoal and flavor woods such as apple, hickory, cherry, etc., and with the adjustable air intakes, you can cut the air supply down to about nil as needed.

You can further "trick" the smoker out by adding a Weber brand grill lid and/or Weber clone imitation grill lid if you don't want to use the regular flat drum lid.  Robert showed me some picks of some he had tricked out with special license plate tags, team logos, etc, and different colors of paints used.  A first class All American made smoker.  A special thank you to Robert who would not take any extra money for his labor.  I could not be out done, so I did persuade him to accept one of my custom made turkey box calls as a special gift.

I will post additional pixs as I take them when I get started smoking some meat with this UDS.

Robert had even spray painted the barrel after burning it out...Man, you can't beat that!

A close up of the wire basket that Robert had fabricated and welded from expanded metal.  He installed some bolts with flat washers and nuts to raise the basket about 4 inches.   A cheap pizza pan will be bolted to the underside of the fuel basket with a single bolt, washers and nuts to keep the ashes contained with the fire basket.

More pixs to follow.

Web posted by Bill aka Mickey Porter 07-12-12.

Robert made a smaller version of his UDS using a 30 gallon drum and below is pix of a chicken that he smoked on 07-05-14:


Robert Webster has been checking on me every month or two to see if I had gotten around to using the Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) and I sheepishly stated, "I hadn't but would get around to it."  My bride has certainly heard that statement (When I Get Around To It) many times over the decades....grin if you must!

Well, I finally got into the mood after building a custom hanging porch swing and our local IGA had twin packs of Smithfield brand Boston butts on sale at $1.29 per lb., and purchased a twin pack weighing 16.88 lbs. which is ideal for transforming into some beautimous looking and tasting BBQ.  There are links and recipes on this website detailing various methods of doing BBQ of which there are no set rules as long as the finished product, Mr. Pig aka BBQ has a good outer dark crust or bark followed by a smoke ring (pink to reddish color) next to the crust or bark and the inner meat soft and pliable.  When a Boston butt is smoked properly, the bone will literally pull away from the meat without much effort at all and the meat will be moist, juicy and succulent with good smoke flavor and a very distinctive smoke ring.  Whether you choose to add your own home made BBQ sauce to the pork or as a add on, is up to the individual.  I lean toward the Lexington or Piedmont style versus the Eastern NC style of BBQ Sauce.

Below are sequence pixs taken today, February 28, 2013.  Click on the thumbnails for a larger screen view:

Today, I will be using plain yellow mustard rubbed over the butts and then apply a generous coating of my own Wild Bill's Meat Rub.  The mustard helps the rub adhere better to the meat and might help seal some moisture in the meat in the beginning...just a guesstimate on the moisture but it does help the rub adhere better.  

I placed the two Boston butts on the wire rack in the UDS sometime around 8:15 A.M. and inserted the probe from the Pyrex digital thermometer of which I didn't take a picture of the probe in the meat.  The outside temperature was around 41 degrees and the meat temperature was 39 degrees F.  The temperature of the UDS was at 298 degrees and after about 15 minutes started dropping and was down to around 234 degrees at the last check.  I put at least 12 lbs. of charcoal in the fire basket and filled the Weber charcoal chimney about 3/4 full and placed the chimney over one of my gas cooker burners and it took about 15 minutes to get them glowing red.  After the charcoal was properly ignited, I added the contents on top of the charcoal in the charcoal fire basket.  I also added a handful of hickory nuts in their shells to the charcoal fire basket for a little extra hickory smoke flavor instead of using chunks of hickory wood or hickory sawdust.

Our carport looks like a Nightmare on Elm Street with all the blue plastic drums of shelled corn (deer feed) at the end and also the lawn tractor and yard tools, etc.  We are on a dead end street and were in the County as far as property taxes but the city finally annexed us to get the tax base revenue and we got a street light and that was it for that large chunk of city annexation money.  We also get free garbage pick-up twice a week but the town now has a separate charge on our water bill for that free service.  We have our own septic tank system but eventually they will require a sewer hook up once the town gets a pumping station installed or figure out how to get poop to flow up hill without a pumping station which will then triple our water bill.  Maybe our city planners need to visit Washington, DC to see how that element works!

