A journey into what has gone from a fun, part time hobby to a fulfilling and rewarding obsession.. Culminating in a style I like to call "Authentic Southern (Utah) Barbecue"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Boy, is that thing "Ugly"

The old saying goes that “necessity is the mother of invention” and as such, it was becoming clear that it would be necessary to develop or find another invention to accommodate my evolution into the world of slow smoking and BBQ.

As always, I turned to my dear friend the internet for advice. I was looking for something a little bigger that would allow more meat to be cooked at one time yet was portable and easily stored, two things the little brick pit wasn’t. Part of the concern came from the idea that we were gearing up to start tearing into the new patio area and I wasn’t sure what would need to be moved and how often.

I looked through many of the different sites and pages hoping something would jump out and be just what I wanted. So many different shapes and sizes, and prices, then there was the idea that I was still not entirely sure what style I wanted. The little brick pit utilized a direct heat source from underneath and through the many hours of use, I was quite comfortable with the performance and method. The local big box stores had the cheaper offset versions but I was a little put off by the quality and the idea that I would more than likely have to re-learn the majority of what I already knew about temperature control and time, etc.

Many hours of reading and research landed me on the subject of what is officially known as an “Upright Drum Smoker”. Unofficially it is known by some as an “Ugly Drum Smoker” or “UDS”. The more I read I realized this would be the next logical step. It used pretty much the same method I was used to; direct heat underneath, air inlets on the bottom and smoke outlet on the top and would burn either charcoal or wood. Sounds great, so let’s do it.

A UDS can be made from just about any type or size of steel drum. The majority are made from a 55 gallon drum so that’s what I went with. Getting the drum was easy enough, the company I work for uses steel drums to ship stuff in and what made it even better is that the drums are made so they don’t have any sort of lining or coating on the inside. If you get a drum that is not bare steel, it will definitely need to be thoroughly cleaned, you never know what heat will do to whatever is in the drum and there is a really good chance you don’t want it on your food. If we end up with a drum that is too damaged to use as a shipping container, (i.e., rust or serious dents, etc.), they will let the employees have them.

I found a drum that would suit my needs and after filling out the required paperwork, took it home and thus began the process of building, (if you can call it that), my smoker. Searching the net for the terms “UDS” and “drum smoker” netted several good results. As with just about anything like this, there were many different ways to go about it. There were some ideas that I thought looked good so I compiled what I figured were the better of them and got started.

First off, all the paint on the drum and lid had to come off. Rather than spend money on tools and such to remove the paint, I opted for the old fashioned way, a good ol’ hot fire. I found an old pallet and broke it into pieces and got the flames going inside the drum. Adding a little more wood along the way it appeared all the paint was gone after about 2 or 3 hours so I let the fire die and the next morning after it had cooled, almost all of what was left just flaked off. A quick once over with a buffing wheel exposed the steel and the drum shined like a brand new penny.

I had whittled the design down to be as simple and effective as possible. Making a quick trip to the hardware store I was able to find all the parts I needed. The cooker would include a charcoal basket in the bottom made from some expanded metal and a small round grill grate and the cooking grate came from a standard kettle type grill grate towards the top, which were inexpensive. I found some long carriage bolts to use as feet for the charcoal basket and also to hold the upper grate in place. The store clerk pointed out some good high temp stove paint and within about 30 minutes I was on my way home with everything I needed.

A quick paint job of three coats was all it needed so after letting it sit overnight to dry, the building began. It was simple enough; the charcoal basket was done first by rolling the expanded metal into a cylinder just smaller than the diameter of the small grate. Using tie wire I fastened it to the grate and then using the long bolts and washers added the feet which brought it up off the floor of the drum about 3 or 4 inches.

I punched 3 each ¾ inch holes about 3 inches above the bottom of the drum for the air inlets and in two of these holes I added a ¾ X 2 inch nipple and cap. The third hole got a ¾ inch nipple and a ball valve. The idea is that you can add or remove the plugs to regulate airflow and fine tune it with the ball valve.

I installed the other long bolts about 9 inches down from the top and the larger grate fit very nicely in the drum. The lid was a little tricky and decided that since we live in an area that is prone to wind, it would be best to add a chimney rather than just punch holes in the top. This required cutting a 2 inch hole in the lid and bolting a threaded flange on the lid. Once that was done, I screwed a 2” X 12” threaded nipple into the flange. It appeared, for all intents and purposes, that I was ready to roll.

Time to try it out.

No comments:

Post a Comment