First Cook on My Gateway Drum Smoker

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I just did my first cook on the Gateway Drum Smoker, and in this blog post I'll show you the results and share my first impressions with you.

We're smoking two pork butts, two racks of St. Louis style ribs, and a few bison meatballs wrapped in bacon. The smoker has two cooking racks and I set the pork butts on the bottom grate and the ribs and meatballs on the top grate.

For this cook, I'm firing my Gateway Drum Smoker with 100% hardwood charcoal briquettes and several chunks of apple smoking wood.

Firing the Gateway Drum Smoker

After oiling the inside of the smoker as directed in the manual for initial seasoning, I fired the smoker with a basket full of 100% hardwood charcoal briquettes. You can use either lump or briquettes, but I wanted to make sure I had enough fuel for the entire cook and since this was my first cook, I didn't know what to expect.

Here are the steps I used to light it:

  • Fill the basket with charcoal, nestle a couple of wax fire starters into the charcoal, and light them.
  • Leave the lid off and the vents fully open for about 30 minutes to give the charcoal a boost of air as it's lighting.
  • Close the lid and adjust the vents to about 25% open and adjust them as needed to dial the temperature in to 300 degrees F.
  • Replace the diffuser place and cooking grates.
  • Since I was also doing the initial seasoning, I let it run for at least an hour before adding the meat.
  • Once you are ready to add the meat, add several chunks of smoking wood to the fire. I waited to do this until I was ready to add the meat so that it wouldn't all burn up while I was doing the initial burn-in.

Based on my first cook on the Gateway Drum Smoker, this smoker is pretty easy to run and maintain a consistent temperature if you keep the lid shut. If you open the lid for more than a few minutes, the temperature can spike from 300 degrees to 350 or even higher. When this happens it will take a while for it to drop again, so it's a lot easier to work your way up than to try to lower the temperature.

I had to make several tweaks to the vents throughout this cook, but it was minimal. Part of the reason for this was that I had the lid open too much for taking photos for this blog post.

The smoker itself as well as the fire basket and diffuser plate seem sturdy and well-built.

Charcoal lit

Diffuser plate replaced

Bottom cooking grate

Top cooking grate in place with the lid hanging on the side of the smoker

Burning with the lid open

Coming up to temperature

Dialed in to 300 degrees

Do you need any supplies or tools for your outdoor cooking? Call us at 717-355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA (store hours at the bottom of this page) for everything you need to cook outdoors.

Pork Butts

I purchased two pork butts from Sam's Club for this. These are always trimmed nicely so usually the only prep I do is cut away any blood vessels or loose pieces of meat. Then I season the outside liberally.

For these, I used Oakridge Carne Crosta Steakhouse Seasoning, an interesting rub with coffee as the first ingredient.

Four hours into the cook, I wrapped the pork butts and moved them to the top grate:

After a total of about 6.25 hours they had reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees. I removed them from the smoker, let them cool a bit, and pulled the meat for sandwiches.

They look a bit burnt, but they were not dried out, and the coffee rub I used is designed for high heat. I think the coffee in the rub is giving it that rich dark color.

The pork was tender and tasty!


St. Louis Pork Ribs

I am extremely pleased with the outcome of the ribs on my first Gateway Drum Smoker cook!

They were tender, juicy, slightly chewy on the surface, still hanging together without clinging to the bone, with a nice touch of smoke flavor.

I purchased two racks of spare ribs from Sam's Club for this cook. To prep them, I sliced off the skirt and the rib tips, pulled off the membrane, and seasoned them with Oakridge Competition Beef and Pork Rub.

I cooked the ribs on the top rack and didn't do anything with them the entire cook except smell them and check on them occassionally. Once they were tender, I moved them to a cutting board to slice them.

My target temperature in the smoker was 300 degrees and these took around 3.5 hours to cook.

The top side:

The bottom side was not burnt at all, but had a beautiful color:

Do you need any supplies or tools for your outdoor cooking? Call us at 717-355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA (store hours at the bottom of this page) for everything you need to cook outdoors.


Bison Meatballs Wrapped in Bacon

To make these I divided the ground bison into small balls, seasoned them with Lane's Brisket seasoning, a clean and simple rub without sugar and preservatives.

After wrapping them in bacon, I sprinkled a little more seasoning on top.

If you are looking for a sugar-free rub with all natural ingredients, check out Lane's Brisket seasoning.

Meatballs and ribs on the top rack

The bison is ready when it reaches 160 degrees internal temperature (I overcooked mine by accident). The ground bison I got from Sam's Club was very lean so I should have been more careful with it. They were good right off the smoker, but not too great reheated.

Do you need any supplies or tools for your outdoor cooking? Call us at 717-355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA (store hours at the bottom of this page) for everything you need to cook outdoors.


My initial thoughts on this smoker are very positive:

  • It's simple and straightforward without a lot of moving parts or electronics.
  • The design is intuitive and built to last.
  • It's cooks large cuts of meat on one load of fuel.
  • It's easy to run if you don't open the lid for too long.
  • It holds a bunch of meat for the space it takes on my patio, especially if you use the rib hanger rack.

Is your patio calling for a Gateway Drum Smoker?


About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply.

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