My new smoker project: a UDS

To kickstart my quest to make authentic (or at least more authentic) barbecue, I decided to switch from an electric smoker to charcoal. It might have been inspired by looking at the incredible rigs at Gator Pits, or seeing the Pit Barrel Cooker, and from there finding the whole UDS community.

UDS stands for either “upright drum smoker” or “ugly drum smoker“, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, some of them aren’t too ugly. (Man I love that one so much.)

So that became my goal: instead of plunking down $299 (or $399) on a WSM, or even the $269 of the PBC, I would make my own. I bought the drum from a guy about 30 minutes outside Philly (anyone need 600 pounds of grade B maple syrup?), and then it was off to the races.

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Fair warning: I did take the slightly easy way out and spring for the UDS kit from Big Poppa Smokers. It arrived today (Friday 8/9). Build details part 1 (i.e., so far) after the break.

The first step was to open it up. The BPS “engineered drum smoker” kit calls for an open-head steel drum, but this one was closed. There are a few options; a popular one is to cut the lid off with a jigsaw around the inside of the upper lip, and replace it with a Weber kettle grill lid (like R2-BBQ above).

I didn’t have a 22.5-inch lid hanging around (and the cheapest I could find one was buying the whole grill for $60). Instead, I found a method to cut the lid off and have it still be usable as a lid. All credit goes to this forum post, including for the images below.

Basically, I took an angle grinder (of course I had to buy a cheap one first) and ground off the outside edge of the lip, exposing both layers of the rolled bead. Liz was kind enough to take a Vine; it took longer than I expected (perhaps because of the cheap angle grinder):

Then I just tapped a cold chisel between the layers and it popped right out. After a little more grinding and sanding, you’d never know it wasn’t open to begin with.

Next up: lighting a big fire in the drum to burn off the existing paint.

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