Best Oil Drum BBQ Smokers: 4 top barrels reviewed

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 17, 2021

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Oil drum smokers have been around for a long time, and it mostly was out of necessity that they were born.

Now, with the ugly drum smoker hype, it’s become popular once again to get one or make your own smoker DIY barrel from recycled oil drums.

But, making one from scratch…

A GOOD one…

Can be pretty hard and all of the parts you’ll need will end up costing you quite a bit.

So in this post, I’ll be looking at the 3 best oil drum barrel smoker models and also be talking about what you need to look out for.

Best oil drum barrel smokers

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How to buy a bbq smoker video

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. But the best value for money comes with the Barrel House smoker, a brand that goes all-in on these types of drum smokers.

But there are some budget smokers as well, and I recommend getting one of these 4, depending on your budget:

Oil drum smoker brand Images
Best wood & charcoal barrel smoker: Barrel House Cooker

Best charcoal and wood barrel smoker Barrel House cooker

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Most complete drum smoker package: Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

Classic pit barrel cooker drum smoker package

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Best budget oil drum smoker: CMI 14 inch

Best budget oil drum smoker: CMI 14 inch

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Best professional large drum smoker: Solo Cup Gateway

large professional 55 gallon smoker solo cup gateway

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Best oil drum smokers reviewed

Best wood & charcoal barrel smoker: Barrel House Cooker

Best charcoal and wood barrel smoker Barrel House cooker

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The Barrel House is a bit more expensive, but it’s great for that authentic BBQ flavor. 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.

Look at this video review of the Barrel House cooker:

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

Check it out here on Amazon

Most complete drum smoker package: Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

Classic pit barrel cooker drum smoker package

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This is the classic under the oil drum barrel smokers and it has been developed and perfected over quite some time.

It is the most complete package which will contain everything you’ll need to effectively start smoking your meat.

It has 8 hooks to hang your meat on within the barrel and they are actually very very durable and made from quality materials, just as the stainless steel grill.

And of course, you’ll get a grate to put your meat or vegetables on so you can smoke them on the top. It also has a handy coal basket, which is the perfect size to get the right amount of charcoal in the barrel. 

Now, this is a very durable steel barrel which makes it more than just your average charcoal grill.

Here’s Postal Barbecue with a great review on it:

 

I always recommend using a charcoal basket, but if you buy a separate one you still don’t know how much to put into your particular model oil drum.

It is a perfect and complete package for the smoking enthusiast.

Check prices and availability here

Best budget oil drum smoker: CMI 14 inch

Best budget oil drum smoker: CMI 14 inch

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Ok, so I don’t recommend getting one of the really cheap ones because you’ll end up having to buy a replacement after a year or two, or worse, it might burn through with all of the nasty consequences that come with a thing like that.

But I know not all of you have large budgets to spend on a barrel smoker, so I’ll share my best budget tip with you as well. 

The CMI smoker is not the cheapest model that’s available out there by far, but it is a lot cheaper than the previous top choices and still very durable and sturdy.

You can haul this baby on the back of your truck for miles, take it off without having to look out that you’ll dent it. 

It’s a heavy-duty oil drum, that’s for sure.

The other nice thing about this smoker is the amount of room you get with lots of hanging space, something not a lot of barrels can offer.

CMI barrel cooker racks

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Plus it has the built-in temperature check with the thermometer.

Check the lowest prices here

Best professional large drum smoker: Solo Cup Gateway

large professional 55 gallon smoker solo cup gateway

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Now I know these babies won’t be for everyone and they’re quite expensive. But the Gateway really IS the gateway into professional barrel smoking and some restaurant owners swear by these things.

The large 55-gallon steel drums are perfect for cooking up enough food for your dinner guests, or a small event even and it allows you to smoke several types of meat or poultry at a time.

They are pricey so maybe you’re not thinking of getting one like this, but it is fun to check them out anyway, what a beasts :)

Check the latest prices here

Are drums smokers any good?

Drum smokers are very popular these days and for good reason! We’ve written about the benefits of vertical smokers before and 30 gallon oil drums have the perfect shape and size for smoking meat and vegetables. They are easy to take with you on a trailer (if you don’t want to buy a whole trailer smoker!) or in your truck, plus old oil drums are often used for building DIY barrel smokers because they already have the heat resistance built-in.

How do you season your drum smoker?

When you get a brand new drum smoker you need to season it, which is basically burning in some cooking oil. So what I like to do is pull up my oil spray and coat the entire inside of the drum with some cooking spray. 

It’s just regular old canola oil. Then fill it up with your favorite brand of charcoal and light it up with your chimney starter or gas burner, you can do it both ways. You can also throw a wax cube in there and light it that way but I really like doing it with my favorite fire starter.

Here’s the reason why you want to burn a drum in. It’s because it’s got the factory oil and just like a cast-iron skillet you have to season it before use.

And it’s a really simple process. It’s just about getting the metal nice and hot and just like pores on your skin the metal once it heats up it starts to expand and the pores if you
will start opening up allowing the oil to get absorbed or get baked on.

That helps season the drum. Remember to also oil up the bottom side of your lid.

I don’t need to leave the vents open because my charcoal is already lit from the firestarter. That way I can go ahead and close this lid so I’m gonna put my grate in there right away and let that burn-in as well.

Don’t forget to spray the grate down with oil as well and you can go ahead and shut the intake valves or leave it a quarter of the way open I know that’ll usually gets me to about a 300 degrees which is where you want it for seasoning the metal.

How to keep your oil drum smoker clean

There are a couple of products that I think are a must-have. I keep all of my drums nice and shiny. I like to keep the external looking fresh and new and what I use is this McGuire’s quick detailer with just a rag and you only need to spray it on and wipe it down. 

If you try to do that after every time you grill you’ll keep the paint looking nice and neat.

Preventing grease fire in your vertical drum smoker

One thing I also like to use is a multi-purpose absorbent.

Before grilling I’m going to dump probably a quarter of an inch of that oil absorbent at the bottom and the reason I do that is if you do have some grease that falls on the bottom you don’t want a grease fire.

Because obviously that’s going to burn your food and you don’t want that so I always pick up a big bag of absorbent.

You do have smaller bags but quite honestly you’re spending just a couple bucks more and that’ll last me a long time. Again, you just need a quarter of an inch or so on the bottom just to absorb any grease and to prevent any grease fires so that’s what I use as well.

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

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.