Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Discussion about Ugly Drum Smokers (UDS)
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TBone208
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Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by TBone208 » May 8th, 2020, 12:35 am

Currently in the process of finding a 55 Gallon drum to use for my UDS build. I can get ahold of a stainless steel barrel one for $250 if I’m willing to drive for a few hours into WA state. It’s a U-Line barrel that was used to hold “fragrance” according to the seller.

My questions:

1. Would a stainless steel barrel “hold onto” chemicals/fluids that were once stored inside or is a good washing all it would need to eliminate any of the compound from the inside of the barrel? I do believe it’s 304 stainless if that makes a difference.

2. Would a stainless steel barrel be worth acquiring for its corrosion resistance? Or is maintaining a carbon steel UDS easy enough once it has been painted on the outside and seasoned on the inside? It would be nice for the UDS to last a long time.

Thanks for your time, gents!



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towtruck
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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by towtruck » May 8th, 2020, 1:02 am

I would not be afraid of the stainless barrel......welding things onto it during the build will have to be done right....I would go stainless in a heart beat and build flanges and bolt things on during the build.....if it were me.............as I have no way to weld stainless.



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by Dirtytires » May 8th, 2020, 9:00 am

Stainless is difficult to weld and requires a specific set-up. So, as towtruck mentioned, that means that you would have to build you pieces with flanges and then drill holes and bolt everything to the barrel. A workable solution but you would then have bolts protruding onto the cook chamber that always seem to catch my knuckles or the cooking grate each time I remove it.

And tho stainless is super cool and totally unique, I think the $250 plus time/gas to get it is a bit much. Remember, it’s called an “ugly drum smoker” for a reason. It just seems overkill for a drum smoker that was designed to be cheep and easy to use.

But to answer your question, stainless is totally acceptable to use and I suspect would need nothing more than a hose-out before smoking with it.



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by TBone208 » May 8th, 2020, 10:28 am

Thanks for the info [mention]towtruck [/mention]and [mention]Dirtytires [/mention]

I’d like to do it with stainless if possible, especially because painting it would (presumably) not be necessary and maintenance might be easier. But maybe this assumption is wrong?

Like towtruck I have no way of welding stainless, so I had actually planned on a “no weld” UDS build for this one. I hear ya regarding cost, Dirtytires. The idea of spending $250 on the barrel alone and driving that far was not feeling terribly good, but I could see the benefits of stainless being worth it. I guess I also count myself in the camp of people who think ugly drum smokers can be pretty cool-lookin’ if done right. A stainless barrel, in particular, could have a pretty sweet look to it.

It should also be known that I’m the kind of guy who is willing to spend a little extra coin on features that satisfy my mind but that many others might roll their eyes at. Call it OCD. Or you can call it “anal” like my wife does!

The carbon steel barrels available around me are all either, (A) unlined but had stored some nasty stuff in them (used motor oil, chemicals, etc.), or (B) lined barrels whose past contents are unknown. I know I can scrub out much of the liner (brown liner is easier than red from what I can gather on the internet) but I don’t like the idea of cooking on a lined barrel, even if I’m really conscientious about getting as much of it removed as possible. As far as I know there isn’t any conclusive evidence one way or another about health effects from having liner residues in a smoking vessel, so that’s why I’m avoiding it. (Not saying it’s bad and that people shouldn’t do it! Just saying I’m personally not comfortable with it. Probably should have mentioned this preference in the original post.) This is part of my interest in stainless. Not to mention the potential time and energy saved (well, technically paid for in the extra cost of the stainless barrel). Again, here are my anal/OCD tendencies on display.

Do people’s carbon steel ugly drum smokers have issues with rusting out? If so, is it inevitable or are there ways to entirely prevent it and have a smoker that lasts decades?

Thank you guys again for the guidance!



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by towtruck » May 8th, 2020, 1:52 pm

If you take care of your drum it will last a long time. Leaving ashes in them kills them faster than anything around. If you clean out the drum of ashes and keep it covered when not in use it will go a long time. You'll probably burn out the innards you use before the drum will go bad........but, if you have access to the stainless drum I say go for it....you'll be happy with it and if your happy you will use it more.

I first used an UDS back in the early 80's......it was a basic drum with not much else....we hung chicken in it and had no grates. I sent that drum to the scrap yard in 2010 and it was not rusty and set outside it's whole life in the snow and rain. We just never used it and I had to clean the property when my dad died.



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by Dirtytires » May 8th, 2020, 2:27 pm

Sounds like you want stainless.

Go for it.



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by TBone208 » May 8th, 2020, 2:44 pm

Thanks for the info, towtruck. Had heard about not leaving ashes in smokers/grills. How soon after the end of the cook would one need to remove the ashes? It would be nice to snuff the fire and preserve the remaining charcoal for the next cook, but I have also heard that opening everything up to get a nice hot fire going at the end of a cook helps to rid the barrel of moisture that has collected during the cook.

Would removing the charcoal basket (immediately after the cook finishes), placing it into an airtight container (steel bucket?) and then leaving the drum open to allow moisture to escape while it cools be a way to have my cake and eat it, too? Is simply removing the ashes (once the fire is snuffed and the drum is cool) enough for mitigating moisture buildup/corrosion?

Thanks for all the info and for taking the extra time on a noob. You guys are great.



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by Big T » May 8th, 2020, 4:46 pm

You can snuff it out in the drum and the clean it out once it's cool enough to touch. You should check out the UDS parts from smokerbuildermfg they are super nice and built to last. They can be bolted on so that would solve the welding problem.


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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by TBone208 » May 8th, 2020, 5:25 pm

Thanks for the tip Big T! Those bolt-on parts look great.



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by JPinSTL » August 11th, 2020, 1:23 pm

I have 2 straight walled carbon steel UDS. Got the barrel and the parts from Frank Cox who runs smokerbuildermfg since he's local. Its been about 4yrs now sitting outside year round on the patio. Need a new coat of paint, but so far no rust issues. I put a $20 metal22in water heater pan in the bottom to catch grease and ash. You will want to hose the UDS out occasionally and keep the ash cleaned out. You'd be surprised how much water collects in there from condensation with temp and humidity changes.

I bought the bolt together kit this Spring since I picked up a straight wall stainless drum from a local butcher that closed for $150. Never see those come up for decent money so its stashed in the loft. I figure I will build when I have some free time and it will be my FOREVER drum :-) Carbon will be fine for MANY years, but if you can find/swing a stainless drum GO FOR IT!!



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Re: Drum Choices: Stainless vs Carbon

Post by TBone208 » August 11th, 2020, 1:54 pm

JPinSTL wrote:I have 2 straight walled carbon steel UDS. Got the barrel and the parts from Frank Cox who runs smokerbuildermfg since he's local. Its been about 4yrs now sitting outside year round on the patio. Need a new coat of paint, but so far no rust issues. I put a $20 metal22in water heater pan in the bottom to catch grease and ash. You will want to hose the UDS out occasionally and keep the ash cleaned out. You'd be surprised how much water collects in there from condensation with temp and humidity changes.

I bought the bolt together kit this Spring since I picked up a straight wall stainless drum from a local butcher that closed for $150. Never see those come up for decent money so its stashed in the loft. I figure I will build when I have some free time and it will be my FOREVER drum :-) Carbon will be fine for MANY years, but if you can find/swing a stainless drum GO FOR IT!!
Thanks for the input! I appreciate it. I’m still on the lookout for a reasonably priced stainless drum and when I come across one will stash it for a rainy day just like you have done!



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