Cooking within a Steel Drum
Slow-cooked, smoked chicken. Oh, the crispy-skinned deliciousness! The salty-fatty drippings of joy! But good luck making it at home, right? At least, that’s what we thought. Then we spoke with cooking memoirist Dylan Schaffer about an underground innovation in extreme backyard cooking: the steel drum. And we knew we had a winner, for our first annual Best Extreme DIY award.
1. Who clued you into steel-drum cooking?
A friend of mine said that he could cook the world’s juiciest chicken. I’ve eaten thousands of grilled/roasted/bbq’d chickens on most continents, so I was skeptical. Then he served the best chicken I have ever eaten. And then he showed me the barrel.
2. Is it literally an oil drum?
It’s a fifty-gallon oil drum, reconditioned and free of the usual oily contents. Critical to know: It’s not a makeshift barbeque in which the barrel is cut in half and covered with a grill. It’s just the drum, standing up on its closed end. And it has a cover, which seals nicely.
3. Walk us through the process.
- First, burn the *&^! out of the inside, to cure it and get rid of any chemically remnants. In other words, build a kick-ass wood fire and burn!
- Get 2 pieces of rebar and some stainless steel welding rods that allow easy bending but can hold up a half-chicken.
- Buy a good free-range chicken, not one crammed in a cage its whole life. Split in half. Rub in a tasty mixture of salt, smoky paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin. Let sit for a few hours.
- Build a mesquite fire on the bottom of the barrel, to the side. Place the rebar on top of the barrel, and spear the welding rods through the chicken, bending them so that the chicken hangs from the rebar — legs-down, high up in the barrel, not directly over the fire. It’ll seem too far, not hot enough, but it is.
- While cooking put soaked (30 minutes) wood chips on the fire to make it hella smoky, and cover the barrel to keep the smoke in and the fire low. Cook until thigh meat is at 175.
- Wear a bib. It’s that juicy.
Another option: Rig a contraption to hang an entire pan, with a pork loin or shoulder, from the rebar. Either way, avoid proximity to neighbors, because the smoke, my friends, it happens.
Need to drum up a barrel? Try Containers Unlimited.