There are plenty of drum and barrel smoker models on the market, but they are not all made with competitive barbecue in mind. For this review, I’ve been testing out the Pro version of the classic Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker.
If you frequent the competition barbecue circuits, you will notice more and more teams relying on barrel or drum-style smokers. They allow you to cook hotter and faster, which reduces cooking times. These smokers also hold temperature really well.
Just because this smoker is labeled as the “Pro” version doesn’t mean that it isn’t suitable for the backyard as well.
It is rugged enough to handle the competition circuits, but also has a small enough footprint to fit into almost any backyard – making it a great choice for pitmasters of all skill levels.
Oklahoma Joe’s sent me this grill for free in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Oklahoma Joe Bronco Pro overview & first impressions
The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker is not your typical barrel-style smoker.
Traditionally, a barrel smoker is made from a 55-gallon steel barrel that has been converted into a smoker. Oklahoma Joe’s stepped away from the traditional with the Bronco and designed a rugged smoker that more closely resembles a drum.
The Bronco Pro Drum Smoker is clearly designed for the competition pitmaster. It has an impressive 17-pound fuel capacity that makes it perfect for those long, overnight cooks and a spacious 21.5-inch cooking grate, making it a great choice for pitmasters on the go.
Related – Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX 1200 Review
It comes equipped with meat hooks and hangers that allow you to really customize your cooking experience while providing consistent airflow to keep your temperature where it needs to be at all times.
Oklahoma Joe Bronco Pro specifications:
|Product Dimensions||28.75″D x 48″H x 40″W|
|Primary Cooking Area||366 square inches|
2-year other parts
|Material||Porcelain-coated steel cooking grate|
Stainless steel meat hangers and hooks
|Price||Check Latest Price|
As someone who does competition barbecue, the size really caught my eye first. I also own the classic Bronco model, which is slightly smaller and shorter. The Bronco Pro is tall and that appealed to me because it reduced the need to bend down at all during the cook.
There is a lot of real estate available for cooking as well. You could easily smoke a whole packer brisket on this pit with room to spare, which is appealing because the smoker’s footprint is so small. This smoker was made with competition traveling in mind.
- 21.5-inch cooking grate
- 17-pound fuel capacity
- Removable cooking grate, 3 meat hangers, 9 meat hooks and heat diffuser all come standard and allows for customization of cooking style
- Oversized ash pan and easy to find drain cap allow for easy clean-up
- Heavy-gauge steel construction delivers durability that’s built to last
- Oversized charcoal basket holds enough fuel for up to 15 hours of cooking
- Unique airflow control system provides precise temperature control
- Name plate on the back allows for the addition of customized logo or graphics
- Rubber handle is easy-to-grab and stays cool-to-touch
- Barrel-mounted temperature gauge that glows in the dark for easy readability at all times of the day
- Oversized wagon-style wheels for easy transportation
What we like:
- Oversized charcoal basket – The fuel capacity is insane. It can hold up to 17 pounds of charcoal which is great when you are setting up to do a longer cook.
- Temperature control – The intake and exhaust system is engineered in way that lets you adjust temperature very precisely. A simple flick of the intake and you can increase or decrease temperature by a matter of degrees very easily.
- Portability – It is light enough to be able to be transported rather easily, plus it comes with wagon-style wheels that make it easy to move around when you need to.
What we don’t like:
- Charcoal swapping – I wish there was a way to add additional fuel in the middle of cooking. If you get to a point where you need to add fuel (which is unlikely because of the massive fuel capacity), you will have to remove the grate and the heat deflector in order to do so.
Setting up the Bronco Pro only takes 30 minutes
The setup and assembly of the Bronco Pro were much easier than some other grills and smokers that I’ve attempted to assemble.
You definitely want to hold on to the instructions because it can get a little bit muddy without them, but the entire assembly only took about 30 minutes.
The drum consists of two sections, a top, and a bottom. The smoker fits perfectly together and is engineered in a way that makes the smoker look seamless once it’s assembled.
The Bronco Pro comes standard with several accessories that allow you to customize your cooking to your preference:
- Cooking grate
- 3 meat hangers
- 9 meat hooks
- Heat diffuser
- Side shelf for holding tools & supplies
One of the most appealing things about the Bronco Pro is the variety of accessories that come standard. Being able to customize your cooking setup is really what makes this such a versatile smoker.
You can also set your main cooking grate at one of two levels, so if you wanted to purchase an additional grate you could double your cooking space and fit even more on the drum at one time.
