Holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics, loves traveling and learning new languages. Fluent in Spanish, is learning French and Czech at the moment. Enjoys exploring national cuisines every time he visits new countries.
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous online and offline grilling masterclasses runs his own BBQ accessories shop.
Last updated: September 26, 2021
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If you think you know everything about smokers, think again! There are several types of smokers on the market, with drum smokers being among the popular variety.
When looking to purchase the best drum smoker your money can find, it is essential to factor in the characteristics you are looking for. You might consider a model’s size and capacity because it affects the amount of food that can be cooked. A durable smoker will serve you for longer than a cheaply made one, while a model with easy-to-use features will save you frustration.
We have done our research and listed the best drum smokers available. You don’t have to comb through hundreds of products in the market. Look through the models presented herein and select the best drum smoker for your purpose.
First off, we have the Gateway Drum Smokers 55 Gallon Smoker designed to optimize your barbecue experience by providing the adequate temperature and a sizeable capacity to tenderize meat. To get the best results, it is advisable to smoke meat between 275–325 degrees Fahrenheit, and this model comes with a thermometer that indicates a maximum of 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The meat you prepare suspends from a 22-inch steel cooking grate that does not rust, and it is easy to keep clean. There is a sizeable capacity fire basket fitted to contain the charcoal and smoking wood you need. Once you are done barbecuing, remove the fire basket and clean it out for storage.
Control the amount of heat produced as you smoke the meat through the two intake valves and the exhaust pipe. The fixed thermometer is well placed to make tracking the cooking temperature easy. When rotating the meat in the smoker, you don’t need to place the lid on the floor as it is attached to the smoker for direct access.
You can move the drum smoker from one area to the next, thanks to the welded steel handles and removable castor wheels. The 150-pound model comes already assembled with a user guide to help you along the way. Expect the smoker to retain its appearance no matter how many times you use it because its paint job can survive temperatures of up to 1000°F.
Why is it special?
This is a durable smoker that needs no assembly. It has castor wheels and handles for mobility, as well as a sizeable hopper capacity of 8 to 10 pounds. This smoker also comes with a removable fire basket. The company covers it with a lifetime warranty, so with this and the features in mind, this unit gives you good value for money.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is slightly smaller measuring 21 x 19 x 41 inches, and it offers 481 square inches of cooking space. This 47lb model is made from durable steel; hence it will last for many barbecue sessions. The model was given a porcelain enamel finish to help maintain internal heat and resist damage from scratches or too much heat.
Although the smoker looks small, it has adequate capacity to cook a whole ham cut and turkey comfortably. It is fitted with two nickel-plated 18-inch cooking grates that are easy to keep clean. The temperature inside the smoker is monitored through the thermometer located on the lid next to the handle. If you need more or less heat, there are individual vents you can tweak to increase or decrease airflow to the fire.
Unlike some drum smokers in the market, this model has a handle that is heat resistant. The nylon handle protects the user from burning their hands when the smoker is in full operation. The lightweight model sits on rust-free legs elevating it from the ground to prevent scorching the ground. This smoker is accompanied by a 10-year limited warranty and a vinyl protective cover for storage.
What are its best features?
One of the best things about this smoker is that it allows you cook anything you want, and it even is sizeable for small barbecues. Several handy features, like the easy to clean nickel-plated cooking grates, and easy-to-use dampers, heat-resistant handle, make this smoker a breeze to use. It also comes with a protective cover and a generous 10-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.
What could be improved?
The size of the water pan should be smaller, as it blocks access to the charcoal chamber. The smoker also lacks wheels for mobility.
Fit for competitions is the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker offering three meat hangers, a cooking grate, and nine meat hooks. With 366 square inches of cooking space, you can easily make enough food for many people at a go. The drum smoker has a hopper capacity of 17 pounds to produce enough heat to cook the meat for about 15hours.
