When it comes to the many grilling instruments you can add to your garden, there’s none that’s more versatile yet easy to use than drum smokers.
These types of smokers are great for slow cooking whether you’re a master at the grill or a humble beginner, making them a natural choice for those who want delicious flavor from a no-nonsense setup.
They get their name from the fact they’re drum-shaped, sometimes called barrel-shaped depending on where you’re getting them, but the smokers we have below are far from hollowed-out drums since they use high-end tech to deliver the best smoking experience.
We’ve picked five of our favorite smokers and written about them, describing their pros and cons so that you can see their specs and properties at a glance.
On top of that, we’ve also added a small buyers’ guide that gives you insight into how we ranked these smokers, so you can use these criteria for yourself when browsing the market.
If you’ve got a cookout soon and need to get your hands on some ordnance fast, we’ve got our favorite smoker right here for you. We chose the Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker, though it does come in smaller or larger sizes too. See why we chose it below:
It’s a smoker that uses two large steel grates made to the size you choose, all housed in a porcelain enameled body that retains heat and doesn’t rust or peel away when exposed to the elements.
The temperature is easy to control via adjustable dampers and a removable fuel door. If you want to keep track of that temperature, a silicone grommet allows you to do so safely.
It’s easy to assemble no matter your prior experience with smokers. This is not only because of the attached user guide that comes with the product but also a digital, fully interactive 3D assembly guide available on the free BILT app.
Best Drum Smoker - Comparison Table
Best Drum Smoker - Our Reviews
The best smoker, in our opinion, is the Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker.
We’re showing off the eighteen-inch one, but it also comes in fourteen- and twenty-two-inch diameter sizes for those who want a little less or a little more space for their cooking needs.
These are all managed via the stainless-steel grates which, even with the smaller options, should be large enough to accommodate an average family cookout.
As for the body of this impressive model, it’s made with some porcelain enameling that allows it to retain heat much better than conductive materials like untreated metals. This ensures it can still provide a warm glow after being turned off, keeping any foodstuffs stored in or nearby to the smoker heated.
This enameling process also makes it anti-rust, so you won’t find that to be a problem, and the paint job on it also shouldn’t peel off either.
When you need to know just how hot it is in your smoker, know that there’s a silicone temperature grommet installed into the body. The silicone is thermo-resistant, so it should survive the full 190 degrees Fahrenheit of heat this smoker is capable of spitting out.
This port allows you to gauge temperature without having to touch anywhere near the heated body, keeping your fingers safe.
That heat can be controlled as much as you want, too, thanks to adjustable dampers built into the smoker body. There’s also a removable fuel door that allows you to easily add your accelerant of choice, whether that’s wood or coal, to the active smoker.
Another thing that sets the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker apart is its abundance of instructional materials for when you’re first setting it up. Usually, this isn’t something to write home about, after all, what piece of kit doesn’t come with its own instructions?
What most pieces of garden tech don’t have, however, is a fully interactive 3D assembly guide that’s available through a free app called BILT. This makes setup very easy for even the least confident of smokers.
Second we have the Pit Barrel Cooker Co.’s 18 ½ Inch Classic Cooker Package. This package includes not just a standard grate for grilling and searing but also eight stainless steel hooks that allow you to hang your meat.
It also has a coal basket that’s specially sized to the capacity of the smoker, meaning it’ll hold the ideal amount of charcoal you need for your cookouts.
Despite the added functionality, this smoker has, this model is one that’s geared towards simplicity. This is first exemplified by the fact the smoker requires minimal assembly to get started.
Compared to other smokers, this model is almost ready to use out of the box, requiring a few necessary but easy assemblies to get started.
The self-confessed goal of the PBC is to combine a smoker and a slow cooker to provide an experience that uses the best qualities of both, all to cook your food to perfection.
This is what they describe as the “vertical cooking experience.” This experience is one of the pricier experiences on this list, however, so you’ll have to weigh up whether you want to pay out more for the extra functionality that this model offers you.
At the third spot on our list is the Oklahoma Joe’s Char-Broil Bronco Charcoal Smoker, a product from one of the more renowned brands that seasoned smokers are sure to recognize.
This model is yet another product that lives up to the brand’s reputation, and you can tell that it’s benefited from a high design budget that only established brands like these can muster.
We say this because the Char-Broil Bronco features a combination of cooking grates and meat hangers that allow you to customize your smoking setup. You can use as much or as little of it as you want, allowing you full control over your cooking space.
That space also has an oversized charcoal basket. This isn’t an oversight, however, it’s actually quite intentional to hold a full day’s worth of fuel.
It's also made to be very sturdy thanks to its heavy-gauge steel construction. It needs to be this durable to survive out in the elements and not buckle under the heat it’ll carry within its body.
That fire can be well-regulated thanks to the unique airflow control system which, in tandem with the smoker’s sealed lid, enables you to manage the interior temperature of your smoker to a precise degree.