There are also after-market accessories and modifications available for this model that can allow you to customize your cook even further:
- Drum Smoker Triple Grate – A three-piece, modular grate that gives you the ability to cook various types of foods at the same time.
- Griddle – a flat griddle that you can put on top of your drum smoker in place of the cooking grate that will allow you to cook breakfast, fajitas, or even pizza!
Oversized charcoal basket for extra long cooks
The oversized charcoal basket holds up to 17lbs of fuel, which is enough for up to 15 hours of smoking time, depending on the temperature at which you are cooking.
One of my initial concerns was how difficult or easy it would be to add more fuel in the middle of a cook, but the oversized charcoal basket almost eliminates that need due to its large capacity.
If you did need to add fuel in the middle of a cook, you would have to remove the cooking grate and the heat diffuser plate to do so. I did have to do this one time while I was smoking my first pork butt on the drum, but it was a lot easier than I expected it to be.
I simply moved the aluminum tray that the pork butt was in off to the side shelf of the drum smoker, pulled the grate and diffuser out with a heat-resistant glove, then added more charcoal to the basket. I would say the entire process took about 3-5 minutes and was relatively easy.
Adjustable dampers allow for precise temperature control
The Bronco Pro comes with a unique airflow control system that allows for precise temperature control and quick adjustment if needed.
There is an air intake pipe that runs up the side of the drum and is marked with various settings ranging from 0 to 4.
There is a matching air exhaust pipe that is located on the top of the lid and has the same airflow control setting system as the intake, ranging from 0-4.
I really like having the settings marked with a number. This is much easier than using a smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain where you just need to remember how much to open the vents.
Essentially it allows you to control how much air is entering and exiting the drum at any given time. If you want to cook low & slow, you will simply set the intake and exhaust around 1 to 2. If you are looking for a hotter & faster cook, kick the setting up to the 3 to 4 range.
Built-in temperature gauge
There is a built-in thermometer located on the body of the drum smoker that will help you monitor the temperature inside of your pit. One thing that I love about the Oklahoma Joe’s temperature gauge is that it glows in the dark, which gives you great visibility for checking temps during an overnight cook.
The temperature gauge has additional markings that indicate what type of cooking you are doing at each temperature range.
- Smoke – 150°F to 250°F
- BBQ – 250°F to 350°F
- Grill – 350°F to 550°F
Cooking on the Bronco Pro
I’ve done 2 cooks on the Bronco Pro so far and both of them exceeded my expectations.
I started with a rack of beef ribs, which took about 6-7 hours from start to finish. I did not have to add charcoal once, which was a great experience. I was left with a delicious, smoky flavor and a fantastic smoke ring.
The next cook that I did on the Bronco Pro was a whole pork butt, which took about 11 hours start-to-finish.
I did have to add charcoal and wood after about 8 hours because I did not fill the charcoal basket enough in the beginning. If I had filled it to max capacity I’m almost certain that I would not have needed to add more wood.
The pork butt ended up being one of the best I’ve ever smoked and I was beyond impressed with the smoker’s ability to impart a smoky flavor to the meat and hold a consistent temperature throughout the entire cook.
Another great feature of the Bronco Pro was the side-table that comes standard. It’s convenient to have a small surface right on your smoker that you can use to hang towels or tongs, or even to place your meat before you are ready to throw it on the smoker.
I’ve noticed that a lot of other vertical barrel and drum-style smokers don’t come with a side table attachment, so I found that to be a huge benefit of this particular model.
Alternatives to consider
If you are looking for a more cost-effective version, Oklahoma Joe’s also offers their Classic Bronco Drum model. It is slightly smaller but is still built with the same level of quality that you can expect with the Bronco Pro.
Another comparable barrel smoker on the market is the Pit Barrel Cooker. It’s more of a traditional barrel-style smoker (as opposed to a drum), but it offers a lot of similar flexibility in cooking style with included meat hooks. It doesn’t offer as much cooking space as the Bronco Pro, but it holds temp well and will give you a similar experience.
The only thing that really sets the Bronco apart from the
This is a fantastic choice as far as drum smokers are concerned. It was designed with quality in mind and provides flexibility to really customize your cook to your personal preference. Whether you are a beginner looking for a smoker or a seasoned competition pitmaster, you won’t be disappointed with the Bronco Pro drum.
Overall, it definitely isn’t the cheapest drum on the market, but with the included accessories and oversized fuel capacity I believe this smoker is priced fairly for everything you get. It is designed in a way that makes it extremely efficient and versatile, no matter your skill level.