Im going to jump right into this Pit Barrel Cooker review. I don’t think it needs an introduction.
This little beauty (but ironically one of the ‘ugly barrel smokers’) one of the most simple yet effective cooking units on the market. Not only is it one of the most inexpensive but I 100% believe it is one of the best charcoal smokers on the market!
One of my favorite things is that it can cook up to eight racks of ribs at one time!
Me and the family love the “hook and hang” method. This method uses 8 stainless steel hooks to suspend your meat in the centre of the unit.
This allows for stable temperatures and an even smoke throughout. Perfect for low and slow cooking.
The Pit Barrel Cooker also works a little like an oven so it is great at producing an even heat throughout the barrel.
We love this because as the meat hangs vertically, it manages to baste and smoke itself with its own juices.
Designed to operate consistently at around 300 degrees F, this cooker needs little attention and can be relied upon to turn out some great food in a relatively short period of time.
We know this smoker hasn’t been around for as long as some other popular smokers but this design is so ingenious we have included it in our guide to the best charcoal smokers for 2019.
Lets get into my charcoal smoker review!
The Pit Barrel Cooker Specifications
- Dimensions: 31 x 21 x 21 inches (PBJ 17 x 17 x 29 inches)
- Weight: 57 lbs (PBJ 37 lbs)
- Diameter: 18.5 inches (PBJ 14 inches)
- Capacity: 8 racks of ribs, 3 pork butts, or 2 mid sized turkeys (PBJ 6 racks of ribs, 1 pork butt, 6 chicken halves.
- Handles: Yes
- Wheels: No
- Stand: 1 x 3 point metal stand
- Hanging Hooks: 8
- Hanging Rods: 2
- Cooking Grates: 1
Key Features of the Pit Barrel Cooker
- Simple Steel Drum Design: The Pit Barrel really stands out from the rest with its simple yet highly effective design. Basically, it is a vertical 35-gallon barrel design using sturdy steel, pretty much built like a tank. Using a horizontal shaped barrel smoker runs you the risk of burning your meat one side and undercooking the other side. This where The Pit Barrel Cooker design excels. It that allows the heat to circulate in a whirlwind manner while evenly cooking all parts of the meat. Hanging the meat in the middle means an even cook as well as strong smoke penetration due to the constant dripping on the coals. The hook system also allows you to cook more. When you hang meat vertically rather than laying it out you can easily fit eight racks of ribs or two pork butts.
- Versatile Grilling Options: Not only can you hang the meat, the Pit Barrel Cooker comes with a steel grill grate. Using this grate you can lay out salmon, pizza or anything else at your desired level in the barrel. You can control the temperature by positioning this grate higher or lower. You can use the grill to sear a steak as well as cook at higher temperatures by removing the lid. We found the grilling grate really handy for grilling meats that we couldn’t hang with the meat hangers. We have also cooked pizza and smoke some veggies using this part. We just placed it in the middle of the cooker below the meat hangers.
- Optimal Air Circulation: This unit has been designed so well for air circulation. The unit sits on a stand that keeps it elevated from the ground. As a result, you never have to worry about air ventilation or how damp ground that might affect the cooker.
- Easier to Get Around Than A Toddler: Well, it is certainly possible to move most smokers, unless you have a few strong friends handy it can be a challenge. This where the Pit Barrel Cooker excels, it is quite light and compact, making it super easy to transport in a van, pick up and even an SUV.
How Does The Pit Barrel Cooker Work?
Essentially the Pit Barrel Cooker is a 30 gallon/18-gauge steel drum and lid.
It can handle high temperatures whilst the external circulation creates condensation in the barrel for added moisture (which means juicy succulent meat).
The Pit Barrel Cooker works vertically. This allows for more meat space. Gravity helps keep the meat moist by continually basting the meat with its own juices. This also creates a “smoke fog” that replace the need for a water pan.
We found that the cylinder like shape means that the heat is evenly distributed around the chamber. You rarely get temperature fluctuations, this helps you perfect your cooking times.
Construction and Design Quality
The Pit Barrel Cooker is made of high-quality durable steel. It was originally 20-gauge which has now been upgraded to a sturdier 18-gauge.
It has porcelain enamel coating which makes it extremely resistant to weather.
We found that it performs exceptionally well at high altitude. Even when it is freeing out you still get a consistent cooking temperature inside the unit.
Unlike a lot of other units the Pit Barrel Cooker is very air tight. This is good news for those who live in very windy areas. You won’t get any temperature fluctuation due to wind.
Setting up Your Pit Barrel Cooker
The beauty of having such a simple unit is that it is incredibly easy to set up.
One of the most important things is that you make sure you don’t set this unit up on any flammable surface.
You can easily set up the Pit Barrel Cooker by yourself. It will easily take you less than 15 minutes.
To set up your Pit Barrel Cooker:
- Grab the 3 point stand and place on the ground.
- Get the main barrel unit and place on top. Rim facing up.
- Your charcoal basket will be inside the unit. Remove it.
