Ugly Drum Smokers, Drum Smokers, 55 gallon Barrel Drum Smokers, whatever you call them – one thing remains the same. It’s a cult of personality with these bad boys, and they come in all kinds of cool variations. Some drum smokers look like they’ve been hauled up from the devil’s backyard, while others are as smooth and sweet looking as the finest custom painted sports cars out there. At its heart, the ugly drum smoker is is something that anyone can put together with the right instructions. But what if you don’t have the time or inclination to build your own smoker? Or, what if you want to swank it up a bit and have one with a few options you’re just not handy enough to add on in your own garage? If you find yourself asking these questions, then this post is for you.
I had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Hunsaker of Hunsaker Smokers about a month or so ago. He’s been in the BBQ smoker construction business for over 10 years and has been barbecuing for over 30 years both for fun and in competitions. It was about two years ago that he noticed some guys at a BBQ competition cooking on drum smokers and decided he’d like to design one that cooks at any level would enjoy using.
Having a love for BBQ and working with metal, he built the first Hunsaker Drum Smoker adding features not found on any other drum smoker on the market. He also began consulting with several competitive barbecue pitmasters on what they would like to see in a smoker to arrive at what I am sure you’ll agree is one heck of a drum smoker.
Below, you’ll find Mark Hunsaker’s story along with some images and a nice little video. If you like what you see, please contact Mark directly. He’s more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
Interview with Mark Hunsaker of Hunsaker Smokers
Hey Kevin, thanks for the chance to share some information about myself and Hunsaker Smokers with your readers here on The BBQ Beat. I spent some time on your site and am very impressed. I can tell you love to talk about BBQ as much as I do. BBQ is like giving a nice bouquet of flowers to your wife, it brings out smiles every time. I just came up with that so feel free to use it! (Why thank you sir, and yes I will!)
I guess I’ll start off with a little bit about me.
I grew up on a farm in West Central Illinois where one of my responsibilities on the farm was repairing damaged equipment or building new equipment as money was pretty tight.
I’ve always enjoyed preparing good BBQ for my family and friends. I also enjoy working with metal and coming up with new designs for various applications. Since I moved off the farm, I increasingly missed working with metal and wasn’t real excited about the commercial grills and smokers available at the big box stores.
About 10 years ago, I purchased a small mig welder and built my first insulated vertical smoker. We called it the coffin as it really looked like a coffin standing up. Over the next several years, I built a number of other insulated smokers which were fine but the cost to make them seemed too high for the average person. They were also very heavy and simply took too long to make.
A couple of years ago, I was at a local BBQ contest and noticed a team using only drum smokers. I didn’t give it much thought until they won the brisket category. I later determined this and other teams were using drum smokers with very good results.
I decided to research drum smokers and found there is a huge following for folks using this type of smoker due to their simplicity and efficiency. I did not want to copy anyone else’s design, so I started building drums and adding special features that I and fellow cooks wanted to see in a smoker.
After a lot of trial and error as well as a considerable pile of scrap metal, I’ve developed a smoker I feel has features that sets itself apart from other drum smoker manufacturers.
Hunsaker Smokers Instructional Video
The following video provides a great overview of what Mark has to offer with his Hunsaker Drum Smokers.
Hunsaker Smokers standard features include:
One: Easy Adust Air Intake System
This easy adjust air intake system where you adjust the air intake with your foot. This eliminates the pipes and cross wind issues. The air comes in at the bottom center of the drum making the drum more attractive and more importantly forces the drum to pull air in and upward in a 360 degree pattern ensuring more a consistent charcoal burn.
Two: Lockable Swivel Wheel
I put the smokers on wheels and make the wheel assembly lockable to ensure they stay put where needed.
Three: Vortex Charcoal Basket
The Vortex Charcoal Basket is the heart of the smoker. The design makes it easy to lift or lower the basket, start the fire and dump the ashes. The Vortex plate is designed to circulate and mix the air which eliminates the hot spots found in other drums smokers. When the drippings hit the Vortex plate, they instantly vaporize creating another layer of smoke flavor while also keeping the meat most eliminating the need for a water pan.
Four: Adjustable Grill Height System.
You can add more cooking grates as long as you don’t impede the air flow.
Five: Floating Hinge
The floating hinge design allows the cook to raise the lid and not have to locate a place to hang the lid. The design locks the lid in place so you don’t have to worry about the lid coming off unless you loosen a couple bolts. The design ensures a perfect lid seal without the need for a gasket, which is critical to smoking.
Six: Top Mounted Temperature Gauge
I did not like the thermometer in the side of the drum for a several reasons. If you hit and bend the temperature probe when raising lowering the charcoal basket, you ruined the probe which will probably set you back about $20 to $30. Having a probe in the side of the drum could give you a false reading depending on the type of air intake and basket system you use. Finally, I wanted the thermometer to be easier and more convenient to read.
Seven: Larger Rear Wheels
I want the cook to be able to easily move his smoker over rough terrain and provide for a much more stable base.
Eight: Logo Plate
All smokers come with a logo plate which can be used to show your company or team name.
Option: Tailgate Attachment
I’m working on others but the most popular is the tailgate attachment. I designed the attachment to make it very easy for the cook to move his smoker from place to place without having to tie it down in or on the back of a vehicle. The tailgate option also frees up a lot of space in the vehicle which makes for a more enjoyable tailgating experience.
Interested in Purchasing a Hunsaker Drum Smoker?
Mark processes orders as they come in. It may take up to two weeks for a single color smoker & three weeks for a two tone smoker to ship to your address. Each smoker is primarily built by hand to ensure quality.
Single color drum in choice of black, red or blue is $605. Mark had to bump the price up $10 as his powder coat guy just told him his material price went up. All drums come standard with the hidden air intake controlled with your foot, one locking swivel caster, two large rear wheels, the Vortex charcoal basket, a heat shield that surrounds the charcoal basket, the adjustable rack system, one grill support ring, one food grill, the floating hinge, thermometer mounted in the exhaust stack, a handle for moving the smoker over rough terrain and a logo plate.
Hunsaker Smokers can and does do custom paint jobs. They are also not locked into just black, red or blue. In addition to powder coating, they do have some really cool metallic colors. This allows them to offer two-tones without the extra time and significant cost if they have to add the second color to the drum itself. Of course if the customer wants additional colors on the drum, they can do it.
They also have plans in the works to also offer custom paint jobs for things like ghost smoke and flames. The logo plate works very well if for example if you have a favorite sports team or a competition team logo. All you have to do is send a pdf of your desired logo to Vista Print or go to your local Staples and have a magnet made.
NOTE: You can choose your drum color as well as the color for the attachments. All attachments (logo plate, handle, exhaust stack, rear axle and floating hinge) are black unless the customer wants a different color.
If Mark has to order a special color, there would be a nominal up charge depending on what it costs.
If you want the receiver hitch option, add $80. Additional grate support rings are $30 per ring. You can pick up a standard Webber food grate at most big box stores for about $20. Mark can add it if you want him to for the same price.