By far my most visited and commented blog post is how to turn a 55 gallon drum into a smoker. I made another one.
Yes, my father again presented me with a 55 gallon steel drum. It contained non-toxic, FDA-approved blue powder pigment that was used on food packaging.
This time, though, I didn’t have a spare Weber 22″ dome cover. What I did have, though, was the original flat lid. This resulted in some design changes. Go to the original post (linked above) for the specifics (bolt sizes, hole sizes, measurements, ball valves for ventilation, etc.). This post really only emphasizes my changes from that earlier design.
First, as usual, I scrubbed the holy hell out of the inside of the drum with 409 cleanser and some CLR and a bunch of brillo pads. Then it was fired out to try and clean it further. Unlike last time, I am NOT going to paint the inside of the drum with Rustoleum High Heat, since that goes against the manufacturer instructions. Instead I am going to clean it thoroughly and cure it with a long hot burn after rubbing the entire guts with vegetable oil.
Before we go further, it’s disclaimer time:
If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Toxic or Rat Poison on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell, grow a few more ears, or your genitals become inoperable, then you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.
One of the first things I did, as can be seen in the above photos, was add two chimneys to the flat lid. The drum lid had two threaded holes with plugs in them. The plugs are called bungs and the holes are bung holes.
I wanted a piece of 6″ pipe to fit into my bung hole… uh, let me rephrase that… I went to a plumber supply store to buy two 6″ long pipes, one each at 3/4″ and 2″ in diameter, to screw into the threaded holes on the smoker lid. I bought a ball valve for the 3/4″ chimney for about $5 or $6. The 2″ ball valve is a whopping $45+ and that’s with a phony plumbers’ union discount they were willing to give me! No thanks – I’ll invert an old ravioli can onto the 6″ chimney.
Once cleaned, I used the steel drum drill bit to perforate the hull of my new smoker for all the hardware I planned to bolt on, including on the lid.
The drilling left jagged steel burrs on the interior of the drum. I have big washers that I plan to bolt over these, so no need to remove them. You could get a Dremel tool and cut them off, but I didn’t bother.
Once all the holes were drilled, I painted the entire exterior with Safety Red paint from Rustoleum.
It took a few coats using a foam roller, but the whole thing took less than a quart of paint. Once dry (and it took a little while), I bolted on all the hardware.
A new feature this time was my fancypants bottle opener.
In hindsight, it might be dangerous to try and open a chilled bottled beer on a hot metal opener like this. I’ll keep you posted if I injure myself. It’s highly likely.
Having a flat lid meant less clearance between the grill surface and the inner portion of the grill lid. That meant lowering the grill support bolt holes several inches to allow larger meats (like a couple pork shoulders or a turkey) to be smoked.
This means the food is closer to the fire and the fire / smoke needs to be managed more carefully.
The lid received a metal handle, and I painted the chimneys (but for the ball valve).
The rest of the assembly is nearly identical to the earlier Big Blue model. The interior coal cage is pretty much the same.
I like the red color. It’s distinct and makes it visible to thieves in the country house where we left it. There’s nothing ugly about this Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS).
Once completed, I lubed the entire inside as well as the coal cage and grill grates with vegetable oil and lit a hot fire to cure the whole thing. I’m probably cooking something on it this weekend. The next UDS will be a little different… something my kid’s been asking me about for a while. Stay tuned.