This smoker is made of gauge steel with components painted with porcelain for durability. All the heat produced by the charcoal is sealed in by the lid fitted with a gasket. An airflow system is present to regulate the heat produced in the smoker and a glow-in-the-dark thermometer that accurately indicates internal temperature.
Aside from excellent durability, this model features a comfortable cool-to-touch handle and a side shelf. The side shelf is useful for holding items you need nearby, thus, saving you time while cooking. The smoker possesses wagon-style wheels for mobility, so you can move it around as you please.
Cleaning the smoker is an easy task due to its removable ashtray and drain cup. The manufacturer assures you that the quality of this smoker is dependable by giving a 2-year limited warranty.
Why is it special?
With its large capacity and a sizable side shelf, this unit caters to any smoking needs you might have. It’s easy to assemble and use, making it a great smoker even for beginners, and the cool-to-touch handle is also a nice addition. The hopper is large enough to make longer cooking times possible, and the glow-in-the-dark thermometer and several color options are also a nice touch to this model.
What are the flaws?
This smoker requires a high-temperature sealant to prevent grease from dripping through the sides.
Next is the Barrel House Cooker Smoker BHC that has a small footprint for those with small spaces. This model doesn’t take time to heat up, and you have the option to use the cooking grate or hang the meat. Hanging the meat using the eight hooks and the H-frame provides more room to work with when cooking large amounts of food.
The 45-pound model has an 8-pound hopper capacity which is not large but operates for up to six hours. You can attain and maintain temperatures between 275˚and 310˚F by regulating the inflow and the outflow valves. No matter how hot the smoker gets, the porcelain finish will not disintegrate as it can withstand temperatures of up to1000 °F.
The durable 20-gauge steel model sits elevated to facilitate better airflow and prevent the smoker from burning the surface. When delivered, it requires some assembly but nothing too complicated. If you want, you can also use this smoker as a Hibachi grill.
Be careful not to burn your hands as the handle gets hot with time. If you find anything amiss with the product, the drum smoker comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
What makes it special?
With its cooking area of 396 square inches, this smoker can house a large volume of food. It comes with an 8-pound hopper that allows for 6 hours of cooking time. Made from 20-gauge steel with a porcelain finish, this is a durable unit, yet remaining lightweight and portable enough. The detachable base is also a nice touch.
What cons did we find?
The base does not lock together with the top to be transported as a whole unit.
Coming in at19.6lbs is the Barton Multi-Function Barrel Pit Charcoal Smoker that you can carry anywhere, whether for camping or a party. The lightweight model is made from durable steel, and it comes with six stainless steel hooks, a grilling grate, and three other utensils for use. The cooking grate has a height-adjustable feature to move the food away or closer to the flames.
This model has a sizeable cooking capacity as it has 246 square inches of cooking space. The model is fitted with a lid that has a thermometer to monitor the smoker’s cooking temperature. Airflow to fan the heat is not a problem because the smoker has an airflow system in place.
You need gloves to hold any of the metallic handles because they get hot. The smoker can be assembled and disassembled when needed because it consists of three parts. For those who want a model that is easily transportable or storable? This smoker is ideal. If you find the smoker is faulty, you can return it within the 30-day return policy set in place.
Why are we impressed?
This lightweight steel smoker is easily portable and at the same time offers enough space to barbecue whole turkeys. The barrel height is adjustable, and the whole unit is easy to assemble and disassemble, as well as easy to clean. Being very affordable, this smoker comes with free cooking utensils.
What negatives must you be aware of?
The handles of this smoker are not heat-resistant, so you should be careful using them. We also would like to see the top rack coming with the smoker.
The Hakka 16-Inch Charcoal model is not only ideal for smoking, but you can use it for baking, braising, grilling, and roasting. The small model only weighs 35lbs; thus, it is suitable for small patios and gardens. This smoker features hooks for hanging meat and racks for grilling.