Only in America, has the new norm, "Taxation Without Representation" become so prevalent to support the free loading Bureaucrats in DC who can only point fingers at the other party with zero results and actions to keep America solvent and safe.  When they,  (Bureaucrats) talk about Entitlements, it is like the pot calling the kettle black!  A fair day's work at a fair day's pay would kill off about 99 percent outright and the other remaining one (1) percent's vocal cords would become so severely damaged and silenced, whereby their empty, vane, useless political garbage promises, jargon and posturing  would remain as mere thoughts in their empty cranial cavity removing a humongous amount of hot political gas pollution from our planet causing Global warming to subside with the Greenhouse Effect re-named the Whitehouse Effect; e.g.,  (cleansing and purging our planet)!  Seems like we are reverting back to the Colonial days before the Revolutionary War when King George III was pulling the purse strings.  Now,  we have multitudes of King George III (all parties)  in Washington, DC manifesting and implementing the same agenda; living like "Fat Cats" high on the hog at the expense of the Mr. and Mrs. John Q Public taxpayers reminiscent of the proverbial lamb being led to slaughter.  I would not trust a Bureaucrat in DC in an outhouse with a muzzle on!  Enough ranting, back to the UDS.

At 10:06 AM, I checked on the temperature of the UDS which was holding at 226 degrees F. and the meat internal temperature was 102 degrees F.  Will keep check on the temperatures every few hours.  Remind myself:  "Do not open the smoker lid to view the Boston butts; doing so increases the smoke/cooking  time about 30 minutes."  I talked with Robert Webster and he usually keeps the front one (1) inch diameter air vent hole open aka damper and keeps the 2 inch diameter lid vent open.  I had the lower rear vent damper hole opened and closed it and opened the front vent hole which gives more of a cross or angled air flow.  I checked the temperature again at 10:36 and the meat internal meat temperature was 114 degrees F. and the drum temperature was 257 degrees, therefore the cross draft apparently does increase the drum temperature.  The usage of four one (1) inch diameter magnetic disc  really simplifies controlling the air flow in the ugly drum smoker and you can further trick that out by using valves installed in the one (1) inch vent openings if you want to spend the extra money which doesn't regulate  the air flow a bit better.  Looks more high tech though.....grin if you must!

Pix of the Robert Webster model Ugly Drum Smoker with smoke billowing from the lid vent hole.  Weber makes a large dome lid for their grills which fits a 55 galloon drum if you want to further trick out the UDS.  There are knock off Weber grills and parts to the same specifications but out of cheaper materials.

The internal temperature of a Boston butt with the ugly drum smoker temperature running at around 250 degrees will increase steadily until it reaches about 165 degrees F. and will hit a plateau and takes several hours to get over that plateau and will slowly start increasing again fairly steady until the magic temperature of 190 degrees plus is reached which causes the meat cartilage to totally break down, although the meat is done for chopped BBQ much earlier.  Robert stated that he ran his drum temperature around 275 degrees F. which reduces the smoke time a few hours without effecting the outcome of the BBQ one bit!

At about eight (8) hours into smoking the Boston butts, I wanted to take a peak and also flip them over with the fat cap side up.  Yes I know, "If you are looking you are not cooking."  The internal meat temperature was 165 degrees F. and the drum temperature was 225.  After flipping them over, the drum temperature dropped to 204 degrees F....that is why it adds cooking time when you are opening the smoker to look instead of cook!  There are not many that place the fat cap side down while smoking the Boston butts, whereas many believe that having the fat cap side up allows the fat to better season and leak or wick into the meat which is not true.  The fat rendered will simply leak off the top side of the butt without actually entering into the meat itself.  The drippings from the fat cap hitting the charcoal embers puts that good flavor into the smoke sent back upward from the charcoal fire basket.   The BBQ pros rule as follows:  Place fat cap toward the heat source....fat cap down for vertical smoker and fat cap up for horizontal smoker.  Pix below:

