Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker Review: A Horse of Different Color


  • Manufacturer: Char-Broil
  • Brand: Oklahoma Joe’s
  • Model: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker
  • Model#: 19202097

Char-Broil has introduced a new smoker to their premium Oklahoma Joe’s line of smokers. The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is now showing up on the sales floors of the big box retailers across the US.

The official marketing video from Oklahoma Joe’s sure makes it look like an attractive new option.

Initial impressions Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

The first thing you notice about the Bronco Drum Smoker is the shape. At distance, you could easily mistake it for a trash can. That doesn’t mean that it is unattractive, it just has the same form factor. In fact, the novel design is pretty eye catching as you get closer and begin to see the engineering that went into the development of this smoker.

One thing that immediately caught my attention however is that there is just a single opening for this smoker – the top. Of course, right away I started wondering how you would maintain your charcoal/wood throughout the cook. We’ll touch on this more a little further down in the review.

The Unique Design of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

I describe the design of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker as unique, but it was clearly inspired by the Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS). UDS’s are revered by DIY folks as a fantastic way to make great BBQ without buying a commercial off-the-shelf smoker. A UDS is basically a 55 gallon steel drum that has been converted to a smoker with a few modifications.

Beauty and the beast?

The UDS is certainly a great option for a cheap drum smoker if you have skill. Although I’ve seen some really nice looking UDSs, it has the name “ugly” for a reason. It’s easy to imagine that an HOA or a significant other might not appreciate the look of a repurposed industrial container on the patio.

With their Bronco Drum Smoker, it appears that Oklahoma Joe’s is trying to fill the market niche for consumers who don’t have the time or skill to build their own UDS and want something a little more aesthetically pleasing.

Key differences between the Bronco Drum Smoker and a DIY Ugly Drum Smoker

The BDS is not a perfect substitute for a UDS. The are two primary differences that should keep in mind.

Cooking area size comparison

A 55 gallon drum UDS will accommodate a 22.5 inch grill grate for 363 inches of cooking space. In comparison, the Bronco Drum Smoker can only take an 18 inch grate which gives you about 254 inches of cooking space. That means you are losing about 30% of the cooking area by with the BDS.

The caveat here is that the Bronco Drum Smoker has two grate positions. One right at the top and another a bit further down in the drum. 18 inch grates are readily available online. So potentially, you could cook on both grates – giving you over 500 inches of cooking space.

The lower grate position is designed to allow grilling in the Bronco Drum Smoker. To grill, you remove the included heat deflector and use the lower grate to cook closer to the coals. If you purchased a second grate for the purpose of two tier smoking, there may be some trial and error involved to make sure food on the lower grate (closer to the coals) is not getting too much direct heat.

One other thing to note is that Oklahoma Joe’s does offer a pricey, but innovative modular add-on grate. The modular design allows sections of the grate to be removed to allow space for hanging meat on the included hooks. If you are considering buying a second grate for your BDS, the modular grate may be with considering.

Oklahoma Joe’s offers a modular grate with removable sections to allow you to hang ribs alongside a pork butt.

Charcoal capacity and cook time

Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker advertises that the included charcoal bin will hold eight pounds of briquettes. This is significantly less than what will fit into the bin of a DIY UDS. While Oklahoma Joe’s claims that their smoker is designed for all-day cooks, it is hard to say how many hours of annual cooking you will get out of a full Bronco charcoal bin. There are a number of variables at play – including cook temp and the thermal efficiency of the smoker.

As I mentioned in the initial impressions, there is no access to the charcoal bin through a separate door on the side of the smoker. This means that adding any charcoal or wood throughout the cook will have to be done through the top. That would mean removing the grill and and food, which isn’t really practical or convenient. This may be a non-issue if the Bronco Drum Smoker is capable of sustaining a 250 temperature for 10+ hours. Only time and experience will tell.

Other key features of Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

The lid of the Bronco is concave to allow food to be cooked on the uppermost grate position. The edge of the Bronco lid is equipped with high-temperature gasket material to form a seal between the lid and the body lid of the smoker.

Lid gasket

The gasket is a nice addition to ensure that the lid forms a good seal to the body of the Bronco Drum Smoker.

Airflow controls for temperature management

Both the air intake that feeds into the bottom of the Bronco Drum Smoker and the vent at the top have specially designed flanges to control airflow. These adjustable flanges are numerically gauged so that you can document the the precise setting for specific temperatures.

The airflow controls on the Bronco Drum Smoker are gauged.

Built-in thermometer

Like most smokers for the home BBQ enthusiast, Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker includes a built in thermometer. However, the accuracy of built in thermometers tends to be hit or miss. Most users will still want to use a dedicated electronic meat thermometer. Still, the addition of the built-in thermometer is a nice touch.

The Bronco Drum Smoker includes an integrated thermometer.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Reports of manufacturing defects

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few reports that I found about manufacturing defects that have been identified with the Bronco. Apparently, the mount bolt on the tubing used for the air intake is in the wrong location. You can read more about it here and here. I trust that on future production runs, this issue will be resolved. This stuff happens. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is disappointing to hear about this issue with an otherwise impressive new smoker.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Oklahoma Joe's Bronco Drum Smoker

7.5

Review Score

7.5/10

Pros

  • Great off-the-shelf option for those who do not have time or skill to build a DIY UDS
  • Thoughtful and aesthetic design

Cons

  • Charcoal bin seems undersized for all day cooks
  • Reports of manufacturing defects in initial batch of smokers

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