It is made from steel with a porcelain enamel-covered exterior for durability purposes. The barrel smoker has a thermometer placed on the lid so that you can easily track the cooking temperatures. If you find the heat is not adequate, use the chimney and the air intake compartment to stoke the fire.
This model comes in two sections for easy assembly and disassembly; these two sections interlock to create one compact structure. When you wish to store or transport the drum smoker, disassemble the structure, clean it and pack the two sections into a box. There are handles fitted on the smoker to make moving the structure a straightforward process.
The drum smoker is easy to assemble and use, but if you run into any production flaws, the manufacturer offers a 30-day return policy.
What do we love it for?
This unit is versatile in terms that it can be used as a smoker or barbeque grill. It is a lightweight model great for small- and medium-sized areas, yet it sports a stable steel construction. It’s affordable, easy to disassemble, and comes with an accurate thermometer.
The EasyGoProducts Big Bad Charcoal Barbeque is a multifunctional model that you can use to cook, as a fire pit in winter, or as a table when it is not in use. This 45-pound model is not that large, making it suitable for medium-sized patios and gardens. It boasts of durable construction as it is created from porcelain enamel painted steel.
This barrel smoker can retain temperatures of about 225 degrees, ensuring that your food is cooked evenly. It possesses two cooking grids and six hooks to hang your meat. You can cook two things at a go as long as the temperature is right. In conjunction with the thermometer on the lid, the airflow system will aid you in maintaining the right temperatures.
Additionally, this model features heat-insulated handles to simplify transporting the smoker to different locations. The barrel height and the rack height of the drum smoker are adjustable for safety and heat regulation. The manufacturer generously provides three cooking utensils with heat-resistant handles for use. These tools are stored on the drum smoker because there are hooks fitted for that purpose.
Why is it special?
This versatile smoker can also be used for grilling, sports heat-resistant handles and an accurate thermometer, and comes with free cooking utensils, which all make it a good pick for the price. The solid steel construction of the grill is durable, adding to the peace of mind.
What are the flaws?
Some users mentioned that it takes a while to assemble this grill. Also, loading the fuel can be challenging due to the smoker's design.
At first glance, the Original Po’ Man Charcoal Grill looks like an ordinary trash can until you come closer. This 23-pound model has a hopper capacity of 14 pounds which is enough to give you several hours of cooking time. The drum smoker is made from light and durable cold-rolled steel with a matte black finish.
The manufacturer provides a round grate, some skewers, and two dripping plates for an easier time cooking. This model offers a sizeable cooking area; therefore, you can hang some chicken and some ribs comfortably while using the grilling grate for cooking some ham. The drum smoker does not have a thermometer to track temperature, so you will have to rely on a manual thermometer.
Sold at an affordable price, this model is easy to use as it requires little assembly. The smoker’s finishing will not peel as the paint used can withstand higher temperatures than the typical grilling temperatures. Make sure to place this smoker on a surface that cannot burn as it is not elevated from the ground. You can use bricks or wooden pellets to prevent it from scorching your grass.
Why did it make our list?
This smoker is made from durable cold-rolled steel, making it durable. It offers a large capacity to cook and features a 14-pound copper for a longer cooking time. The handles make it easy to move this smoker from place to place.
What is not ideal about it?
There is no thermometer built-in, so you need to get one for accurate monitoring. Another drawback is that the whole smoker gets hot while smoking; hence, watch out for burns.
Things to Consider
For barbecue enthusiasts, a good smoker is irreplaceable because it produces delicious slow-cooked meat that is unparalleled. If you like smoked meat, then there is no need to drool from afar. Getting your own drum smoker will give you the freedom to smoke some meat even in the middle of the night. Before you acquire that smoker, here are a few things you need to know:
How does a drum smoker work?
A drum smoker works like any other cooking device that relies on charcoal. There is a fire bowl at the bottom that holds the live charcoals to produce the heat needed to cook the meat. People throw in different smoking woods to the live coals to impart the flavor they want on the meat.
