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New UDS build

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 

I am purchasing an unlined open head steel drum for my uds. I have a choice of either 2" or 3/4" lid. I am thinking that the thicker lid will help with heat, etc. Should I go with the thicker lid? Aslo, since this is an unlined do I still need to burn it out?

post #2 of 39

Hello.  Welcome.  I see this is your first post.  Please take some time and swing over to Roll Call and introduce yourself so that we may give you a proper "Hello".  All info you can provide us with such as smoker type, location and so on will help us answer any questions you may have, and pictures help a bunch.  As for your question: I have not seen a barrel lid that is either 2" thick or 3/4" thick but you can fill and encyclopedia with what I don't know.  Heat rises of course so while it may help some, I think most of the heat will tend to radiate OUT from the lid after you finally get it heated up.  The thing is the barrel will radiate the heat lose so the thicker lid will not do much to help retain heat in my opinion.


As for the burn out; YES, you need to do it.  Even for a brand new shiney barrel.  There has probably been an oil coat put on it to spot it from rusting.  Keep Smokin!


post #3 of 39
I bet those sizes are the size of openings in the lid and not the thickness
post #4 of 39
Thread Starter 

They were the sizes of the openings in the lid. Next steps will be to do a burn and clean it up. I want to do 2 grates so that I can cook more ribs. Has anyone tried this? I have seen designs online that have 2 racks for cooking.

post #5 of 39

Think of a weber smokey mtn. and their design, A 55 gallon drum and a 22.5" wsm is very similar in size. i also am planning on building a uds very soon mine will have two racks in it that will be adjustable in 1" (or so) heights, but i am also putting a heat diffuser above the charcoal basket so that my bottom rack can be closer to the coals without making it too hot. thus giving me more room to have between the racks. 

post #6 of 39

I have two racks in mine. The bottom rack does get hotter so you have to rotate things a time or 2 during the smoke. If you get rib racks you can fit a ton of ribs on one rack anyway. If you can find a used Weber kettle BBQ that is 22.5 inches you can use the lid and your lower grate can be higher above the heat and that helps. You might have to do some modifications to get it to set right but that is the way to go. I just use the flat lid with one 2 inch hole and one 1 inch hole and it has always worked great. I have two rib racks and I can get 8-10 racks of ribs on the top grate easy. You can also do this and get a ton of ribs in there.


post #7 of 39

:ROTF  Well that one FLEW straight past me!  Had me scratching my head about a 2" thick barrel lid!  DUH!!  The guys have you sorted on the racks.  Keep Smokin!


post #8 of 39
Originally Posted by bdseymour View Post

I am purchasing an unlined open head steel drum for my uds. I have a choice of either 2" or 3/4" lid. I am thinking that the thicker lid will help with heat, etc. Should I go with the thicker lid? Aslo, since this is an unlined do I still need to burn it out?

You might need to start lifting weights right now to get in shape for the manhole cover you will have on top of your drum. Hahahahahaha......:wife:

post #9 of 39

:ROTF  Hey timberjet.  So reading it again I see I wasn't CRAZY!  He did say "thicker lid".  I was thinking the very same thing!!  WHAT THA *?  HOW THA *? " Comealong" on a tree limb?  Block and tackle?  DO NOT DROP THAT SUCKER ON YOUR FOOT!  Was racking my small brain.  :hit:  Still has me chuckling.  Amazing how the written word can get confusing.  Well it's all sorted now and I hope bdseymour can now get on and build a great UDS.  You guys have given him some great advice.  I'm sure you folks will continue helping until his UDS is built.  Keep Smokin!


post #10 of 39

Yes, you can definitely do 2 racks. That is what I did but I have never cooked anything on the bottom rack. I keep a pizza pan with holes in it down there as a heat diffuser to keep the temps on the top grate even across it. I have never ran out of room on my top grate and needed more. Then again, my smokes are usually small like a big pork butt or brisket, maybe a couple racks of ribs.

post #11 of 39
Originally Posted by bdseymour View Post

They were the sizes of the openings in the lid. Next steps will be to do a burn and clean it up. I want to do 2 grates so that I can cook more ribs. Has anyone tried this? I have seen designs online that have 2 racks for cooking.


Welcome and glad we got the lid thing figured out. As far as the cooking grates are concerned, I used adjustable shelf supports and brackets in mine and they work awesome. Here is a link to the video on my YT channel. I first talk about the brackets at the 10:25ish mark.



