Pit Barrel Cooker Review and Overview

pit barrel cooker review

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A Pit Barrel Cooker Review and Introduction.

We often come across a product, a barbecue grill, a recipe, or a company that captures our attention. This was the case when we came across the Pit Barrel Cooker. 

Our first thoughts were to write a review, but we liked this company so much we decided to, besides writing a review, we also want to write an overview of the Pit Barrel Cooker company and introduce you to this amazing family.

This article aims at introducing you to more than just a product. We want to share a great story of determination, hard work, and passion that led to the development of a great product.

Pit Barrel Cooker – The Company

Pit Barrel Cooker Co was founded by Noah Glanville, who served as a Navy Corpsman in Iraq back in 2003. After spending time serving our country ( thank you for your service ) and after much trial and error, multiple prototypes, and hard work, the Pit Barrel Cooker was born, and the company was founded in 2010. The company embraces the military culture and is lead by a team of husband and wife. 

The Pit Barrel Cooker is an upright barrel ( drum ) smoker and is often affectionately called the ugly drum smoker. It ranges in price from 249 dollars for their Pit Barrel Junior ( PBJ ), a great tailgating cooker, to 499 for their largest cooker, the PBX.

Many people enjoy smoking meats using drum smokers due to their simplicity and ability to retain low cooking temperatures. 

Pit Barrel cookers work similarly to traditional charcoal smokers but are easier to use due to their simplistic design. This family-owned company has priced these smokers reasonably enough so that you and I can afford one to smoke amazing BBQ food.

Air Flow, Heat and The Science Behind Drum Smokers

Pit Barrel Co spent much time researching and fine-tuning their designs, eventually settling on 30-gallon drums for the original Pit Barrel Cooker ( the PBC ). A drum’s cylindrical form and dimensions create the perfect conditions for continuous and multi-directional convection cooking.

In horizontal smokers, heat and smoke can move in different directions, creating hot and cold zones. In vertical and drum smokers, heat rises, moving upwards towards the food. 

Pit Barrel Cooker adds that the cylindrical shape of the cookers creates a heating effect that conveys heat in all directions cooking meats evenly.

Hanging meat vs smoking on the grates

All Pit Barrel Cookers Co. smokers include stainless steel meat hooks to hang meats in the cooking chamber of the barrels.

When smoking meats hanging off hooks, the meat juices drip on the hot coals, creating and steam bath of the meat juices adding flavors to the foods. Pit Barrel Cooker calls this effect “smoke fog.”

However, if you do not want to use the meat hooks and prefer to use a grill grate for cooking, do not worry. All the Pit Barrel Cooker models include a standard cooking grate and the option to add a “hinged” grill grate. The hinged grate can be used in conjunction with the meat hooks increasing the cooking surface when cooking larger meals or for a large crowd.  

Pit Barrel Cooker Review and Information

The Pit Barrel Cooker is a porcelain enamel coated steel drum with a lid, meat hooks, and a cooking grate inside. These charcoal smokers offer a large cooking capacity at reasonable prices and are easy to use. 

The cookers include chrome-plated steel cooking grates and meat hooks. The meat hooks attach to rebars that slide into small holes at the top of the cookers. The stainless steel meat hooks can hold ribs, chicken, and roasts.

The meat hook hanging system is the preferred cooking configuration for most users. Still, a standard grill grate is also included in every Pit Barrel Cooker.

Hanging meats vertically allows for more efficient use of the cooking space. This means you can cook more food per square inch compared to using horizontally oriented cooking grates. Gravity helps to pull meat juices over the hot coals basting the meat with its steamed juices and creating a smoke fog that works similar to water pans in other smokers.

The PBC comes with a removable grill grate that you can use to grill burgers, hot dogs, vegetables, or steak strips. The charcoal basket sits at the bottom of the drum. The charcoal basket has a mesh grate to aid airflow into the barrel.

pit barrel cooker accessories

How These Drum Smokers Work

At the bottom of the drum smoker sits a charcoal basket which plays a critical role. First, it holds the fuel, charcoal. The charcoal basket also funnels airflow to the entire cooker. 

As air enters the cooker through the air vent, it reaches the charcoal basket where the charcoal burns, sending heat upwards. As hot air rises, it reaches the grill grate and meat hooks cooking the food.

Construction

The Pit Barrel Cookers are steel drums with a base stand, an air vent, handles, and a lid. Made out of 18 gauge steel and porcelain-enameled coated, the smoker is expected to last.

There is no thermometer for measuring heat inside the Cooker, so a suitable grill temperature probe will come in handy to keep an eye on internal cooking temperatures.

What about build quality?

The Pit Barrel Cooker was refreshed from 20-gauge to 18-gauge steel which is thicker and more heat resistant.

 All Pit Barrel Cooker models feature an enamel-coated shell. The coating is similar to what you see on the typical Weber grill and is easy to clean.

Size and Capacity

pit barrel cooker sizes and dimensions

Pit Barrel Cooker Co offers three different size cookers. The models are the Pit Barrel Junior ( PBJ ), the Pit Barrel Cooker ( PBC ), and the PBX.