If only "Smellavision" was invented.  Can you say "beautimous" out loud?  At this point, I plan to let the butts smoke for another couple hours and depending on the internal temperature of them, might finish them off in the oven for a couple more hours at 350 degrees F. until  the Boston butt internal temperature reads 190 degrees which is about right for pulled pork.  It normally takes about 12 to 14 hours of smoking/cooking at around 225 to 250 degrees F. to get the internal meat temperature to around 190 degrees F for true pulled pork depending on the size of the Boston butts.

At around 4:36 PM, (after over 8 hours of smoke time),  I transferred the twin Boston butts to the oven and used a large baking pan and placed a wire rack in the bottom to suspend the butts off the bottom of the baking pan to allow the drippings to collect away from them.  I tented the Boston butts using a couple sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil and inserted the digital meat thermometer probe into the largest Boston butt.  The oven temperature was 350 degrees F. and left for about two hours until the internal temperature was reading 190 degrees F.  I double checked with a regular meat thermometer which was reading about 10 degrees lower and used that reading instead of the higher reading from the digital thermometer.  It is about time to replace the digital thermometer since they do loose their accuracy over time; probably the flexible plastic coated probe section which is the weak link in the system. 

I loosely tented the Boston butts with the used heavy duty aluminum foil after removing them from the oven and will let them rest about 30 minutes before pulling the pork from the bone with a couple forks and did later enjoy a pulled pork sandwich for supper; that is country folk semantics for dinner.  As evidenced by the above pictures, the Boston butts had a good dark bark or crust on the outside and the bone literally pulled from the butt with no effort.  Also, the smoke penetrated deeply into the Boston butt; check the  close up pix of the smoke ring (reddish pink color) next to the bark or outer crust of the pulled pork.  After pulling the pork, I made another fresh batch of my Anson County City Slicker BBQ Sauce and added several cups to the large bowl of pulled pork and mixed it in.  I placed aluminum foil over the pulled pork and placed it in my basement game refrigerator and will vacuum package it into one (1) pound portions in the morning and freeze for later usage.  Adding BBQ sauce to the pulled pork is optional, however I like it with a little spice added into the pulled pork for some extra kick to it.  When frozen, I believe the flavors do tend to tone down a good amount but still wonderful stuff.

I checked on the ugly drum smoker temperature at 6:05 PM and it was 403 degrees F. with plenty of charcoal still glowing orange/red with all the vent dampers wide open and removed the digital thermometer.  I checked on it again around 10:00ish PM and the embers were still glowing.  I could just as easily used the ugly drum smoker to finish the Boston butts by increasing the air flow into the drum but vapor locked on opening the additional simple as about being brain dead on that one!  Ok, grin if you must,  I know I am and Robert Webster will too when he reads this short story and know there will be some verbal shrapnel coming my way from him.  It might not be a pretty sight........'''grin again if you must!

SUMMATION:  For 60 to 100 dollars worth of parts including the 55 gallon metal drum, a hand drill , couple drill bits and wrenches, this ugly drum smoker will be hard pressed to be out performed.  Even though it looks like some Redneck engineering or something Rube Goldberg might have created on paper, the thing works very well and does a much better job than my 600 dollar plus gas grill and definitely works better than my Weber kettle grill because of the increased charcoal capacity and placement with the ability to maintain a long smoke, continuous temperature over 12 hours with only one burn of charcoal.  Also, it will hold at least four (4) good size Boston butts using one rack and a pile of chicken halves or quarters, etc.  The pulled pork was outstanding! 

A special thank you to Robert Webster for making the ugly drum smoker for me and his persistent nudging until I finally got it into operation! 

