What Is a Barrel or Drum BBQ?

There are countless methods and equipment options to choose from for a BBQ. One particular style is the barrel or drum BBQ. It offers a unique and charismatic approach to this time-honoured tradition.

But what exactly is a barrel or drum BBQ? How does it differ from other types of grills and smokers? Keep reading to learn more!

The History and Origin

BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum
BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum

Barbecue, in its various forms, has been a beloved culinary tradition for centuries. But the origins of barrel & drum BBQs can be traced back to the early days of American barbecue.

In the early 20th century, BBQs skyrocketed, and outdoor gatherings became a social pastime. Thus, the need for larger and more efficient cooking equipment arose. Cue drum BBQs. The idea was to use it as a cooking vessel back then. Later, it emerged as a practical solution that’d eventually shape the BBQ landscape.

Over time, barrel BBQs evolved from a practical solution to an art form. Pitmasters experimented with various wood types for smoking. They perfected temperature control techniques and refined flavour profiles, as well as different smoker bbq models. This led to the development of distinctive regional styles, such as Texas-style barbecue.

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As the popularity of BBQ soared, the barrel types became more accessible to home cooks and grill enthusiasts. Manufacturers started producing purpose-built barrel or drum BBQ designs. Modern models come with adjustable vents, temperature gauges, and extra cooking surfaces.

The versatility and affordability continued to captivate a wide range of cooking enthusiasts. Today, backyard grillers and competitive barbecue teams are fond of drum BBQs.

Anatomy of a Drum BBQ

BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum
BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum

It’s time to familiarise yourself with the key components that make up this grilling device. Let’s explore each part and its purpose in creating mouthwatering barbecue delights.

The barrel

At the heart of a barrel BBQ is, of course, the barrel itself. Typically made from steel, the barrel provides a spacious cooking chamber. It allows for even heat distribution and efficient smoke circulation. Its cylindrical shape creates an ideal environment for slow and steady cooking.

The lid

A crucial component of a barrel or drum BBQ is the lid, which covers the cooking chamber. The lid helps trap heat and smoke, creating a controlled cooking environment. It aids in temperature regulation and contributes to the smoky flavours.

Air vents

Drum BBQs are equipped with air vents that allow for airflow control. These vents serve two primary purposes.

First, they regulate the amount of oxygen entering the cooking chamber. This affects the combustion of charcoal or wood and the intensity of the fire. Second, they enable the release of excess smoke and heat. This, in turn, helps maintain the desired temperature range.

Charcoal grates

The charcoal grate provides a sturdy support surface for the charcoal or wood fuel. It’s usually located at the bottom of the barrel. This placement allows for proper airflow beneath the fuel. It ensures efficient combustion and heat distribution throughout the cooking chamber. The spacing between the grates allows ash to fall away, preventing airflow blockage.

Cooking grates

Above the charcoal grates, you’ll find the cooking grates, which hold the food being cooked. These grates provide a stable platform for placing meats, vegetables, and other ingredients. Often made from stainless steel or cast iron

The spacing between the grates allows smoke and heat to circulate the food. This imparts that desirable smoky flavour. They also offer excellent heat retention and grill marks.

Maintenance and Care

BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum
BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum

Proper maintenance is vital to ensure longevity and optimal performance. And this covers cleaning, seasoning, and storage. Follow these steps to get started:


  • After each use, while the BBQ is still warm, scrape off any food residue from the cooking grates using a grill brush.
  • Remove the cooking grates and wash them with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry them completely before reattaching.
  • Empty the ash and debris from the charcoal grate into a safe container or ash catcher.
  • Wipe down the interior surfaces of the barrel with a damp cloth or sponge to remove grease and residue.
  • Pay attention to the air vents and ensure they are free from blockages.
  • If stubborn grease or residue persists, use a grill cleaner. Alternatively, a mixture of baking soda and water to scrub the affected areas. Rinse thoroughly.


  • After cleaning, season the interior surfaces. Doing so helps protect against rust and enhance the flavours of future cooks.
  • Apply a thin layer of cooking oil to all interior surfaces, including the cooking grates.
  • Heat the BBQ to a medium-high temperature for about an hour, allowing the oil to bake onto the surfaces. This process forms a protective layer and promotes even heat distribution.


  • Once the BBQ has cooled down completely, ensure it is dry before storing it.
  • Find a dry and sheltered location, such as a garage or shed, to protect it from the elements.
  • If possible, cover the BBQ with a waterproof cover to provide an extra layer of protection.

Accessories and Enhancements

BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum
BillyOh Arizona 3 in 1 Charcoal Smoker Steel Upright BBQ Drum

There are various accessories that can elevate your drum charcoal BBQ cooking experience. These additions also provide convenience and versatility.

Temperature controllers

Temperature controllers, such as digital thermometers or wireless probes, offer precise temperature monitoring. With one, you can gauge the meat’s internal temperature without lifting the lid. With real-time temperature readings, you can achieve optimal cooking results. Best of all, avoid overcooking or undercooking your food.

Rotisserie attachments

An excellent addition if you enjoy evenly cooked whole chicken, roasts, or vegetables. It consists of a spit that rotates slowly, ensuring your food is basted and cooked evenly.

Grill covers

A high-quality grill cover is essential to protect your barrel or drum BBQ from the elements. A good cover shields it from rain, snow, UV rays, and dust, extending its lifespan and keeping it in top condition.

Side shelves or workstations

Usually attached to the drum BBQ, offering valuable space for food prep and storage. They offer convenience by keeping everything within reach while you cook.

Charcoal baskets and fire starters

Charcoal baskets help organise the placement of charcoal or wood inside the BBQ. They promote even heat distribution and allow for easy ash removal. Fire starters, such as chimney starters, make lighting charcoal quick and effortless. They ensure a consistent and efficient fire every time.

Griddle inserts

Flat, smooth surfaces that can be placed over the cooking grates. They’re ideal for cooking delicate foods like eggs, pancakes, or stir-fried vegetables.

Smoker boxes and wood chip trays

These accessories hold wood chips, chunks, or pellets. Then, they release them gradually to infuse your food with aromatic smoke. Top tip: Experiment with different types of wood to create unique flavour profiles.


A drum BBQ is a versatile and iconic grill with a rich history rooted in American barbecue culture. Its barrel design has, indeed, shaped the art of outdoor cooking. With proper maintenance, it can unlock endless culinary possibilities. You can create mouthwatering flavours and unforgettable experiences for barbecue enthusiasts everywhere!