The PBJ, with its 13-inch diameter grate and four meat hooks, is 14 inches wide and has a smaller cooking capacity than the 18.5 inch Pit Barrel Cooker ( PBC ). Nonetheless, the PBJ offers plenty of space to cook 6 racks of ribs, one Boston butt or pork shoulder, one whole brisket, 6 chicken halves, or a 17-pound turkey.

This is impressive from a smoker only 14 inches in diameter, small and light enough for tailgating or camping trips.

With an 18.5 inch diameter, the Pit Barrel Cooker ( PBC ) offers around 240 square inches of cooking space, enough to hang 8 racks of ribs or 2-3 whole briskets. The PBC includes 8 meat hooks.

The PBX is Pit Barrel’s largest model at 22.5 inches wide. The PBX is large enough to handle 16 racks of ribs or four pork shoulders. This cooker model includes 16 stainless steel meat hooks supported by 3 hanging rods. As with every Pit Barrel cooker, a standard grill grate, wooden hook remover, and the barrel stand are included.

All models can be configured to use hooks or grates to cook, grill, and smoke food.

Portability

The Pit Barrel Cookers are easy to move and transport because the cookers are built using a single piece, a steel drum. Just be sure the drum is cold and no hot coals are inside the smoker before packing it up putting it in your car.

If portability is important to you, the Pit Barrel Junior ( PBJ ) is only 33 inches tall and less than two feet wide. These dimensions are perfect for bringing this smoker to your camping destination or tailgating hub. 

The PBJ only weighs 34 pounds which means you can easily pick up this smoker and put it in the back of your car or truck. 

Included Accessories and extras

The Pit Barrel Cooker ( PBC ) includes everything you need for smoking meats, cooking, and grilling. ( expect charcoal, of course )

The PBC comes with two bars to support 8 stainless steel hooks ( 4 in the PBJ and 16 in the PBX ), a cooking grate, the charcoal basket, a three-leg stand, two different meat seasoning packages, and a wood hook remover.

Cooker ModelGratesHanging RodsMeat Hooks
PBJ124
PBC128
PBX1316

Pit Barrel Cooker offers “add-on” packages that include helpful accessories reasonably priced. The packages can add accessories like a chimney starter, a grill cover, ash pan, hinged grates, and even various multi-use hangers in their higher tier packages. 

Pit Barrel Cooker also offers a full assortment of hanging accessories to hang foods like corn and sausages.

Tips for using your Pit Barrel Cooker

There are many great resources to help you use your smoker, including our website ( BBQGrillAcademy.com ). Pit Barrel Cooker has a great YouTube channel where you can find plenty of videos showing you how to use and enjoy your cooker.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy and master your smoker:

Use the right charcoal

One of the biggest mistakes we see BBQ newcomers make is using poor quality charcoal in their charcoal smokers. Charcoal is your fuel and source of heat, and as such, you want the best fuel to power your smoker.

Try using lump charcoal brands that are all-natural and produce small amounts of ash. Charcoal ash can obstruct airflow and mess with the smoker’s temperature. Picking a good charcoal brand is an excellent start to a successful meat smoking session.

Start small

We know you can’t wait to cook a 15-pound pork Boston butt or your first brisket, but those are large meat cuts and will require more experience, attention, and time. 

If you are new to BBQ and smoking meats, start small. We recommend starting with ribs, chicken, and small meat cuts that will not take long periods and too much monitoring.

Once you learn the basics, understand temperature control, adjust the air vents in your smoker to set the right temperature, and charcoal management, you can move on to larger meat cuts. 

In short, we would hate to see you ruin huge and expensive meat cuts during the learning stages. 

Invest in safety gear

In this Pit Barrel Cooker review, we spoke a lot about what we like about the smoker. We talked a bit about how these cookers work, but now we have to talk about safety gear. 

Investing in safety gear to operate on your grill or smoker is important. We recommend to our readers investing in kitchen-grade gloves whenever touching hot surfaces. This includes the grill’s exterior, grilling tools, or whenever working with the grill’s firebox, water pan, or anything that can be hot.

Cooking gloves will also help you when touching and adjusting the air vents, remove a grate securing a lid, and even re-arranging hot coals with an ash tool.

Also, investing in a good charcoal starter such as a charcoal chimney starter will help you get the charcoal lit faster and safer. 

Try new things

The beauty about BBQ grilling and smoking meats is that there is no perfect way, no black and white, especially when it comes to taste. What we find fascinating and tasteful might not be to you. If one method of smoking meats is not working for you, try a new technique. 

If you follow and study the best Pitmasters in the world, they all say it took them years of practice plus trial and error to find what works best for them. 

There are no shortcuts to good barbecue or smoked meats, but there are proven techniques that you can fine-tune to find what works for you. 

We recommend trying different meat cuts, seasoning, and charcoal until you find what you like best. 

Our final thoughts on the Pit Barrel Cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker is an excellent drum smoker and a conversation starter. Your friends might question what it is, how it works, and why you use a drum for cooking food. 

That’s ok, kindly answer all the questions and then let them try the food. I’m sure they will be pleased. 

If you are looking for something different and want to support a good company, check out Pit Barrel Co. 

We hope you enjoyed this article. Remember, enjoy the process. 

Enjoy, Get grillin’

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