Good luck with the build and keep us posted.



post #12 of 39
Thread Starter 

This is the design I have come up with. I am using a Smokey Mountain Weber 22.5 inch water pan that holds 3 gallons of water to catch dripping and add moisture. I want to have 2 grates that I can use because I don't want to use a rib rack and want the added capacity. My drum has the bung holes so I will need to create a chimney out of one or both of them. I want to have the extended pipes with the ball valves attached for ease of controlling the air intake and I am looking at purchasing the pitmasterIQ IQ110 to control the temps. I am also installing the tel-tru BQ300 thermometer.

post #13 of 39

Looks like a plan!  Keep us updated with pics!

post #14 of 39

I would just like to say that you will want to catch most of your drippings in a clean pan on the second grate. That stuff makes killer gravy, soup starter, au jus, and many other things. Water is not needed in the water pan. In fact for me no water pan is needed at all. It's up to you but moisture creates problems in a flat lid UDS. It may just drip nasty black stuff all over your nice expensive brisket. The other problem I see is that you are not leaving enough room for a turkey or beer can chicken or even a rib rack or 2 full of ribs with 4" of clearance. My first rack is 7 inches down and the next one is 6 inches below that. You want to have room for that drip pan especially when you are doing a Butt or a Chuck roast. Just some observations that I see from several years of experience with my UDS. That water pan is just taking up space in there that could be utilized for something else. The shelf rack thing is a solid idea I guess if you weld, and weld well because welding on thin drum steel is not easy without blowing lots of holes all over. I go with keep it simple. The beauty of the drum is in that it's so simple and works so well without A bunch of crazy stuff. One more note, you might also think about the extra flavor you get when your chicken or ribs is dripping into the coals. That is that charbroil flavor that you can only get in this way. I have 4 3/4 inch intakes and only one ball valve and to tell you the truth I have never used more than 2 open to get the thing started up and up to temp. In cooking I have never needed to have another one open not even when it is cold as hell out.

post #15 of 39
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice. As this is my first build I have been trying to think everything through.


1. The water pan I am installing can be used for water or just  catch the drippings.

2. I have room for turkey or beer can chicken or butts. The grates will be sitting on 1 1/2" x 1/4" bolts so I can remove them. No welding. So I can can remove the first grate and use the second which sits 1" below yours at 8" down.

3. The water pan will also act as a deflector because I don't want to burn the meat, although I loose the flareups from the direct fire as you said. 


I think this design allows for a lot of flexibility where I can do more ribs without a rib rack. I do not like them and I warp my ribs which could cause problems with the juices leaking out everywhere. So the extra racks will be used for chicken and ribs. If I want to do butts, brisket, turkey or beer can chicken I can just remove the first rack and everything sits on the second at 8" down. This is one inch lower than most.

post #16 of 39

That pan that will be catching fire right above the fire basket might be a problem. Super black meteorite juice is not that good for adding back into your pulled pork or making turkey gravy either. I have used my UDS for over 3 years and take it from me there is not a problem with burning meat or flare-ups unless you are planning on running it without the lid on all the time or something. I know looking at the design you may think so but there is such an efficient air control in there that there is no issue like that. Now you do what you want to do. I am just trying to relate my experience about the subject. I will say it again. WATER IS NOT NEEDED IN YOUR UDS. It does not add moisture to meat. It adds humidity to your smoker yes. It may make for rubber like skin on poultry and no bark formation on pork and black stuff dripping down from the lid that tastes like you just licked a railroad tie. But it's your UDS so you can make all the mistakes that have already been made and learn from them if you wish.

post #17 of 39
Thread Starter 

Thanks again for the advice. There seems to be a debate about whether or not to use a water pan online. Some like you say no and  others say yes for longer cooks like brisket. I think I will have to play with this. Your second rack is sitting at 13" down and my water pan will be sitting about the same at 12" down so I am not sure why a water pan vrs a clean pan makes a difference for catching the drippings. 

post #18 of 39

Well, You can always put more bolts in for grate height adjustment anyway and you probably will once you try it out. I don't put much credence in the online debate about water pans as I have been smoking in vertical charcoal smokers for over two decades and have tried just about everything. You will probably see what I mean once you try getting your water pan clean after a bunch of hours of meat smoking so that it can be used to catch drippings to save. Lots of folks don't keep their drippings from Butts and Beef roasts but boy I do. Man that stuff is like dynamite. It is nice to have some adjustability for different size stuff. I would look at the scenario where you are doing an 18 pound or bigger turkey and you want a pan underneath it to catch the drippings. So you will figure out after you run it for a while how you like it. I will say the vast majority of the members of this site that I have great respect for do not use water in their smokers. If not all.

post #19 of 39

There is also an online debate about weather to soak wood for smoking as well. Kind of silly.

post #20 of 39
Thread Starter 

Maybe I should go 5" and 5" for a little more room and change the water pan to a heat diffuser. Does anyone have any designs for a heat shield? 

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