So you’ve experimented with the basics of barbecue on that old gas or charcoal grill in the backyard, and now you’re ready for more. But, you can’t quite dish out for the beauty that is the M1 from M Grills, or an expensive pellet grill from Traeger. Besides, you like the old-school smoky flavor that charcoal and real wood bring – a flavor that pellet grills simply can’t match. No worries. Just get the Pit Barrel Cooker – a super-simple and classic ugly drum smoker that comes all set up and ready to go out of the box – no tools required.

Ugly drum smokers are smokers made from your classic oil barrel – usually a 55-gallon drum. They’re perennially popular with DIY’ers and broke barbecuers who need a cheap and easy contraption for smoking barbecue the right way. All you have to do is drill holes in the right places and pop in some grates in those holes, and then pair them with a nice lid. (Using a food-grade drum is usually a good idea). The “ugly” in the name usually refers to the jerry-rigged nature in which they’re often thrown together.

Despite that DIY-ness, drum smokers are still pretty good at smoking meat. The round, cylindrical shape and steel construction means they retain heat very well, and do a fantastic job at keeping the temperature inside consistent and right where it should be – right around 225F. The shape also allows smoke from the coals (burning in a tray at the bottom of the drum) to rise and envelop the meat. The result? Evenly-cooked, juicy and smoky meats.

The Pit Barrel Cooker builds even further on this idea by shrinking the barrel down to 30 gallons – a smaller size that creates an even better a convection environment, according to the Pit Barrel Company. As a result, meat cooks evenly on all sides and ends. The Cooker also comes with rods and hooks for hanging your meat, instead of just using the traditional grate; hanging meat puts it dead center in the rising heat and smoke – allowing it to cook even more evenly. Pit Barrel Company even claims that as the juices drip off the meat and hit the coals, they create juicy smoke and steam that gives the meat even better flavor. They call this a “smoke fog.” You can control the fire size and heat via the damper at the bottom of the Pit Barrel Cooker.

The best part of all this, of course – is that it costs only $300 and comes pre-assembled. All you have to do is learn the basics of good barbecue, grab some charcoal and wood chips, and start smoking. The construction is a heavy-duty, 18-gauge steel with an enamel coating, and promises to last pretty much forever.

There are cheaper ways to get into smoking meats, and more expensive ways. But none really match the simplicity, bulletproof build quality and final results that the Pit Barrel Cooker offers.

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