I warmed up some of the left over Boston butt pulled pork and made a quick "snack" this morning for brunch.  I slathered some of my Anson County NC City Slicker BBQ sauce on the pork after this pix; it just doesn't get any better than this!

Web published on 02-28-13 with updates on 03-02-13 and 07-06-14 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.

Above pulled pork prepared on 09-02-14 and was "off the chain good."


My friend Robert Webster surprised me today with a small baby ugly drum smoker (UDS) he made which is ideal for cooking for two or small family of four.  I definitely had to field test the baby UDS this afternoon with a small fryer sitting atop a ceramic "sittin' chicken" fixture that holds your liquid.  Go to my Sprite Can Chicken for additional information.  Below pix of Robert with the charcoal basket.  NOTE:  There is 160 pounds of Kingsford Original charcoal in the background behind Robert's head.  Lowe's had it on sale during the recent Holidays (two twenty pound bags for $9.99) and a good time to stock up on it:

Below is a pix of the charcoal smoked chicken after about an hour and a half with the Baby UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) temperature running around 325 to 340 degrees.  It is amazing how the temperature remains constant during the cooking/smoking cycle and burns very little charcoal in the process. 

The above UDS chicken served with loaded mashed potatoes, butter beans, cole slaw, seedless grapes and garlic bread and was "off the chain good."  This was more or less impromptu and realize there is no greens on the plate for my food critics and will try and do better the next time........grin if you must!  There was a good presence of charcoal smoked flavor imbedded in the chicken which was moist, juicy and succulent even though the chicken internal temperature was a little over 190 degrees F.  My bride and myself savored every morsel.  Below pixs of the plated chicken:


Click on below thumbnail sequence pixs taken for a larger screen view:

I guarantee you this Baby UDS will get some serious usage on the end of our carport.  Robert Webster always turns out a First Class All-American Product no matter what it is.  Robert believes in the same philosophy as I do, "Anything worth doing, is worth doing right," to quote Fred Bear, Archery Legend.

Web published updates on 07-08-14 and 09-03-14 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.


I found a couple Boston Butts in the freezer purchased the latter part of last year and decided to make some UDS BBQ aka pulled pork.  I thawed the butts out and yesterday applied a good coat of yellow mustard and a heavy coating of Wild Bill's Meat Rub and let rest in my game refrigerator lightly  covered for about 24 hours.  I got up early this morning around 0315 and had a bout with Vertigo and found some left over meds from 2013 which was the last time I had the stuff.  I had the Boston Butts in the UDS by 0600 hours and had the UDS temperature running around 275 degrees F. for more than 8 hours.  The last time I checked the Boston Butt internal temperature and it was around 196 degrees of which 190 degrees is required for true pulled pork where you can pull the shoulder bone from the meat without any effort and the cartridge is basically melted away.  There is a good crust or bark on the outside of meat that has been smoked with wood or charcoal smoke leaving a good reddish smoke ring about 1/2 inch deep into the meat.  I threw in a handful of dried hickory nuts which adds a good flavor to the meat as well.  Below a few thumbnail pixs and it was no trouble to use two forks to shred the meat instead of chopping it.

I let the butts rest for a while and made my standard BBQ sauce and mixed it with the pulled pork for some "beautimous" tasting and looking BBQ.  There was plenty of BBQ and packaged most of it up to freeze for later usage when the ole taste buds get a hankering for some good smoked BBQ.

Web published update by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 05-02-15.


Robert Webster sent me a pix this morning of his latest ugly drum smoker (UDS) made from a 55 gallon barrel and his if first class All-American for sure!  His smoke stack is a section of a chrome tail pipe.  He is supposed to send me some pixs of some vittles he has smoking in there as I type:

Web published updates by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 05-23-15.


If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please take this moment to accept him by Faith into your Life, whereby Salvation will be attained.   

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Open this link of Bible Verses About Salvation, King James Version Bible (KJV).

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

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