18 1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package Review
There’s no doubt about it barrel smokers are back and coming on with a vengeance. Though finding the right one to match your budget and the number of people you need to feed on any given weekend can be tricky. At the same time, a lot of people who love to smoke meat, also want to invest in a unit that can do more than just create competition barbecue. That’s where an 18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker like this one comes in handy.
It’s not just a barrel that makes hot smoke and leaves you hanging with a single grate like a lot of the competitors. You get a lot of great accessories and inset included in this true “Package” that lets you smoke just about anything you want to, and makes it possible to grill when you need to.
The Package includes everything you will need to get started. You get a pair of Hanging Rods, 8 Stainless Steel Hooks, Standard Grill Grate, and Charcoal Basket, as well as a Hook Remover Tool. This lets you do things like smoke sausages, grill brats, and quartered chickens, as well as smoke whole birds and racks of ribs.
While you can grill with the grate that’s included in the “PBC” it’s not advisable to try to grill and smoke at the same time. You could instead set it up to grill a snack while the coal bed in the bottom of the barrel gets established, then you can adjust everything to slow smoke meat at a lower temperature over time. This is really meant to be a standard, classic barrel smoker.
Construction & Ease of Assembly
There’s not a lot to worry about when it comes to assembly. Most of the initial assembly is really just a matter of unboxing the PBC and taking stock of all the accessories. Then you just set it up how you want to use it.
When it comes to material build quality, it’s a typical barrel with standard gauge steel and firebox paint rather than a heat-treated black powder coat. This means if you make a rip-roaring hot fire for grilling or doing something like searing steaks it could affect the exterior finish of the paint. This speaks to the intended use as a classic barrel smoker.
The metal used for the accessories is strong enough to support the weight of typical cuts of meat. You don’t have to worry about them bending in response to the weight of a whole bird or a few racks of ribs.
When you use it as a smoker, as intended, the PBC offers you a lot of the same functionality as most traditional barrel smokers. Just be wise about setting up the coal bed toward the center of the barrel bottom with an inch or two from the sides. Not only will this help save the paint, but it will also create better smoke and heat circulation.
One of the great things about the PBC is that it also comes with hanging rods and stainless steel hooks. This lets you easily hang whole chickens and perhaps even a small turkey. You can also suspend ribs to help better distribute their juices, or array homemade fresh sausage strings and ring sausage from the eight stainless steel hooks.
The big debate and one of the admitted weaknesses of the PBC is that like a lot of classic barrel smokers it isn’t technically designed for high heat grilling. You can attempt to drive the heat up, but you risk affecting the finish on the exterior paint. Ideally, you can grill medium heat foods over the fire while you are starting the coal bed in the charcoal box that comes in the initial purchase. Though you should keep it as low as possible when it comes time to smoke.
The grill grate of the PBC offers up 243 square inches of cooking space. This is just enough to smoke two modest-sized pork shoulders or a flat brisket with the tip or point removed.
The hanger bars let you smoke two typical broiler-fryer chickens or even one turkey. You can hang several feet of fresh link or ring sausages from the stainless steel hooks. If you are a fan of full racks of ribs you can array the eight stainless steel hooks out just right to be able to smoke a maximum of four pork sparerib racks at one time. Perfect for feeding a large family or hosting your next fantasy football draft.
The hangers and racks of the PBC are the most “Special” part of this classic barrel smoker. They add a lot of versatility and are included in the purchase, which isn’t always the case with some of the higher-priced competitors.
Ease to Clean
Like a lot of classic barrel smokers, you do need to take your time cleaning the PBC. This starts with letting the charcoal bin burn all the way out. Then you can carefully scrape down the grates and safely dispose of the spent embers and ash.
If you have a lot of stuck-on material on the stainless steel hangers and hooks, you can always soak them in warm soapy water before gently washing them. The stainless steel won’t rust with contact with water. Though you should avoid steel wool and other aggressively abrasive scrubbers as they can scuff up the finish making the stainless steel sticker when you smoke again later.
The PBC comes with a standard 1-year warranty. This is on the low end of the ballpark for a classic barrel grill, as most of the shoulder to shoulder competitors offer 1 to 2 years of warranty coverage.
The PBC is a good value for a traditional barrel grill. This is assuming you treat it right. If you want to use this barrel smoker as a grill, the high heat will inevitably shorten the lifespan of the exterior paint, which can shorten the life of the barrel body itself. If you are content to use it as a traditional barrel smoker, then it will definitely get the job done. The hanger and stainless steel hooks are nice accessories that you will definitely appreciate.