- Place your desired charcoal in the charcoal basket until it is full. Light your charcoal and let them pre burn for 10 – 12 minutes. Carefully place basket back inside your PBC.
- If You Are Grilling: Take away the metal rods (for hanging) and replace with the grill grate. Once the grill has pre heated you are good to go as you would a normal grill. Just leave the lid around 1/4 of the way open.
- For Hanging: Remove the grate and replace with the metal rods. You will easily find the pre cut holes. Pearce your desired meat with the stainless hooks and hang from the metal rods. For best results leave the lid closed while cooking.
Ease of Use
Struggling all day with an offset smoker or trying to get the snake method to work on my grill can get tiring.
Overall The Pit Barrel Cooker is an ease to use. Before I had used one I was told it is practically set and forget unit. And it really is.
The meat was basting its self and the ingenious airflow ensured the charcoal was kept alight the entire time.
The Pit Barrel Cooker uses the minion method. As the light coals burn down, the unlit coals below start to ignite.
This allows you to get many hours out of a single load of charcoal. This is particularly good for using on weekend while you get some yard work done… or that dreaded ‘to-do-list’ (drinking beer).
Pit Barrel Cooker Cleaning and Maintenance
Cleaning Your Pit Barrel
Cleaning the PBC is simple. You don’t want to physically wash the inside. You only want to get rid of any left over coal ash.
Make sure you wait for the barrel and the basket to cool before you try to remove the ash. Once cool just tip the whole barrel upside down. Clean.
After some time of usage, there will be some buildup of ashes inside of the barrel, which is a sign of ‘a well seasoned drum’. This is not harmful at all.
In fact, it is quite normal and will add some additional flavor to your unit. Depending on what you cook, you might even get a unique flavor of your own.
Due to it simple yet rock-solid construction the amount of maintenance required is minimal.
If you keep up with your after cook cleaning the unit really does take care of itself. If you leave it under cover all winter if is definitely worth giving it a once over before using.
The Pit Barrel Cooker Warrant
PBC Co. replaces any defective merchandise within one year of the purchase date. Rust-through is covered in-warranty however, surface rust is not.
Any shipping related issues (i.e. – damage caused in shipping) or items missing from your order has to be be reported within 30 days of receipt .
PBC Co. does accept voluntary returns when a product is unopened and unused for a restocking fee of 20%. Proof-of-purchase is required for any replacements or returns.
Note: This warranty is only valid when the Pit Barrel Cooker Package is purchased from the manufacturer’s website or a participating retailer.
For further information on the Pit Barrel Cooker warranty.
Is the Pit Barrel Cooker Good Value For Money?
The Pit Barrel Cooker comes in at a little under $300. To me this is a steal.
In my opinion it is an ingenious design. Simple, yet ingenious. You also get a wide range of additional accessories to elevate your PBC to the next level.
Having the peace of mind of a 1 year warranty is good, but too be honest with the durability of this unit I don’t think you will ever need it.
These features make it far better than most grills and cookers available in the market right now.
On average, similar products cost above one thousand dollars, and the Pit Barrel Cooker is a great unit at less than one-third of that price!
Pros and Cons of The Pit Barrel Cooker
- Airtight construction allows you to achieve very steady temperatures over a long smoke.
- Even cooking from all sides.
- Simple yet ingenious design.
- Versatile cooker that allows for grilling.
- Huge capacity, with dimensions of 22 x 22 x 33 inches, can be used to make up to 8 slabs of ribs at one time.
- A simple smoker for beginners and doesn’t require a lot of tending to.
- Your first placement of meat will be a learning curve. However, after your first cook, you will have it do pat. The rods need to be set in parallel when the cooking grill is being used, else the correct air flow will not be maintained.
- Due to its depth, some of the food is cooked you need to be careful when reaching in. We suggest you invest in some long barbecue tongs just to be on the safe side.
Charlies Rating & Final Thoughts on The Pit Barrel Cooker
It is not an overstatement to say that Pit Barrel Cooker is an outrageously good deal for its price.
Advanced technology, durability, portability functionality and wonderful customer service are all packed into this ‘ugly drum’ style cooker. Too be quite honest i’m not surprised its one of the best-selling units on the market right now.
The Pit Barrel Cooker does have its shortcomings. But these are the perfect imperfections of a well-built machine that would run flawlessly if customers abide by the rules.
I already out a limb and have declared it one of the best charcoal smokers 2019. So you are well aware that I love this thing.
It doesn’t matter if you are a first timer or a professional competition smoker. If you are looking for a low – mid price unit that is simple, durable & produces great flavours I would highly recommend the Pit Barrel Cooker.
Wait for the looks when you carry with one from the car by yourself. They will think your superman then there taste the food and your Chuck Norris.
4.8 / 5 Stars
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the diameter?
A: The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) is 18.25 inches. The Pit Barrel Junior (PBJ) is 14 inches.
Q: Does this smoker come with a thermostat?
A: Unfortunately this model does not include a thermostat.
Q: Is the cover included?
A: No, the cover is an optional extra.
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