The first time I saw an Ugly Drum Smoker I knew I had to have one. I’d heard mention of them on the BBQ and smoking forums and I’ll be honest…I had to google it.
Often know by the abbreviation ‘UDS’, these smokers are basically steel oil drums converted to smoke food using various pieces of hardware and ironmongery, sometimes in kit form but traditionally cobbled together from recycled materials. And often they are…well…really, really ugly! I was immediately fascinated and, I admit, a little obsessed.
Then one day I was scrolling through various BBQ related posts on Facebook and came across Danny Hawke, owner of Bristol Drum Smokers. He had posted a picture of the most amazing gold UDS which he had made himself, and some incredible shots of meat he’d smoked in it. It was beautiful! His business was in its infancy at that time and I knew that instead of making one myself, I had to have a Bristol Drum Smoker.
Right from the first conversation I had with Danny he was so personable and pleasant to deal with. I already had a bit of experience with smoking meat on my large kettle BBQ, but I’d never owned a smoker and so I had no idea how to cook on one. Danny took me through the set up and how to cook on it and assured me that I’d have no problems.
He also took me through my options in respect of any additional extras I wanted on the drum. As standard they come fitted with one cooking level and I knew I wanted an additional grate for when I cook multiple racks of ribs. I also wanted to be able to use my wireless thermometer and so I wanted a grommet fitted to accommodate the probes. Other optional extras available include a fabulous hinged lid, forced air system adaptors, a heavy duty steel heat diffuser plate, heat deflector and custom logos.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can make a UDS yourself and for very little money, but I knew that I could never achieve the finish that Danny does.
When my drum arrived I was thrilled with the paint job. I’d chosen a metallic red and it was stunning. I quickly got on with seasoning it by rubbing down the inside with some cooking oil and giving it a good burn at a high heat. I simply lit a chimney full of charcoal and added that to the fire basket which I’d filled with unlit fuel. After a couple of hours running with all vents fully open, I dialled back the temperature and threw on a couple of racks of ribs.
What struck me immediately was how steady it held temperature. The thickness of the steel drum itself, coupled with the lack of gaps in the basic design helps retain heat. It also means it’s pretty responsive when it comes to increasing or reducing your cooking temperature courtesy of the lower vents, which each have 4 intake settings.
I needed a smoker that I didn’t need to babysit, as having 2 young children means that my hands are always pretty full. The BDS ticks that box for me perfectly. It’s also incredibly versatile. In addition to low and slow it easily handles hot and fast smoking as well as sitting solidly at roasting temperature, which for me it perfect for rustling up a full roast dinner including Yorkshire puds! Raise up the fire basket to it’s highest setting and you’ve also got a direct grill. A true all rounder.
Then there’s the fantastic Bristol Drum Smokers website. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about cooking on your drum with brilliant illustrated guides. Follow the simple, perfectly explained tips and you’ll not go wrong. There’s also an online shop and some of Danny’s gorgeous recipes to inspire you.
After finally getting to meet Danny and the gorgeous Mrs H at Grillstock recently, it was obvious how much passion the two of them have for BBQ. This passion is transferred into every drum they produce. And boasting a Michelin starred chef amongst their clients, it’s clear that they’re doing everything right!
If you’re in the market for a smoker, I recommend having a chat with Danny before you make your decision.
If you’re in the Surrey area on the 27th and 28th August 2016, you can catch up with Bristol Drum Smokers who’ll be cooking at The Big Meat festival. Alternatively, check out their website and social media pages here:
Twitter – @bdsmokers
Instagram – bristoldrumsmokers_uk
Bristol Drum Smokers on Facebook