Beef Jerky on Oil Drum BBQ Smoker

oil drum bbq

The oil drum bbq smoker has surprising benefits when you prefer to cook your food in it

Choose the vertical oil drum bbq smoker if you want to cook the perfect beef jerky. The secret to making great beef jerky on an oil drum bbq smoker is to start with a small, controlled fire, because slow burn makes the best smoked meats. Normally the beef jerky will be ready roughly around 2-3 hours under optimal conditions, meaning, you add charcoal as needed in order to keep the fire at the right size and temperature. If it got too big or too hot, then you’ll burn the meat and get a bad taste. It isn’t like cooking on a teppanyaki grill at your house where you can move your meat around your plate a lot.

What Oil Drum BBQ smoker should I buy?

You can get anything from a simple drum to a full fledged oil drum cooking station. And these are of course in very different price categories.

We recommend getting one of these two, depending on your budget:

Oil drum smoker brand Review summary Images
Batavia Oil Barrel smoker This barrel from Batavia is affordably priced at around $200,- (Check latest price), and you can easily use it for outdoor grilling, smoking, and even as a nice fire pit. It’s also extremely portable a it compresses down to 1/3 its size for easy portability and storage in the winter months.

Batavia Oil Barrel smoker

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Barrel House Cooker 14D Wood & Charcoal Smoker The Barrel House is a bit more expensive at around $330,- (Check latest price), but it’s great for that authentic BBQ flavour. The Barrel House is super easy to use and consistently produces quality smoked food 40% faster than traditional smokers. The unique design infuses flavor by catching meat drippings from meat hanging directly over coals while the virtually sealed barrel creates a convection oven to cook the food evenly from top to bottom.

Barrel House Cooker 14D Wood & Charcoal Smoker

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Look at this video review of the Barrel House 14D:

It really is the best oil drum smoker you can get in our opinion. So if you can spare the extra money, it’s more than worth it!

Now for your first oil drum smoker recipe

Let’s get you started smoking your first Beef Jerky recipe.


2 lbs beef
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp course ground pepper
4 garlic cloves
1/3 cup Tamari
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Additional Materials:

Wood for smoking
12 skewers

oil drum bbq jerky

You’d need to marinate the meat for at least 8 hours to get the best flavor desired, but just to be sure do through the whole night. The meat will be suspended on metal skewers over the oil drum bbq grill so that it will only be smoked by the heat that the fuel chamber creates and not be placed directly on the fire itself. After an hour and a half the meat is transferred onto the grates to let the fats and water evaporate completely from them.

Chop the fresh garlic and combine it with the ingredients for the marinade and use an immersion blender or a stick blender to mix them thoroughly. Then slice the beef into a quarter of its original length and remove all the fat. Cut it further into smaller pieces roughly 5 x 4 inches in size, then put the ingredients of the marinade into a large (1 gallon size) zip lock bag and add the slices of meat and leave it in the refrigerator all night.

After removing from the fridge:
Slide the meat into the skewers and secure them tightly as you will be hanging these from the oil drum bbq grill first before you’ll place them horizontally on the grates later. Give enough room to separate each meat slice by at least half an inch between them and about 4 inches at the edges of the skewers. Now for the charcoal fuel on the oil drum bbq smoker don’t fill up the fuel chamber, instead only fill charcoal up to ½ or ¾ of the way. Rake the charcoal to one side of the fuel chamber leaving the other side almost empty and then hang your skewers on the rods suspending your jerky above the unlit/indirect side of the charcoal. You can add wood chips or pellets to the ember to enhance the fire and smoke.

The best thing about the beef jerky smoked in an oil drum bbq grill is that a few pounds of beef will last for a long time if you keep it refrigerated

Allow the beef jerky to be smoked for 1 and ½ – 2 hours with the lid closed while you observe it regularly to avoid any mishaps. Rotate the skewers from the grates every 10 minutes so they don’t overcook. Once the flames diminishes roughly 20-30% of their normal size, then add charcoal briquettes to keep the flames burning to the intended amount without letting burn too hot or too big.

oil drum bbq

After 2 hours or so, you may notice some jerky have cooked pretty well while others may still have wet spots or have not yet fully dehydrated from the heat. What you’ll need to do this time is to remove the meat from the skewers and the rods where they hang from and replace it with the grill grates. Lay the undehydrated jerky on the grates to smoke it further until it dries up. This should take about 30 minutes and once they’re dry and well cooked, then you may serve them.

Store in the refrigerator for maximum freshness- the jerky will last a few weeks. Enjoy!

Want to check out some more bbq smokers? See our complete buying guide with different brands or check out our post on how to build your own barrel smoker