The Pit Barrel Cooker Review

I have been looking forward to writing this review for some time now. Over the last year, I have had a blast cooking on the barrel. I waited to post this review because I wanted to be detailed and provide a real review. I hope this helps folks who are curious about the Pit Barrel Cooker.

What is the Pit Barrel Cooker?

The Pit Barrel is a drum type smoker, designed for ease of use and big capacity in a small package when using the “hang method” while cooking. The Pit Barrel is easy to use, easy to maintain, a breeze to clean, and extremely versatile. You can smoke on the grate or by hanging meats, roast, grill at high enough temperatures to sear steaks, and I have even baked breads in the barrel. When I say this grill is versatile and that it does it all - I mean it.

What makes it different?

The Hang Method - one thing I love most about the PBC is the thing that also worries some folks. Hanging meat. When I post pictures or videos of hanging meat in the barrel, inevitably I will get a few comments asking if I am concerned about the meat falling on the coals, or even “why” I hang the meat. I love the questions because I get excited to answer them!

 

To answer the questions, no, I’m not concerned about dropping meat from the hooks.  

 

I have never experienced dropping meat, and - I hope I never will - I always take the proper precautions before hanging meat. An example is ribs. When hanging ribs, one end of the rack has thicker bones than the other. Always hook the meat through the thicker side. If you’re still concerned about it, try the double-hook method. I have used this method for chicken, turkey, pork butt, ribs, tri-tip, tomahawk steaks, and even brisket.

Why hang the meat? The theory is simple, amazing, and in my experience - true. When you cook ribs on a smoker, you are typically cooking bone-side down.  This means the smoke will usually penetrate the meat from the bottom. One side of the meat receives more smoke than the other. When you hang meat in the barrel, your protein gets 360 degrees of smoke. It is both mind-blowing & effective. The results speak for themselves.  

But what about the flavor??

I am so glad you asked. Reach out to PBC owners and ask them about the flavor. Many will come back with, “it’s the best tasting meat I’ve ever cooked!” Why? Let’s chat about it.

The style of cooking in a drum differs greatly from other methods of cooking. When the meat is hanging above the coals, moisture from fat rendering drips onto the coals. The moisture evaporates and rises, creating an incredibly unique smoke profile when cooking. Moisture eventually condenses and falls back down, only to evaporate and repeat the cycle, thus creating a convection-like experience.

How do you set the temperature?

Great question.  You don’t.

When you receive your PBC, reference the elevation guide and crack your intake to the appropriate elevation. Done. There are some exceptions to this (low-temp smoking, high-temp grilling), but PBC recommends leaving the settings alone, so repeating results become easier.

When you set the intake to the right setting, the barrel will run in the neighborhood of 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit.  

However, PBC recommends you not bother yourself with the temperature, but some of us like to know exactly where the temp is. ThermoWorks have you covered for that.

See HERE.

I will admit, I rarely use any pit thermometers when using the PBC. I am comfortable with the temps it is running and I enjoy the consistency. I would recommend knowing which way the wind blows if you are on the side of a mountain like I am. Wind can cause temperature swings if the intake is against the wind.

Big Bang for your dollar

The Pit Barrel Cooker runs $349. Why is this amazing? The capacity you receive with a PBC when hanging foods for the price is incredible.

See prices HERE.

Pros - What I love

  1. Hanging and forgetting.  I love starting the barrel, walking away, and knowing it will be ready when I get back.
  2. The flavor.  Cooking in a Pit Barrel truly brings a unique flavor experience.  It is a rare day that I cook ribs and chicken wings on any other cooker.  In fact, I bring my PBC with me to competitions.
  3. The price!  I am not sure there is any other smoker that can compete with the Bang for your dollar. I recommend the PBC to friends and family who are looking for a great cooker for a great price.
  4. Portability.  I take my PBC to competitions, camping, road trips, and anywhere else I need a portable cooker to create great food.
  5. Charcoal/wood.  I love cooking over fire and I love having control over the amount of smoke flavor, the temperature, and the method of cooking.

Cons - What I wish

I have to keep it real here. These are things that could be easily implemented.

  1. Multi-tier cooking level.  There are times I would love to have 2 tiers for cooking. For example, if I have a rack of chicken wings in the pit, I would love an additional rack for cooking veggies. PBC has done a great job offering accessories such as the hinged grate, but a second cooking tier would just spoil me rotten.
  2. Probe port. I would love if the PBC had a probe port to more easily monitor the temp of meats cooking. Currently, I run the probes where the rebar rests for hanging meats, but it is vital to know when to wrap your brisket when cooking hot and fast. This would help greatly.

Summary

In summary, the Pit Barrel Cooker is a pit I would recommend to any household and any skill level. If you are a beginner and would love cooking over charcoal and wood, the PBC is an incredible place to start. For my seasoned pros - imagine a portable pit that takes virtually no space in the back of your truck that can cook 10 racks of ribs at one time. For the price, you will be hard-pressed to find anything that competes in the same neighborhood.

Buy a Pit Barrel Cooker HERE

Buy ThermoWorks Gear HERE

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