Once the smoker attains the right temperatures between 275-325 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat is hung or placed on a grilling plate to cook. The lid stays on to maintain the desired cooking temperatures. The thermometer helps you monitor the cooking temperatures while the airflow system ensures you stoke or cool the flames as needed.
Smoking meat typically takes several hours, depending on the size and the cut. For the best results, you want a drum smoker with a sizeable hopper to support continuous hours of smoking without the need to refuel.
Are they easier to use than other types of smokers?
Drum smokers are lightweight, inexpensive, and pocket-friendly. They are considered more comfortable to use because they do not have complicated features compared to something like the smoker oven. They are also easier to store because they are normally space-saving items.
You can find drum smokers for temporary use as there are lightweight models that are affordable. Alternatively, you can spend considerably more and get a heavy-duty model that will serve for years.
Features to consider when choosing a drum smoker
Although drum smokers are not complex in structure, there are a few features that differ from one model to the next. Once you narrow down the specific features you want in your drum smoker, it should be easy to select a reliable model. Below, we will discuss the different considerations that may affect your purchase.
Size and capacity
The size of your drum smoker depends on the amount of food you usually make. If you need a drum smoker for domestic purposes, think about the maximum amount of food you would make if you had a party. By considering this, you can purchase a suitable size that you can use for small-scale smoking and those special occasions when you have people over.
If you intend on smoking a lot of meat, look for a model with a cooking grate diameter of 20 inches and above. Smaller models typically have cooking grate diameters between 14 and 18 inches.
The larger the drum smoker, the more room you have to hang or grill your cuts of meat. For example, the best 55-gallon drum smoker, the Gateway Drum Smokers BBQ Smoker, offers a large capacity to cook a lot of meat.
Additionally, be considerate of the storage space that you have. Purchasing a large drum smoker while you have no place for storage is unwise. If you are short of a storage area and want to leave it outside, purchase a protective covering to shelter it from the elements.
What is included
In most cases, drum smokers some out of the box, requiring little assembly, and they are ready for use. Manufacturers ensure that you have additional tools that you require to make optimal use of the drum smoker. These tools include hooks, grilling racks, a fire bowl, a water pan if needed, and cooking utensils.
Not every drum smoker will come with the additional cooking utensils. Still, most of them possess grilling racks and hooks; if you need a model that you can use right out of the box, select a drum smoker with one solid structure and free cooking utensils like the Barrel House Cooker Smoker BHC.
Materials and durability
It is essential to select a drum smoker that gives you value for your money when it comes to durability. If you are looking for a temporary basis drum smoker, then you can settle for the cheaper lightweight models. However, if you are looking for something long-lasting, then the metal used has to be thicker, which in turn makes it heavier.
Most of the models in the market are made of steel because it is affordable and durable. The thickness of the steel varies, but as long as the structure does not rust and contains the heat produced, it will work just fine.
There are aluminum drum smokers in the market, but they are lighter and susceptible to damage over time.
Temperature regulation and monitoring
Having a thermometer fixed on your drum smoker is a good way to monitor cooking temperatures. Without temperature regulation, the food may end up burnt or cooked unevenly. That is why drum smokers have dampers to control air circulation. You can monitor if the air control is working through the thermometer readings.
If you are using a model like the Original Po’ Man Charcoal Grill, you have to get a food thermometer to test if the food is cooking at the right temperature. Such models with no thermometers make cooking a guessing game.
Dimensions relate to the overall size of the smoker. You have to consider where the area where the drum smoker will be sitting. If you are not sure of the appropriate size, measure out the area and compare it to the product dimensions availed. Furthermore, look at the model’s cooking area dimensions to determine if it will be suitable for cooking what you need.
For those looking for a portable model, you have to look at its weight. The heavier the smoker, the less portable it is. Some models disassemble into two or three sections to make portability possible.
