Best Drum Smoker – Our Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

best drum smoker

This content contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking a link on this page, we might receive a commission at no cost to you.

One of the most underrated smoker grills as far as BBQ cooking equipment has to be the drum smoker.  Drum smokers are easy to use, versatile, and most importantly, they deliver some delicious flavor.  They’re perfect for low and slow cooking no matter whether you are a beginner or BBQ pitmaster.

These smokers get their name from their drum like shape.  They’re also known as barrel smokers in some regions – so if you hear somebody refer to a smoker as such then we are talking about the same thing.

In fact, you can make a DIY drum smoker at home with a barrel drum and some other equipment!  But that’s a post for another time.  Many reputable manufacturers make their own drum smokers, utilizing top of the line technology and engineering.

In this article, we’ll go over some of our best drum smoker choices and reviews, then follow that up with some tips and things to look out for when you’re comparing cookers.


In a Rush?  Here’s Our Top Picks:

  1. Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker – Top Rated
  2. Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker – Multiple Sizes
  3. Oklahoma Joe’s Drum SmokerOur Favorite
  4. Realcook Round Vertical Charcoal Smoker – Best Value

Best Drum Smoker – Our Top Choices

Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker

If you’re looking for a high capacity, high end drum smoker then we’d suggest you take a look at the Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker.  It’s a high performance smoker that was designed for competition use, although it’s still a popular choice for backyard pitmasters who take their craft seriously.

Even though the unit holds a high volume of meat, it’s actually a great choice for tailgating as it is relatively lightweight and has removable wheel casters to help transport it around.

One 21-inch diameter cooking grate is included, but there are 3 preset cooking levels and additional grates available for purchase.  If you add on two extra grates and place one at each cooking level, you’re given 1,386 square inches of cooking surface area total to work with.

The fire basket is also high capacity so that you can be sure you have enough fuel to heat and flavor your food.  The fire basket holds up to 10 pounds of lump charcoal and can burn for up to 14 hours at a time!

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 Inch Smoker

Okay, so the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker isn’t technically a drum smoker.  But in function, it is close enough that it’s fair to include them on this list.

They sell variants that are 14-inch cookers, 18-inch cookers, and 22-inch cookers.  Anybody who has owned a Weber grill before knows that they make fantastic, quality products, and their take on the drum smoker shape is no different.

The entire unit is porcelain enameled – from the lid to the bowl to the center section.  This is so that the smoker will retain heat for consistent, predictable temperatures.  It’s also an anti-rust and anti-peel surface as well.  A silicone temperature grommet monitors the internal temperature of your smoker too.

One thing I love about the Char-Broil Smokey Mountain Cooker is that there are two pretty large racks included inside the drum.  This gives you a ton of space to utilize and smoke enough food to feed a small army!

Temperature control is made easy by adjustable dampers.  The fuel door also comes off so that you can add wood chips or coals during the smoke.  Both of these features make smoking with this unit incredibly easy.

You can check out our deep dive on the Smokey Mountain here.

Things We Like:

  • 2 large steel grates provide a ton of smoking space
  • The unit is well made, with no peeling and no rusting
  • Temperature control and easy add fuel systems built-in
  • Can be used with direct heat cooking, so it can double as a grill
  • 14, 18, and 22-inch diameter variations depending on your cooking needs
  • Expert assembly included free!

Things We Don’t:

  • Not a bona fide drum smoker

Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Charcoal Drum Smoker

Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the most trusted brands of smokers on the market.  Their Bronco Charcoal Drum Smoker lives up to the brand name and makes a strong argument for the title of best drum smoker.

Part of what comes with a great brand is a healthy R&D budget.  In this case, Oklahoma Joe’s put a ton of effort into creating the absolute best possible design they could come up with for a drum smoker.  Their unique airflow control system and sealed lid allow you to precisely manage your temperature.

The cooking grates and hooks are placed for an intuitive setup and the charcoal box is oversized, meaning you can easily load up enough fuel for an all day smoke.  That’s a luxury compared to having to regularly add wood chips and coals to your drum throughout the day.

In addition to all of the cooking features, clean-up couldn’t be easier.  A removable ash pan makes ash management a breeze, and the porcelain coated components create a nonstick environment to minimize any left behind messes.

Things We Like:

  • Extremely well thought out design
  • Oversized charcoal box for all day smoking
  • The airflow management system allows for precise, consistent temperatures
  • Heavy-duty, durable materials used for construction
  • Converts to a charcoal grill
  • Easy to roll around

Things We Don’t:

  • They don’t offer free shipping at the time of this writing, so that’s an extra cost
  • Weighs over 100 pounds so not the easiest to transport

Realcook 17 Inch BBQ Smoker – Best Budget Drum Smoker

It might be personal bias, but there’s just something about the aesthetics of the Realcook 17-inch BBQ Smoker that appeals.  Of course, this makes our best drum smoker list not only for its style – it has substance too!

Most notably, the unit easily converts between a smoker, fire pit, or 2 simultaneous charcoal BBQ grills depending on what your needs are. It’s one of the most well thought out designs that I’ve seen for a smoker, and it would be a fabulous addition to your patio or outdoor kitchen.

Temperatures stay pretty consistent with built in air ducts.  As far as cooking space goes, there’s 4 stainless steel hooks included along with 3 cooking grids which total 969 square inches of cooking space.  That’s more than enough to handle the needs of just about any gathering of friends and family!

