I’m going to jump right into my Pit Barrel Cooker review.
This little beauty (ironically one of the ‘ugly drum smoker units or UDS’) is one of the most simple yet effective cooking units 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 center of the unit.
This allows for stable temperatures and even smoke throughout. Perfect for low and slow cooking. Let’s see what I thought about it!
The Pit Barrel Cooker Review
The Pit Barrel Cooker had us feeling like a pitmaster in no time! It works a little like a convection oven, so it is great at producing even heat throughout the smoker.
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 turned out some great BBQ for me in a short period of time. This makes it an extremely easy-to-use unit perfect for us, who love it set it, and forget it!
We know this smoker hasn’t been around for as long as some other popular smokers but this design is so ingenious. Hanging meat to smoke it is an absolute game-changer.
- Dimensions: 36 x 25 including stand and handles
- Shipping Dimensions: 21″x21″x32″
- Weight: 51.1 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
How Easy Is the Pit Barrel to Use?
Struggled in the past with an offset smoker? or maybe you had a Weber and used the charcoal snake method?
You can forget those problems, this smoker is super simple to use, in fact, we even added it to our list for the best smokers for beginners!
- Simple Steel Drum Design: The Pit Barrel really stands out from other grills we have tried with its simple yet effective design.
Basically, it is a vertical 35-gallon barrel design using sturdy steel, pretty much built like a tank.
I found that using a horizontal shaped barrel smoker, you runs you the risk of burning your meat on one side and undercooking the other. This where The Pit Barrel design excels. It allowed the heat to circulate in a whirlwind manner while evenly cooking all parts of our meat.
Hanging the meat in the middle means an even cook as well as strong smoke penetration. The strong smoke penetration was due to the fat dripping on the coals.
The hook system also allowed to fit more in. When we hung the meat vertically rather than laying it out, we could easily fit eight racks of ribs, which meant we could feed everyone at the cookout!
- Versatile Grilling Options: Not only can you hang the meat, the Pit Barrel Cooker came with a steel grill grate. We found the grilling grate really handy for meats that we couldn’t hang with the meat hangers.
Some of the things we have done on the grill grate are salmon and pizza! We liked that you can control the temperature by positioning this grate higher or lower. We were also able to grill steak by removing the lid!
- Optimal Air Circulation: This unit has been designed well for air circulation. The unit sat on a stand that keeps it elevated from the ground. As a result, we did’nt have to worry about air ventilation or how damp ground that might affect the cooker.
- Temperature Control: To adjust and maintain heat and smoke levels there is an adjustable intake vent at the bottom of the unit. This can take a couple of cooks to get used to, however, is easy enough to use throughout the cooking process.
- Easier to Get Around Than A Toddler: Well, it is certainly possible to move most smokers. But 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. it was super easy to put in our SUV and transport to our friends place.
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 internal circulation creates condensation in the smoker for added moisture (which means juicy succulent meat).
The drum smoker 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 replaces 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 cooking temperature fluctuations, this helps you perfect your food cooking times.
Construction and Build Quality
The drum smoker design of 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 a porcelain enamel coating which makes it extremely resistant to weather. It’s basically a 55-gallon drum constructed from think steal.
We found that it performs exceptionally well at high altitudes. Even when it is freeing out you still get a consistent cooking temperature inside the unit.
Unlike a lot of other units, the drum smoker 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
DIY enthusiasts will love setting up this unit. The beauty of having such a simple unit is that it is incredibly easy (and fun)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 drum smoker 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 the charcoal in the charcoal basket until it is full. We recommend using lump charcoal in a PBC. Light your charcoal and let them pre burn for 10 – 12 minutes. Carefully place the basket back inside your PBC.
- If You Are Grilling: Take away the metal rods (for hanging) and replace them with the grill grate. Once the grill has preheated 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.
- All done! You are ready to go!
What is Included in Your Pit Barrel Package
The Pit Barrel Cooker comes in 4 different package options. The standard or Classic option includes:
1 30 Gallon Steel Drum/Lid
8 Stainless Steel Hooks
2 Steel Hanging Rods
1 Charcoal Basket
1 Standard Grill Grate
1 Wooden Hook Remover
1 Three-Point Barrel Stand
1 All-Purpose Pit Rub 5 oz.
1 Beef & Game Pit Rub 5 oz.
Note there are no water pans included with this cooker. You can add them if you wish, however, this type of cooking environment does not require one.
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. This barrel smoker is a true easy-to-use set-it-and-forget unit.
Overall The Pit Barrel Cooker is easy 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 with an air vent at the bottom ensures 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 the 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 Cooker
Cleaning the ugly drum smoker is simple. You don’t want to physically wash the inside. You only want to get rid of any leftover coal ash every time you cook.
Make sure you wait for the barrel and the ash basket to cool before you try to remove the ash pan. Once cool complete the ash removal process than simply tip the whole barrel upside down. Clean with a little bit of elbow grease.
After some time of usage, there will be some buildup of ashes inside of the barrel, which is a sign of ‘a 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 Warranty
PBC Co. replaces any defective merchandise within one year of the purchase date. Rust-through is covered in the 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 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 price tag of a little over $300. To me, this is a steal.
In my opinion, it is a great 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 to 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!
Pit Barrel Cooker Pros
- 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.
Pit Barrel Cooker Cons
- 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.
My Final Thought on The Pit Barrel Cooker
It is not an overstatement to say that the 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 smoker’ style cooker. To be quite honest I’m not surprised it’s one of the best-selling units on the market right now.
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 food & flavors I would highly recommend the Pit Barrel Cooker.
Overall Rating: 4.9 / 5
Frequently Asked Questions About The Pit Barrel Cooker
Q: What is the diameter?
A: The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) is 18.25 inches. The Pit Barrel Junior (PBJ) is 14 inches.
Q: Can you make modifications to the Pit Barrel
A: Yes you can, here are 7 modifications you can make.
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.
Still Hungry For More?
5 thoughts on “Pit Barrel Cooker Review [Tested March 2023]”
I recently picked up a pit barrel! I love it, thinking of doing a smoked turkey this weekend, do you think there would be enough room to use the hooks for it?
Awesome plan for the weekend!! You sure can smoke a turkey in the pit barrel cooker! I love the way it keeps on basting itself when its on the hooks, I think Pit Barrel even have a video of how to do it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZHIJ6IilCg
Let me know how you go!!
I like to acknowledge you on great works on explaining all what we need to know before buying.
I think the price want up this week funny I am going to buy tomorrow and what I see now the PBC is $350.
No worries at all. I love getting to test and eat so it’s a pleasure to share my thought on different grills 🙂 That happens to me with flights all the time!! Did you end up going for it?
The price was increased from $299 to $349 in January 2020. I know these comments are from January, but the date at the top of the page says reviewed August 2020 so I wasn’t sure when this was actually written. Just want to make sure everyone has accurate info!