Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker Review

Oklahoma Joe's Bronco Drum Smoker

$300
8.5

Construction Quality

7.5/10

Temperature Control

9.0/10

Efficiency

8.5/10

Usability

8.5/10

Capacity

9.0/10

Pros

  • Good Temperature Control
  • Wide Range of Smoking Methods
  • Heavy Construction
  • Drum Smoker on Wheels

Cons

  • Poor Packaging
  • Body Sections Don't Fit Tightly
  • Prone to Rust

Specifications

  • One 18-inch diameter cooking grate with 286 square inches of cooking surface
  • Three hanging arms for hanging up six to nine racks of ribs or one chicken or turkey (with additional accessories)
  • One top vent and one snorkle style bottom vent
  • Easily convertible between smoking and direct grilling
  • Heat resistant steel fiber glass gasket between the body and the lid
  • One small metal side table
  • Two steel wheels
  • Front mounted temperature gauge
  • Made in China for Oklahoma Joe's a division of Char-Broil

Full Review - Oklahoma Joe's Bronco Drum Smoker

Long ago there was a company called Oklahoma Joe's. They made great smokers, but business being what it is, the company was purchased by Char-Broil in 1998. Oklahoma Joe smokers have continued to be built, but Char-Broil, being more mass market minded made smaller and less expensive products. But Char-Broil, also being a rather large company in the outdoor cooking world has resources that they could bring to bear on grill and smoker manufacturing. The Bronco Drum Smoker is a product that grew out of that.

In 2017 Char-Broil introduced the Kamander Kamado Grill. This inexpensive kamado style metal grill had a few issues, but also a few innovations. The Bronco Drum Smoker is very similar to the Kamander in function. No, the Bronco does not have an insulated body and won't hold heat or run on a kamado level of efficiency, but in the airflow and internal layout of these two products are rather similar. This is most noticeable in the intact vent. Called a snorkel vent by some, the air is drawn into a vented pipe running down the side of the unit and down to the intact of the cooking chamber at the bottom. This makes it easy to adjust the smoker's two vents simultaneously, without having to bend over. It also makes this drum smoker intuitive to control. Now, this style of vent isn't an Oklahoma Joe's or Char-Broil invention. Similar vent solutions have been seen on other smokers (ie Gateway) before, but certainly none in this price range.

At around $300USD, the Bronco is in serious competition with many other drum smokers, most obviously the Pit Barrel Cooker. Like the Pit Barrel, the Bronco has the option for grate cooking as well as smoking by hanging foods from hooks supported above. Unlike the Pit Barrel, the Bronco runs on controllable vents (don't read into this that the Pit Barrel is not as good a smoker, it just works differently).

In all my testing of the Bronco, it performed very well. It was able to maintain smoking temperatures for over 10 hours as well as do high temperature grilling (though the distance between the fire and the food reduces the intensity). Temperature control is easy and intuitive, though if you are a stickler for precision I would recommend using an independent temperature monitoring system since the front mounted thermometer is rather cheap.

Like many products from Char-Broil, there is a lack of quality control with this smoker. Packaging of this product is rather poor which can result in some damage. The body of this smoker is not a single piece like most drum units which are made from an actual steel drum. The two sections don't fit tightly together and after several cooks grease was dripping down the side of the bottom section on the unit I tested.

On the other hand, this is not an expensive smoker. It functions similar to Kamado Grills, as I said above, so if you are familiar with those you will have no trouble working this unit. It is also capable of a wide range of cooking methods. It smokes well with good smoke production and at the kinds of temperatures you expect. It is fully adjustable so if you want a lower smoking temperature it can do it. The charcoal basket is well designed, allows for optimal airflow and can run a very long time. It is also a pretty good grill, though not really a replacement for a more dedicated charcoal grill if you are serious about that style of cooking. For the price, I would recommend it. Char-Broil's customer support is very good and I very much recommend you register the grill so that you can streamline getting replacement parts if that becomes necessary.

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