The versatility of the Realcook BBQ Smoker really can’t be understated.  You can get so much done with this thing, whether it’s smoking delicious food or kicking back and having a drink next to the fire after a long day.  It also is offered in a 17-inch and a 20-inch diameter option as well.

Things We Like:

  • Versatile, practical design
  • Easily converts between the smoker, fire pit, and 2 charcoal grills
  • Good airflow management system
  • 969 square inches of cooking space
  • Multiple doors make it easy to add coals or wood during the cook

Things We Don’t:

  • Some customers have noted that their shipment didn’t include all of the necessary parts.  While this is definitely a hassle, the manufacturer should send the missing parts to you if this happens

EasyGoProducts Big Bad Barrel Pit Charcoal BBQ 5 in 1

If you’re looking for maximum versatility, you frankly aren’t going to do better than the EasyGoProducts Big Bad Barrel Pit.  It’s a multipurpose, multi-use unit, but most importantly – it will smoke some darn good food.

Most prominently, this drum smoker also markets itself as a fire pit, pizza oven, smoker, table, and grill.  You aren’t limited at all by your equipment, and it’s also super fun to be able to smoke BBQ one day and fire up a pizza the next.

Another really nice feature of the Big Bad Barrel Pit is that the barrel itself is two pieces.  It can be easily dismantled for easy transport and storage when it’s not in use.  This also makes it convenient to use at parties, camping grounds, or tailgating as it can be transported easily in most cars and trucks.

In addition to all of that, the drum smoker comes with a bunch of utensils and features that make getting started incredibly easy.  It comes equipped with 6 stainless steel hooks, 3 grilling utensils, a charcoal pit, and a stainless steel rack.

Things We Like:

  • Maximum versatility – easy to grill, smoke, or fire pizzas
  • The unit is well made, with no peeling and no rusting
  • Consistent heat management. The unit is designed to maintain ideal smoking temperatures
  • Breaks down into smaller parts for easy transportation
  • Comes pre loaded with lots of accessories

Things We Don’t:

  • A little nit-picky but it only comes in one 18 inch diameter size

Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Drum Smoker

Plain and simple, the Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker gets our vote for the best drum smoker on a budget.  It will get the job done, albeit it might not be quite as high in quality as the other drum smokers on this list.

That’s not to say the quality isn’t good though.  The Cuisinart COS-118 features two 18″ stainless steel racks which provide 510 square inches of cooking space and 5.54 cubic feet of interior.  There’s a dual air vent system and latching base which help keep temperatures consistent and steady.

One thing that I really like about this unit is how light it is.  At only 32 pounds, it’s very easy to move around if you ever need to smoke on the go.

Things We Like:

  • Cheap price point
  • 2 stainless steel racks for 510 square inches of cooking space
  • Good airflow management system
  • Lightweight for easy transportation

Things We Don’t:

  • The shell of the unit is pretty thin, and some basic features (like handles) aren’t included in places you’d think they should be.

Best Drum Smoker – What To Look For

As I’m sure you noticed from the best drum smoker reviews above, there is a variation in price amongst a lot of smokers.  The thing I always like to tell people to keep in mind is that you get what you pay for.  I think that holds especially true when it comes to grilling and smoking.

We eat food every day, and having consistently delicious food can actually have a really positive impact on your happiness and lifestyle.  It’s always been my view that because of this, it’s usually worth a couple hundred extra bucks to invest in a smoker that’s nice and will last you a long time.

All of that being said, here are a few things to look out for when you’re shopping for drum smokers:

Ease of Use

The last thing you need is an overcomplicated design.  Drum smoker is really aren’t that complicated conceptually – especially compared to other smoker types.

Obviously, you want to have great airflow management and obviously, the extra features are nice.  But if all of the bells and whistles come at the detriment of your user experience, that kind of defeats the purpose in my mind.  Be sure to check customer reviews that mention how easy each unit is to use.


On that note, it is definitely a nice thing to have some multi-use facets included with your drum smoker.  Simply because of the design and components needed for a drum smoker, oftentimes it’s actually quite easy for a manufacturer to design a unit which converts to a charcoal grill or a fire pit.

Cooking Space

The amount of cooking space you need comes down to what you plan to use your drum smoker for.  Most drum smokers come in variations anywhere between 16-22 inches in diameter, with anywhere from 400 square inches to 1000+ square inches of cooking space.

If you plan to smoke for 1-4 people at a time a smaller unit will do just fine.  Any more than that you should look at getting a 20+ inch diameter unit.

Temperature Management

This principle holds true for all kinds of smokers.  Heat management is the number one most important factor of smoking good food properly.  One of the big reasons you buy a smoker is to have a piece of equipment that makes temperature management as easy as possible.

Units that have adjustable air duct systems are ideal, but at a minimum your drum smoker should be designed for airflow for consistent temperatures.

Why Choose a Drum Smoker?

Compared to other types of smokers, drum smokers are very straightforward to use.  A well made drum smoker will be consistent, reliable, and make delicious food for years and years.

Most also feature large enough coal baskets so that you only have to light your fire once for an all day smoke.  If you are new to smoking, this type of smoker is one of the best directions you can choose to go.

Final Thoughts

There you have it!  Drum smokers are one of my favorite ways to cook food, and if you’ve made it this far, I sincerely hope our best drum smoker list has helped you on your journey.  Let us know which one you ended up with in the comments section below!