How to Build an Ugly Drum Smoker

Do you want to build your ugly drum smoker (UDS)? A UDS is a smoker you can set and forget. Smoking food for over 10 hours without constant maintenance should be possible with this smoker.

It is versatile and can cook meats such as brisket, turkey, prime ribs, and more to perfection. DIYers probably have the tools they need already, but some specific tools are required. The following warnings should be considered before diving in. 

how to build an Ugly Drum Smoker 1

Despite what it sounds like, these beasts are pretty easy to build. The most challenging part is getting a 55-gallon drum. The following walkthrough shows you how to assemble the UDS. I will elaborate later in this post.

Equipment You Need To Build An Ugly Drum Smoker

Following are some tools and equipment you need to build an ugly drum smoker.


Find a local supplier on the internet. Ideally, you should get a drum from a drum reconditioner.


An old Weber grill lid I found was perfect. See what is on Craigslist. Any 18.5-inch lid for a kettle grill will work fine.

Ball Valve

From Home Depot, I purchased a 1/2-inch forged brass FPT ball valve. If you do not use a blower, 1/2-inch might not get your smoker to over 300 degrees. With my smoker, I use a blower, so it is big enough.

½ inch Brushing

From the inside of the drum, a 1/2-inch black iron bushing is inserted into the ball valve. Ensure you get the bushing corresponding to the size of the ball valve you use.

M20 Washers

There is no doubt that M20 washers play a significant role in holding the ball valve in place and ensuring better seals.

Shelving Rail

The upright rails are made of brass E5. These may not be large enough if you do not use a 30-gallon drum. If you cut them in half, two should be enough.

Shelf Clips

A set of clips that fits into the rails above the rails.

Nuts & Bold

It is used to attach the rail to the inside of the drum so it can be locked into place.

High-Temperature Paint

You can use any high-temperature paint for this purpose. On some drums, builders paint flames or team logos to differentiate them from other drums.


A wire handle pull, which fits inside the handle, was used with screws drilled into the handle.

Steel Grates (s)

For this build, it is a perfect fit to use grill grates for Weber grills of 18.5 inches in diameter. If you intend to follow my build, you should purchase exactly 17.5 inches wide grills.

Expanded Steel

Using two pieces of expanded steel measuring 24″x12″, you will have a tall charcoal basket. Cutting the 24″x6″ piece in half would make two 24″x6″ baskets, but they may not last 10-12 hours.

Smaller Grate

Generally, a stainless steel grate with a diameter of 14 inches can be used to make charcoal baskets. For it to be effective, it must be smaller than the grate on which food is cooked.

4-inch Bolts & Nuts

They are for the basket legs.

Fender Washers

Washers for use with bolts measuring 4 inches in diameter.

½ inch Bolts, Nuts & Washers

Using this fastener, the ends of the expanded steel can be fastened together. It does not matter what size or gauge it is. The bolts and nuts I used are 5/16″ hex.

Bailing Wire

These are used to attach the expanded steel to the edges of the grate. The use of paper clips may be an option. For a handle, I also used it.

Drill & Bit For Making Holes

For cutting holes in 7/8-inch diameter, you will need a drill bit and a drill.

How To Build An Ugly Drum Smoker? Step By Step

These steps will lead you to make a homemade ugly drum smoker effectively:

Repaint The Drum After Stripping Off Its Old Paint

You will need to cut out the top of your drum if it does not have one. It works well with a Sawz-All and an oxy-acetylene cutter. Cooking with non-high-temperature paint on your drum will cause it to peel, crack, and emit an acrid smell. 

As a result, your smoker’s BBQ aroma will be ruined. You can strip the paint in multiple ways. Finally, I used a wire wheel after using a paint stripper. Spray the high-temperature paint over it once it is stripped.

Insert Ball Valve Into Hole

Cut a hole near the bottom of the drum with a 7/8-inch drill bit. As close as possible to the bottom. Do not forget to leave enough room between the washers so that they can fit. 

Using an M20 washer on both sides of the bushing, attach the ball valve to it by screwing it through the hole. It is crucial to hold the valve and ensure the seal is airtight. The handles can now be attached to the frame.

Install Adjustable Cabinet Shelving

I can adjust the height of the grills on my UDS. I can use several grills if I am cooking a lot of ribs or spread them out if I cook pork butts. Grills and charcoal baskets must be removed carefully. Whenever a clip falls into the burning coals, it is not delightful.

Install the shelving rails into your smoker two feet long. You will then need to insert the shelving clips into the shelves. Using bolts and nuts on the side of your grill is a good option if you do not wish to adjust the grill at all. 

Charcoal Baskets With No-weld Technology

To build the charcoal basket, follow these steps:

  1. To match the curvature of your grill, bend one piece of expanded steel until it matches the grill curvature.
  2. The baling wire should be cut into six to ten pieces and bent into U shapes.
  3. The expanded steel should be attached to the grate using the baling wire. Please ensure the baling wire is tight by twisting it a few times.
  4. Bend the second piece of expanded steel and then, using the bolts, fasten it to the first piece.
  5. Attach the second piece of steel to the grate using more baling wire to keep it securely in place.
  6. Do not forget to include the four-inch-long bolts for the legs.
  7. All you have to do is attach a wire to the handle, and you are done!

Arrange A Thermometer (Or Make It Yourself)

You may have noticed that my build lacks a built-in thermometer, which is a necessity for every smoker. The Automatic Temperature Controller I have designed is a DIY project that anyone can assemble. If you want to avoid creating a controller, you have two choices:

Option 1

I advise you to buy a wireless thermometer. As well as being accurate, the thermometer has a different thermometer on the back that you can use to monitor your meat’s temperature. The wireless alarm lets you use it overnight. 

A smoker who uses it frequently will benefit from this. The downside is the $60 price. The simplest procedure, if you go this route, is to nick the top edge of the smoker and snake the wires through.

Option 2

Make sure you use a dial thermometer that is side-mounted, such as the one shown above, or one that is available from Big Poppa Smokers. Due to the possibility that drum smokers can have hot spots near the edge, I would not recommend using them because they can be inaccurate.  

A thermometer needle may also become entangled in the grill’s grates as it is used to measure temperature. Besides being cheap, it is easy to use. You can also insert the thermometer in the side, just below the top grate, if you choose this route.

Make A kettle Grill Lid

You can make a kettle lid if you do not already have one, but you will need to accomplish that first. If you are going to use a drum, you should buy one with a removable lid and put an exhaust chimney to it.

Final Words

Here we have it. You will need three things to build your UDS, a 55-gallon drum, a firebox, and an adapter. Along with some cautions, I have also included the building instructions. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it covers what, first and foremost, should be considered if you want to build one of these yourself. And Do not forget to read the guide about double barrel smokers.

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