Product Review: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker

Putting the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker to work by smoking some pork shoulders for this product review.

When I first got into barbecue, my very first smoker was an Oklahoma Joe’s Higlander. It’s considered a “stick burner” because you can feed it smoking wood logs for your heat source (I would use a mix of charcoal and wood chunks). Fast forward to 2019 when I was approached with the opportunity to use the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker and write an honest product review, gotta say I was pretty excited! Kinda comes full circle. Here’s my breakdown:

The features

  • Unique airflow control system and sealed lid allows for precise temperature management
  • Cooking grate and meat hangers enable a custom smoking setup
  • Oversized, eight-pound charcoal basket holds enough fuel for over 10 hours of smoking time
  • Removable ash pan and porcelain-coated components make clean-up easy
  • Heavy-gauge steel construction ensures durability you can trust
  • Rubber handle grip is easy to grab and stays cool to the touch
  • Professional temperature gauge with glow-in-the-dark accents
  • Large, wagon-style wheels for easy mobility
  • Easily converts to a charcoal grill for added versatility
The airflow control has a simple numbered dial on both dampers to help keep temps consistent.

(FYI- I totally did a copy and paste here. But I saved you from going back and forth between their website and mine. Yep.)

What I love about the Bronco

The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker stands about 43 inches tall and has a grill surface diameter of 18 inches.

I’ve used some barrel cookers in the past and liked them, but I gotta say this Bronco blows those other drums away! First off, I love the heavy-gauge steel construction of this thing. Helps with the insulation and makes it a durable smoke to use for years to come.

Second, I love the quality of the cooks that I get on this drum smoker. The flavor it imparts to the meat lets the smoking wood shine. If you follow me on social media, you know I love to smoke tri tip. If you don’t know, it is a triangular cut of beef from the lower sirloin of the cow and packs so much flavor and is fairly tender. Anyways, the first cook I did on the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker was hanging tri-tip. I smoked it using charcoal briquettes and hickory wood chunks. Smoked it at about 250F for an hour before reverse searing in a cast iron skillet. I’ve done this method many times before and folks love it. But this time cooking it on the Bronco it tasted so good that my wife told me it was one of, if not THE best tri-tip I’ve done to date! The meat had that hint of hard wood smoke smell and it added to the effect. This is a smell and a flavor that I don’t get on my pellet grills or ceramic grills.

Hanging tri-tip in the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco yielded some smoky, savory results.

Third, the versatility of being able to hang meats is awesome! You can hang meat such as steaks, roasts, and ribs in this thing and let the juices roll down the length of the meat and baste in it’s goodness during the cooking process.

Finally, the price point. At a retail price of $299.99 (US dollar), the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker makes for a great first smoker or even an excellent addition for those who want to try something different that the pellet grill or kettle they’ve been using.

If I had a magic wand…

That’s basically my way of saying, “what I would change” or even “cons”. To be honest, the two things I wish I could change aren’t too big of a deal. If this drum smoker had was easier access to adding more coals/wood during a longer cook. I did a couple of pork shoulders on it and was able to use the handles on the grill grate to remove the pork, then remove the deflector plate, and add more fuel to the fire. It can kind of be a hassle, but it’s worth it for the flavor.

The heat control is good, but the temperature gauge isn’t always accurate…but it does glow in the dark.

The other thing is the temperature gauge on the outside isn’t completely accurate, especially if you are hanging steaks or roasts in there. I used my digital thermometer probe for ambient temp and placed it at the same level of the gauge. I had a discrepancy of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you are cooking things on the grill surface, which sits above that gauge, then the temp is pretty close to accurate because the heat lessens the further you get from the coals/wood at the bottom of the drum.

The final verdict…

Truth be told, I love this thing! It is my favorite drum I have used to date and I love doing short to mid-range cooks on them. The flavor I get on the food I cook in the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is outstanding and produces that authentic barbecue taste you find in the better BBQ joints out there. With the price point of only $299, the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is definitely one to add to your collection!

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