Pit Barrel Cooker
Daddio has a new toy! The great folks at the Pit Barrel Cooker Company sent me one of their cookers to test drive. I haven't fired it up yet, but I wanted to give you an introduction and share my first impressions.

I'm very familiar with drum cookers. I built two of what is known as an "Ugly Drum Smoker" (UDS) in 2008 for use in competition, and they've become my go-to smokers. Drum cookers are very simple in design, easy to use, extremely versatile, and they generally produce consistently outstanding barbecue.

When I first saw and read about the Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) online my first thought was, "OK, it's yet another incarnation of a UDS." However, as I looked beyond the surface I discovered that, while it is similar to a UDS, it's also really different.

Homemade drum cookers are usually made from recycled 55-gallon drums. The PBC is made from a brand new 30-gallon drum. Once you get past the size difference the rest of unit is very reminiscent of a standard drum cooker — except for a few major differences.

The first major difference is that the PBC is very well-made. The thing is quality from top to bottom. Even the packaging was first-class. Here, let me show you what I mean.

Pit Barrel Cooker

As soon as you crack the box the horseshoe handles are a great testament to this being a made-in-America cooker, and to its western (Strasburg, Colorado) roots.

Pit Barrel Cooker

Pit Barrel Cooker

17 1/2" rack, hanging rods and hook grabber (more about those later).

Pit Barrel Cooker

The charcoal basket is built like a tank!

Pit Barrel Cooker

It has a separate base with horseshoe feet to elevate it to keep it from burning your deck or grass.

Pit Barrel Cooker

Check out the durable and weather-resistant high-heat powder coat finish.

The next major difference is that the PBC is designed and built to be a set-it-and-forget-it cooker. You don't have to guess about how much charcoal to use, or how to set your intake and exhaust dampers. You load the same amount of coals each time, and the intake is pre-set (though still adjustable — see the picture above). This is a great feature. Most folks don't want to deal with tending a fire and managing airflow.

Undoubtedly the biggest difference is how you cook on the Pit Barrel Cooker. While there is a standard rack, as you see above, the preferred method is to hang the meat from rods using the included (eight) stainless steel hooks (shown in the second picture).

Pit Barrel Cooker

This is the part that intrigues me. Hanging the meat certainly maximizes the cooker's capacity, but I don't know how it works with food that might fall, like ribs. I suppose that's where the rack comes into play.

I'm really excited to get this thing dirty. If it cooks half as well as it's built it will be an outstanding addition to my barbecue stable.

While you're waiting for my post-cook review, head on over to the Pit Barrel Cooker Company site and check out some how-to videos. You can also read an interview with the president of the company, Noah Granville at Grilling.com.

Disclaimer: The Pit Barrel Cooker was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of this review, but the thoughts expressed are entirely my own.

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Blogger Jason said...
This looked intriguing until I saw the $300 pricetag. I'd look at the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker over this at that price point. Honestly, pony up the extra $50-$100 and get the 22" WSM over this (or watch for a sale and get the 22" WSM cheaper than this). You'll have a lot more cooking space and Weber has always provided top notch customer service.
Blogger John Dawson said...
Jason - The WSM is a great cooker, but comparing it to the Pit Barrel is apples-to-oranges. The Pit Barrel is a cross between a grill and a smoker, whereas the WSM is just a smoker. I have both and I'd take the Pit Barrel over the WSM any day.

I should mention that the $299 price includes FedEx shipping anywhere in the US.
Blogger John Dawson said...
Also, the Pit Barrel has no water pan to mess with and requires almost zero clean-up when you hang the meat. A WSM is a pain to clean.
Blogger LT72884 said...
ah ha, it does have a damper. good to know. My drum cooker was from a brand new food grade 55 gal drum with no lining. Cost me alot of money for it. I have a problem using recycled drums for food.. It makes me weary, hence why i bought a new one. haha. I find it interesting that noah( i think thats his name) just adds a we bit of lighter fluid to all the briqs and then lights it. I would have thought that the charcoal would burn down faster than 7-8 hours. I know when i use that same method in my weber grill, the coals are gone with in an hour or so. But then again i am only using a full chimney and not half a bag. haha. thanks for all your hard work. I have been asked to teach some cooking classes down here but its hard since now im in my upper division math classes.. you remember those days.
Blogger LT72884 said...
ohn. I have been reading the PBC thread that is roughly 18 pages of the same questions and responses. I would like to personally thank you for answering my questions in a professional manner. I can imagine you feel overwhelmed by the questions and responses of EVERYONE including me about the PBC. Im open to trying new things because honestly, i think a UDS is cool but i have had better Q. I would love to try a PBC and do taste tests for myself. One day that will happen. haha. I look up to your advice. AND i respect your own opinions because they are yours and they differ from every other human on this planet. Thats what makes life so fun. Just because i prefer ribs cooked in any form i can and you like them from a PBC doesnt mean a dang thing except we are good friends who share the same passion of eating. haha I truly find this review neutral and based off of your experience regardless of how or who you know at PBC. Noah, in my opinion is a great guy. I respect him for his service he has done and i wish him the best of luck. I can see the advantages of the PBC over the UDS and visa versa. I do like that it is powder coated. that really is what caught my eye. Anyway john, best wishes and enjoy the upcomming events
Blogger Neil b said...
The Weber will never cook as evenly as cleanly all away through ect vertical ribs and other meat the way this does

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