My old horizontal barrel grill was falling apart, so I set out to replace it. After looking at Big Green Egg and Kamodo Joe reviews they seemed awesome, but the price was crazy and I didn’t want to be out 2k if I knocked it over on accident. (its porcelain, its gonna shatter if tipped over.)
I also enjoy DIY and spending $2,000 on a smoker seemed to be at odds with smoking. BBQ / Smoking was invented by poor people who couldn’t afford nice cuts of meat, so they smoked bad cuts until they were tender enough to eat. I got to be true to the tradition, so a $25 55 gallon drum converted into a smoker was the way to go.
They are called Ugly Drum Smokers (UDS) and have a whole community dedicated to building and sharing knowledge about them. Lots of videos on YouTube, and websites that sell parts for them.
I got my barrel from Go Slow down at 7324 Fayetteville Road, Raleigh NC. Really cool spot on the side of the highway, where among other things the man in charge sells used 55 gallon barrels. When I was there it was $25 for fixed lid, and $35 for removable lid (Removable lid would be nice, but the fixed lid barrels were unlined, you want an unlined barrel if your gonna cook food in it. Removing the liner is next to impossible)
Next I took anything salvageable off the old grill, which turned out to be 2 grates, handle, temp gauge, wheels, smoke stack. After that it was time to burn the barrel out, you never know what was in it before, but fire cleanses all, I did about 3 really hot burns in it because I like fire and wanted to burn off as much paint from the outside as possible.
Then we drilled holes and placed 3 screws in for the first grate, this grate would hold the fire deflector (old pizza stone I had) and serve as a base for the next 2 grates. We cut down the old grates into a circle shape that would fit into the UDS and attached legs made of threaded rod and angled metal (avoid galvanized for anything going into the smoker, it creates poison when heated up). Each grate then sits on top of the other grate, and allows me to remove them if needed during a smoke to get at each other.
We cut a hole near the bottom for the air intake, and placed the smoke stack in it. With its lid it allows me to control how much air gets into the UDS. We used the lid from my Weber Kettle Grill for the the lid, drilled a hole into it and added the temp gauge. Since the lid already has a vent, I can control how much air escapes (though the lid is a bit warped due to me abusing it over the years, so mainly I control the intake of air for temp control).
Attached wheels and a kick stand made from threaded rod and a block of wood. Painted the whole thing with high heat black paint. Bought a Stainless Steel bucket from agri supply, drilled holes, and added the patented angle iron + threaded rod legs to it to make a fire basket.
Have to say I love it. It holds temps really well, and is quite fun to cook in. I got a ThermoWorks Dot For keeping an eye on the temp of the meat without having to take the lid off, highly recommend.