Luke is an appraiser in Texas. He loves to cook and is a barbecue enthusiast.
Consistent, Reliable BBQ
"Hold on . . . it's a barrel? Why?"
When I was discussing my next desired purchase with my wife, she was a bit skeptical, to say the least. She made very valid points like: "how many grills do you need?" and "what's so great about this barrel?"
Well, I need as many as I need—and this barrel does a great job when it comes to consistent, reliable cooks. I also promised to get rid of at least one of my other backyard cuisine devices. Here's a list of some pros and cons along with some tips and tricks for when you get your own Pit Barrel Cooker.
What Is the Pit Barrel Cooker?
The Pit Barrel Cooker a very simple and elegantly designed piece of equipment with one sole purpose: to make delicious food every time you use it. It takes an ancient, tried and tested method of cooking and makes it easier. Heat plus meat equals food. How much more do you need?
It's a steel barrel, two metal rods, a charcoal basket, some meat hooks, and a handy tool to handle hot meat hooks. The only assembly required to use the PBC was to attach the handle to the lid and even that was easy. My cooker came with two packages of rubs and seasonings, both of which were very tasty.
The PBC stays at a constant temperature of around 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and if you use some wood along with your charcoal you can get a delicious smoky flavor every time you use it.
I first became aware of this cooker from watching some of my favorite BBQ Youtubers HowToBBQRight with the master Malcom Reed and Cookingwithry. I highly suggest checking out those channels for all things barbecue.
- Easy to use: You get your coals hot, put a chunk of wood in there, let the barrel get hot, and place your food of choice and just let the PBC do its thing! The hot coals create steady, convective heat which combined with the smoke makes cooking your favorite meals practically fool proof.
- Impressive versatility: Do you want to cook eight racks of ribs in under four hours? Do you want to cook chicken, steaks, sausages and get that great flavor that you can only find with charcoal and wood smoke?
- Compact size: They take up relatively little space when compared to conventional grills and smokers. The PBC's footprint is only 18.5 inches and is easier to move around because it only weighs about 60 pounds.
- Relatively inexpensive: When comparing the cost of a typical offset smokers or more advanced pellet grills that temp control via smartphone app, the PBC is significantly less expensive.
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- Aesthetics: "Barrel" is in the name, so it is not the most sleek or stylish kind of outdoor cooker out there. But one can say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
- Fuel costs: The PBC's main heat source is charcoal and one basket's worth of coal is about 9-10 lbs. of charcoal, so the cost of fuel can add up over time.
PBC vs. Other Cookers
When comparing cookers, sometimes it comes down to a matter of preference. My first cooker was an electric smoker that used wood chips. Compared to the Pit Barrel Cooker, it's a night and day difference.
The electric smoker is smaller in size and that limits the amount of food that it can cook at one time. For instance, it couldn't fit an entire brisket where the PBC, you can hang multiple briskets at once. The electric smoker is good for things like chicken and other smaller cuts of meat.
Temperature control with the electric is as simple as preheating a kitchen oven. It uses wood chips for a source of smoke and a water pan keeps the cooker humid enough for even temperature control inside. The PBC uses charcoal and a venting system which requires fire and a little trial and error. Definitely not as easy as plugging it in and pushing a few buttons
With that being said, it's a completely different experience using the PBC. Using charcoal, fire, and chunks of wood bring a real primal sensation to the cooking experience. You're cooking outside with wood and fire like people did 1,000 years ago.
Tips and Tricks
I've used my Pit Barrel Cooker 10 times since I purchased it. Here are some tips I've picked up so far.
- Get a chimney charcoal starter. When you're getting your PBC hot, you need to preheat a quarter or your coals first. a chimney starter makes this process incredibly easy. in 10 minutes you'll have hot coals and you can get your cook started sooner.
- Clean out your barrel after every cook. Dump the ash, wipe down the hanging rods and lid. making that a good habit will extend the life of your PBC.
- Follow the instructions: Unless you want to cook at higher temperatures, follow the instructions that come with your PBC. Proper airflow is explained, letting you know how open your vent needs to be.
- Youtube is your friend. There are hundreds of how-to videos with recipes and new methods that you might not have considered.
Where You Can Find One
I purchased mine on Amazon, but you can find them in Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Ace Hardware. It arrived in just a few days after ordering it too.
If you're looking for a new, easier way to barbecue or if you're just getting started, the Pit Barrel Cooker is a great product and well worth the money.
No matter what kind of equipment you use, the best barbecue comes from prep, patience, and having a good time waiting for it to reach the perfect temperature. The Pit Barrel Cooker is a great tool in any pitmaster's arsenal.