Last updated October 12, 2019
This Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Pro Drum Smoker Review shares information about assembly, how it works, unique features and the results of my first cook.
Disclosure Oklahoma Joe’s compensated me for this review. Opinions are my own.
If you visit any BBQ competition, you will see more and more teams using drums. Cooks like them, because they hold temps really well and allow pitmasters to cook hot and fast, significantly reducing cook times, while still delivering tender, nicely barked smoked meats.
The Bronco Pro Drum Smoker, with a 21.5-inch grate, was designed for the BBQ circuit and pitmasters who cook whole briskets or large quantities of meat. It retails for $699 and is available in black and orange.
How does the Bronco Pro work?
The Bronco Pro is built slightly different than a traditional 55-gallon drum. Instead of one solid barrel, it comes in two pieces and requires a bit of assembly.
We had it put together in less than an hour, using a drill with a screwdriver bit and socket wrench.
All drum smokers work essentially the same way – you add the charcoal to a basket and light it. Then, you control the air intake and exhaust.
For the Bronco Pro, an air intake pipe runs up the outside of the barrel and is capped off with an adjustable damper. It’s marked with settings 0 (closed) through 4 (wide open).
If you want to cook at a lower temp, adjust the damper to 1. If you want to cook hot and fast, adjust it to 3 or 4.
The exhaust is located on the top of the lid, and also has settings 0 through 4. Same concept – for an increased temp open the damper wider.
There is a thermometer on the front to help monitor the temp of the grill. For competitions, I prefer to monitor my temps with external thermometers for verified accuracy. You can run your probes right under the lid. It has a flexible seal, so the probe won’t impact air control.
The Charcoal Basket
I absolutely love the charcoal basket on the Bronco Pro. Sounds like a silly thing to love, but its design makes so much sense.
Its components include an ash pan that is topped with the charcoal basket and a diffuser plate.
Fill the charcoal basket with coals and wood chunks and light them with the Oklahoma Joe’s Charcoal Lighter. Then, just add the diffuser. The basket holds up to 17 pounds of charcoal.
It may not sound super special but wait.
Once your cook is over, you remove the diffuser plate. Then, there is a handle to lift the charcoal bucket out of the smoker. The grate on the bottom of the bucket keeps the unused coals in the basket, so you can use them again.
Then, the magic happens. The ash bucket is revealed, and it neatly holds all of your ash. You just grab the handle and dump your ash. There are no piles of ash dust left in your smoker.
Cleaning your Bronco Pro
While I’m talking about the post-cook, it’s important to point out another great feature.
Smoking meat, especially fattier cuts like pork butt and ribs, will leave a greasy residue in any pit. This residue will collect at the bottom of the pit.
Oklahoma Joe’s thought about that. There is a hole in the bottom with a grease cup. You just scrape that grease toward the hole and remove the cup and dump the mess.
(The picture below was taken during assembly and shows the drainage cup with the drum upside down)
When you want to give your pit an occasional wash, you can hose it off and the water will run out the bottom, too.
Bronco Pro Drum Smoker Features
The Bronco Pro comes with other bells and whistles, including the traditional Oklahoma Joe’s wide metal wagon wheels, a side shelf and a sturdy handle, which is convenient for hanging tongs and a towel.
The side shelf secures with screws, but it can easily be removed, if you need to make the grill more compact for transport.
To move the smoker around, you just grab the handle and tilt the smoker back onto its wheels. It moved easily along our rock backyard and patio. However, I was a little nervous about the metal wheels on the linoleum floor in my trailer.
The Bronco Pro also includes a cool 11.5-inch round logo plate, so you can show off your team name.
There are three brackets that hold two 21.5-inch grates. The smoker currently comes with one grate, but you can purchase an extra one if you want to smoke at two levels.
The grate levels are six inches apart, so you can’t really put a pork butt on the bottom and top racks, but you can place flatter meats like brisket, chicken or ribs on the bottom rack with something larger on the top rack.
The brackets also have holes in them to hold the three meat hangers. You slide the hangers into the holes, and they arch out toward the center of the smoker.
The Bronco Pro comes with nine meat hooks. When you want to hang your ribs, slide the hooks under the first or second bone on a rib rack, and then hang them on the meat hangers, and close the lid.
When the ribs finish smoking, you can remove them with the included lift out tool.
The lid has a sturdy front-facing rubber handle for easy opening and closing. And the lid is lined with a gasket, which helps with temp control.
My first cook
This Bronco Pro drum smoker review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the cook.
Before cooking on your Bronco Pro, spray it down with cooking spray and burn a bucket of coals. This will help season it and remove any residue leftover from the manufacturing process.
I got my Bronco Pro on a Monday, seasoned it right away and packed it up for a comp in Vista, California, that Friday. My first cook was actually at the competition. A little risky, but when I saw how well it held its temp during the seasoning phase, I was confident it would perform well.
I placed the grate on the bottom level of the brackets. It easily held two 10-pound pork butts. I probably could have squeezed on a third, if I wanted.
I cooked between 275-300F degrees, so I set the intake to 2, and adjusted the exhaust as needed.
There was never a need to add more coals. In fact, the Bronco Pro has a 15-hour smoke time. I was pleased that the temp remained steady throughout the day.
The color I got was beautiful. Four of the six judges gave me perfect appearance scores.
More than a smoker
While the Bronco Pro is marketed as a smoker, it can also be converted to a grill for direct, hot cooking for burgers and steaks.
Keep the ash pan in the bottom of the barrel. Remove the charcoal basket, and put the diffuser in the drum.
Place the charcoal basket on top of the diffuser plate and get your coals going. Add the grill grate to the top level on the bracket.
Voila! You can now gill burgers and hot dogs.
Height: The Bronco Pro stands at 48 inches tall. When the lid is opened, it’s 35 inches tall. Since I’m a shorty, I appreciate that this has a lower profile. It allows me to reach in and out of the smoker easier.
Width: 21.5 inches without rack and handle. 40 inches with rack and handle
Weight: The Bronco Pro weighs 178 pounds. This is heavier than other drum smokers, making moving it from comp to comp a little more cumbersome.
Charcoal Basket Capacity = 17 pounds
Grate diameter = 21.5 inches
Colors = black or orange
I absolutely love the orange, but the smoker does leak down the sides at the screw joints. This shows up on the orange smoker, but it’s not noticeable on the black smoker.
Not ready to go pro?
Oklahoma Joe’s also offers a Bronco, which has an 18-inch cooking grate and eight-pound charcoal basket and retails for $299.