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Build Your Own UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)

The video, pictures, parts list, and CADD drawings for building your own UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker). After reading about UDS smokers on just about every BBQ forum there is, I decided to build one myself and see just what the fuss was all about. 

Also, here is my recipe for cooking pork butts on a UDS Smoker

Get the PDF format CADD Drawing/Plans for UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) and the fire basket. This PDF includes a parts list.

Now you have to understand that I have a ton of BBQ equipment, and I've never thought about building my own smoker.  I cook on an Old Hickory CTO, Backwoods Whole Hog Clone, and a Backwoods Party.  These cookers are all top notch and turn out some mighty fine Q, but I wanted something that I could leave out on my patio and play with during down time.

Ugly Drum Smoker cooking

After researching all types of UDS builds, I used Paul's from “The Big Pig”  (Pickled Pig forum). I simplifed his process a little and even got Waylon to create CADD drawings and plans with our new design. But I gotta thank Paul for giving me someplace to start.

1. Find A Drum

I started out searching for a used drum at an affordable price.  I checked most of the usual places like craigs list, ebay, etc...  After no luck I came across a place in Memphis called Drumco (of all things), and I hit the jackpot. This company specializes in everything Drums.  I called the office and found out that they had just what I was looking for.  An unlined, reconditioned, food grade drum w/ head for only $23. 

I headed right down to the warehouse and had my drum purchased, loaded, and was back at the house in less than 30 minutes.

2. Find A Welder

The next objective was to figure out what to do about the fire basket. I have no welding experience so saving a few bucks here wasn't possible.  I considered piecing together some expanded metal with wire clamps and a 18” weber replacement fire grate, but I really liked the design that Paul used. I knew that I needed someone who could fabricate the fire basket, so I drew up the details on Cadd and searched for local welders. 

Get the PDF format CADD Drawing/Plans for UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) and the fire basket. This PDF includes a parts list.

After talking with several different guys, I followed a friends recommendation I finally found a guy that could make exactly what I wanted.  He quoted me $100, so I told him to get it done.  After 2 days, I got the phone call that it was ready.

Ugly Drum Smoker UDS fire basket

3. Buy The Hardware and Supplies

Now that I had the two critical pieces (Drum & Fire Basket), I was ready to purchase the hardware necessary to put the thing together.  These parts were really easy to find and came from my local Home Depot or Tractor Supply.  

UDS Ugly Drum Smokers part supplies

4. Assemble Your UDS Drum Smoker

Once I had everything purchased, it was time to assemble the UDS.  I had my brother Waylon help me with this part. 

Get the PDF format CADD Drawing/Plans for UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) and the fire basket. This PDF includes a parts list.

We measured and marked the drum first, and then it was time to drill the wholes. 

  1. For the bottom intake holes we used a 1” hole saw bit for the drill.   I wanted the holes evenly spaced, so with a little Geometry it worked out to be about 24” spacing.  The holes were cut in 2” from the bottom of the drum.  It wasn't that difficult to cut the holes, but I do recommend taking it slow at first.  Remember that any hole you make in the drum is suspect to leak, so read the instructions, measure twice, and go slow. 

  2. After drilling the intake holes we switched bits and drilled the holes for the grate bolts.  These are spaced out evenly as well.  Basically one every 90 degrees around the drum.

  3. The drum I bought didn't have a bung hole in the lid, so I had to create a hole for the exhaust as well.  I used a 2” hole saw bit for this.  To cover the hole I use a piece of strip magnet.  I wasn't sure that it would work, but after a few cooks it's holding up just fine.  I've found that I don't use it much during cooking but it helps when putting out the coals after a cook. 

  4. Next we installed the handles on the side of the drum.  You'll want to imagine carrying the drum and put them in a location that's easiest for you to grab them.  For my UDS I placed them just below rack level.

Now that all of the holes were drilled it was time to install the hardware. 

Get the PDF format CADD Drawing/Plans for UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) and the fire basket. This PDF includes a parts list.

  1. We placed the 1 conduit washer on each 3/4” pipe nipple and started it through the intake holes at the bottom of the drum.  It was a snug fit but with a little light tapping with a hammer we had the fit I wanted. 

  2. Once all the nipples were in place, we placed the washers and other conduit nuts on the nipples.  Two of the black pipe nipples get caps and on the other we attached the 3/4” brass ball valve.
  3. The rest of the build is downhill.  Insert the bolts and nuts for the grill grate, and it's practically done. 

  4. I almost forgot to scrap the gasket from the underside of the lid, but this only took a few minutes.  A flat head screwdriver scrapped under the edge of the gasket will do the trick. 

  5. I didn't install a thermometer yet, but I plan to in the near future.  For now, the plan is to attach the pit probe from an old BBQ Guru straight to the grill grate.

4. Season Your UDS Drum Smoker

To season the UDS, I rubbed the inside down with vegetable oil, placed 12lbs of charcoal briquettes in the fire basket, and several chunks of hickory on top the coals. 

ugly drum smoker UDS fire basket burning out drum

I used a Propane Weed Burner to light the basket in 4 different places and opened the intakes 100% .  The lid was off for the first couple of hours.  I wanted to make sure that everything heated up and burnt-off anything on the inside. 

I let the smoker roll for about 5 hours but I couldn't resist the urge to cook something on it.  I prepped some chicken thighs and did a test run. 

I was surprised at how well the UDS held temperature.  It truly is amazing.  I had it rocking at 275 and it never thought about checking up.  Once you close off two of the intakes and adjust the ball valve, you can get the thing just about anywhere you want. 

I can't wait to try a brisket on it, and I may even find a spot on the BBQ rig for my new UDS.  I'm sold!

Get the PDF format CADD Drawing/Plans for UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) and the fire basket. This PDF includes a parts list.

Ugly Drum Smoker drill holes build

Building my UDS and screwing on handles

Ugly Drum Smoker Lid

fire basket in UDS Ugly Drum Smoker

Ugly Drum Smoker inside view

Here is my recipe for cooking pork butts on a UDS Smoker


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