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Indirect Heat in a Drum Smoker

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    Indirect Heat in a Drum Smoker

    Hi All. I recently built a drum smoker and have been devouring the articles on Amazingribs.com in anticipation of smoking my first meat (just waiting for my digital thermometer to arrive in the mail). Im sure this is a newbie question but I’ve been reading a lot on Amazingribs about cooking with indirect vs direct heat and how important both of these are when cooking many different kinds of meat. For example chicken requires indirect heat for most of the cook but then direct heat near the end to crisp up the skin. With the drum smoker direct heat is a given but how do you switch between indirect and direct heat using a drum smoker or can you? I know you can add something like pizza stone or pizza pan to provide indirect heat but then it seems like you would need to remove it somehow to get direct heat. Maybe I am making this more complicated than it needs to be but any help would be appreciated.

    #2
    Welcome to The Pit.

    Drum smokers are not really designed for indirect heat. I don't have one, so I'll let others comment on if/how it can be done.

    Comment


      #3
      The big advantage of a drum smoker is the distance between coals and meat, IMO. The distance is the indirect, except you get the positive of the drippings on the coals. You could always cook food on a rack in a pan. That'd be indirect.

      Comment


      • Skipper Smith
        Skipper Smith commented
        Editing a comment
        That makes a lot of sense. Thanks. I’ll experiment both with leaving it over open over the coals and let the distance do the work and with a pan to compare. That’ll get me started. Thanks again so much.

      #4
      There's a lot of unprovided info that would make a specific recommendation easier, but I'll give you a couple examples from my Bronco drum. While it may differ somewhat from your exact build, it's the concept that is the point.

      This is with the fuel bin at the bottom zone which is typical for drums in smoking mode. This first is the diffuser plate that comes with the Bronco, and even though it has an array of small holes it good protection from direct heat.
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      Then there is one made by Hunsaker that they use in their drums and sell separately as well. They refer to it as a vortex claiming it uses that angled fin design to improve convection action. It sits on top of the fuel containment bin/pan.

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ID:	1060229 Various other options are sold by most UDS parts sellers that have similar configurations that block the direct heat with slots, holes or fins. Lots of options.

      Comment


      • Skipper Smith
        Skipper Smith commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks a lot. I will look into getting or making one of these. One question: to cook over direct would you then remove the digger plate? What I mean is would add and remove it when following a recipe depending on whether it calls for direct or indirect heat?

      • Troutman
        Troutman commented
        Editing a comment
        There's a correlation between the cleanliness of a smoker and the fact that it's never used (or something like that). You putting for dough or for show?

      • Uncle Bob
        Uncle Bob commented
        Editing a comment
        Stevie, Stevie, Stevie.......as a Texan you should know that "cleanliness is next to godliness"...........................oh, wait, you're from Chicago...............never mind.

      #5
      Skipper Smith short answer is, yes, if you want direct heat/fire you remove the diffuser. But I'm struggling a small bit to understand when smoking there would be a need/benefit to that. Now, if you're thinking/talking about using the drum as a grill for "hot and fast" cooking, say as you'd typically do with a steak/chop, then yes, start with a diffuser and then remove for direct (or vice versa if you prefer). Personally I have a divider panel for my fuel bin to load on half of it with fuel and then just move the food product from one side to the other as desired.

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      Comment


        #6
        Hello from NW Oregon,

        Comment


          #7
          I have a Pit Barrel Cooker and can speak to that. The drum is a de facto indirect cooker for two reasons. First, the grill grate is high enough above the coal basket that the temperatures one associates with direct grilling are not there (unless one lets one's fire get out of control, of course).

          Secondly, if you hang your meat, consider the profile of the meat relative to the coals. The way it was explained to me is this way: hold your hand palm-out towards the sun. Now rotate it 90 degrees....it will feel cooler. The heat energy hasn't changed.

          Drum smokers, of course, can direct grill. Keeping the lid off can get that fire silly hot. Also some people will raise the coal basket to be closer to the grill grate, increasing temps significantly.

          Comment


          • Potkettleblack
            Potkettleblack commented
            Editing a comment
            This is the correct answer. The distance from the coals is what provides the direct/indirect. Move the coals up: direct.

          #8
          Pizza pan, with holes in it, works great for a diffuser.

          Comment


            #9
            Instead of worrying about your chicken skin getting crispy in a drum smoker, forget about it. Guys will tell you to crank the heat up to 350*F + at the end, but what you end up with not crispy but burnt skin. Even if you do get it crispy after you rest it for 15 minutes or so it goes soft on you anyway. Forget about it.

            My suggestion is to hang those chicks in your smoker. Throw away the diffuser plates and the fancy smancy vortex bladed fan gismo and the water pan that fills up with greasy water, forget about it.

            What I think you need is to shoot for bite through skin instead. Keep you temps low enough, say 275-300*F, hang those birds directly over your fire below and slow roast those babies to perfection. Here's a suggested way I do mine....

            https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...-pollo-ahumado

            Good luck with learning how to cook on you new toy !! I love smoked chicken cooked in a drum. Some of my very favorite !!


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            Comment


              #10
              Click image for larger version

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ID:	1061464 The Pit Barrel Cooker (and their ugly step-sister) is appropriately called a cooker, not a smoker. Light your coals, hang your meats and let it do its thing, Save the money on the blue tooth gizmos and temp controllers and buy good meats.

              Comment


                #11
                Just hang it and get a reasonably hot fire. The skin will do it’s thing. If you want crisper skin, you use some technique, like air drying in the fridge for a day or venting the skin to allow the rendered fat to leak out. A drum is pretty much all indirect cooking until you move the grate close to the coals or vise versa.
                Attached Files

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                • Potkettleblack
                  Potkettleblack commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Lost the right leg to the diffuser but it was not ruined. OJB! OJB!

                #12
                Yup, with the PBC style the skin’ll take care of itself & as far as the chicken goes, well it will cook properly cuz of the tubular effect of the cooker. Welcome, eat good & especially have fun with the tubular effect of things. Yessir. 🕶

                Comment


                  #13
                  Skipper Smith , Welcome from Minnesota. You're getting lots of good advice already. Have fun learning your Drum Cooker.

                  Comment


                    #14
                    Thanks all for the wonderful and helpful advice. I have been working my way through some pork belly as I learn how to use the drum smoker. I am impressed with the results so far. One modification I made to the smoker was the addition of a second valve to help control the vent. When I originally built it I had three vents (two with caps to close them and one with a ball valve). I found this was not adequate to get the temperature dialed in right. I added another ball valve to one of other vents and I was able to dial in the temperature perfect. Now on to chicken (thanks again everyone for all the help with this) and ribs.

                    Comment


                      #15
                      As to the distance of the coal bed from the target defining whether it is indirect or direct, we are one astronomical unit from the sun and it radiantly heats the earth unless an atmospheric condition or celestial object interrupts the transmission of that form of energy.
                      A diffuser plate in a cooker will acclimate to the internal temperature of the cooker and then will in turn radiate the excess accumulated energy until it is in equilibrium with its environment.

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