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Pit Barrel Cooker Review

Hang and grill at the same time.
Pit Barrel with Hinged Grate Accessory

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. It is my desire to be honest and provide a real review; I hope this helps folks who are curious about the Pit Barrel Cooker.

Interested in a Pit Barrel Cooker? Purchase one through my affiliate link below.

What is the Pit Barrel Cooker?

The Pit Barrel is a drum type smoker, designed for ease of use and big capacity when using the “hang method” while cooking. The Pit Barrel is easy to use, easy to maintain, and extremely versatile. You can smoke on the grate, smoke by hanging meats, grill, and I have even baked breads in the barrel.

What makes it different?

The Hang Method - one of the things I love most about the PBC is one of the things 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. An example is cooking ribs. When you cook ribs on a smoker, you are typically cooking bone-side down. This means the meat will usually penetrate by the bottom. One side of the meat receives more smoke than the other. When you hang meat in the barrel, each side is covered and receives the same smoke amount evenly. Pit Barrel refers to this as 360 degree cooking. It is mind-blowingly effective and the results speak for themselves.

But what about the flavor??

I am so glad you asked. Reach out to your 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. The meat is literally above the heat source.

When the meat is hanging above the coals, moisture from fat rendering will drip down the meat and onto the coals. The moisture evaporates and rises, creating an incredibly unique smoke profile when cooking. At the top of the barrel, moisture eventually condenses and falls back down, thus creating a cycle. The barrel cooks meat at 360 degrees and recirculates moisture, thus creating a convection-like cooking machine.

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.

When you do so, the barrel will run in the neighborhood of 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

I will admit, I rarely use pit thermometers when using the PBC, I am comfortable with the temps it is running and know how to adjust if needed.

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.

  6. Accessories. Check out the amazing accessories HERE.

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 know monitoring temps is not what PBC recommends, but many people wish to do so. If I have a brisket to cook and an 8 hour deadline, I need to make sure the pit is maintaining 275-300 degrees, which can be tricky at times with my altitude.


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 Pit Barrel is an incredible place to start. For my seasoned pros - imagine a portable until that takes virtually no space in the back of your truck that you have the capacity to 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.

The Pit Barrel Cooker Score: 8.8/10

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