Meat Smoker From 55gal Drums

[Joel] wanted to use his newly acquired welding skills to make something useful. With tasty flesh in mind he put together this meat smoker. What resulted is incredible, but the fact that he then gave it away as a gift is just amazing.

A curved joint between two pipes is known as a ‘fish mouth’. They can be a hassle, as with the pirate wheel project, but [Joel] used his noggin to make things easier. He first modeled two 55 gallon drums in CAD. The intersecting curve was then generated by the software, printed out on paper, and stenciled on the drum to be cut out with a jigsaw.

[Joel’s] writeup is greatly detailed and shares many pictures. He makes every part of this smoker, including the wood handles and the stainless steel grates. The guy really knows how to build stuff, but we should have known that after seeing the Crushtoberfest.

28 thoughts on “Meat Smoker From 55gal Drums

  1. Nice build! For v2 I’d consider widening the base to make it less tippy – though he seems to know what he is doing and I’m sure he would have addressed any tippy problems. Also would add an electronic controller to it to control smoker chamber and fire temperature. Some thermos, servos on the vent(s), a fan to force in air and voila! Add wireless and you free yourself from sitting and watching the beast – as anyone familiar with home smoking knows about. Could probly get away with thermistors up top (polder probes for the meat) but would want type k thermocouples below where the real heat is.

    Makes me want to go fire up the Big Green Egg!

  2. nice… my uncles have done this a couple of times (though with the smoker on a side mounted chamber to keep the welds easy) and used angle iron for the legs and put it on at least a pair of wheels to make it easier to move around cause they’re massively heavy.

  3. AutoCAD, really?!?!? I can think of at least one simpler way to do that and besides holding the barrels steady, the most work you have to do is tape a Sharpie to a yardstick and then trace the profile of the horizontal barrel onto the vertical one.

    That said…well done otherwise.

  4. Nice build.The problem with using 55 gallon barrels for a smoker is heat loss.They simply don’t have the mass to hold heat so you are constantly messing with the fire.It’s a good way to get your feet wet with welding and smoking but after awhile he will be building a real smoker…There have been many fine meals made on a UDS but the poor sap that had to monitor the fire usually doesn’t get to enjoy it because he fell asleep.

  5. Hacksaw: He’s smoking, not cooking. When you’re smoking you shouldn’t have much heat at all(hence Alton Brown’s episode on “cold smoking”). I think my smoker never gets much hotter than 200 deg F for anything, and it has even thinner walls than any 55 gal drum I’ve seen.

  6. That is just beautiful. I’ve seen a lot of home brewed cookers, but nothing as nice as that.

    @ehrichweiss, the most difficult part of smoking is not keeping the temperature low, but keeping it constant. That’s easier to do with thicker walls. With cookers like this I’d add a layer of bricks to the bottom of the cooking chamber to help maintain temperature. You’ll also find you need a lot less fuel with the bricks.

  7. “A curved joint between two pipes is known as a ‘fish mouth’”

    Uh no…. its not. Its called a cope. I’m sure some people call it a fish mouth because it does resemble one but that doesn’t change what the technique is called.

    This guy did a pretty damn good job of fitting it all together though. Props.

  8. That is a beauty. For the next one I would try to find an old fuel oil tank(I just happen to have a 250 gal out in my front yard…hmmmm) for more space. Course this only applies if you want to do big pieces(think roast pig) or lots at one time(think backyard parties). Some bricks in the updraft of the fire would help to hold and even the heat out as mentioned.

  9. FYI: If you use drums previously used to store flamable/explosive liquids (or gases), you should be sure that they are really well ventilated, since even the empty and wet drum will fill itself by explosive fumes.

    eg. when you need to weld such containers/drums, you should use fan to ventilate them and fill the rest of drum (which is not welded) by water or sand. We’ve been strongly warned in school on this… And we were told story about hobbist who was blown up, while making some DIY project using some old fuel drum.

    Obviously stupid is idea of welding/cutting full gas tank, barrel, etc.. of course.

  10. No person who knows the first thing about home smoking will ever use a USED drum or container that previously contained anything other than food products. Chemicals of any kind will leach into the metal and as you cook, will release the fumes into your meat and contaminate it.

    Beyond this, the design is brilliant and I would love to see the plans for this one.

  11. I’m looking for inexpensive drip pans/pallet to hold 4 55 gallon drums to avert workplace accidents used for cooking grease containment Would your company have anything like this?


  12. Okay, got my barrels and starting fabrication today. I have an idea on getting rid of grease. Make pool points jut outside of damper then drill hole and run copper pipe along inside of fire chamber to empty into a external collection area. Heat from fire box should keep lines clear. Any soggetions ? And wish me luck.

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