Barrel Pit questions

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by danbury, May 16, 2008.

  1. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    There is a barrel smoker that is mentioned a few times at this site that I have a few questions for anyone that uses it.

    It's the homemade pit that has the valves at the bottom, a "basket" per say to hold the charcoal and is made from an open top barrel with the lid.

    Are the two intake valves at the bottom enough to keep the coals going? I have 2 3/4" intakes on mine that I just made.

    Are you using any kind of drip pan under the meat if you do pork butts or any other type of meat that has a lot of drippings?

    What about cleaning the bottom after done cooking?

    I like to smoke my pork butts at a temperature between 215 and 225, usually for 16 hours give or take. How has temperature control worked out for you?

    Thanks for any advice on this pit. I'm breaking one in now as we speak.
  2. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Seems the UDS maintains those temps well... BBQ Bubba claimes 12 hours on a load of coals.... amazing.

    I'd use a drip pan... or at least a grate covered in foil.

    Hmmm 2 .75 valves should be close... what's your vent size?
  3. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    The "stack" is a a piece of pipe screwed into the large bung hole in the lid. (what ever that size is.. I forgot)
  4. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Sounds about right I'd say BBQ Bubba's the expert tho..
  5. crewdawg52

    crewdawg52 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You are talking about a BDS/UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker..self made clone of a BDS)

    To read about drum smokers, a good site is

    I have a BDS. You DO NOT WANT TO USE A DRIP PAN! They basically work as so:

    They smoke meats directly over the coals. Charcoal (lump or briquettes) are used with chunk wood for fuel. The meat juices drip down onto the coals, giving meat the traditional flavor. No need for a water pan or heat shield/barrier. I swear you will have moist, tender meats, with the traditional smoke ring.

    Air flows through the intake and exhaust vents, creating a convection inside (your vents are extremely large.. most around 3/4 to 1"). Smoking the meat
    directly over the coals produces radiant heat. The combination of convection and radiant heat cooks the meat faster than most pits (tuesday did a 6.5 prime rib roast in 2.5 hrs and temp never got above 242*. see thread in BEEF section). Temp control is simple. Remove or add plugs in the air intake holes as needed to regulate the temp. Most who use a drum find that once you get the temp set in it, there is very little adjusting needed.

    Hope this helps.
  6. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    I've had it going now for almost an hour. Started it with intakes full open and temp was almost 300. I've been cranking the valves closed a bit at a time and temp is slowly falling. I'll see if I can find that "Sweet Spot" today.
  7. crewdawg52

    crewdawg52 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Just a suggestion.....Next time you fire it up, have all vents/plugs removed. When the temp rises to about 200- 225*, add a plug, then sit back and see what happens. To me, its a hassle trying to get the temp back down and I end up "chasing" the temp.

    With mine, I start it with a blowtorch and it takes just a few minute s to get to temp. Once it reaches about 210*, I close one air intake (got 3). It goes to about 223-240* (depending on the wind), and pretty much stays there for several hours. The only time it really is a pain is when there are gusty winds. I get the temp set, then the wind dies down or increases. That's when I tell myself I need to make a smoke shelter...
  8. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    I put about 1/3 bag of lump charcoal in that barrel pit this morning and put it to burning around 9:00 a.m. I tossed in a lot of hickory bark and little pieces that have accumulated over the past few years at the bottom of my wood storage box and I crammed that in there as well.

    I got the temperature between 225 and 245 and it's held there all day on just what lump charcoal and stuff I put in this morning and it looks like it's going to last a few more hours.

    Initially I had a cheap small bbq pit that I drilled full of holes in it, but I could tell that wasn't going to get in in the long run, so I went and picked up some expanded metal and welded a basket 17" in diameter with 7" high sides. I also made a smaller diameter one to go inside for shorter cooking times.

    I'm going to like this!
  9. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looks good!
    Make sure your charcoal basket is about 3" above the bottom of the barrel so the ash can shake loose.
    Sweet spot on mine are about 238*, will run 12 hrs on 8 lbs of charcoal! [​IMG]
  10. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    I have it 1" right now but will raise it to 3" tomorrow after it cools down. I anticipated that I may have to raise it so I just used some 1+" bolts with washers and nuts to make feet out of. I'll weld some 3" feet on it.
  11. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    I'm use to smoking my pork butts about 14 to 16 hours to an internal temp of 185 - 190. I'm guessing that I'm going to have to add some charcoal at some point to get it there. I'm not sure I'm willing to shorten my cooking times after doing it this way for all these years.
  12. I posted pics of a barrel smoker I am in process of building. I was glancing through this post and was wandering if the pipes I am using to connect the fire box barrel to the main chamber barrel will be to big or if it matters on the size of the connection tubes and the vent size is whats critical.
  13. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Shouldn't be a problem, use more charcoal to start out with...Drums also cook faster! [​IMG]
  14. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    I did my 'seasoning burn' all day today on the this new barrel pit. The inside has that nice dark color to it now.

    I also changed the 'feet' on the basket from 1" to 3" and made a handle out of some steel rod so I take it in and out of the pit easily enough.

    I think I found the sweet spot with the intakes to get the temperature down where I like it to be for the smoked butts. With them wide open it hit about 300 degrees and I kept opening and closing at different times of the day to see how long it takes to react.

    So far I'm a happy camper. Tomorrow afternoon I'll do some chicken thighs and breasts to initiate it. I would like to do some pork butts, but I just did some last weekend on a propane cabinet smoker I have and had a bunch left over that I vacuum sealed and froze.

    I'll post some pictures then if I don't get side tracked.
  15. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Drums aren't official until you cook a fatty in it!
    Where are you measuring temps?
    Remember, the center of the grate is 30-40 deg. hotter than the sides!
  16. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    I have a thermometer in the side and then I had my other one, the "dual read" in the middle of the grate. I was getting about 30 deg. difference as well so the numbers I posted earlier are the ones directly over the heat.

    When I was a kid growing up in La., barrel pits are all we had. I've been cooking on them on and off for a lot of years. Here's an old picture that was taken about 1970 when I lived in La. Look to the right and you'll see our old pit. The gentleman sitting is my grandfather with a game rooster sitting on his lap. (different time, different place).

    Anyway, the pits we cooked on were cut down at the first band at the bottom so we could put charcoal in it easily. My heritage is Cajun, so needless to say those pits cooked just about everything you could imagine.

    I did a direct link to the pic as it's sort of a large file and I didn't want people with slow connects to bog down.
  17. cowgirl

    cowgirl Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Great picture danbury.[​IMG]
  18. jet_deck

    jet_deck Fire Starter

    That is a great retro picture. Thanks for pointing out that someone has been there and done that. Great history. If a picture is worth a thousand, that one is a million.
  19. danbury

    danbury Smoking Fanatic

    That's one of my favorite pictures.
    The earliest I can recall barrel pits was my 3 x great uncle Nook, who by definition was an artist when it came to cooking on one. His specialty was chicken as that's all they could afford.
    That was in the early 60s that I remember him standing over one. (giving away my age)

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