Once that fire has died out and you’ve made enough of a mess, you’ll find that cleanup is easy thanks to the removable ash pan at the bottom of the smoker. Other components are also coated in porcelain, ensuring that no soot sticks properly to the metallic parts of the smoker, and making cleanup much simpler for you.
Next up is the Realcook 20-Inch 6 in 1 BBQ Smoker which, as the name suggests, is a great choice if you want a versatile, multi-functional smoker that can tackle any food at any temperature and with any flavor.
This impressive smoker model can smoke (of course), grill, steam, bake, braise, and roast most produce that you’d want to stick in a smoker.
This huge flexibility really sets it apart from some of the above options, so don’t discount this option if that’s what you value in a good smoker.
On the spec side, this model offers 969 square inches of cooking space across three cooking grids, a crossbar, and four hangers that only increase the amount of meat you can smoke. There’s even a porcelain-enameled pan you can use for stickier foodstuffs.
This BBQ smoker has a built-in thermometer that uses a detailed temperature scale to accurately report exactly how hot it is inside your smoker. There are adjustable air vents at both the top and the bottom of the smoker that allow you to control that interior temperature if you need to.
When used with the information the thermometer gives you, you can find that perfect cooking temperature.
When in use, a latch locking system ensures that your smoking will go undisturbed. This stabilizes the smoker and means that it only opens when you want it to open, which is handy if you have any kids running around.
Lastly, we have the Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18-inch Charcoal Smoker, a smaller smoker if you’re going purely by size with two stainless steel racks that make up 510 square inches of cooking space.
This is also the handy budget option for those who don’t want or need to break the bank but still need a smoker that’ll get the job done.
Whilst it’s getting the job done, you’ll find that there’s a dual air vent system that keeps the interior temperature of your smoker consistent and allows you to tweak with how hot the smoker gets.
The Cuisinart COS-118 is also the lightest smoker here at just twenty-five pounds. This makes it very easy to move in theory since it’s so light. The reason we say in theory is because there’s a distinct lack of handles with this smoker model.
That isn’t to say it’s impossible to move, just slightly more troublesome.
Best Drum Smoker - Buyers Guide
How to grab the best drum smoker on the market
This here buyers’ guide was written to help you understand how we ranked the above smokers. This isn’t just useful for those who are curious about how we made those decisions, but it’s also handy for those who may want to look at other smokers and need a handy metric to judge them against.
Luckily for you, we have just that right here. We’ve broken down these smokers into their basic components and described which features we think are better than others. We’ve split your average smoker into its cooking space, temperature management, versatility, durability, and ease of use.
This is one of the more obvious but important specs you should consider when grabbing your smoker. You’ll want to have an idea of the largest and smallest meats you’ll end up cooking in the foreseeable future and should get the one that fits best with what you have planned.
Most drum smokers will be sixteen to twenty-two inches, though you can find ones that are below and above this average if you look around long enough. That average will net you approximately 400 to over 1000 square inches of space to cook on.
We’d suggest you get a smoker on the smaller side if you’re planning on cooking for just the family, and by that, we mean about four or five people. Otherwise, we think a larger one is in order to make catering to even more people a possibility.
This is an important factor for any cooking appliance, so it’s no surprise that this will go for smokers, too. If anything, you want an even more robust temperature management system in your smoker than any interior household appliance, since it’ll be outside and exposed to the elements.
If you want your food to be smoked through properly, you’ll need a competent system. Air duct systems are ideal, or downright preferable if they’re adjustable so you can control the temperature regulation, otherwise you should just look for smoker models that are designed with a good airflow to ensure the temperature stays consistent.
Having versatility is a great thing when looking for any product but smokers in particular often need to cook multiple types of meat at once. It’s a rare day when you can get away with hosting a barbecue or a cookout and cooking just one type of meat, so you should ensure your smokers have multi-functional capabilities.
This can include hanging instruments that allow you to mount meat onto hooks, or an array of grates that support different cooking styles.
This is fairly self-explanatory, and we’ve mentioned this above already. When you have an appliance that is to be used outside a lot, you want your outdoor cooking tools to be rigorously tested and able to survive the worst that mother nature can throw at it.
Look for a sturdy, thick body, for one. This will usually be used from stainless steel or some other metal that stands up well to heat.
This can usually be enameled to make cleaning and general maintenance much easier, but more on that below. Latching mechanisms are also useful to keep doors in place, minimizing the chance of door breakages throughout its lifespan.
Ease of Use
Lastly, you want your smoker to be easy to use. This tends to be more important for beginners, but seasoned smokers also don’t want to struggle with overcomplicated smokers either.
Drum smokers are pretty simple if you break them down to their fundamentals, a burning charcoal pit, and a rack for your meat, so drum smokers are definitely some of the easier ones to use out of all smoker types.
All of the added features, some of which we’ve described above, can make smoker operation more complicated than it needs to be. If you struggle with this, you’ll need to weigh up how many features you want versus how easy the smoker is to cook with.
If you want to gauge how easy a smoker is to use, simply take a walk down to the reviews section and see what other customers have to say about them.