If it is a large single unit, for example, a 55-gallon drum smoker, then there is a possibility that it will be heavy. Ensure you select a model that has wheels so that you can move it from location to location without straining.
Ease of use and extra features
There are features in barrel smokers that make it easier to use the product. These features are not available in every model, but you can look for them in any smoker you find if you are keen.
Cool-to-touch handles are crucial for safety, as, in the midst of cooking, one might forget and touch the hot handles without thinking. It is always advisable to wear mittens while handling hot metallic surfaces to avoid burns, but they are not necessary if the handles are insulated from heat.
Wheels, whether rubber or solid wheels, are fitted for maneuverability. Heavy models such as the Gateway Drum Smokers 55 Gallon Smoker need wheels to balance the weight during transportation. These wheels must be durable to remain functioning for years.
Removable ash pans are convenient if you don’t want to spend hours cleaning after you are done using the drum smoker.
Grease pans and drains collect all the oil and grease into one area instead of letting them get into contact with the flames. When you are cleaning the smoker internally, a drainage hole at the bottom helps eliminate excess water that collects at the bottom.
A warranty indicates the manufacturer’s confidence in the smoker. Most of the brands presented provide a warranty between one and ten years. However, some drum smokers do not offer a warranty. This does not mean that the product is subpar because some of them offer a 30-day return policy in case the customer does not like the model.
How much do you want to spend? This will play a significant role in the quality of barrel smokers that you get. You can get drum smokers under $200 and some over $700. Gauge if you want a model for occasional or daily use, then select a model whose price and structure fit the bill.
Now that you know what features to look for, here are a few smoking tips.
Always heat the smoker to the ideal temperature before dropping the meat inside.
Keep in mind that it is challenging to control drum smoker temperatures perfectly, so you want to work with lower temperatures that can be increased rather than high temperatures that are hard to bring down.
Make sure that there are no gaps in the drum apart from the chimney that are removing smoke. By containing all the heat and the smoke produced, you can maintain a level cooking temperature for some hours.
Do not open the lid unless it is necessary. Repeatedly opening and closing the lid affects the cooking temperature.
To prevent sour smoke, place a water pan at the bottom of the smoker. Water pans also help maintain consistent temperatures, but it is optional for those who don’t like using them.
If your drum smoker does not have a thermometer, you can purchase a wireless thermometer to help you monitor the temperature without opening the lid.
Unless you can read the temperatures magically, you need a thermometer. A thermometer makes sure that your meat doesn’t char. If your drum smoker does not come with a thermometer, you can purchase a digital thermometer to help. Having an external thermometer is important to avoid lifting the lid unnecessarily.
Yes, you can! There are versatile models in the market that do more than just smoke meat. A good example of such a model is the Hakka 16-Inch Charcoal model. All you need to do to grill or bake using smokers is to watch the temperature and the position of the item being cooked. You don’t want to place food too close to the embers as they will burn quickly.
Absolutely! There are lightweight or heavy-duty models that come with wheels for portability. Alternatively, some models come with two or three parts that are disassembled for storage or transportation. These types of models do not come with wheels as they are considerably lighter.
They say all good things come to an end, but before you go, here is a rundown of our top drum smokers;
The Gateway Drum Smokers 55 Gallon Smoker is a sizeable, durable model that houses large amounts of food at once. We gave it a 9.9 rating as it is suitable for those engaging in large-scale cooking for an affordable price.
Secondly, we have the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker with a rating of 9.8; the smaller model is a premium alternative for those with small gardens/patios or those looking to cook small amounts of food. This 18-inch grate model features a heat-resistant handle and a cover to protect it from the weather.
Lastly, the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker has plenty of accessories included. This wheeled model comes with a side shelf and heat-resistant handle for ease of use. We easily name this model as one of the best drum smoker models available in the market.
With that said, have you spotted your favorite drum smoker? Let us know in the comment section below.