Product Review: The Pit Barrel Cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker: Is All The Hype True?

Pit Barrel Cooker lineup.jpg

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about the Pit Barrel Cooker, from their many fans who praise its simplicity and ease of use in cooking meats vertically over fire in a compact 30 gallon steel drum.

I decided to find out myself if this product was the real deal, and placed an order for one. I was especially interested in how this product compares to my larger homemade 55 gallon drum smoker as well as my Weber 22 inch Smokey Mountain.

I decided to call the company direct, and spoke with the owner and inventor, Noah Glanville, who spent a good deal of time speaking with me about how to use the Pit Barrel Cooker. I was impressed with the fact that he puts his personal cell phone on each Pit Barrel Cooker. I found this to not only be an amazing personal touch, but a level of customer service I’ve never seen before.

A few days later after placing my order, my Pit Barrel Cooker arrived in this neat little box:

Pit Barrel Cooker in Box.jpg

As I opened the box, I noticed how neatly the parts were packaged and positioned for easy removal from said box.

So here’s how all the accessories looked after they were unpacked.

Pit Barrel Cooker Instructions.JPG

The contents included:

1 30 Gallon Steel Drum
8 Stainless Steel Hooks
2 Steel Hanging Rods
1 Charcoal Basket
1 Grill Grate
1 Wooden Hook Remover
1 Horseshoe Barrel stand 
1 4.7oz All-Purpose Pit Rub
1 4.7oz Beef & Game Pit Rub

So they even throw in two bottles of their own rub with the package! Talk about plug and play! I thought it was interesting that the Pit Barrel Cooker does NOT come with a thermometer. What? No thermometer? Apparently there’s no need for one, since the bottom vent comes pre-adjusted at the factory. This might take some getting used to for me, as I have a thermometer on all of my cookers.

I thought the best initial test of this unit would be chicken halves, because many have praised how moist and juicy they come out compared to other cookers, although one can hang ribs, Tri-Tips, brisket, and much more using the hooks and attaching them to the hanging rods.

After splitting the chickens in half, I seasoned the birds with General Purpose Rub, then let them sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Chicken Halves.jpg
Chicken with Pit Barrel Cooker Rub.jpg

Later on, it was time to get into action and fire up the Pit Barrel Cooker. It’s important to note here that the Pit Barrel Cooker is designed to function with Kingsford charcoal briquets ( or a similar facsimile), not hardwood charcoal. I asked Noah about this on our call, and some Pit Barrel Cooker owners found out the hard way that you do not want to use hardwood lump in your Pit Barrel Cooker! One can certainly add wood chunks for smoke flavor.

After filling up the charcoal basket to the top as per the enclosed instructions, I added about 20 partially lit briquets over the top of the unlit briquets, then waited 15 minutes with the lid off.

Now it’s time to get started! I placed hooks in the chickens, and placed two halves on each of the two hanging rods. The lid went on, and at this point, I had nothing left to do but grab a cold one and sit back and let the chickens cook.

Pit Barrel Cooker Chicken 1.jpg

About 60 minutes in, I decided to take a peek. Chickens are starting to look good!

Pit Barrel Cooker Chickens Close Up.jpg

After another 60 mins, I checked again, and my instant read thermo told me these birds were done, so inside they went, and the Pit Barrel Cooker was closed up for the night.

Here’s how they looked:

Pit Barrel Cooker Chicken Plated.jpg

The verdict?

Without question, easily some of the best chickens I’ve tasted. They were beautifully moist and juicy, perfectly cooked, and the General Purpose Rub was delicious.

There’s several things I really like about this product:

Ease of Use – the Pit Barrel Cooker is ready to use right out of the box, and requires no assembly. In addition, the company website has numerous instructional videos on how to fire up the Pit Barrel Cooker, as well as specific videos on how to prepare and cook ribs, chicken, Tri-Tip, and more.

Quality of Construction: The Pit Barrel Cooker is solid through and through with excellent materials that will should last a lifetime if properly cared for.

Fun Factor: Hanging meat over hot coals and sitting back is seriously fun.

Efficient:  Because you are hanging meat on hooks, you can cook 8 racks of ribs, or 4 whole chickens, or up to 8 Tri Tips. Even though my 55 gallon drum is almost twice the size of the smaller Pit Barrel Cooker, the Pit Barrel Cooker can easily double the amount of food you can cook in comparison. While I could have mounted another grill grate on my 55 gallon drum smoker to effectively double the cooking surface area, I opted not to do this as it’s a real pain to manage two grates. The same would apply to a 22 inch Weber Smoky Mountain as well. With the Pit Barrel Cooker, all you need to do to manage your meat is with the wooden hook remover. Also, there’s no need to flip your meat as with traditional smokers and grills, another nice plus.

OK, so are there any downsides?

Not really. At $269 with free shipping and given the quality of the product that’s a great value for a cooker like this. A 22 inch Weber smoky mountain will set you back $399 not including taxes, and a prefabricated drum smoker runs at least $350 if you’re lucky, but again, the downside to both of these products compared to the Pit Barrel Cooker is they require a lot more babysitting with having to adjust vents etc. Also, size factors in here as well, with the Pit Barrel Cooker being a much more compact unit and easy to move about.

Because the Pit Barrel Cooker is so easy to use by following the simple manufacturer’s instructions that come with the product, anyone can cook world class BBQ from the starting gate, and that’s no small feat of engineering.

And there’s one more thing I should mention: The Pit Barrel Cooker is made in the USA by a dedicated family run company founded by an American Veteran that stands by their product.

I’m really looking forward to trying ribs and Tri-Tip on my next go around with the Pit Barrel Cooker. If the chicken was any indication of how good they’ll turn out, then I’m in for a real treat!

Pit Barrel Cooker Driveway.jpg