Pit Barrel Cooker Review [Tested November 2020]

Im going to jump right into my Pit Barrel Cooker review. I don’t think it needs an introduction.

This little beauty (but ironically one of the ‘ugly drum smoker units’) 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 centre of the unit.

This allows for stable temperatures and an even smoke throughout. Perfect for low and slow cooking.

Pit Barrel Cooker Reviews

The Pit Barrel Cooker Review

The Pit Barrel Cooker will have you feeling like a bbq master in no time! It works a little like a convection oven so it is great at producing an 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 can be relied upon to turn out some great food in a relatively short period of time. This makes it an extremely easy to use unit perfect for those 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.

Specifications

  • 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 a offset smoker? or maybe you had a Weber and used the charcoal snake method? You can forget those problems, this smoker is a super simple to use, in fact we even added it to our list for the best smokers for beginners!

Key Features

  • 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 smoker 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.
Pit Barrel Cooker
  • 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 cooking chamber. 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. No matter how you use the cooker, you know it will provide you with a great smoke flavor.
  • Optimal Air Circulation: This unit has been designed well for air circulation to help your food cook. 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.
  • 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, 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 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.

The Pit Barrel Cooker Review

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 porcelain enamel coating which makes it extremely resistant to weather. Its basically a 55 gallon drum constructed from think steal. So as you can imagine the quality is outstanding.

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 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.

Pit Barrel Cooker Steel Thickness

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:

  1. Grab the 3 point stand and place on the ground.
  2. Get the main barrel unit and place on top. Rim facing up.
  3. Your charcoal basket will be inside the unit. Remove it.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package

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 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 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 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 left over 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 then 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 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.

Required Maintenance

​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-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 price tag a little over $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!

Pit Barrel Cooker Pros

  1. Airtight construction allows you to achieve very steady temperatures over a long smoke.
  2. Even cooking from all sides.
  3. Simple yet ingenious design.
  4. Versatile cooker that allows for grilling.
  5. 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.
  6. A simple smoker for beginners and doesn’t require a lot of tending to.

Pit Barrel Cooker Cons

  1. 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.
  2. 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 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. 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.

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 & flavours 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: 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 November 2020]”

  1. Hi Charlie,

    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?

    Thanks,

    Brandon

  2. Ruthy Lachman Paul

    Hello Charlie
    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.
    Happy Weekend
    Ruthy

    1. Hiya Ruthy,

      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?

      Best,

      Charlie 🙂

      1. Hello Charlie,
        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!

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